Monday, April 20, 2009

Blogging as Software Development

A core principal of open-source software development is something like this: "Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers." (See here.) The idea being, it's better to get something out to your users -- even buggy or incomplete -- so as to (a) get first-mover advantage, and (b) find out exactly what your users want fixed or improved first, because it's rarely the same as what you'd expect on your own.

I'm finding that with the advent of electronic publishing/easy blogging, I'm doing the same thing with my writing. I frequently post something and then go back -- hours or days or weeks later -- re-read it, and make minor (but occasionally numerous) changes to the grammar, sentence structure, and so forth. Sometimes I add in a new anecdote, analogy, or quote that I've come up with in the meantime.

Now, once upon a time we all had to do this the other way around. When publishing was entirely by print -- fixed and labor-intensive -- then ideally you'd write, draft, revise, edit, etc., prior to the final "official" version being published and observed by any readers. (Back when I was a high-school student working on an actual typewriter, I would personally skip the draft/revise process, but I'd take a long time mentally picturing each paragraph and sentence before I put it on the page. Excepting that time I was writing a paper in the morning, last minute, with my grandfather sitting on the stairs waiting to drive me to school.) The point being, what would our older teachers think if we told them that we could entirely reverse the process -- publish our rough draft first, and then instantly add any revisions we wanted, while people were reading and responding to what we had written?

I'm finding that it's a lot healthier for me, now that blogging software is widely available, to reverse the process in exactly this way. I get my stuff out in the world and get some kind of feedback almost immediately. I can get in the flow of the writing/thinking process without getting interrupted too much by the need to stop and pull out a dictionary or a thesaurus. I can put the draft out there and only come back to it if I truly have a really good idea to add or modify what I've written later on. It feels almost like publishing was just waiting to be done this way for the entire history of writing.

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