I have 30 minutes to write this post. I normally do not write posts in 30 minutes. It usually takes me a long time to write on my blog because I want to make it as polished as possible out of the chute. I feel this way because I know once the content is posted, it will get a decent amount of readership the day I publish with an exponential drop-off from that point forward. No one (figuratively) will read an update on my post, so the incentive to improve or build upon past blog posts is non-existent.
The written word on the internet disposable. When objects become disposable, creators are less inclined to concern themselves with quality. My guess is the rise in short-form blogging (ala kottke.org, PSFK, etc.) is due to this disposable culture. I enjoy both blogs, but they do not satisfy the itch for in-depth content. Writing on the web is increasingly focused on quantity rather than quality.
When was the last time you went back and updated a blog post from a few months ago? I’m assuming rarely; likely never. I have plenty of blog posts where the subject matter is still very relevant, but I am never gone back to make them better. In contrast, when was the last time you updated a code library to fix a bug or add a new feature? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? We have long-term relationships with code. We fix it, improve upon it. We work on it with our peers. Due to that reality, we feel much more comfortable sharing something basic with the intention to iterate—often with community feedback and support. I love writing code for this very reason.
I love sharing ideas, but I hate writing. Mainly because it feels so different from coding. When I write for my blog, it is normally a solitary process where I try my damnedest to dot every i and cross every t. I publish and then I move on. I have tried to create more collaborative processes, but the tools are just not there yet.
Ideas are not cheap, but we certainly treat them cheaply. A modern platform is needed for to enable writing in the same iterative, collaborative process we have for design and development. I know I am not alone in this opinion. Two years ago, I wrote about this subject and mentioned how writing tools should feel more like source control. A year and a half later, a writer for Wired wrote an article with Github.
If we want writers to put more time into their content, the process needs to change dramatically. First, the all-or-nothing approach to posting needs to change. I would love an article to start off as a public draft where I get initial feedback and measure the general interest in the subject. From there, the article can grow, shift and evolve as necessary. Secondly, our articles need to have a much longer half-life. If I make a serious improvement or update to a past blog post, I want to feel confident that people will actually read it. I am tired of forcing myself to finish a blog post that you nor I will never make better and you will never read again. Our ideas should not be disposable and the right tools could go a long way to fix this problem.