November 25, 2018
EDIT Feb 2019:
I’ve realized I do this to help me process and crystallize thoughts and questions that matter to me.
It’s not really about the numbers or revenue or a real job (like online youtubers or bloggers etc). I’ve realized that having a small audience of smart, engaged, people who see me as a human (not a brand) is an excuse for me to crystallize my thoughts. Bonus points if they share something back that helps me think even better.
Most of the below is still true…
It’s fun, and it does good. I’ve been doing this on various platforms for a decade now, and when people tell me that something I wrote helped them it’s been super fulfilling. If I make something that sucks hopefully it does less harm than when I make something good.
Also it’s a great way to keep in touch with a lot of smart people and get their feedback on thoughts and ideas.
My hope is that more and more good people will join in over time. Why is more better? I want to do cool things in the future that are bigger than one person. I don’t know exactly what, though I’ve observed that it’s much better to keep a community informed along the way.
So, I hope to do more than publish things online. Expect some calls to action one day! I don’t know to what, and I’m in no rush.
How am I going to do it?
I am going to put down some constraints and principles for myself:
EDIT March 2019:
All the below and….
- Be vulnerable – Don’t just proclaim things as if you had the insight from birth. Reveal the mistakes or setbacks or weakness that led you there! Be vulnerable. We’re all human and turns out we all go through most of the same things. The vulnerability means more to people than any one brilliant insight.
- Tell your story – you’re not a textbook author or a Wikipedia editor. First, you don’t have to give a watertight literature survey and explain everything. Second, any profound insight is going to have a bajillion ways to communicate it, that it can get overwhelming and paralyzing. Tell your story, your angle, your path to whatever insight you have.
- It doesn’t have to be original because there’s no way that it is, only that it’s my own story. I’m not gonna worry whether I’ve accidentally stumbled across an idea that already exists and whether I’ll look dumb. Repeating things is okay, in fact, encouraged, I tend to prefer the basic insights of something repeated to me.
- Only create what I’m buzzing to make. And if I’m not, I won’t.
- Remain a do-er. Focus on first-hand experiences rather than commentary on other people doing things, or current events.
- Respect the reader. Write things for people whose minds I respect. Avoid gratuitous polarizing content or productivity porn etc. (cough medium.com cough)
- Discourse over engagement. Life’s too short to count likes and comments. Also, moderating a community is hard. I want thoughtful interactions, so I’ll give out my email. I probably won’t do much twitter either. It’s not healthy.
- No algorithms or middlemen owning the relationship. I want to optimize for you and me; not what I think an algorithm is going to like. I don’t trust myself not to over optimize for an algorithm and forget why I’m doing this. (In practice this means sticking to WordPress and an email list.)
What will people at work think?
EDIT March 2019:
Well, I eventually moved and left my job. And for my future jobs… hell, if what I write here bothers them, it wasn’t gonna last long anyways.
Life’s too short not to work with good people. Having these thoughts public is a good filter and will save me time.
I happen to work at a really, really cool place whose customers (and employees) are online creators. My colleagues are my inspiration! Jarvis Johnson, Buster Benson, Mayuko Inoue, Spencer Handley, are all creators I’ve gotten to know personally and ask lots of behind the scenes questions.
When I was on the fence about doing this, I brought it up at the water cooler with Jack Conte, Patreon’s CEO. His response: “Do it. Definitely do it.” I’m pretty lucky to work at Patreon.
(Speaking of Patreon, getting back into creating online is a great exercise in empathy for our creators.)
What am I going to make?
I’ll start with slide decks.
Yes, slide decks. The kind that’s made for reading, and fun to page through. Not boring powerpoint bullets. Imagine something between a tweetstorm and a youtube video.
I’ll probably also write things. Maybe audio? Video? Drawings? Whatever works best for the idea I want to communicate.
Some final inspiration and reminders to myself, to quote Nas Daily:
“The way to make good content is to care about it,” said Yassin. “I’ve seen a lot of people do things they don’t care about just to make money.”
“I want to see the video when I’m 90 and be proud of it, not say that this is trash but I got paid for it.”