125 people in Product & Development. 1000’s of projects. A tech blog with 1 article. Something wasn’t right. Bonialers just weren’t engaged with creating content for our tech blog, no matter how much we asked them to. But that’s understandable; if engineers and product owners are busy, where will they find the time to write a blog article? We decided to get a bit creative and try something different. This is our story of how Bonial’s Blogathon was conceived.
The Blogathon Was Born
Purpose of the tech blog
Bonial’s CTO, Head of Data and I were sitting in a call together discussing how we could populate our tech blog. We had come to the table with different perspectives and, understandably, different needs from the blog. To become more aligned on our wants and needs, we opened up a mind map to list our ideas and pinpoint what our mission ultimately was. We asked ourselves questions like “Who is our audience?” and “What are our goals?”
After some deliberation, we came away with four main takeaways. An improved and active tech blog would:
- Show the world that Bonial is, in fact, a tech company
- Attract more experienced candidates for recruitment
- Enable Bonialers to grow in their careers by helping them grow their writing and knowledge sharing skills
- Show our clients and users alike that we care about tech and how we work at Bonial
These four points generally centre around a single issue – what Bonial does is a bit of a black box to the outside world. Lots of candidates look for blog articles regarding our work and it’s hard for them to understand why we even need software engineers or data analysts, for example.
Ok, we know why we want a tech blog. Now what?
Just because we now knew what purpose the tech blog should serve, that didn’t mean we knew how to get 125 people in Product & Development to become engaged and willingly create content. So then we had to consider: how do we get people to write blog articles for Bonial?
We again laid this out by asking ourselves various questions (there’s a theme here ): “How do we incentivise writing for our blog?”, “What scares Bonialers from writing blog articles?”, “How do we ensure blog articles are written with quality?”.
After discussing incentive ideas such as allowing Bonialers to have time for writing articles during their workweek, ghostwriting for people worried about their writing skills, as well as providing training and support, we agreed that even providing these incentives will not help us to get the ball rolling. We needed to kick start our blog in such a way that we could get a lot of traction in a short amount of time. We needed to nudge and to get people engaged. We needed to provide people with the time to write.
And then we had it! The idea that we ended up realising several months later: a hackathon for our blog. A Blogathon.
Let’s have a Blogathon! Wait, how do we do that?
After some google searching, I couldn’t find anything related to how to run a blogathon, and I wondered if any companies have ever really done something like this. Without any resources or information on how to structure a blogathon, we were working from scratch. To top it all off, this was our first hackathon-like event that would be completely virtual, as the COVID-19 situation in Berlin had not yet improved and we were still all mostly working from our homes. So not only did we have to figure out how to structure the event, but also how we would do it all from our remote locations.
And so we started brainstorming. We brought in our head Agile Coach, Samir, and our Office Management team Victor and Marta S. We considered even more questions: “How do we structure the day?”, “Should it be a one-day event? Two?”, “How do we make this collaborative while we keep it remote?”, “How do we get Bonialers to participate even though they are worried about not knowing what to write?”.
Samir would take the lead with organising a training on how to write a blog article. We wanted everyone who was participating to feel prepared and able to provide their best content without panicking on the day of the blogathon that they have nothing to write about and don’t know how to structure a blog article. Samir provided tools for people to do their best work. We participated in a four-quadrant activity to kill blank page syndrome. We learned how to structure a blog article to ensure readability and engagement. We learned how to not be afraid of putting your thoughts down on paper.
Victor and Marta S. from office management helped us out by providing support on another way of engaging people: blogathon packages. They provided our blogathon participants with a goodie bag filled with yummy snacks and some items to spark creativity (cue the Berliner Luft & Word Magnets – super clever team!).
Carla, our CTO’s executive assistant, provided us with the organisation by creating a sign-up form to know how many participants we would have, who would like to participate in a training session from Samir, who would like vegan options in their goodie bags, and more. She helped us stay on track and keep things running smoothly.
And finally, we thought about how to gamify a blogathon so that we could increase engagement. We chose to provide prizes to the best blog articles under the following categories:
- Best Tutorial
- Funniest Article
- Best Overall Article
So, how did it go?
I’m delighted to say that on September 25th, 2020, Bonial held its first Blogathon. Bonialers were excited to take part in this event and share their experiences and knowledge with the world, and some have even said that they would like to start blogging more! Out of our 30 participants, nearly all of them submitted an article by the next day. We had people write about various topics ranging from personal growth, improving technical implementations, to agile best practices. But we aren’t finished just yet, we still have some work to do! We will spend the next week reading and voting on our peers’ blog articles to pick winners for our three categories.
Stay tuned to find out more about tech at Bonial and to read more content created during our Blogathon!
This article was written by Marta Kobus, a team lead at Bonial.