Some New Rules

From the outside, if anyone were to look, it would seem like my usage of social media over the past few years has declined quite a bit. That’s not the case however.

My sharing has certainly declined but, though I don’t measure it, I feel like my time spent on Twitter, Reddit and to a lesser extent Facebook has more or less remained the same.

I have known for a long time, since around the time when my sharing first started to decline in fact, that a vast majority of what I read on the likes of Twitter I could take or leave. It’s not somewhere I go to learn, somewhere I go if I want to be made to think. It’s somewhere I go out of habit, out of muscle-memory, because it’s easy.

When I scroll through these various feeds I feel like I absorb the general (increasingly negative) tone rather than any specific content. This is reinforced by the mental exercise of asking myself “what did I just read?”1 whenever I press the home button or CMD+W.

If these aren’t places I want to passively spend time consuming, they certainly aren’t places I want to actively spend time contributing. However, I still want a place to be able to look back at and see how my thinking, career and life has evolved over the years.

I have had a number of blogs, none of which have remained very active for more than a few months. Looking back, I think I can see why. Therefore I have developed some rules for this one in the hopes that, by removing any expectations up front that this blog is written first and foremost for you the reader, I won’t feel guilt when writing about something I want to write about rather than what I might be expected to write about.

The rules, then:

Write for yourself. This will be a place I write when I have thoughts that need clarifying, organising or somewhere more permanent than my brain to live. When something happens that I want to document, professional or personal. When I figure out a solution to a problem and want to be able to come back and reference it. When I have something, whatever it may be, that I feel is worth committing to bytes.

This isn’t your job. I will write here for the love of writing, not because it’s something I feel like I have to do or because it’s on a todo list somewhere.

It doesn’t matter when you publish, how often, or what the word count is. That just plays into the hands of the numbers game distraction. 2PM on Wednesday afternoon? Fine. 9PM on Sunday evening? Also fine. Similarly, don’t try and hit some post quota simply because it was the first bullet point in that “How to run a successful blog” article. Missing the quota you plucked out of thin air just once can also be the fastest path to discouragement. See previous rule: this isn’t your job, write because you have something worthwhile (to you) to write about.

Speaking of the numbers game, no analytics or share buttons. At the time of writing, I don’t even plan on sharing links to new posts on the aforementioned social networks. That just leads to more numbers, more “eugh I spent ages writing that and it only got X number of retweets / likes / etc.”, more “I should write about this topic again as it got me more shares”. If the numbers are the deciding factor in whether or not a post was worth writing then you already have your answer: no.

No hot takes. You’re not Gruber, Ticci, etc. No one is incessantly refreshing your site or feed in anticipation of your take on the latest drama a few seconds after it happened. Take your time to think it through. This is something I got caught up in in the past with a link blog. I was publishing a link because it was something new and I wanted the traffic. Not necessarily because my one-second-analysis thoughts were worth sharing. In hindsight, a majority of the time they weren’t.

Get out of your own way. Don’t create unnecessary barriers to publishing. Tags, categories, post types, comments, per-post banner images? You don’t need them. My plan is to trial making this the only place I share written thoughts so I want the process of doing so to be as simple as possible.

Avoid the rabbit hole of customisation. Yes, the theme used here is extremely simple. Yes, you’re a designer and have ideas on how you could make it a lot more fancy. No, you will not succumb to them. As long as it remains readable on as many devices possible and nothing is broken, you will not build a brand spanking new theme for it every few months or somehow use it’s design as an excuse not to publish.

There’s life outside of pixels. In the past I have written posts on a topic purely because I thought it’d get more shares than some other topic I’d actually rather write about. Enough of us call our domains our “home on the internet”. Note home and not office. Building things is one my biggest passions so I will certainly have plenty to say about design and code experiments here, but if one day I decide I want to put my feet up and write about something personal in my home then I will.

Last but not least, no, you do not need a new domain name.

  1. By this I mean actually taking a moment to try and remember anything of value in what I just scrolled through. [return]