Content Creation

date: 2017-12-03
revised: 2018-07-04
belief: likely
status: in process

Two schools of thought on the creative process: who am I chasing after? (Or, do I need a wiki or a blog?)

Inés Estrada, aka inechi, reps the “I do it for myself” perspective.

There’s been some recent discussion about balancing art and business, which when you talked about not compromising your art, I was reminded of. What are your objectives? Do you have an audience in mind, and think about sale-ability, or does that come second-after production?

I make art because I need to, it’s something I do for fun and also for release. If people like it, that’s very rewarding, but in the end the only person I try to please with it is myself. I love the idea of making money out of what I do (and I’m lucky to be able to) but I don’t plan my comics considering my audience as customers. I feel like, for me, it’s mostly worked out not because I think “I should do shit that sells” but more like “How do I sell this shit I just did?!”

One the other hand, Philip Guo reps “make it new”:

One heuristic I use when deciding what to write is to ask myself: Will at least 100 people care about this topic three years from now?

The following don’t qualify, so I rarely write about them: commentary on news events or fads, reactions to someone else’s article, personal notes that only my friends would care about. Also, if I see many people writing about a topic, then I avoid it unless I have a drastically different perspective.

If I know where I stood on this spectrum, I’d have nothing more to say. In fact, if the message is the medium, then this blog should err towards Philip’s conservative heuristic.1

But as Inés gives such compelling counter-examples—florid .gif art, self-declaration of intent, and apparent success as an artist—I am motivated to draw a comparison.

Applied to long content

If I wrote conservatively, I wouldn’t need to worry about “severe edits” (deletion, name changes, and other means of abandoning my identity).

inechi describes

The internet can be overwhelming, specially when you manage different pages and social media things. Sometimes I don’t want to have to interact with a post any more and I delete it. The faster the internet becomes, and the more social media tries to emulate quotidianity and the feeling of “hanging out” with other people, the more necessary it becomes for part of the information to be ephemeral. Not everything is relevant enough to be saved permanently in your world wide registry.

Here’s an alternative. Issa Rice defines

Long Content is a style of content creation where one has “perpetual drafts” that one improves over time. This is in contrast to a style where one publishes once and in the long term does not come back to edit/maintain the content.

But ironically, I prefer to approach long content without regard for passing time, as telemarking a snowed ridge to see the gnarled trunk of a whitebark pine).

Whitebark pines at high elevations often attain extreme age. Stands in the Wind River Range, Wyoming, and Jasper National Park, Alberta, have been aged at greater than 600 and 700 years, respectively.23 The oldest recorded specimen is on the Sawtooth National Forest of Idaho, over 1,270 years old.4

It’s because long-content is maintained that I understand endeavours here to be place-based/spatial rather than temporal.

Another resonant metaphor, from John Goerzen is that tending content is wiki-gardening:

The author in reality does not use this ‘comma first’ style. However, since it is the style used in xmonad, xmonad-contrib and most all xmonad.hs files, he has kindly consented to allow your friendly wiki gardeners to convert the original Haskell from ‘comma last’ style.

Continuing, Issa quotes Bertrand Russell in defense of not rewriting

I conscientiously tried [to rewrite], but found that my first draft was almost always better than my second. This discovery has saved me an immense amount of time. I do not, of course, apply it to the substance, but only to the form. When I discover an error of an important kind I re-write the whole. What I do not find is that I can improve a sentence when I am satisfied with what it means.

But I’m usually coming at writing/rewriting from an ecological perspective—akin to Gary Synder’s “writing as tracks rather than gwern’s “writing as convergence”. And I still dig (as Roger Peng puts it) “your average hot take on the internet” because hot takes lend themselves to a practice of writing (e.g., to build mechanical skill, for animal pleasure).

On publishing

So what’s at stake? Why not commit to more relentless publication and, consequently, transparency and personal disclosure? Why focus on advancing new ideas (rather than signing karaoke on the old ones)?

From The Way of Reticence:

Gold and jade endanger the house of their possessor. 
Wealth and honors lead to arrogance and envy, and bring ruin. 
Is thy way famous and thy name becoming distinguished? 
Withdraw, thy work once done, into obscurity; 
for this is the way of Heaven.

Choice of venue

I’m also cautious of personal websites as isolated repositories. (If it wasn’t for the learning curve (and fun) in getting onto the independent web, I’d be more interested in posting to Wikipedia.) But, again, this is not a blog, it’s a set of notes (and an exercise in categorization).

UPDATE: it’s a blog! Turns out that I’m an animal outside my draconian ontologies, and I won’t put up with self-censorship.

Although blogs do violate both of Paul Halmos’ rules:

  1. Do organize content.
  2. Do not distract the reader.[^halmos]

From Issa Rice:

In general I prefer openness, and an attitude of having “nothing to hide” rather than a standard of secrecy about one’s thoughts.

There is some content that can be justified being sorted chronologically (as in a blog), though I think there should be a presumption in favor of topic-centric organization. Likewise I think it can be justified to collect content by author of the piece (as in a personal site or CV), though again by the presumption in favor of topic-centric organization of content, it would be more useful in a larger number of cases to have topic-specific sites instead.

What are some possible publishing venues?

I don’t know. Maybe reddit. Again, the UI of Quora stresses me out. It’s stack exchange’s inappropriate and prying cousin.


Taken from the Arch Linux Wiki

This is still the top search result for this problem, so resurrecting for the benefit of others:


Please don’t do that. The wiki should be updated if need be, dead threads should be left in peace.


Yet outside forum threads, necrobumping can be honorable. From Ciro Santilli

I like to answer important questions, for which none of the answers satisfied me, and close duplicates.

Necromancer is my favorite badge. If you consider that a meaningful metric, which implies that you are insane, then I was one of the top 2 users as of June 2016.

Organizational principles

Data Management Plans

  1. Depending on my mood, Philip’s criterion can also be a creative limitation. I vacillate: “Tie me up! Untie me!” 

  2. Luckman, B. H.; Jozsa, L. A.; Murphy, P. J. 1984. Living seven-hundred-year-old Picea engelmannii and Pinus albicaulis in the Canadian Rockies. Arctic and Alpine Research. 16(4): 419-422. [1481] 

  3. Steele, Robert; Cooper, Stephen V.; Ondov, David M.; Roberts, David W.; Pfister, Robert D. 1983. Forest habitat types of eastern Idaho-western Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-144. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 122 p. [2230] 

  4. Perkins, Dana L.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1996. A dendroecological assessment of whitebark pine in the Sawtooth–Salmon River region, Idaho. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 26: 2123-2133. [27299]