Saturday, September 16, 2017

Writing

I had a great discussion with a friend about how important clear thinking and being able to communicate ideas to an audience needs to be simple and obvious.

Before I go over the process, I’d like to underline why it’s important to write on a daily basis even though you don’t publish your posts. For a bit of background, since I write everyday, I have hundreds of drafts with only a small fraction that are published.

  1. it helps you clarify your ideas so they’re much more digestible for your audience — examples include — you’re trying to persuade your engineering team to adopt a new technique/pattern/tool/technology, or you’re trying to convince a candidate to join your team, or you’re trying to close a sale with a prospect on using your product.
  2. it helps you simplify your ideas. Ideas can be complex and that’s why it can beneficial to you and your audience if you strip away the complexity and bring it down to first principles.
  3. it helps you find your style of communication. I can guarantee you, if you met me, you’d realize that I talk the way I write on this blog. Sure, I might talk fast at times because I’m super excited but I’ll always focus on getting to the main point.

The Process


  1. I start out with listing topics that I have something valuable to contribute to, whether its experience or skill. This is one of the reasons why I write a lot about company culture, organization scaling, team learning, engineering, as well as, technology startup trends.
  2. When I’ve decided on a topic, I’ll list out who, why, what, how as a way of jotting things down.
    For who: I’ll write down who I’m writing the post for which will help me identify which hashtags or which social networks I’ll share it on.
    For why: the reason people would be interested in the content, perhaps its lessons learned in some new technology that you’ve recently switched to.
    For what: generally the higher level topic of your content, which can be culture, engineering, business. It helps you frame your perspective and helps you focus on boiling down to the main point.
    For how: sometimes you’re writing about culture at your company, you’ll definitely want a call-to-action to your job listings — or perhaps it’s an open source library you just wrote, you always want to link to it so that your readers can check it out.
  3. After you’ve identified who, why, what, how, you can simply start with your main point that’ll get people interested in reading more.
  4. I generally try to stick to 2–3 sub-ideas of the main idea that gives me enough content to write about.
  5. Conclude with re-iterating the main point.

Making your ideas simple and obvious takes practice over a long time. Being obvious means taking advantage over context. When you know who you’re writing for and you can simply explain what value you’re offering, as well as, the people you’re generally writing for have read articles that are somewhat related to your topic, your content will be obvious to them. The main difference is that you may have personal experience and lessons learned that they’ll find valuable and interesting.

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