In 2022 I resolved to publish two posts a month on this blog.

This post attempts to explain the value I get out of blogging.

The virtuous cycle of blogging

For me, blogging is a virtuous cycle.

I blog to refine my thinking and improve my writing. As my writing improves, I get more feedback on my ideas. More feedback helps me refine my ideas which leads to more writing.

Writing is thinking

If you want strength, you lift weights; if you want clear thinking, you write.

I don’t like writing. It was an epiphany to me that almost no one does. Wrestling the jumble of emotions, facts, and opinions floating in my mind into a blog post can be an exhausting and demoralizing process.

Writing is a harsh medium for your ideas. As William Zinsser remarked, “The ear makes allowances for grammar, syntax and transitions that the eye wouldn’t tolerate in print.” Writing is hard-mode for thinking.

But matching words with ideas is addictive and electrifying. You have to hunt for the perfect combination of words to describe and clarify your thinking. As you hold up new words against your existing ideas, you see your ideas in new ways.

This process repeats itself for as long as you have the patience to write and rewrite a sentence. And when I have that patience, I’m shocked at how neat and tidy my thoughts look on the page and in my mind.

Learning is teaching

Writing is a test of your understanding.

The Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman developed a technique for learning any topic. If you want to deeply learn something, try teaching it to someone else. It seems to me the next level of this technique is to try to teach it to an endless number of people via your writing.

Another goal of mine is to read more, and the best test of whether I understand what I’ve read is to write about it.

Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book uses the term “verbalizing” to  describe the act of mindlessly quoting books without attempting to put what you’ve read into your own words. It’s liberating to recall and use an old idea in a new way – indeed, this is the origin of the term “liberal arts.”

Blogs are conversations

When you blog, you get to talk to brilliant people and (if you’re lucky) they volunteer to refine your ideas.

Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (which reads like a series of blog posts) attributes much of his early success to his writing. The example that struck me was how he brought street sweeping to Philadelphia.

Franklin wished the street in front of his printing shop was cleaner, so he wrote a paper detailing the myriad advantages of clean streets. He sent a copy of his paper to all the shop owners in his neighborhood which convinced them to pool their money to pay for a street sweeper.

Using the feedback from this experience, Franklin wrote a bill for the Assembly to pave and clean the streets for the whole of Philadelphia.

As I read this anecdote, I realized how analogous it is to the tech industry. Beyond building and open-sourcing Kubernetes, Google evangelized it. They experimented with the ideas behind Kubernetes,  wrote about the experience in the Borg paper, encouraged others to do the same and over time changed everything about data centers.

Ideas that change everything are refinements. Experiment, write, get feedback, repeat. The most tried and proven mechanism of refining your ideas is to write about them.

Why I blog

Blogging is a virtuous cycle. First, you mediate the argument between your mind and the page to fully form your ideas and write them down for others. Then you release your ideas into the world where strangers will combine them with their own ideas and morph and refine them into new thoughts you never imagined.

The gift for your efforts might be new ideas to blog about. Or it might be the warm-fuzzies of perfectly capturing the zeitgeist. Or you may get nothing but the harsh and telling feedback of silence.

I find the endless struggle of zooming and enhancing the details of my ideas in exchange for these gifts to be worth the trade-off. And that’s why I blog.