Some notes on Blogging and Originality

I started blogging about things I was interested in, back in late 2008. About the same time, social media was really beginning to take off – I’d joined Twitter in August of the same year, and it was a revelation, mostly in being able to directly communicate and converse with, people up and down the BBC and the wider industry, with zero hierarchy.

The blogging dried up in mid-2014, though there were sporadic posts after that. What really dried up though, was less the writing, and more the culture of sharing, openly. Social media was fast becoming a place where emotional opinion was becoming more important than a desire to communicate from a place of sharing perspectives, and I didn’t understand that until it was too late.

Part of the culture that replaced that spirit was also a sense of pressure – with it being so ‘easy’ to create and distribute, and the increasing morass of hot takes, angry opinions and lukewarm video essays, if there was any doubt that what you were thinking of putting out into the world was anything other than a worthwhile contribution, why would you just add more to the pile? Why bother creating at all?

Thing is, I miss that atmosphere, the culture where it’s not about judging value, but about honestly, openly, gracefully and humbly sharing perspectives and ideas, discussing and refining, understanding others and working together to make something better.

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So, in that spirit, here are some thoughts I wrote for myself on the subject:

You don’t have to be truly original – no-one ever is.

The fact that someone else has probably already put something out there on the same subject, or saying something similar, isn’t the point – it’s inevitable. Someone pointing that out is just stating the obvious, there’s nothing you can do about that.

What matters is to not just literally crib from something else and completely duplicate it – put your own spin on it, add your own thoughts, or contribute your own experience, your own version or interpretation of it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s groundbreaking or not, or if it goes viral or not. For the latter, it’s more about whether it resonates with the people you’re connected to – they are the only people you could normally hope to reach, and the power of the internet is that this reach can be so much more than if it was completely offline. But even if it doesn’t resonate with them, it’s still valuable because it will have been a thing you did for yourself, getting things out of your head, writing them down – their impact may be felt later down the line.

Think of it in terms of the contributions you value or not – just stating things isn’t contributing, but explaining them, interpreting them, is. Or, another way – there’s a difference between writing a reference work, i..e just stating ‘the facts’ about something, as if it’s going to be looked up as a definition, and writing more creatively, where you’re contributing your experience, your interpretation, your understanding.

A worked example – if you were just to say “this is what OKRs stand for” and that’s it, or explain what fabula and syuzhet mean, but nothing else, and just end a blog post there, that’s not really contributing much (in my opinion) – or at least, that’s contributing just for a reference work. Which has its’ own value, but to be honest, if you’re going to do that, you may as well become a Wikipedia editor. Or, to put it another way, it’s like you’re carbon copying content just for the clicks.

No, what you want to do is help explain, to teach – not in a condescending way, but to share your interpretation, what it means to you – to share that. That is what will make it different, valuable, and might make it connect with other people.

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Unfinished thoughts, half formed, but in the spirit of sharing, that’s it – for now.

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