Blogging to learn

People blog for all sorts of reasons. For me, it is mostly about learning. This wasn’t my original intention – it evolved over time. Now I see blogging as part of a continuous learning process:

– Start every morning by skimming through news, blogs, articles, etc. Much of this is tech related. I used to get tech news in the newspaper, then in Google Reader, and now mostly from Twitter. If someone I meet mentions something interesting that was published that I didn’t read, I go back and figure out how I missed it and change who I follow on Twitter so it doesn’t happen again.

– Try to meet with interesting people during the week. The reason being up on tech news is important is so that we can get the most out of the meetings. Often we’ll talk about whatever each of us is working on at the time but it’s also good to have news or blog posts as shared reference points. This makes the meetings more interesting for everyone.

– Try to learn at least one interesting thing each week and then blog about it. Then see how people react in comments, on Twitter etc. I guess some bloggers don’t like comments but for me they are the crucial so that I can get feedback on new hypotheses. Blogging new hypotheses also means a decent portion of your blog posts need to be ignored or ridiculed. Otherwise you are playing it too safe.

My year in blogging

It was a mixed year for me as a blogger. I didn’t post much as I would have liked – I spent most of the year working with eBay in a process that eventually led to Hunch being acquired. But I also learned a lot and tried to share some of those learnings here. Below are the posts I think were the best and also seemed to get the most pageviews and reader comments.

An internet of people

Making industries “garage ready” for startups

Business development: the goldilocks principle

Some lessons learned

Do you want to sell sugar water or do you want to change the world?

What the NYC startup world needs (and doesn’t need)

Founder/market fit

Best practices for raising a VC round

There are two kinds of people in the world

Apple and the TV industry

Google’s social strategy

MIT is a national treasure

Dropbox and why you should invest in people

SEO is no longer a viable marketing strategy for startups

Selling pickaxes during a gold rush

Predicting the future of the Internet is easy: anything it hasn’t yet dramatically transformed, it will.

For older posts, see the contents page. I haven’t updated this page in a long time but plan to do so soon.

cdixon.org site statistics

I hadn’t looked at cdixon.org site logs in over a year until today.  Here are the numbers according to the Dreamhost panel:

I’ve been blogging more lately which explains why Dec 2011 is tracking to be up near 2M page views (although frankly that number seems high to me- I wonder if somehow they are counting each page view multiple times – maybe due to the way WordPress works?)

As if we needed another reminder of how wrong Compete data is here is their chart:

Not even directionally correct.  Yeah they show UVs and not pageviews but I don’t see any reason those would have gotten decoupled.

(I had cdixon.org tagged with Quantcast for a while but removed it a few weeks ago –  their chart when cdixon.org was tagged makes more sense (as you’d expect)).

I blog just for fun / hobby, so don’t really care about these stats. But it’s interesting to see the (in)correctness of these popular analytics services.

Experiment: blog in Kindle book form

There is an amazing amount of useful, free information available on tech blogs for fledgling tech entrepreneurs (this list is a great place to start). I think sometimes we techies forget that this wealth of content is unknown to the non-startup world. I was reminded of this recently when I met a first-time entrepreneur who said when he was first starting out he tried finding books on Amazon, Googling for stuff etc. He described it as an epiphany the first time he stumbled upon Fred Wilson’s blog, which then led him to Brad Feld, Mark Suster, Eric Ries, Venture Hacks, etc.

So this weekend I thought I’d try an experiment. I took about 100 of my blog posts (the ones that I thought were most “evergreen”), bundled them as a PDF and submitted them to the Kindle Store. The Kindle submission process was surprisingly easy. You give your book a name and upload the PDF and then choose pricing.  They force you to charge a minimum of $0.99.  Also, strangely, if you charge less than $2.99, Amazon takes 70% of the revenue, but if you charge between $2.99-$10 they only keep 30%.

I decided to price my book at $2.99 and donate all of the proceeds (~$2 book) to HackNY, a non-profit that “keeps the kids off the Street” (encourages college students to join/start tech startups instead of working on Wall Street). All of the content in the book is available for free on cdixon.org. The only reason to buy the book is to get this blog in a different format and to support a good charity. It is available in the Kindle Store here.

I don’t expect many people to buy the book but maybe some first-time entrepreneurs will stumble on it and from there discover more tech blogs. Think of it as “Kindle SEO” for tech blogs.

Finally, I am having trouble getting the links to work on the Kindle version. I’m not sure if this is an Amazon policy or if I am just doing something wrong (the links work fine in the PDF I uploaded to Amazon). So here is an alternative version on Scribd that has working links.

You need to use social services to understand them

I don’t know if Malcolm Gladwell is right when he claims “the revolution will not be tweeted,” but I can say with certainty that the Twitter he describes is not the Twitter I know. Gladwell’s central argument is that Twitter creates weak ties but social movements require strong ties. I’ve made more strong ties through Twitter (and blogging) than I have through any communications medium I’ve ever used before. The relationships start off weak – a retweet, @ reply, or blog comment – but often strengthen through further discussions and eventually become new friendships and business relationships.

I can see why Gladwell gets this wrong – he doesn’t seem to really use Twitter (he does blog occasionally). I barely tweeted or blogged for a long time too. I read blogs basically since their advent, but social services are fundamentally participatory: reading blogs/tweets is to social services as watching TV is to a real life conversations. I finally relented at the insistence of Caterina, who had the foresight to insist that everyone at Hunch blog, tweet, contribute to open source projects, etc. I now get some of my best ideas from responses to tweets and blog posts, and have developed dozens of strong relationships through the experience.

I made some jokes on Twitter the past few days about Kleiner Perkins’ new social fund.  These were meant to be lighthearted: I only know one person at KP and from everything I’ve seen they seem to be smart, friendly people. But underneath the jokes lies a real issue: the partners there don’t seem to really participate in social services (something they only underscored by announcing their new fund at a press conference that targeted traditional media outlets).

I’d love to engage in a debate with smart people like Gladwell about the impact of the social web on culture, politics, activism and so on. I also think it’s great to see savvy investors like KP allocate significant resources to the next wave of social web innovation. But it’s hard for me to take them seriously when they don’t seem to take their subject matter seriously.