Last August I spoke at the excellent Web Directions Product conference in Melbourne, and found myself wishing I still had a blog up and running to develop and share some of the ideas from my talk, and other ideas about product, and just stuff I like, like I used to do back in the day. So here I am with a blog!
I’ve been technically trying to launch this blog for over a year, but kept getting bogged down and not shipping. Part of this was fussing over the design; if you’re reading this at time of publication, in December 2019, you’ll notice I’m using WordPress’s current default Twenty Twenty theme. But mostly it was wanting the content to be perfect, which in hindsight is silly, because imperfection is part of what makes blogs blogs.
I got used to writing lengthy technical articles over the last few years that I’d been finding it increasingly harder to publish articles that are not lengthy and overly technical over the last few months. This had led me to abandon a lot of rough ideas and article drafts, eventually leading to my blog feeling abandoned for months in a row.
This isn’t just bad because, well, it is bad. What made it worse is the fact that one of my most recurring pieces of advice is telling people to just write — write down what you learned, no matter how big or small. Start a blog and publish your writings there. Don’t think about whether or not people will like or read your articles — just give them a home and put them out there.
I’ve felt very self-conscious about blogging; these days blogging feels like a specific sort of reaction to the ways we publish content these days, and how putting stuff out there has become as much about projecting an identity or brand as about the content itself. Publishing stuff under one’s own domain, rather than on a platform like Medium or Twitter, also feels like a kind of statement, in favor of an indie web and against Big Internet. In 2019, publishing one’s own content feels like agency, but also performatively retro, like the restaurant I like that plays its music from a reel-to-reel tape. 🤷🏻♂️
Many of the blogs I’ve followed longest tend to focus less on sharing opinions and more on sharing interesting things their authors like: Kottke (of course), Andy Baio, John Nack. And the O.G. bloggers I read who do focus more on sharing thoughts—Anil Dash, Rands, Marco Arment—tend to keep things more chill, like an open notebook more than a Publication™. These are some models I’ll be looking to for this blog.
As I go into 2020 I’m focused on trying to finish things more, even if they’re not perfect. In film school I took a class on directing actors that would start each week with an improv exercise, which would always wrap up with a direction from the teacher for us to “find an ending.”
Compared to other forms of writing, blogging seems most like improv—having gotten into something, rather than spend time trying (and possibly failing) to find its optimal shape, it’s probably better to just find some halfway satisfying way to wrap it up so I can move onto the next thing.