Looking For a New Agenda

February 8, 2010.

Sometimes these days I'm not really sure why I'm writing. I started out writing for all the normal reasons: learn new things, practice writing, build some credibility as a developer, share some of my thoughts. It's pretty safe to say that I had no idea what I was doing, but equally safe to say that didn't matter much: I was piddling around and enjoying myself.

Pretty quickly I became enamored with the concept of the pageview. I was smart and (perceived myself to be) knowledgable, so it stood to reason I could start my meteoric rise into the ranks of successful bloggers.

Over the course of the following year I learned the tricky lesson about pageviews: they don't consitently reward good behavior, but are a rather amoral force. The easiest way to get pageviews is to write an inflamatory post complaining about something or mocking someone. One of the hardest ways to get pageviews is consistently writing high quality and useful content (the hardest way to get pageviews is to write about yourself when nobody cares who you are; the second easiest way to get pageviews is to write about anything after people do care who you are).

After chasing pageviews for a while, I decided my goal was to focus on writing very high quality content. The flagship of this attempt was the Epic Introduction to PyObjC, which to close to a week, has dozens of screenshots and is something like 6,000 to 10,000 words. The first entry in the series is still on the first page of search results for pyobjc, and has brought in around $200 in PayPal donations (it is the only page I have donations setup for, using the django-monetize project for targetting ads). So, I have to say that writing really high quality content can be successful, especially if you're silly enough to ignore opportunity cost.

While I spent a year teaching English I found ample time for blogging about technical stuff. My job and rural location left a lot of time for working on projects. (It wasn't uncomming to have a couple of hours a day at work to work on side projects.) Then when I came back to the US for a few months I was kind of blogging full-time and pondering what to do, so I had a lot of time for blogging then as well.

Then I started working part-time for Yahoo!, then full-time for Yahoo! (as a contractor), and finally as a full-time employee, and gradually my time and desire to write began to diminish. It's hard to write quality content when you have very little time.

So, I wonder sometimes why I am still writing these days. What am I trying to do? Who am I trying to help? What is the value I'm creating?