Write Something Interesting, Not Just Articles

Mr. Jakob Nielsen’s “Write Articles, Not Blog Postings” has lead to some interesting discussions in the internet and this post “Write Something Interesting, Not Just Articles” is a direct response to Jakob’s article.

Disclosure: I only read the article tonight after I unwittingly commented on Jakob’s article in a Facebook discussion group before I read it. (smile) And since I have written a longish comment about the article in the Facebook post, I thought I might as well recycle (with updates) my comments here. As usual (and may be more than usual), I better emphasize that I can be wrong sometime. (smile)

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Jakob’s view may be “beneficial” for a selected few bloggers (e.g. “world leader in his field“) but I submit if more bloggers follow the reasoning set out by Jakob’s article, the world will be a worst and poorer place.

If I may be direct, I think I originally skipped Jakob’s article the first time because of the tone he uses. First of all, Jakob is obviously a highly respectable man in the industry and my comments don’t mean any disrespect to him. But I hope very few people will follow Jakob’s advice because *your* average content may be better than what I know. And if I read your contribution, I will be better off at the end. For me, I think more in this way — am I potentially adding insights to people who read my blog? If yes, then the blog entry has made a positive contribution, regardless if my insights are average or below average. If the readers don’t learn anything, I hope I will have better luck next time.

Now, the geeky side of me want to spend some time to talk about Jakob’s statistical assumptions and other seemingly intimidating supportive rationales given in the article, but I won’t. In a sense, if my insights (again, no matter how “average” or “below average”) are of use to some readers, then these entries (short or long) have done me proud. As I stated here in my blog, I aspire to make mistakes faster.

Here is an example. It is a story I first read quoted by the insightful Bill Buxton. And I think it applies to blogging too. I was deeply touched by the following story and it makes total sense to me. So take what you can from it. And I hope you find it a good read. Now, if I had believed Jakob’s analysis, I probably would not even consider quoting it word for word. Now, allow me to quote this insightful story (emphasis mine [Buxton and I are both quoting a blog post by Bill Brandon]),

“The ceramics [K: pottery] teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I used to think like a “quality” kind of guy (but end up acting in a “quantity” manner (smile)). Now, as you can probably guess, after reading the above story in Bill’s book “Sketching User Experience, I now try to think and act in a “quantity” manner. (smile) It makes sense to me as this is how I want my blog to be.

P.S. As an aside, I am planning (no fixed date yet) to write a personal post using the title “Jack of all trades, master of none“. Arrogant, idiotic, and humble are some of the adjectives that get stuck in my head right now.Will see how will that piece turns out (if and when I decide to write it). (smile)

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One Response to Write Something Interesting, Not Just Articles

  1. letters says:

    The ceramics story is a variation of the one about Edison and his quest to make a light bulb that actually lasted longer than a few seconds. How many is he supposed to have thrown away – three thousand?

    But on the other hand, do you want to clutter up the intertubes with posts that go nowhere, make no sense, make mistakes that actually get you into trouble, ie that are carelessly libelous? I don’t think so. There has to be a middle ground between quality of ideas and quantity of writing.

    BTW Kempton, I am adding you to my blogroll if that’s OK with you.
    cheers,
    ian in hamburg
    *******
    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your insightful comments (as usual). There are similarities between the Edison story and the one I gave. But I think the Edison story is actually more similar to the James Dyson story. James actually had 5,126 failures before he got it right. (smile)

    But I think there is also a difference in the sense that both Edison and Dyson are determined men in searche of solutions to problems. Whereas the ceramics class example are general instruction scenarios that lead to a surprising end result (at least to me).

    I think I will allow for posts that “make no sense” because I hope they will get better. Like some of the first few works of a new student. I will also allow for “mistakes that actually get you into trouble” in a general sense. But “libelous” is a different story as it came with ill intention. We have to hope we will learn fast as a society. I hope sad events (death threats) that lead to Kathy Sierra stopped blogging or even appear in public will not happen again. But I know in a society with free speech, shit will happen. There will always be young men (and less often, young women) who decide to use the internet’s anonymous nature to be libelous and go nuts in what they write. I don’ think stuff like that can be stopped easily without we paying a price as a society. Now, I of course hope the guilty parties be caught and punished but how far can and should we go with the preventive measures.

    I can see the “middle ground between quality of ideas and quantity of writing” you talk about. But without knowing for sure how best to achieve that ground, I would rather see more writing on whatever ideas. I think, in general, people get better as they write (and read) more. Just so I can mention Harry Potter (smile), I think the Harry Potter series of books have encouraged and created a new generation of book readers and ideas creators, and for that we have JKR to thank for.

    Finally, thanks a lot for adding me to you blogroll. The pleasure is mine. I’ve also added you to my blogroll as I think my readers will enjoy your writing.

    Best Regards,
    Kempton

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