When not to Write a Post

This is the fourth (!) post I’ve written for today. The reason you aren’t seeing the first three is because the past couple of days have taught me a few valuable lessons about when you shouldn’t follow through on a post idea (even if it’s a really good idea), and I thought I’d share that knowledge with all of you.

<tangent>This post was probably inspired in part by a recent similar post on Outspoken Media.</tangent>

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

My first idea for this week’s post was massively ambitious. A popular site I follow posted an article last week about something I know a lot about, and didn’t do a very good job of it — and it was one of those dreaded list-posts where you can tell some of the items were just filler to boost the count up to a nice, rounded number. I was sure I could write a better post about the topic, so I got started! I was picking apart all the things the other article did wrong, doling out advice for how it could have been improved, coming up with my own, significantly better advice and conclusions, it was epic!

And then I read over what I had so far.

It was atrocious. My bold calling-out of a not-so-great post with examples of how to do it right was reading like a vicious tirade about why I’m better than they are. It was awful! Then I looked up the post’s author; he’s been blogging since I was in high school, has guest posts on some of my favourite blogs, and has made a hugely positive impact in his niche. What was I doing? This guy was a role model. So he had an off-post. It wasn’t all that bad, and even if I could find a few things wrong with it, that doesn’t translate to a better post — especially if I’m being a jerk about it.

So I trashed it. It was probably the longest post I’ve written for this blog to date, and I wholly regret wasting so much time on it before pulling the plug. On the plus side, I’ll think twice about it next time, and hopefully one of you will too.

Posts about current events can backfire.

My back-up idea for this week was based on a gem of a rant I went on over Skype when I found out that YouTube pulled the original RickRoll’d video for a Terms of Service violation. This was a solid post with some legitimately good content that I was all set to write — until I found out that YouTube restored the video.

This is the problem with such ephemeral topics. How long would that post have been relevant for? A few days? Then what? I update it to say “rejoice! the video is restored!” and the rest of my post is moot? Ridiculous. Next time I’ll remember to wait until the news is more official before assuming I’m set for next week’s post.

Are you really a good candidate to write this post?

My third idea was to write a post based on some story I found via Slashdot; one of those trendy posts about an ongoing saga of human rights dilution in a far-away land. This was obviously a good idea, because it was something I cared about! Not so.

What kind of insight would I have on such an issue? Sure I’m passionate about it, but so are millions of other people. Do I know more than the majority of them do? Probably not. Am I going to have some wacky angle that no one else has covered yet? I doubt it. Is there anything significant I can contribute in this space? Not really. So, no post. It was my fault for choosing a topic I was under-qualified to write about.

Please learn from my mistakes.

It’s been a long couple of days. It wasn’t easy throwing out idea after idea, especially after I’d invested time and energy into each one. But in the end I’m glad I did it; I didn’t publish something stupid that I’d probably regret later (or worse: completely forget about), and the silver lining turned out to be a handful of valuable lessons, ready for their own post.

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