Living online documents

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I haven’t been treating this blog as an “actual” blog.

As a reader, I view blogs as a place for regularly published posts which are read and then immediately forgotten. As a writer, I view blogs as a place to publish a piece of writing and then move on to the next piece.

I can’t think of my blog this way.

Instead, I think of each post as an unfinished piece of work that acts a stake in the ground for an idea that may be worth thinking about. In the future, I may come back to fix up typos, grammatical errors, add/remove sentences, or even add/remove entire ideas.

This means that each post is a living online document. I wish that there was some way for the public to view it as such. Instead, people just see the new posts within their email or RSS readers. To my subscribers, I’m sorry about this. It is unfortunate because all of the ideas are half-baked and may contain some horrible typos/errors. I hope you still find the ideas interesting, and perhaps find your way back to some of the posts in the future (after the 100-day challenge when I can revisit posts).

This points to an interesting thought about online publishing. Most content online does not change. News articles don’t change. Most people don’t change their blog posts. Facebook and Twitter posts don’t change. And at the same time, content is growing at and exponential rate. The Internet is becoming a firehose of half-baked articles that could be better, but never will be.

The current Internet rewards quantity. Yet, over time, it is the evergreen quality posts that really matter. One could expect writers to publish fully formed evergreen content, but this is very difficult. What makes sense is to revisit ideas, iterate on them, and then iterate on the writing.

Is there some way to support and encourage living online documents? If someone could figure how to make living documents engaging, IMHO, the Internet would become a much better place.

P.S. This is post number #70 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

Why I write

This essay is inspired by this week’s Startup Edition topic, “Why do you write?”.

Why-I-Write.jpg

In my 18 months of blogging, I’ve gone through two phases.

The first phase was right after I quit my job. I used to be a computer systems researcher, and took to blogging as an experiment in web publishing. The main goal was to understand what it was like to share on the Internet, and how web traffic worked.

The second phase started at the 100 day blogging challenge a little over a month ago. I took the challenge because I wanted to write more, but since then I have really started to narrow in on why I blog, and why it matters to me. I thought I’d share a little about it in this post.

First, let me start off with some reasons that don’t motivate me to write.

I don’t write for web traffic. In my first phase of blogging, I wrote with the goal of driving some web traffic. I wanted to learn what made posts go viral, and ended up writing a few relatively popular posts on the most important lesson I’ve ever learned, the unbundling of reddit, and why titles suck on the Internet. Driving traffic was a fun game, but I had a tough time publishing on a regular basis. I learned that driving traffic, and building a web presence isn’t enough motivation for me to continually blog.

I don’t write for content marketing. This blog is pretty crappy as far as entrepreneur blogs go. It uses a default theme. I don’t target any particular keywords. I don’t target a particular topic to gain notoriety for one particular thing. I don’t use link-bait titles very often, even though I know many of the tricks. I don’t push my products much (although I do link to them). I feel good about this blog when it reflects who I am. However, I should say that I do appreciate content marketing. I may try it one day, but it isn’t the purpose of this blog.

I don’t write to be right. If I did, I would probably never hit the publish button. I might be right, wrong, or somewhere in between. Some of my writing may be ridiculously stupid. If it is… oh well. I wouldn’t be the first person to be wrong on the internet.

I don’t write to be a writer. I don’t expect the writing to be awesome. I just hope the writing is good enough to get my thoughts across. I don’t want to be seen as a writer. I judge myself by the other stuff I create. Writing is an auxiliary thing that helps my thought process. If my writing ever gets too “good”, please tell me to stop focusing on writing and get on with my actual work.

I don’t write for ego.  I probably won’t ever blog about being successful (if I reach some point one could deem as successful). I don’t write regular “how to” posts because I don’t claim to know the right way to do something. If I write a “how to”, I try to preface it by saying that it is one strategy that has worked for me. In general, I’d rather blog about how things are hard because real challenges in life and hard, and figuring out how to tackle challenges is what is interesting to me.

By the way. all of these are all perfectly good reasons to write. Others on the Internet do a great job of writing for all these reasons I don’t write. They just don’t work for me.

So let’s get to the reasons that I do write.

I write to understand life. Many of my posts are random thoughts on life and personal development. They may be about internal/external reflections, identity, or dreams. To me, the most interesting thing about life is life itself. It is one thing to think about things; it is another to organize them in some form and get them out on paper. I highly prefer getting things out on paper.

I write to share my thoughts. I believe that humans are meant to connect, and thoughts are meant to be shared. Some people are talkers. I’m not one of those people. So, I share  through written word. Plus, sharing by writing is scalable. I can write once, and it is on the web for anyone to read at anytime at the speed of their liking. As an example, I have many thoughts on how the academic system could be improved: from incorporating startup accelerators, to shifting some of the publication system to online publishing. Who knows if I am right, but I think they ideas worth sharing with the world.

I write to understand entrepreneurship.  When I quit my job, I had the feeling that something within he entrepreneurial world would be right for me. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an entrepreneur, and what I am looking for.

I write to figure out product. I am working in the consumer web space because I like the idea of building something that is accessible to the general public. However, my background has nothing to do with product. Again, it is one thing to think; it is another to write. Blogging has helped me tremendously with boiling down product decisions. In fact, my two recent posts on simplicity and unboundedness in good consumer products caused me to do a full pivot on Soulmix last week. I am now in the process of reworking the entire product.

I write to make creating and shipping a way of life. I wrote earlier on why entrepreneurs should blog. In short, the job of an entrepreneur is to create and ship things of value for the world. Building products can be tough. You can’t always ship on a daily basis, and even if you can, it doesn’t always have value. However, you can write and ship your thoughts on a regular basis.

I write to motivate myself. If you follow my blog, you may notice many of the posts have to do with perseverance or staying on course. I’ve written on treating all steps as the first step, on surviving the startup roller coaster, and on playing the long game. Those posts were really for me. They are how I inject and imprint the “right” thoughts into my mind, and how I survive this entrepreneurial roller coaster (which can be damn tough!).

As a side note, there are definitely benefits to regular blogging. Through it, I have connected with other bloggers and entrepreneurs, I have started to gain more WordPress followers, and I can see an SEO effect starting to build as traffic from Google increases. These are great side effects, but if I was blogging for these purposes, I wouldn’t be able to maintain the habit.

It wasn’t until I did the 100 day blogging challenge that I was forced to find a sustainable reason to write, and in retrospect I am really glad I took on the challenge. The reasons above are the reasons that work for me. They make it fun, rewarding, and easy to sit down on a regular basis and bang out a blog post.

Your turn. Do you write? Do you want to? What motivates you? I would love to hear from other bloggers, or would-be bloggers.

P.S. This is post number #45 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project Soulmix.

My blogging habit

write-night

This will be post #35 of the 100 day blogging challenge, and here I am, still at it.

Over time, I’ve refined my blogging algorithm and have seemed to settle in on a good one. Here is what works for me:

  1. Stop working about an hour before I intend to sleep. Since I sleep late this tends to be anywhere between 12 midnight, and 3am. Today, it is was 2:30am.
  2. I give myself about 15 minutes to come up with an idea. Usually I choose something that was on my mind during the day. I have old drafts in WordPress, but rarely use them. I just don’t happen to be inspired to complete them. If 15 minutes is up, I choose the best topic I’ve come up with.
  3. Start writing, and publish it before I go to bed.

This has been surprisingly effective, and I think it may be sustainable.

They keys here are really the two forcing functions. I must pick a topic in 15 minutes, and I must hit the publish button before I go to bed. I can take as long as I want to write, but at some point, I am sleepy and it is time to publish.

The result is that every morning, I wake up and think two things:

  1. “Oh man, I could have made last night’s post so much better”, and then
  2. “I can’t believe that I’m still blogging!”.

The first thought kind of sucks, but hey, no one said blog posts have to be perfect. On the plus side, it leaves room for future blog posts.

The second thought is awesome, and it makes me feel better about the first one.

Now it’s 3:03am and it’s time to sleep. I don’t even need to wait until tomorrow morning. This one could have been way better.

Still, for you aspiring bloggers, I hope you picked up something useful (pro tip: its the two forcing functions!).

P.S. This is post number #35 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project Soulmix.

Why entrepreneurs should blog

I remember when I first quit my job and ventured out as an entrepreneur. I hopped onto reddit, scoured Hacker News, did a bunch of Google searches, and what did I find? It seemed that everyone had their own blogs!

So of course, one of the first things I did after leaving my job was to start my own blog.

However, I found myself having a tough time keeping it up. At best, I’d blog about once a week. At worst, once every few months. I think the reason it was difficult to keep up was that I hadn’t come up with meaningful reasons to blog. Yes, I wrote a few relatively viral posts, met some people from it, and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t enough to keep up the habit.

About two weeks ago, I started the 100 post challenge as a kickstart to get blogging again. I knew there had to be something important about it, and wanted to blog more. After learning to make it a habit, I think I have started to realize the real benefits of blogging.. especially for an entrepreneur.

I believe that entrepreneurship is all about creating things of value and getting them out into the world.

Although the job of an entrepreneur is about creating, most entrepreneurs don’t create within the world on a regular basis. It takes time to develop and release products. You aren’t alway creating and shipping product every day. Plus, there are traps that can slow you down and/or prevent you from creating. It may be constant pivoting of product. It may be the desire for perfection.

This is where blogging comes in as a good practice. What else is blogging but creation?

Each day, I get to form a thought, organize it in my mind, dump it out onto my screen, make a few passes on it, and then get it out into the real world.

It goes from random thought to published creation in a day. Isn’t that awesome? How many other ways are there to ensure you are constantly creating stuff in the world?

The only question is that of value. Do random quickly-written posts have any value in the world? I would argue the answer is “yes”.

A blog post is an expression of yourself that you are sharing with the world. At some point, someone will stumble upon your post and connect with it in some way.

But a post can be much more than that. It can inspire other people to think different. It can inspire other blog posts that start a cascading effect of thought and inspiration. It can spark a thought that changes some corner of the world.

The exact value of a blog post isn’t always known, but surely there is some value in it. And this is OK, because this may be the nature of value. You don’t always know what someone out there may value. But you can create stuff and put it out there into the world.

Beyond that, each blog post you write is deliberate practice in mastering the craft of creating and shipping written thoughts. Those are pretty great things for any entrepreneur (or anyone else) to be mastering.

P.S. This is post number #16 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project Soulmix, your daily mix of food for the soul. Request an invite now for free access to the private beta!

I’m writing 100 posts in 100 days

Power of Words

Yesterday I came across a blog post by David Spinks on writing 100 posts in 100 days.

My first thought was, “Wow, that is a great idea. I wish I could do that.

Then I remembered the most important lesson I ever learned: just do it.

So now I’m doing it 🙂

Why 100 in 100?

I’ve always enjoyed writing.

One reason for this is that I grew up with a speech impediment. I used to stutter a lot as a child, and still do when I get nervous. Although I can’t always communicate clearly through speech, I can write as whatever I want.

Another reason is that writing just feels good. There is something cathartic about sitting down with your thoughts, distilling them, and putting them down to paper (or virtual paper). It is an exercise in self expression, and must be why artists love their craft.

That said, I not a good writer. And I am definitely a slow writer.

There is a reason that I rarely blog. It usually takes me a few days (sometimes up to a week) to get any post to the point where it feels publishable. And even then, I’ll make a pass after publishing and find all kinds of typos and mistakes that should be fixed.

I want to get better at writing, and this an awesome way to do it.

Embracing the suckitude.

I promise one post a day. That is it.

Some posts will be really short. Some will be wrong. Some will be pointless. And some will just plain suck.

But it is all good.

If there is one thing I fully believe in, it is the power of ritual and habit. I’ve already seen it in various areas within my life.

  • Try running everyday, and see how fast you get.
  • Try lifting everyday and see how strong you get.
  • Try coding everyday, and see how good you get.
  • Try partying everyday and see how much your alcohol tolerance increases 😉

I’ve never tried blogging everyday, but am sure it will be worth it.

Let’s see where this goes!

Here we are: post 1 of 100, complete.

See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye

Check out my current project Soulmix, your daily mix of food for the soul. Request an invite for free early access!