Behind the CSScenes, November 2022
Is it Fall? Winter? I don’t know, but I woke up with snow in the front yard this morning and felt like it was time to write a little update about what’s been happening around CSS-Tricks this past month, as we’re known to do from time to time.
First up is the CSS-Tricks Newsletter! It’s starting to feel like we’re getting our rhythm down after months of hiatus. The last edition went out at the very end of October. That’s the third consecutive month we’ve been able to shoot it out which I’d call a big win for consistency. Nah, it’s not the weekly cadence we had before, but that’s something we’re aspiring to as our team continues to establish itself.
Speaking of which — we have a new team member! We brought Andrea Anderson on board. She’s a well-established technical editor and we’re lucky as heck she’s here. While she might work on a CSS-Tricks piece from time to time, her main focus is working on content that’s integrated into DigitalOcean’s Community site.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of DigitalOcean’s Community, check out this Developer Markepear post deep-diving into DigitalOcean’s writing process. Seriously, it’s an incredibly deep dive that gets into the way tutorials are outlined and structured, the UX of navigating the tutorial archives, and even the delicate interplay between the content and advertising in each article.
I really like how DigitalOcean’s tutorials are described as “give-first” content that “has a smell of value all over it.” It speaks volumes about the team’s work ethic, which I can personally attest is top-notch. It’s really the reason DigitalOcean and CSS-Tricks make a great match.
Advertising is also pretty top-of-mind for us right now. When we ran a survey the other month, we knew that there’d be concerns about how CSS-Tricks ads would be affected after the DigitalOcean acquisition. Would we remove them? Make them all about DigitalOcean? Keep everything as-is? I mean, CSS-Tricks has traditionally relied on an advertising model to keep the lights on, but now that it’s backed by a company, how much do we really need to rely on ads at all?
Turns out many of you like the ads, according to the survey. They’re sort of like product recommendations baked into the site, and I think that’s a testament to Chris’s effort to make sure ads are (1) promoting good stuff and (2) are relevant to the front-end work we do. Case in point: we recently swapped out a bunch of DigitalOcean ads to promote Cloudways hosting after DigitalOcean acquired it. Those ads didn’t do so well, so we swapped the DigitalOcean ones back in, which were already doing quite well.
(The advertised deal is pretty darn good, by the way… $200 in free credits to spin up your project.)
The work to move CSS-Tricks from WordPress to the same CMS the DigitalOcean Community uses for its content is still in progress. A lot of the work is still mapping WordPress content fields to the new CMS. That’s no trivial task when we’re talking about a website with 7,000-odd articles over a 15-year span. That’s going well, as is the initial site architecture. Next up, we need to figure out how we’re handling WordPress blocks, replicating their features, and creating an inventory of all that we need to carry over. Phew!
As always, we tend to have a few new faces on the site each month as we work with new guest authors. This month, we welcomed Krzysztof Gonciarz and Lorenzo Bonannella. Check out their articles and give ’em a high five for sharing their work. It takes a lot of work to write, not to mention some courage to put your ideas in front of other people. So, thanks a bunch Krzysztof and Lorenzo!
Meet Mojtaba Seyedi
I thought catching up with one of our long-time writers would be a nice way to cap off this month’s update. And few people have contributed as many articles to CSS-Tricks as Mojtaba Seyedi. You may not see his name pop up in the archives all that much, but it’s only because he spends so much time in the Almanac.
I asked Mojtaba a few questions about his work and he graciously responded with these answers…
Your very first article with us was a roundup of plugins for the Sublime Text editor way back in 2017. What made you think to publish it on CSS-Tricks?
I used to be very passionate about the Sublime Text editor and its plugins. I could always find a plugin to ease the pain whenever I was tired of doing repetitive tasks. I would show my co-workers how interesting whatever plugin I was using was and encourage them to use it.
One of my New Year’s resolutions back then — in 2017 — was to publish an article on CSS-Tricks. I always thought the idea had been highly technical. It never occurred to me I could simply create a list of Sublime Text plugins that I happened to find useful for development! Nowadays, I can see how the high bar I had set was preventing me from writing about something that I loved.
There was a brief moment when I considered giving up on that first article. I had psyched myself out thinking that there were tons of other posts already covering the exact same thing. But out of curiosity, I Googled some of the top Sublime Text plugin posts, and surprisingly, I didn’t see any of the plugins I was writing about. So, that’s how I submitted my first article on this website!
You’ve written a total of 35 articles for CSS-Tricks, 33 of which are in the Almanac. What do you enjoy about writing technical information like that?
Almanac entries are referenceable. We keep coming back to them to check the syntax of a property or a selector. For example, we might need to visit the background shorthand property to remember whether the
background-position value goes before or after the slash (
/). References never get old, which is why the Almanac is special to me.
Along the same lines, documentation is challenging. One of the challenges of writing for the CSS-Tricks Almanac is reading and understanding the W3C’s specifications. For example, when I wanted to write about the
mask-border property, the CSS spec was practically my only source. I needed to figure out all the aspects of that module and how different values behave in different situations because there were scant examples in the wild. I enjoy that sort of challenge and feel great when I can turn my findings into something tangible that other developers can understand and use in their own work.
There’s also the joy of completeness. Documentation allows me to get deep into details that might not make it in a typical article. I get satisfaction when I’m able to grasp a property or selector and explain it in my own words. The CSS-Tricks Alamanc gives me that opportunity.
What can you say about the editing process for those who haven’t gone through it?
First, enjoy a clean and easy process. The CSS-Tricks editorial team will help you improve it and make it better than you can on your own.
Also, be sure to edit your draft first. Always edit the article yourself before submitting it. The more ready your writing is, the more time it gives the editor to help you improve your work. If the editor needs to spend a lot of time fixing basic grammar and spelling, that’s time that could have been spent pushing the idea further with feedback and other considerations.
And, of course, learn from your mistakes. Be open to learning while you’re in the editing process. The editorial team here is very experienced and helpful. I try to review what they have changed in my article and put them into practice in my next writings. I would love to thank Geoff, from whom I have learned a lot about technical writing.
Do you have any tips for someone thinking about submitting an article proposal?
Do not overthink the idea. Your article doesn’t have to be rocket science. Anything you know well enough to write about can be helpful to others.
Another piece of advice: do not underestimate yourself. When Chris Coyier invited the community to contribute to the CSS-Tricks Almanac, I told myself there were many more qualified people who could do that, even though I had experience writing CSS docs. And yes, many folks were (and maybe still are) more knowledgeable than me. But as it turned out, I could be a part of this because I was willing to try.
Another big deal is to not worry about repeating others. Your idea doesn’t have to be unique. You can write about something others have written about in a new and different way. Your point of view and perspective matter! Your approach to solving a problem and how you explain it might be different in a super helpful way.
And finally… what’s your favorite CSS trick?
My favorite trick used to be centering an element by setting
display: table on it and letting auto margins do the rest. Nowadays, with CSS becoming much more awesome, I can do the same trick with
min-content and without an additional wrapper.
I’m sure there is a blog post or article about this same topic somewhere on the web. But I would like to write about it here on CSS-Tricks. See? I want to share my own perspective with you and I want to explain it in my own way.
Have something you want to share on CSS-Tricks? Send us your pitch!
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