How to Clickbait a Developer: 105 Catchy Title Trends by@mpron

How to Clickbait a Developer: 105 Catchy Title Trends

Mitch Pronschinske HackerNoon profile picture

Mitch Pronschinske

11 yr veteran of the software development and DevOps content space. Opinions my own.

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If you’re not very deep into the cultural landscape of software developers (or sysadmins, DevOps engineers, SREs, or anyone else who works with code for that matter…) you probably haven’t realized that the community has developed their own coded style for article and conference talk titles.

To be honest, this feels like an odd topic for a blog post. You don’t see a lot of interest in the quirky writing and title-picking tendencies of the coder world, but after following this industry for 11 years, I feel like a few newer entrants to the tech field could benefit from knowing how to entice interest from the rest of the community.

You can find a bunch of great generalized resources on how to write a good blog title — and I encourage you to read those — but there’s almost zero good advice out there right now on writing a great title for our niche audience.

That brings us to the question: who am I writing this for?

Maybe it’s people who are just starting out in the coding world and want to spark a little more interest in their blogs or talk submissions.

Maybe you work in developer relations, advocacy, or content marketing and want to create things that appeal to this demographic.

Or maybe you’re a veteran coder who will find this list entertaining — nodding along and enjoying the cleverness of our in-group (or perhaps you can tell me why people say “learn you a Haskell for great good” — I still don’t get it).

Maybe this will help you clickbait your way to the front page of HackerNews or have the most attended talk of that conference you’re submitting an abstract for.

Whatever your reasons for checking this out, I now present my definitive list of catchy title ideas for the world of programming. I’ll be using variables X and Y to denote a blank space in a title where any topic or adjective can go.

Why X?

Why Ruby?

Why React?

Why Multicloud?

These titles ask the question: “Why would I want to do or use this thing?” It just takes that question and makes it a lot more terse.

(Learn) X the Y Way

Learn Python the Hard Way

Kubernetes the Hard Way

Learn Rust the Dangerous Way

Finding bugs in SQLite, the easy way

Learn Python the Hard Way was the book that got “the hard way” title trending. Why would you want to learn something the hard way? Well, the rationale is that it sticks in your memory better when you learn things without a lot of shortcuts and abstractions.

X The Right Way

PHP: The Right Way

JavaScript: The Right Way

This title is more gutsy, but it works because even though people realize that there’s no one “right” way to do everything, they want a solid, well-tested pattern so they don’t have to figure out their own.

X: The Y Guide

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide

Java Programming: A Practical Guide

Optionals In Swift: The Ultimate GuideCentering in CSS: A Complete Guide

How to Deploy Mongo on AWS using Docker: the definitive guide for first-timers

The Essential Guide to Building Balanced Development Teams

The No-Nonsense Guide to JVM 14 Memory on Kubernetes

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Programming

Kubernetes for the Busy Developer

You can get really creative with this one. I like the titles that mention a target audience, such as: The (Beginner’s, Absolute Beginner’s, Freelancer’s, Busy Developer’s, Hacker’s, etc.) Guide.

X Considered Harmful

Go To Statement Considered Harmful

Docker Considered Harmful

Javascript Cryptography Considered Harmful

Software Patents Considered Harmful

“Considered Harmful” Essays Considered Harmful

In programming, this title template started in 1968 with Edsger Dijkstra’s letter: “Go To Statement Considered Harmful”. Now it’s mainly used in alarmist essays or mildly alarmed essays that just want a clickbait title — but hey, that’s what you’re here for isn’t it :)

X Explained

DevOps Explained

Angular 2 change detection explained

RAFT Explained – Part 1/3: Introduction to the Consensus Problem

X Demystified

Open Source Software: Demystified

Kubernetes Networking Demystified: A Brief Guide

Demystifying Service Mesh

Thought about getting “Technology Demystifier” on my last set of business cards.

X and Y: Better Together

Distributed Tracing & Logging - Better TogetherVault & Kubernetes: Better Together

Ansible and HashiCorp: Better Together

A Bunch Of Great Strategies For Using Memcached And MySQL Better Together

This is sometimes (but not always) used to propose that two potentially competitive tools or ideas be used together rather than a one-or-the-other scenario. Think of all the initial enemies that work so well together, together like Goku and Vegeta, Rey and Kylo Ren, or pineapple and pizza! (Just kidding about that last one. I’m not a monster.)

The X Handbook (or Pocket Guide)

The Next.js Handbook

The Python Data Science HandbookSQL Pocket Guide: A Guide to SQL Usage

Bootstrap Pocket Guide

I miss the more comprehensive guides and the olden days of pocket-sized sysadmin reference guides. I say bring back more “handbooks” and “pocket guides”! Sure software books are out of date in 6 months these days, but instead we can make frequently updated web guides that look great on our phones can’t we?

X the Missing Manual

WordPress: The Missing Manual

cglib: The missing manual

Docs as Code: The Missing Manual

This one was actually a running series of books as well as a potential talk or blog title. It indicates coverage of a topic that hasn’t been documented as comprehensively or clearly as the author would like.

A Gentle Introduction to X

A Gentle Introduction to Deep Learning for Graphs

A Gentle Introduction to Programming Using Python

A Gentle Introduction To Rust

The alternative to “The Hard Way”.

[Insert pop-culture referencing title here]

One Does Not Simply Put Machine Learning Into Production

Keep it Safe… Keep it SecretAutomate All the Things!

Call Me Maybe: MongoDB Stale Reads

Buttons that Spark Joy

Winter is Coming For Java Updates

Clever, humorous, culturally relevant titles always get my attention. Keep your references fresh, my friends.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to X

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Javascript

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Terraform Your Infrastructure

Hitchhikers guide to Haskell

This might be the most popular of the pop-culture reference titles.

[Insert pun-ny title here]

Look What You MIDI Me Do!

Can’t Contain your Excitement about Containerization?

At Your Microservice

The world needs more of these.

Everything You Need to Know about X, Things Every X Should Know

Everything You Need to Know About OAuth (2.0)

Everything you need to know about cryptography in 1 hour

Everything you need (and don’t need) to know about PHP’s type system

97 Things Every Cloud Engineer Should Know

It’s a little arrogant to say you know what we need to know, but I guess it’s meant to mean something like ‘the basics that matter when you’re starting out with a new topic.’ Or maybe it will also include some pitfalls not easily found in the documentation.

X in a Nutshell

Java in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick ReferenceI

I2C in a Nutshell

Kubernetes and Virtual Kubelet in a nutshell

X in Plain English

Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Plain English

Functors, Applicatives, and Monads in Plain English

Software Licenses in Plain English

Because sometimes these complex topics feel like they’re described in a foreign language. Of course, if you don’t speak English that well, this type of article might not interest you. Maybe you need something like “X in Plain French”.

X: Explain it like I’m 5

Explain like I’m 5: DNS

Explain functional programming to me like I’m five

Explain it to me like I am a 5-year-old: What are Docker, Image, and Containers

Because sometimes plain English isn’t enough. Sometimes things need to be explained in the simplest terms possible.

X in Y Minutes

Awk in 20 Minutes

90% of Python in 90 Minutes

Learn Lua in 15 Minutes

Isn’t it great to know how long something will take ahead of time? Although if it’s anything like the estimated cooking times I see on recipes, it’ll probably take me twice as long.

X for Fun and Profit

F# for Fun and Profit

Distributed systems for fun and profit

Tagging Docker Images for Fun and Profit

Who says you can’t have fun and make a profit?

X: Friend or Foe?

CSS Overrides: Friend or Foe?

Const - Friend or Foe in C++?

Local Variable Type Inference: Friend or Foe?

Friend or foe… what about a frienemy?

X: The Good Parts

JavaScript: The Good Parts

JavaScript: The Evil Parts

git log – the Good Parts

AngularJS: The Bad Parts

I think this was popularized by the famous book “JavaScript: The Good Parts”. Now people get creative by putting any adjective before “Parts”.

X is Over/Broken/Bullshit

The Windows era is over

Data denormalization is broken

“Cultural Fit” Is Bullshit

If you’re feeling edgy or wanna be controversial.

X: Stories from Trenches

PostgreSQL Search: From the Trenches

Kotlin From The Trenches

10 best sysadmin stories from the trenches

Vault Configuration as Code via Terraform: Stories From the Trenches at Hippo Technologies

Because code is war.

The Life of a X

The Life of a Data Byte

The Life of a Packet Through Consul Service Mesh

The Life of a Serverless Microservice on AWS

Because code is life.

The Art of X

The Art of Writing Scripts for CI/CD

The Art of the Error Message

The Art of Assembly Language

The Art of Interrupting Software Engineers

For those topics that are more of an art than a science.

Cheat Sheets, Checklists, or Quick References

Front-End Performance Checklist 2020

API Security Checklist

Rust Language Cheat Sheet

Shell Script Brackets Cheat Sheet

From C to C++: A quick reference for aging programmers

Linux Quick Reference Guide

Once you already know something but don’t want to have to remember every detail, that’s when you want a quick reference or checklist. Make one of those for a topic where one is badly needed and you’ll get plenty of views with a simple title like these.

Learn You a X for Great Good

Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

Learn You Some Lisp for Great Good

Learn You Some Erlang for Great Good!

Learn You an Elm

I don’t know where this weird phrase comes from, but it’s truly a thing. If you know, tell me in the comments. Does it have something to do with the syntax of functional programming?

X is Your Friend / Not Your Friend

A new addition to this article (2021). Basically another way to say "x is great" or "x considered harmful".

The Last / Only X You'll Ever Need

Another way of saying a "definitive" or comprehensive guide that obviates the need to read any others.

The last S3 security document that we’ll ever need, and how to use it

Go Forth and Write Catchy Titles!

Well I hope that wasn’t a total waste of your time. Now, as conference seasons approach and you have some time to work on talk submissions or blog posts, this list can give you some ideas for the title of your content or maybe even inspire the topic you choose to cover.

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Mitch Pronschinske HackerNoon profile picture
by Mitch Pronschinske @mpron.11 yr veteran of the software development and DevOps content space. Opinions my own.
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