Sunday, May 24, 2015

Small-Batch Blogging

I like doing things right.

When I wanted to make infographics for my paper, I spent hours picking out the best graphics program that I’d use for years to come (why waste time learning the wrong one?). When I was dieting, I didn’t want to buy new clothes until I hit my target weight. And so, when I decided to create a blog, I knew it would have to be the Best Blog. I would need to get a great design, put it on a great domain, and fill it with the sharpest posts consisting only of things I’ve thought about at least 3 years.

Oh and in case I started to get other ideas, my new blogging inspiration is Christopher Olah, who will often spend a month on a post complete with 3D animations of folding surfaces, and then get it on the front page of Hacker News.

In “The Lean Startup,” Eric Ries discusses the concepts of large-batch vs. small-batch thinking. A father and a daughter race trying to mail a hundred letters. The daughter, having recently learned about the assembly line in history class, first carefully first folds a hundred messages, then stuffs them in a hundred envelopes, and continues licking, stamping, and mailing each in batch. The father does everything one at a time: folding, stuffing, and sending each letter before beginning by next.

Who wins? The father, by the power of author fiat. But also by flexibility. No need to invest in table space. And what if the messages didn’t fit in the envelopes? The daughter would fold all 100 before finding out.

I admit it. I’m naturally a large-batch thinker. I live life as if every step I’m aiming myself like a rocket bound for Pluto. I study the long-term impact of software design decisions, decisions that, more often that most people realize, cannot be undone. And so it feels unnatural to remind myself that I can change my mind later.

Last year, I wrote an essay telling the story of my startup and my ensuing decision to go to grad school, and posted it privately on Facebook. People loved it. Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years E-mailed me to say how much it touched them.

It took two months to write, and was out of date by the time I finished.

I don’t want to go through life only saying things good enough to shout from the rooftops, or only doing things that I’d display on my resume. One of the most inspiring recent blog posts on research was written by Phillip Guo on an iPhone during a coffee break . That’s skill, and it didn’t come from spending two months on each post.

Words on the Internet may be written in ink, but that doesn’t mean that my persona is. I don’t need to pick the title I’ll be using for eternity. I don’t have to pick my life’s writing topics. I don’t need to pick the writing style I’ll forever be known for. I don’t even have to attach it to my domain name.

So, this is my first blog. It’s not the platonic blog, but it exists.

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