This is a 600-word blog post about how badly I want it to be under 100 words. This summer I launched a newsletter version of the PainScience.com blog (you should subscribe!). This re-kindled a decade-old battle of wills between two parts of myself, like Gollum and Smeagol.
“We wants to be brief! We needs to be brief!”
“But we love words! Precious words! *gollum, gollum*”
This is the climax of that battle. I am settling this here and now.
The case for lots of little posts
I greatly admire the many-tiny-posts format of John Gruber’s mostly-tech blog, Daring Fireball. I aspire to imitate it, but I have failed to do so for more than a decade now.
Gruber posts a few dozen times per month, but mostly sub-50 word posts, often literally just a sentence or two. He gets up to an entire paragraph a few times per month, and his once-in-a-while “long” posts rarely hit a thousand words. And I read every DF post because they are short. And I’m not alone — this is one of the most successful blogs there has ever been.
As much as I admire wordier bloggers (and most are), I can’t keep up with them. Dr. Steven Novella’s blog, Neurologica, is a marvel of productivity: a good quality, thousand-word post once every couple days? For years? And good! I really don’t know how he does it (in addition to much else, no less). But I don’t read most Neurologica posts, and I never will. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
My frustrated ambition to post Gruber-style has been festering for years, but it has hit a fever pitch this summer. I launched a newsletter version of the PainSci blog, and I kinda need it to be a hit. There’s a strong business case for the newsletter. I need happy subscribers, stat, and I think the DF format is brilliant… maybe even the key to success at this critical moment. I want my subscribers to like my newsletter as much as I like DF. I want them to be okay with high frequency posts because they trust that they’ll be truly brief, and yet nutritious.
It’s time, my brain tells me at 4am, to finally go full Gruber.
Yes, but problems!
The case against many tiny posts
- Newsletters are different! Daring Fireball seems optimized for RSS, not email inboxes. It’s just a huge unknown whether a many-tiny-posts newsletter is a good idea. That uncertainty freaks me out a bit.
- Concision is harder than it looks, it’s not my native style, and it’s not a great fit for my technical subject matter and mixed audience (where more context is often truly required to serve everyone well).
- I am neurotic about “pestering” people with high frequency posting. It takes a surprising amount of nerve to think, a dozen times per week, “Yes, I do think my large audience would like to get another sentence or two from me now.” In their inbox, no less. Apparently I fear over-delivering as much as under-delivering.
- The “many” part of a many-tiny-posts blog is actually a great deal of work — a full-time job to match Gruber’s output, guaranteed. My business has other priorities, and the blog has to come second (if not third or fourth).
The “exciting” conclusion
I already have the solution: compromise.
I have already been doing it, for years: “several smallish” posts per month instead of “many tiny” ones. I just need to embrace it, instead of resenting it and endlessly questioning it.
I have good reasons for not going “full Gruber,” and so I won’t.