Digital dumpster - personal brand & quality

What I'm about to write down right now may seem a bit controversial. Well, there may even be some who take it personally - however please rest assured that this post is not targeted at anyone in particular. So if you feel it may apply to you, keep calm & maybe give it some thought.

The topic for today is public elicitation in the community (of software craftsmanship practitioners) - coming up with your own, personally created content (presentations, articles, tutorials, projects, podcasts - literally whatever) & sharing it with whole community to educate / entertain / trigger a discussion & ... build your own personal brand (yes, that may not be a primary target but it's also important anyway).

Without a slightest doubt - we need some "fresh blood" & we need people who've already dared to try to be more active as well. It's good to see that some people who already have gained attention actively encourage others to make this very first step to become more visible & audible. Personally I'm totally happy when I see another individual drawn into contributing, because - I'll quote @jnabrdalik from Agile By Example 2016:

"Everyone wants to learn, no-one wants to teach."

So everything that can change this passiveness is welcome.

BUT ...

"It's the quality, stupid."

... some are so eager in their unstoppable creation trance that they forget the whole purpose of it.

In short words - in their pursuit for quantity they tend to ignore the importance of quality, whilst:

  • the number of blog posts / sessions / screencasts / gists doesn't matter at all if none of them has a clear purpose (e.g. thesis to prove, question to answer, issue to raise, new view on old problem to present, etc.)
  • even if you've got an incredibly valuable idea / concept to pass, form does matter as well - instead of pursuing next activity, work a bit on how you've shaped the message - is it clean, readable, comprehensible enough?
  • walking (a bit) in someone else's shoes doesn't hurt - ask yourself a question: "why should I care about this article / video as a recipient? do I have a full context to understand it? or at least references on how to build this context?"
  • gutter press-style cheap tricks are ... cheap, don't use them: bogus titles (not really relevant to the content), astonishing & highly controversial big font headlines, sexual digressions, etc.

I'm not asking anyone to limit her/his creativity - if someone is capable of producing something interesting even twice a day, it's absolutely awesome and (s)he should keep doing that (while watching out for burn-out early warnings, of course). What I'd rather suggest is to shift a bit of focus from spontaneous eruption of creative activities ;D to getting regular (& as objective as possible) feedback, e.g.:

  1. first - develop at least a bit of self-criticism for yourself - just enough to play a role of a devil's advocate every once in a while (but don't go to far - being an austere critic for yourself can be actually very blocking)
  2. get someone from your "inner circle" who'd be wiling to share her/his honest thoughts on regular basis, without flattery or hidden agenda behind it
  3. know your (content's) consumer - as much as you can w/o getting too annoying: set some customer analytics mechanism (e.g. Google Analytics), use basic, minimum friction rating mechanism for all the content
  4. classify your content for future data crunching - tag & categorize whatever you create (does help with searching through as well)
  5. carefully think about the ways (& to whom) you'd like to promote / advertise your content - wrong targeting is not only spam, but also a wasted opportunity
  6. continuously collect feedback directly from your content consumers (at scale) - following at least few strategies (w/o becoming annoying ...) may be a good strategy:
    • use services like Hello Bar or UserVoice for regular, one/two-click in-place regular surveying (sampling is OK here)
    • occasionally build slightly longer, customised surveys (sometimes even about feedback for one specific (somehow special) post / video / article), using service like SurveyMonkey (or any of its zillion alternatives)

One last thing regarding feedback - don't make too many assumptions on the silence on the wire. In particular, don't assume that everything is perfect as there are no complaints :) With current era people's short attention span, overall business & plenty of focus-detrimental "distractors" people rarely pro-actively come with their own feedback. It's not about any kind of malice or wrong intentions - so just ask openly & politely for their opinions: many will be glad to help.

Doing that will quite likely save you some delusions - it's a bit embarrassing to see some people already in deep considerations regarding content monetization (!!!), even before they've managed to produce anything really worth 10 seconds of attention ...