Poll: Planning a weekly topic-focused blog – what would you like to read more about?

Your blog is so eclectic,” said someone recently. In one week, I can write about deep geekery, business, blogging, drawing, decision making, and cooking. I deliberately shuffle my posts around so that you get a variety of topics each week. (When I didn’t do this kind of planning, you sometimes got long stretches of geeky posts that went over everyone else’s heads…)

My blog has a lot of different topics because I have a lot of different interests. The only challenge with posting daily is making myself stick to it instead of publishing two or three posts because I get carried away. There’s always so much to learn and share, and if I don’t write about it, I tend to forget it.

I think it’s time to experiment with different ways to write. The variety is fine for other people with wide-ranging interests. The frequency is a little overwhelming, so I’ve started directing people to weekly and monthly updates. I’ve tried category feeds, but they’re still a little difficult to focus on if people just care about one or two topics.

Please help me plan a new blog that’s more focused on a set of topics. =) One that’s updated weekly, so it’s more manageable in terms of reading. One that’s written for readers first, instead of being mostly personal notes that might be useful for other people. I’m still going to update my personal blog (sachachua.com) with all these notes, but once a week, I want to post a focused, well-written, illustrated, “I spent 4-10 hours making something useful for you” post that saves you time or money.

I’m going to focus on general-interest topics so that I can write posts that might be useful for years and years to come. Tech-related posts can be difficult to keep current – people come across Emacs blog posts from 2008, and it can be hard to figure out what needs to be changed. General topics tend to be longer-lasting.

Here is where I need your help and feedback: What do you want to read about the most? There’s a poll in this blog post. If you don’t see it, please check it out at http://sachachua.com/blog/p/26117. If you give me your e-mail address (optional), I can invite you to check out the blog when it starts out. I’m going to brainstorm some headlines, fill in outlines, write posts, draw sketches, and get things going maybe a month or two in advance before I tell most people about it. Vote and tell me how to contact you, and you can help shape the way the blog evolves. =) Please fill in the poll by October 4, 2013 (next Friday) - I’d love to get things going quickly!

2013-10-07 09_25_14-All Polls ‹ sacha chua __ living an awesome life — WordPress

I know there are a lot of blogs like those out there. Here’s how I want to make a difference:

  • You can benefit from summarized insights from books and blog posts. I speed-read and have access to an amazing library, so I can grab ideas from books you don’t have the time to read, summarize them in neat one-page graphical notes, and help you learn faster.
  • Instead of generic advice, you can learn from stories and experiences. There are lots of platitudes out there: “Follow your passion.” “Spend less than you earn.” “Make something useful.” I don’t want to write generic run-of-the-mill link-building articles. I’ll tell you what it’s like to apply the advice to real life and what I learned along the way. I’ve got a lot of practice in thinking about what I’m thinking (including identifying and questioning assumptions), so I’d be happy to take you behind the scenes.
  • You can explore interesting perspectives with me as we combine different experiences. There’s plenty of advice on how to make better decisions, but that’s even more fun when you can bring Quantified Self-type tracking and metrics to measure the results. Writing is a useful tool for learning, and it gets even better when you can tweak the software you use. Learning complex topics can be difficult, but sketchnoting can make the ideas more approachable. I’m a geek, and that spills over into everything I do.

So that’s why I’m thinking of adding a topic-focused blog to the abundance of content already on the Internet. I’ll probably branch it out under the “LivingAnAwesomeLife.com” domain name – maybe in a subdirectory for ease of expansion later on.

Also, since it’s good to question one’s assumptions: Is there a better way to improve navigation and reduce overwhelming volume than a topic-focused blog? Have you come across other wide-ranging blogs that make it easy for you to focus on just the topics you want, while discovering “neighbouring” topics if you’re interested? What do those blogs do differently?

Got any additional thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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  • http://gwenhael.net Gwenhael

    I may be weird like that but a defining trait of your blog for me is precisely that it is eclectic. I came for Emacs and discovered the rest.

  • http://charuzu.wordpress.com Charles

    The previous comment is the same as my thoughts! I like the eclectic nature of your blog and enjoy reading the wide variety of topics each day. Sometimes I skim read a post, sometimes I read it three times and print it out, especially the sketchnotes. I might skip a post if it isnt relevant or geeky on an area which I dont follow.

    Reading your blog is like digging through an Aladdin’s cave of treasure – I hope you don’t lose that quality.

    I am particularly interested in your Sketchnote lessons, productivity, quantified awesome personal tracking, Emacs, ordmode.

    Keep on blogging!!!!

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      Thanks, Charles and Gwenhael! =)

      I like the intersections of interests too, and I definitely plan to keep my personal blog as varied as the things I’m learning about. I’m curious about the idea of excerpting some of my posts into a topic-focused blog as a way of making it easier for newcomers to navigate through them, but I suppose there might be other ways to do that. Coding better support for blog series in WordPress, maybe.

      My main concerns when it comes to starting a topic-focused blog are:

      • What happens when I move on to other topics? I address this by picking a fairly broad set of topics, but there’s still the chance that I’ll let some interests go dormant for a while.
      • Will having these “content silos” make it more difficult to discover other interesting posts? I like the way that the Similar Posts plugin and the On This Day plugin let people cross over into other posts on my blog, and I like how interests overlap in unexpected ways.
      • Is it worth building up a new blog instead of focusing on this one? One more blog means one more place to maintain, one more design to think about and tweak (and a new opportunity to experiment, so there are some advantages there), one more community to gradually build.

      Maybe I can test this with a small experiment. I’ve been brainstorming post ideas for the different areas I listed in the poll. I want to see if I can sustain weekly posts in a new blog for a quarter, and then see if I can do it for a year.

      The key benefits I anticipate from the process are:

      • more organized thoughts, as I work through my outline of brainstormed ideas
      • practice in revising and improving old articles
      • a simpler web design, because I don’t have to plan for the discoverability of posts in a huge archive

      An alternative way to address the first two items is to write a series of blog posts in my current blog, like the way I’ve been posting sketchnote lessons every Thursday.

      As for the third… maybe I can try different blog designs and make it a configurable option? For example, it might be interesting to have the previous and next links go by category, but then people also like using them for browsing posts by date (ignoring category), and then there’s the value of creating a manual series of links so that people read posts in a logical order… Maybe if I get the hang of A/B testing or I find a way to add these experimental ideas without cluttering up the page too much, I won’t need a separate blog to test these ideas. =)

      These other anticipated benefits would be icing on the cake:

      • a lower bounce rate and more post-to-post navigation, because the suggestions are more similar to the topics
      • more subscriptions because people don’t feel overwhelmed by daily posts (feed readers still don’t seem like they’ve taken off, and e-mail might be handier for people)
      • more links because people feel more confident about the kinds of topics they’re linking to (since it seems that people don’t link as much to category pages)

      It’ll be difficult to compare a new blog with my personal blog (it takes time to grow something!), so that’s probably going to be a commitment of 2-5 hours a week for a quarter or a year. If you know of better ways to learn what I think I want to learn– or better things to want to learn–I’d love to hear from you!

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