Technical and Casual Writing

My experience of technical and casual writing

By Harshvardhan in blog publications thoughts

July 27, 2021

Every writing is meant to be read — at least by the writer. As the writings and writer gain popularity, the readership expands. Most of my blogs are read only by me. Some blog posts like  COVID-19 data testing and  Spotify visualisation did gain traction. But by and large, I am my website’s audience.

Looking back at old writings means finding a lot of errors, mostly grammatical errors. Though I resist the temptation to edit the already published articles, I turn pedantic and correct my mistakes.

Academic Writing

Such behaviour to correct mistakes after publishing is not appreciated in academia. Erratum is typically used only for significant errors like calculation errors or misleading phrasings — not for trivial grammatical errors.

Because the academic publication cycle involves multiple editing and review rounds, the likelihood of such error is marginal. For a  case study, reviewers and I exchanged emails and drafts seven times even though the case study was accepted only after the first review. Comments from the reviewers have benefited me tremendously beyond that case study.

Paul Silvia’s book “How to Write a Lot?” addressed many concerns around writing. An important suggestion was to allocate time to writing activities and not only writing down.

Writing activities include reading and writing reviews, editing drafts, bureaucratic processes like submitting manuscripts, etc., and writing new scripts.

When these writing activities are scheduled regularly, they become a habit. My brain usually recreates the sentence conveying the same idea when I read the original sentence. Often the revised article has better structure and organisation.

Yihui Xie  wrote long ago about the nuances of scientific writing and brought out some exciting ideas on writing. Another much more engaging article is on  How to Write Consistently Boring Literature.

Writing for Fun

I started blogging in 2017. Initially, it was hosted as a WordPress website with the domain (harshvadhan.xyz) from GoDaddy. The domain was deeply discounted for the first year (Rs 300 or $4) but got expensive next year (Rs 3500 or $50). I didn’t renew my domain and moved on to Google Sites, which was free and surprisingly simple to get started.

Last year I moved to Google Domains that have fixed yearly bills. But Google Sites had many limitations. Sites have many inconsistencies. I could choose a font for the site, but it didn’t apply to all pages. Pasting from a text editor allowed line spacing, but there was no such option in Sites editor. Eventually, every page looked different.

Hosting raw files was surprisingly involved. I had to upload them to Google Drive, then create a public sharing link, and it still required the viewer to log in to their Google account. If the user was a G-Suite user, their admin had to approve Google sites; otherwise, viewing this site required logging out of their G-suite accounts. IIM Indore didn’t allow Google Sites initially, but surprisingly IT Department changed this once I emailed them about it.

Google search didn’t index all my blog posts. I tried manually injecting some links in Google Console, but it was a prolonged process as Google took around a week to review each link submitted manually. I also didn’t have access to the robots.txt file that could direct crawlers to each page.

Sometime last year, I heard about Blogdown. I tried it twice and had failed both times — using so many systems together was confusing. Two months ago,  Alison Hill’s fantastic talk “ Introduce yourself online using blogdown and Hugo Apèro” came up in my YouTube recommendations, and I followed the screencast step-by-step. I was up and running with Blogdown!

I ported all but a few blog posts from my old website to the new for the content. The new site looked different and was much faster than Google Sites. Another good part was that indexing on search engines was much easier as I had manual control over the robots.txtfile.

With this current system, I have my casual writing and publishing part figured out. I am still pondering on how to proceed with scientific writing.

Posted on:
July 27, 2021
Length:
4 minute read, 675 words
Categories:
blog publications thoughts
Tags:
blog blogdown life
See Also:
Ten days in the United States
Ellsberg's Paradox
A (better) Way to Fund College Education