A Talk I Gave On Blogging
blogging, writing, soundcloud
I was invited to talk to Gary and Christina's SVA Class a month or so ago. They asked me to talk about writing/blogging because one of the requirements for their class is that the students have to write and blog regularly.
They are blogging the entire class and here is the post on the class where I spoke. I found this soundcloud recording of my talk there and I thought I'd share it with all of you.
These were off the cuff remarks without any preparation. So they are stream of consciousness. But it does a nice job of capturing my views on blogging and why I blog.
My remarks are about 15 minutes and the Q&A is another 20 minutes.
You publish every day — which is amazing — but do you write drafts in advance and sit on them ever? Or are you writing every day as well? (I know you’ve spoken to this before, but my searches came up empty.)
i used to write posts in advance before i went on vacation. i stopped doing that about five years ago. now i just write every day without any preparation.
Five years in row… every single day… day-after-day… first thing in the morning … wow. That is really “Baad to the Bone”.What is the greatest driving force? I believe the quality of the comments to your posts is a major contributor.P.S. I do did blog for about 5-6 months. Then stopped for a month and then when i read my own blog … I hated it (full of garbage) and stopped. Never want to blog again.
almost nine years actually
So I assume you will live for at least another 30 years (80-50).At this rate you may blog for 40+/- years – that is great Nine years ago – do you wake up one morning and say from now on….I will blog every day#Determination
Fred do you maintain a list of Blog topics, Re: this one today – you are blogging about something that happened approx a month ago….or do you wake up in the AM and the topic pops in your head?
christina tweeted about this yesterday. i saw it and thought “i should blog that tomorrow”
My fear is writers block – coming up w/ a topic to write about each day – seems hard.I guess the important thing is to just start!
if i don’t know what to write, i do other things, email, read blogs, listen to music, etcand then something comes to me
Yes, the important thing is to start. Every single experience, conversation, blog post, photo, etc in life can be used as the basis of a blog post. You just have to put your own unique twist on that “thing” and then start writing.
JUST PICK THING, THINK ABOUT UNTIL INTERESTING.DO ALL DAY. THEN ALWAYS HAVE THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT.
Listening to your talk. The piece about the “soapbox” your blogging success gave you – wanted or no – resonates. My first blog – notesfromtheninjabunny – was a Tumblr log. I was pretty outspoken. It was last year amidst Assange/Wikileaks/Anonymous & some pretty controversial topics that I held (still do) very strong stances on. I realized one day I had attracted some attention with my rather incendiary commentary. And that was okay with me. Then – I am not sure why happened, or if I should even go there, but the blog became no more. Question: how do you deal with blowback?
i internalize it, learn from it, and then move on
In addition to blogging, would love to hear your thoughts on professional networks.I’ve asked a group of MBA students to take over the Linked In Group for the University. We are also developing an ongoing assignment for best practices for Linked In and use of other social media.I’m also amazed at the similarity between the process you discussed and the Radio Broadcasters I’ve known in my life. Each day they had to open the mic a be creative – the great ones made it look easy.
This is pretty cool insight, Fred. It is nice to hear it from you. I don’t blog much because I have the attention span of a 9 year-old. I read a lot of blog how-to stuff, and it is always pretty lame and basic. This audio clip goes pretty far. Cool stuff, inspired me to blog today.
Succinct, clear, concise. Mr.Wilson I believe that commenting for me is part engaging with you the writer and part espousing an opinion that may present a different view/perspective.I read your blog posts but not everyone of the posts evokes a response from me.I would argue that AVC is now a mainstream blog for those who are in the VC world, for those who are entrepreneurs trying to understand the way Mr.Wilson operates possibly as you sir through your writings also share how you think or what you may value etc.I will state that generally the ability to express oneself is a good skill to posses but what I find is that many people have a very poor vocabulary/expression and I think part of the reason I believe for it is a lack of in-depth reading and comprehension being part of the curriculum. Would Mr.Wilson like to comment on whether being an extrovert is essential in his line of work.Writing in general clarifies ones thoughts irrespective of whether it is shared with others or not.
it helps a lot to be an extrovert!
I am a baby blogger and so far am most comfortable in expressing myself via the content I blog in and of itself for the most part….baby steps.
BE GREAT AT COMMUNICATE VERY IMPORTANT SKILL FOR COMMUNICATE!
3 things stood out from that talk. a) Blogging makes you a better communicatorb) Blogging makes you a better speakerc) Blogging helps to crystallize your thoughts. Another key thought you pointed out is that you make your posts not very dense, but rather enough to spark conversations by keeping them light and pointed. That’s definitely your style, and there’s a lot behind that approach that works well, because it stimulates the commenting conversations. Related to this, Anil Dash interviewed Nick Denton at SXSW last week on the future of commenting http://dashes.com/anil/2012…, and one of the directions Denton alluded to is that his writers might one day write very short posts just to strike lively conversations on the commenting section. So, is Fred’s blog representative of the future of Blogging and Commenting, or will it continue to become a difficult place to replicate? Incidentally, I’m participating at a panel tomorrow at the Paley Center for Media titled The Next Big Thing in Digital Innovation, http://www.paleycenter.org/…, and I will touch on the fact that commenting and nurturing commenting communities will be critical to the future of media. What are your thoughts?
“a) Blogging makes you a better communicatorb) Blogging makes you a better speakerc) Blogging helps to crystallize your thoughts. “Absolutely. I write for a living, and blogging is a great practice ground.Interestingly, I write for radio. I think radio writing has more in common with blogging than other types (maybe TV) because you have to get to the point, quickly, and without complicated sentence structure or academic words. It’s conversational, much like this blog.
Good point about radio commenting. I never thought of that.
I have a thought there. Nurturing commenting communities is the responsibility of every member. I have been doing this on FB with my family; if they are waaaay out of line I simply say – This is our community and it is okay to police it. By the same token, we all need to reinforce positive engagement. I’m not thinking smiley faces and hearts everywhere, but – you know what I mean….commenting communities are a real opportunity for learning – for everyone.
WORDS FIRST EXTERNAL COPROCESSOR FOR BRAIN.MORE/BETTER WORDS = MORE POWERFUL COPROCESSOR.
As our appetite for engagement increases — or maybe it’s more a matter of there being more opportunities — more platforms — to engage thanks to the social internet — then I believe we will see the engagement factor become more and more critical. Content may be taking a backseat to engagement.I thought of Fred’s aversion to writing a book (which I think I now understand) while listening to a presentation recently at a tech conference by an online publisher — she was talking about creating a platform for interactive books where the author and reader interact. I don’t know all the details, but what a concept.That’s an indicator of where this thing is going. I think this relates to your question.
> the future of media.Short answer: Let the real potential of humanity be expressed.For a little more:Broadly, there’s still some truth in McLuhan’s “The medium is the message.”. To connect that with the future of media, two points and then the conclusion:First, on people, each person has, say, their ‘interests’; these are from their passions, opinions, desires, creativity across the board of topics, etc. Across all of humanity, the totality of these ‘interests’ is large beyond belief but so far hardly tapped.Second, the “message” of old media was terribly constrained, even a bad joke compared with the potential of people.So, net, “the future of media” is to have, now, finally, a “medium” whose “message” is all the interests of all the humans, that is, to unconstrain people and let the real potential of humanity be expressed.
But it does capture my views on blogging and why I blog very well.Grammar-police here: Watch your dangling modifiers. I did a double-take on reading this, because what this sentence actually says is equivalent to “But it does capture my views on blogging and why I am a great blogger”. Which seemed a bit presumptive.A correct sentence construction would be: “But it does capture very well my views on blogging and why I blog.”Sorry to be pedantic.
do not apologize. that’s a bad sentence. i am going to fix it right now. thank you!!
That is how you blog very well.
You are a better man than I am.
The community is my spell check /grammar check 🙂
lol. read it the same way.wondered if Fred’s usual humility had gone awol.Nice to see it come back.
What’s most impressive is that you know it was a “dandling modifier”
I also read it that way! Fred has certainly earned the right to boast but it did seem a little out of character…
The good news is, Fred does blog very well, so the sentence was correct though the grammar wasn’t… 😉
sorry but can’t resist policing the grammar police: surely you mean ‘presumptuous’ rather than ‘presumptive’?
No, I didn’t. I meant it seemed to be a statement in the nature of a presumption. Although presumptuous would also work, possibly better.
Good piece. I noticed that there are times when you ask for feedback and times when you don’t. Reason?
no rhyme or reason that i can think of. i guess its when i feel like asking for it.
I like it best when you tell everyone to STFU because you’ve said your piece.
you get it no matter if you ask for it or not 🙂
Even if he asked not to have it he’d have it!
I wish my English was better, i think it’ll make me more confident to write more often. I guess the best way to improve is to practice, i need to get over the fear/embarrassment of writing poor English with my US based audience.
Write in whatever language you want. One of the primary benefits of writing is to clarify your own thinking. That’s language independent.As someone who is multilingual, I find it annoying that so many people write only in English in the hopes of “reaching the world”. Instead many just get lost in the flood while also losing the ability of nuanced expression.I would love to find a blog with this quality of content in German if anyone has suggestions.
I agree that sometimes we, the non-native-English-people, are too obsessed about the language in which we should write and all that stuff. However, it happens because it matters if you write to get to others (as opossed to doing it to structure your thoughts or keep record). Like it or not, language is still a huge communication barrier and in many sectors English has become a new Esperanto. And that is a disadvantage for those of us raised in other languages.That said, Chrome’s automatic translation is amazing and I’ve used it a lot to read and even comment in a couple Dutch websites, so this should be less of a problem in a near future.
I did some field testing on Facebook (and unfortunately for J.Schacter in an emil to him) practicing stream of consciousness writing. It came out along the lines of the protagonist in James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces”, only funny and it reads like messy Clojure.
“Frey”? I thought I recognized the name! Right: I have hisJames N. Frey, ‘How to Write a Damn Good Novel’, ISBN 0-312-01044-3, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1987.in which he explains basically ‘formula fiction’ and, thus, why I so hated English literature classes for four years in high school and two years in college!
I encourage you to get over it. I do frequent mistakes, but people here are quite nice about it. No big deal at all.
Why doesn’t disqus have spell check?
I don’t know., that’s something to ask to @danielha:disqus .
Well, actually, if you spell a word wrongly, it will be underlined in red until you hit “post.”You are on your own for grammar. At least until someone checks it for you.
As Seth Godin would say.. the only way to do get better is to write like you talk. Often. 🙂
ugh I am a valley girl…
UNLESS TALK BAD. THEN TALK LIKE WRITE INSTEAD.
Common advice is to get three books, (1) a dictionary, (2) a book on grammar, and (3) a book on rhetoric, e.g., the one by Strunk and White. Then go into a loop: (1) Write and get some questions about how to write better and (2) read something well written and see how that writer seemed to get answers to your questions. Return to (1), forever! Of course, Fred’s audio said much the same.Generally it takes years to learn to be a better writer: When I was a college prof and assigned term papers, I got to compare the college students ages 18-22 or so with evening school students much older. In nearly all the course, the 18-22 students were much better; in writing the older students were much better. Lesson: Learning to write well takes a lot of time and effort.A blog, with feedback, is no doubt a much better way to learn than has ever been at all common before.
That’s nice.I’m on 3 years, 10 months and 9 days of daily writing now and it sure has been one heck of an experience.The past year has had maximum impact – thanks to splitting my blog into long form and short form. Thanks for that advice, Fred.. 🙂
Impressive. I’ve written a TON over the past 6 years since I started blogging in 2006, but it’s been split on multiple blogs and never really been “daily”.
Have forgotten what life would look like without it now.. haha
If anyone is interested in starting to write every day, check out http://750words.com/ . It’s got some badges as rewards for following through, and they run a monthly challenge.I’ve started doing all my essay-writing for school in the morning this semester, rather than the late evening, and I find that it’s a great way to start my day. I feel productive from the second I get up. It’s a completely new state of mind, and I love it.
It’s such a great service. I like to think of it as @busterbenson:twitter ‘s gift to the Internet.
I bet the teacher (Christina?) was panicking a bit (and the students rejoicing) when you started telling them that shorter was better when they were already tasked with 750 words / day 🙂
probably. gary and christina are teaching this class for the first time. learning as they go. i think they are doing a great job though
I would venture to suggest that AVC itself has spawned a lot of regular bloggers. The example of short, succinct posts that make “a point and a half” made a huge impression on me.Leaving room for Disqus to fill in the other half of the second point is sheer brilliance for building engagement and community.
that’s the formula. you’ve articulated it well.
ALWAYS LEAVE QUESTION.IT GIVE AUDIENCE SOMETHING TO DO.
Fred, you have inspired many people including me to write. I blog everyday and maybe even couple of times some days. It is very therapeutic and I totally agree with all the points made here. Thank you for being an inspiration and to share your thoughts, it is a rare gift I wish more people would do it. It helps us understand one-another.
that is a great feeling that i have inspired others to blog. thanks for letting me know that.
if i wasn’t superstitious, i would congratulate you on your amazing long streak, quantity and quality. but i am superstitious, so i won’t mention it.
fortunately you can blog when you are sick or have an injury
Consistency is so key. I don’t come here because the content is always great (it’s not ALWAYS), or because the community is awesome (it is)….but because there’s something new every day. It’s become as much as a habit to read it as it is for Fred to write it.I’m TRYING to take a page from this in my own writing. To do so, I finally had to give-in and admit that I’m not a proactive writer. I don’t come up with my own topics well.But as you guys know, I can write a country shit-ton in REACTION to something. Especially if I want the other side of the trade. Obstinent SOB.But I don’t want to be just a reactor to what other people write. That’s stale and not my style IRL.Then it hit me. Images inspire me. I can relate them to business, startups, stocks, etc in ways that a lot of other people can’t (or don’t want to). They make me think.So now on andyswan.com I almost always start with an image that I found interesting, that sparked a thought, and then a sentence, and then a “blog”. Some will be PG-13 or worse (tomorrow’s), but fuck it….those are the images that get me cranking.I don’t write for audience growth. I write for me. To collect what inspires me, and put words to why.You’ll know I’ve failed if you go a weekday and there’s nothing new.Summary: Find something that usually makes you want to say something.
I like the new andyswan.com. The tombstone with the epitaph “He never killed a man that did not need killing” just made my day.
Thanks! I loved that too
what a great trick
this is what I aspire to.
clear thinking = clear writing
It’s interesting that having a clear mind isn’t related to having a clear desk. Why is that?
heh. it’s nice to have bits and pieces and spare parts around for when they’re needed.
One of my Professor had this sign board on his desk”Don’t clean my desk and screw-up my world”.
I have been blogging for a little over a year now and I find to keep myself motivated, I really like having theme days. Tutorial Tuesdays, things like that, where I share something I learned or I want to teach to others to help. All blogs are really meant for is sharing. It can be a one way conversation or an entire discussion but none the less, its for sharing.
theme days are really useful. i have a post i want to write and i’m holding it for feature friday of this week
24:21 – “curmudgeon” – Epic word choice. That one’s a keeper.
i wonder if any of the regulars want to self identify as the curmudgeon
I thought we had more than one. And each is lovable.
Fred, great talk. Do you ever have any trouble with editing/packaging/finishing a blog post. Any advice on overcoming this? I often times have two thirds finished blog posts but I have trouble wrapping a post up and getting a post into the shape that I feel comfortable sharing the idea publicly. Thanks.
two things on this:1) i love finishing a post. writing the last paragraph is the most fun for me2) i edit after i hit publish.
Great philosophy…it is almost like releasing the “minimum viable blog post”
I do the same w/ comments – and then quickly go back and fix typos etc.
Editing problem: When proof reading, tend to see what intended to write instead of what did write, don’t notice what assumptions and context didn’t make clear to the reader, and can’t put self in the position of the reader.Slow solution: Wait two weeks so that have forgotten what intended to write, read it, and notice the problems.Fast solution: Write the post with one piece of software in one font, and then proof read what wrote with some different software in a different font.Point: Possibly surprisingly, just the change in the software and font can be enough to permit the proof reading to follow what was actually written and notice most of the problems. Waiting two weeks can give better results but is much slower!
Fred, I am interested in two things you mentioned separately – one was reactions and the other was criticism. I discussed with a friend today, a writer, that I thought one’s reactions and criticism on something can differ. The example I gave of how they can diverge was an art show I did where I had strong reactions, some bad, but actually quite positive criticism. We agreed that on the subject of art, often people lack the ability to see, to know what they see, or to know what they think about what they see.Curious as to your thoughts.
i am not entirely sure what you are asking, but i think criticism is very important. but it should be done constructively
I am wondering if you find the reactions are always in line with the criticism. Because listening to your talk I felt there can be a difference in reactions and criticisms. It’s parsing, but yet I found the concept of those differences stayed with me as an idea all day. Still chewing on it.I agree criticism should be constructive. That said, my harshest critics have been my best teachers, and those under whom I have grown the most.
This comment weirdly reminds me of the first time I saw a Jenny Holzer piece-Your reaction often leads to criticism, depending on how one moderates one’s reaction one can get at deeper appreciation and critique…
Yes, something like that. I replied above to Fred to try and get closer to the core of the idea of reactions and criticisms possibly differing, and/or reactions coloring criticisms.Somehow art seems to bring the differences in the two to the fore.
Which is why really good art is so awesome
When something becomes a daily or regular habit, it’s hard to break that. Blogging and Commenting are highly addictive, especially when there is value received on both ends.
Long time reader, first time poster. Speech inspired me a bit to engage. Gave me some good insight into what it takes to blog regularly and effectively put yourself out there for many to see.
Hmm, all of this is just reminding me that I need to start writing again
I was in Germany from the age of 2 to 6 and went to German Kindergarten and started first grade in the US not speaking English. Then on top of that a hearing loss that went undiagnosed until I was in the 6th grade, verbally I can mangle up words pretty good at times (oh, and lets not forget the stuttering until I was in college). I will also add that I can still build sentences from a German perspective most of the time….But I started keeping journals and I love to write. In high school and college I had poems published, short stories published and one one act play that I wrote was staged. I have journals that cover a 10 year period and reading them now is really interesting. I wrote my 80 page thesis in like five days….Then I shifted from writing for myself and shifted to writing for business; personnel manuals, users manuals, procedure manuals, and such.Oh, and I will admit I wrote a few papers for some of the interns that worked for me over the years (let me see samples of your writing, tell me what you want to say, where are your notes, and then see me in the morning.) I will admit that a couple on philosophical topics were quite good.Now, when I try to write for my blog I find when I have a subject matter that really fires me up I can crank out a post in minutes otherwise I can write nothing.I think writing is the most necessary of skills, it does organize your thoughts (always start with a table of contents or something that outlines your points). Writing also takes a passion and that’s what I lack nowadays…..oh, and I loved to write with pencil and paper: Now I spend so much time on the computer that I cannot even remember how to hold a pencil….
Fred, the thing that is so attractive about your blog is the lack of pretension, jargon, insider language that experts in all walks of life often use to inflate themselves and keep others out. Your posts are very specific and grounded, and you also freely admit in the discussions when you don’t know about an area that might be a trendy investment area. Other might not so freely admit because they may feel it will make them look weak or not an expert. (As one example, I’m thinking about the discussion prompted by your healthcare post earlier this year.) All this empowers others of different experience levels to step up and contribute and makes the community. A question – do you have any personal favorite posts (interpret favorite in whatever why you want)?
I agree. Fred is refreshing.
there are a few that i think are my best work but i don’t think too much about them. i’m not really into looking backwards
“Fred, the thing that is so attractive about your blog is the lack of pretension, jargon, insider language that experts in all walks of life often use to inflate themselves and keep others out.”I could not agree more.The next best thing is the high level of engagement and the quality of the comments.
I have a really humbling blog story. I thought I could code Disqus into my Tumblr template myself. Umm – not even close. Apparently I enabled readers to comment but I did not see the participation. Ever. Moron, I am. I learned though, and for new blog i asked Disqus personally to install 🙂
uch what’s going on with disqus?
Like Fred, blogging is a commitment I make every day. It’s like brushing my teeth. If I go to work without publishing I feel empty and disorganized. Blogging is connecting the dots on screen. Sometimes I even draw it out before I tap the keyboard. Blogging is the end of my thought process.Fred has a huge community. I’m pretty sure no one reads my blog except for bots. I’ve accepted that frustration and write anyway because I love it. I’m a better thinker and speaker for it and often feel like I’m two steps ahead of others because I’ve already put the pieces together. Crazy metaphor but it reminds me of how Michael Jordan used to practice so hard that games were often easier.
I like that, “connecting the dots on screen”. It’s a great way to view blogging.P.S. I enjoyed reading your blog!
Thanks Ruth. My first reader!
if the bots read your blog, others will follow
Like Fred has already said – “others will follow” – AND you also have all of the other benefits, crystallizing your thinking, therapy, routine, etc.
This is awesome Fred… I’ve always wanted to understand the psychology behind your blogging, and now I do. I feel like I’ve done an MBA, just by reading AVC every day.
Reading AVC almost every day, reading the comments, commenting and responding to comments, feels like an interactive school on blogging.I know that I am becoming a better writer, a better communicator by participating here.Writing is not enough — as much as I love it. Interaction is more exciting.I don’t write fiction these days, but I am learning that even in writing fiction, you need to leave room for the reader to interact with the story. You have to be willing to give up control, to put it out there and entrust it to the reader. That is something at which Fred excels.
The daily blogger ought to be willing on occasion to say that ‘today I have nothing to say’. The reader would then know that it is not every day for the sake of it being every day, that when the blogger writes it will be certain in the mind of the reader that what they are reading is worthy of reading as considered content and not the writing of a Pavlovian reflex.
Fred’s comments about reading novels hit me. I learned several years ago that reading fiction in the evening leads to better sleep. This one thing has helped me reach my goal of getting up (almost) every morning at four – which is a huge productivity boost for me. I’m a morning person, but was sleeping into my mornings too often.
Fred must be very awesome to have lots of comment on the comment box .Keep it up . 😉
Nice . Glad I was able to find this . 🙂
I thought they pivoted because transcription costs were so high
Probably, but not at the cost they were running at