There seem to be all kinds of lists of top software development and technical blogs. On the one hand, this does not matter that much to me because of the existence of powerful search engines such as Google and powerful development-specific aggregation sites such DZone. Search engines allow me to find an answer to a particular problem I am facing and don't limit me to blogs. If I do want to focus on blogs, blog-specific search engines such as Google Blog Search are useful and allow the query to be limited to specified recent timeframes (such as blogs posted in the past week). When I am looking for exposure to new things that I don't even know enough about to generate a useful search query, a site like DZone fills that need nicely.
Because search engines provide answers to current problems and technology-focused social aggregation sites expose me to new ideas and concepts, I often don't find the need to limit myself to reading a particular blog regularly. That being said, there are cases where a single blog ends up helping me enough times via search or via aggregation site that I realize it's worth reading proactively. I usually determine these blogs from my own experience, but it is still worth seeing which blogs others think are among the best in software development. In the remainder of this blog post, I reference some of these collected lists of "best," "top," or "most popular" software development blogs. I also make excuses for why my blog did not make any of these lists. :)
NOOP.NL: Top 200 Blogs for Developers
Jurgen Appelo's Top 200 Blogs for Developers is perhaps the most comprehensive (200 blogs!), most frequently updated (quarterly), and most systematic of the lists of software development blogs. This list is based on Google Page Rank, Google links, and several other ranking sources. Greater detail on how this list was created is available in How to Make a Top Blog List. Jurgen says that he does not include blogs in this list that are narrowly focused on a single language, but I like to think that the reason my blog did not make the list is that he is not aware of it to even consider it for the Top 200.
64 High-Ranked Blogs for Developers
The blogs cited on 64 High-Ranked Blogs for Developers seem to be those with highest Page Rank (each has a Page Rank of six or higher, which is impressive for a development-focused blog). I like the appearance of this list with screen snapshots, the page rank, and a link to the blog's main page. It is a simple and elegant web page design. I am fairly certain that my blog's Page Rank (5) is the reason for exclusion from this list. At least that's what I tell myself because I don't like the idea that my blog did not make the list due to its lack of impressive design.
SD Times Best Blogs of 2007
SD Times on the Web features an article Best Blogs of 2007 includes "most interesting technology blogs" that range from "the authoritative to the wacky." I like to think that my blog did not make this list because I did not start writing in until late 2007 (October).
Several Tech Blogs Worth Exploring. Oh Yeah, All by Women.
This recent (October 2009) blog post looks at a wide spectrum of technical blogs written by women. I like to think my blog did not make this list because of my gender.
Top 10 Recent Blogs
Not so recent anymore (December 2005), many of the blogs listed at MEME: Top 10 Recent Blogs are still popular nearly four years later. When this list came out, my first blog entry would not be written for nearly another two years.
Five Great Software Development Blogs
The March 2007 post 5 Great Software Development Blogs provides a paragraph explanation of five preferred software development blogs and lists two more without explanation as blogs worth a time investment. Again, I am able to rationalize to myself that my blog is not on this list because it wasn't even around at that time.
My Personal Favorite Software Development Blogs
If I cared more about having my blog make a list of "top software development blogs," I would make up my own list and ignore any idea of objectivity and put my own blog on the list (probably as #1). However, the truth is that I really don't have a list of favorite blogs. Rather, I do recognize some blogs that consistently provide the answers I seek via search engine or learn about a new post via a social aggregation site. Instead of listing particular blogs here, what I will state is the types of software development blogs that I prefer. In general, I have found that I prefer blog posts that meet one or more of the following criteria (in some cases, these are conflicting criteria and it is nearly impossible to satisfy both):
1. Very Specific and Detailed - These tend to be preferred when I seek an answer to a specific and often somewhat tricky question or problem. An example of this was was Mike Morearty's Common E4X Pitfalls post that specifically addressed problems I ran into when first using E4X with Flex.
2. Experienced-based - I appreciate blogs written with the voice of experience. I often don't need a post repeating what all the books and articles say; instead I need to know the intricacies and nuances of a particular approach, language, framework, methodology, or other software development concept.
3. Lessons Learned from Others' Mistakes - I make enough of my own mistakes that I appreciate when others make potential mistakes first and then warn me and the rest of us about these. These refreshingly honest blog posts can be difficult to write, but can be of significant value to the rest of us.
4. Contrarian - It is easy to be a lemming in the software development. I appreciate blogs that challenge this mentality and challenge the direction of the software development herd. I don't always agree with the contrarians (the herd is correct sometimes), but I think the consideration of multiple viewpoints is extremely valuable. Note that I don't want more simple-minded posts that say, "Such-and-such sucks," but rather want more contrarian posts that actually back up their contrarian opinion. Examples of blogs that often have these types of articles include Software Reality and The Programmer Has No Clothes.
5. Fresh Perspective - One of the reasons I prefer to choose the blog posts I read via search engine and via browsing of social aggregation sites is that these approaches work best for discovering fresh new perspectives. The best of the blogs contained in the lists described in this post are amazing in the sense that they almost all are long-running blogs (a requirement for being popular) that are consistently useful (another requirement for being popular). However, some of the freshest perspectives can sometimes come from those newest to software development and/or newest to blogging.
6. Link and Reference Heavy - My favorite blog posts are typically link-heavy and/or provide many references. If I really like the subject of the blog post, chances are I'm going to want to read similar material. It is also likely I'd like to see other posts that inspired the post I am enjoying. Furthermore, I sometimes need further explanation of more complex terms covered in a great post and can find that more easily if it is linked to. It is my opinion that one of the best features of the software development corner of the blogosphere is the community nature of it. The more interconnected the blogs are, the more we can gain these advantages. It seems that I have found "just the right blog post" a countless number of times not directly from my favorite search engine or from my favorite social aggregation site, but have instead found it via a link from the page found from the search engine or aggregation site.
There are many excellent blogs related to software development out there. With no hope of ever reading them all, the lists outlined above can be useful in determining which to focus on if one wants to read a particular blog regularly. In many respects, the plethora of great software development blogs convinces me more than ever of the value of effective use of a good search engine and of a good social aggregation site to allow me to see either the most applicable blogs to a particular problem or to see the blog posts that are generally deemed by the community to be the most significant.