November 4, 2010

How much time does it take to blog?

November 4, 2010 - Categories: blogging

Time

Me? Five to ten minutes extra, tops. That’s for my most useful posts: the ones where I’m sharing how to solve a problem or answer a question I’ve come across. That’s all it takes to strip out sensitive information, format it for readability, pick tags, and throw in a few hyperlinks if I’m feeling diligent. I’ve already done the hard work of solving the problem or answering the question. I might as well spend an extra five minutes to make it part of my personal reference library and share it with search engines.

I take longer to write my other posts – the ones I write from scratch. But that’s not blogging time, that’s thinking time. I’m going to have to think through things anyway. For example, it usually takes me four hours to prepare a presentation, from brainstorming key points and examples to organizing everything into a coherent story. At some point, I usually write things down into an outline, and from there, I often write full speaker’s notes.

Whether or not I blog something complex like a presentation, I’ll still spend time thinking through it. Blogging saves me time and stress because I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything important, and it allows people to not only share that resource with others but also to stumble across it through search engines. Five minutes to post presentation notes and share the slides on Slideshare – okay, maybe closer to ten minutes because I like cross-linking them, which results in a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation – that’s nothing compared to the return on investment I get from sharing.

At this point in my post, for example, I’ve spent eight minutes thinking through typing. This is one of the reasons why I encourage everyone to learn how to touch-type. When you don’t have to think about typing, you can type as a way of thinking. You can have a record of what you’re working on for very little extra effort. “But I type so much slower than I think!”, you say. Personally, I catch myself thinking that when I’m thinking too quickly, I’m wasting a lot of effort by going around in circles or working on things I’m going to forget. Slowing down to my typing speed is not a problem.

In fact, my bottleneck isn’t typing. The previous four paragraphs (almost 380 words) took me 10 minutes to write, giving me a thinking+typing speed of about 38 words per minute, or 1.5 seconds per word. On the other hand, a typing test rates me at about 110 wpm (using a software-based Dvorak keyboard layout, on a Lenovo X61 keyboard), or about 0.5 seconds per word. Where did that other second go? Thinking. I tend to speak at 200 wpm or so when I’m excited (0.3 seconds a word?), so obviously, I can think faster – but how much more value is added by that, or taken away at that speed? Slower thought is worth the clarity and reach.

There you have it. A post I’ve recycled from something else – a presentation, an answer, a technical solution? Five to ten minutes extra, with more time if I’m crossposting or illustrating or doing anything fancy. A new post like this? 20 minutes, and now I have something I can link to in case this comes up in conversation again. =) (I have many recurring conversations, most with different people, some spread over years. Each time we revisit a topic, it becomes richer.)

How much time does it take me to write? The real answer is probably a negative amount. If I don’t write about things I’m thinking about, I waste more time thinking in circles and solving problems all over again. This saves me time.

How much time does it take you to write?

Image (c) 2006 Alexandre Duret-Lutz, Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike License