This is the 26th week of 2019, which means I have published 26 articles this year, mainly about mathematics practice. With the year halfway over, I’m going to try an experiment. Because, besides being the ninth principle of ultralearning, experimentation is a way to avoid sticking with the same process just because it’s the way things have always been done.
If you want to publish your writing online, one big decision to make is whether you’ll host the content on your own site or on someone else’s platform. So do you buy a hosting package, register a domain, and publish using something like WordPress? Or do you create an account on a social media site like Facebook, a Q&A site like Quora, or a hosted blogging platform like Medium, and write there? The main advantage of the personal domain option is control. You decide how the site looks and how people can use your content. And unless you do something so egregious that your hosting company drops you, no one can tell you to take your content down.
The main advantage of the third-party platform option is visibility. Popular platforms supply their own audience. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a following on Facebook or Twitter, but at least people are already there looking for content. On your own domain, you have to attract people yourself (with help from Google).
Most people who use the personal domain option also take advantage of third-party platforms. There’s nothing stopping you from posting links to your personal domain articles on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can even do the same on Quora and Stack Overflow, if you don’t get too spammy. So does that give you the best of both worlds?
During the years I’ve been writing this blog, I have also posted to other sites, primarily Quora. But my focus has been on my weekly blog post and monthly newsletter. I haven’t made external posts on a fixed schedule until this year. Starting on January 1, 2019, I have made a daily post to Coder vs. Coder, the Quora Space I created when Quora launched their Spaces feature last year.
Since I created Coder vs. Coder on December 14, 2018, it has accumulated over 5300 subscribers, an average of about 27 subscribers per day. Not bad for a site where I make just one tiny post each day. That’s the power of a platform with millions of users that knows what topics each user is interested in.
Writing isn’t just about numbers, but you also can’t ignore how many readers you have. If you write an article and zero people read it, then hopefully you got some value out of it yourself. If you write an article and a million people read it, maybe you can make a full-time job out of writing articles. So it’s not irrelevant that there are 27 Quora users per day who see a Coder vs. Coder post and think it’s interesting enough to click Follow.
Besides delivering readers, Quora also provides signals about what people want to read. One signal is the existence of a question. If the question is old enough, it was probably asked by someone who wanted an answer. (Since the launch of the Quora Partner Program, it has become more likely that the question author is algorithmically spamming questions with no intention of reading the answers). And regardless of the sincerity of the question, you can look at metrics like question followers, answers, and answer upvotes to see how interested people are.
With those things in mind, I’m starting a Quora-based experiment next week. It’s not a scientific experiment with randomization and a control group. But I think it will provide useful information.
Here’s the experiment: Each week, I’ll write one or more Quora answers. To free up time to do that, I’m changing my weekly blog post format from a medium-length article to a link to Quora answers, maybe with some brief commentary. I’ll also link to this post, to provide some context about the experiment. I may occasionally write a traditional blog post if an interesting topic comes up, but I don’t have any of those planned.
That’s it. At the end of the year I’ll evaluate how things went.
Exploring the Archives
Before I wrap up this mid-year reflection, allow me to remind you that at the end of every year, I write a retrospective post covering the articles from the previous year. I have been doing that for the past four years, and I think it’s a good table of contents for the blog archives. So if you’re interested in what has come before, take a look.
During 2015 and 2016 I wrote about topics related to competitive programming, learning, practice, productivity, and software careers. During 2017 and 2018, I focused on specific year-long projects:
- Summer 2015 review (first half of the year)
- 2015 in Review
- 2016 in Review
- What I Learned Working on Time Tortoise in 2017
- Competitive Programming Frequently Asked Questions: 2018 In Review
- And to get a list of posts from the first half of 2019: Discrete Math category page.
See you here next week, and over on Quora any time.
(Image: This is what summer looks like around here)