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Learning in Public in Real Time

Half my work hours are spent writing these posts. The other half are spent thinking about what the fuck I’m doing with my life.

It’s totally unclear to me if:

  • A) Writing a blog on the internet has any benefit for myself
  • B) Writing a blog on the internet has any benefit to society and
  • C) I have the capacity to become significant even within the realm of internet blogging.

As someone who has taken the easy road through life and received constant encouragement of various forms, it is painful to spend even a week on something in relative isolation. Of course, the vast majority of the feedback cycles I’ve been a part of have been totally artificial, but that doesn’t change the fact that they dominated my psychology for the last several decades.

So a huge drain on my time is spent wondering “how do I become a successful internet blogger”, but it is embarrassing to write anything on the subject while I am not yet successful. It is like being a skinny person writing about how to lift weights.

And yet I have read all the guides by successful people (The Art of Doing Science and Engineering, Principles of Effective Research, Alexey Guzey’s Productivity, Nadia’s Reimagining the Phd, The Idea Factory, The Dream Machine, Dealers of Lightning, various Walter Issacson books), and found them all completely useless, if not actively detrimental.

I attribute much of this uselessness to various biases:

  • Hindsight Bias: People believe, in retrospect, that there are clear causal relationships which may not actually exist.
  • Selection Bias: Successful people may undertake high-variance strategies, but we won’t know how many people did the same and failed.
  • Self-Serving Bias: People want to attribute their success to virtuous personality traits, like hard work and curiosity, but will leave out the gory details.

Not to mention, human memory is just generally garbage.

So embarrassment aside, I’ve decided to dedicate more time to journaling, and hope to create a real-time log of my experience. Worst case scenario, I fail miserably as a blogger, but will at least serve as a data point against selection bias.

Perhaps years from now when some successful blogger espouses the same strategies I document as the reason behind their success, I will be able to stand up bravely and say “No, that’s not a particularly good strategy, you’re just smarter than I am.”