One Year of Learning to Write

If you’re reading in RSS, be sure to click through to see the updated design.

It’s been one year since I pushed the publish button on Behind Companies’ Hello World post. 321 posts later, it’s amazing to see where this site has gone. I’ve had the chance to meet some amazing people and have some great conversations.

This site wasn’t my first endeavor in blogging, but it’s been my most successful and consistent. It all started one Saturday morning while catching up on my Instapaper queue – I realized I really enjoyed one particular topic, the stories of how companies are run. A quick setup with Tumblr and an $8 domain lighter, the site was up and running over Thanksgiving break.

The original posts weren’t much – really just links to other articles. Luckily, Kyle Baxter gave me some great advice: Add commentary to the links!

This site has become an exploration of why companies succeed and fail. More than that though, it has forced me to think and dig down past superficial thoughts to explore the underlying reasons of why things happen. I have found this S.I. Hayakawa quote to be particularly true:

“Learning to write is learning to think. You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing.”

This site has also taught me almost everything I know about design and development. Thanks to Travis Isaacs’ fantastic Keynote Wireframe Toolkit, designing has become simple and easy using Keynote. I’ve also learned more than I thought I could do about coding in HTML/CSS.

As part of the one year anniversary, I’ve spruced up the site design, so be sure to click through if you’re in an RSS reader. You can see the evolution of the site’s design in this Flickr Set. I’m shocked at what I let pass as decent design before!

I’ve learned a few things about blogging along the way:

  1. Focus on a niche. My past blogs were just random thoughts and links thrown together. Focusing in on a particular topic has allowed me to use that topic as a lens to analyze things. It hasn’t limited my content, as a matter of fact, it’s helped me find interesting things to write about.
  2. Growth from content and friends. I take John Gruber’s advice to write for myself. That’s kept me from losing my voice trying to write things for other people.

    At the same time, I’ve been lucky to connect with some great friends who have more than helped to grow this blog. Kyle Baxter is one of my top referrers. Until last week, there had been two major traffic spikes (and resulting subscriber growth) – they both came from another friend, Shawn Blanc linking to me. The point is: friends generating buzz about what you’re writing is the hardest but most likely way to grow. To my friends who have shared my articles, thank you.
  3. Be Consistent. This site wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the linked list, which was pioneered by John Gruber at Daring Fireball. Many bloggers who fail, do so because they can’t find the time to consistently write great content. I salute writers like Michael Lopp and Horace Dediu that manage to pump out long-form, original content consistently. The Linked List lets me add more value than just throwing up a link on Twitter, but still only takes a few minutes to write. I can do it on my lunch break.

Thank you to all the readers who have made writing this site as enjoyable as it’s been. I look forward to getting to know more of you, and as always – you can reach me on Twitter.

November 23, 2011