I’ve been writing a lot lately, as my new daily habit is to write a blog post every day. Occasionally they’re long, but they’re mostly short, at just several hundred words. One of the things I’ve been thinking about as I’ve reviewed the content I’ve written is that it’s difficult for me to gauge whether I’m creating value with my writing. I really want my writing to have a positive impact, and I want people to finish reading a post or article that I’ve written and be glad that they spent the time doing so. But I’m having difficulty finding a method to make that determination.
My first thought was that my posts are frequently quite popular, so people must be getting value from them. And for some meaning of the word “value”, I guess that’s true. But pictures of cats wearing tutus and people freaking out about double rainbows are also quite popular. And yes, they’re entertaining in a fast-food kind of way, but that’s not the kind of value I’d like to be known for creating. So raw popularity is not a useful metric for value.
The closest I’ve come to coming up with a way to determine the value of what I write is to recognize that “value” is relative, and what’s important to me is that my writing is popular and valuable to people that I admire. For a long time, Hacker News was a fantastic proxy for “people I admire”, and it’s true that those people are still there, but I wonder if the average HN reader is still someone I admire. That sounds very elitist, I suppose, but all I mean is that I wonder if I would get value out of the writings of the average HN user. When I first joined a couple years ago, I think the answer was yes, but now that the site has become so much more popular, I wonder if that’s still the case. And perhaps my writings are popular with the larger group of HN users from whose writings I wouldn’t get value, and less valuable to the core group that I admire.
This is troubling, to say the least. So how can I ensure that I’m adding something of value to the conversation? How can anyone be sure?