Sharing Outline

Table of Contents

This is a rough outline of things I'd like to write about, screencast, draw, or share. is written in Org Mode for Emacs, and it's the file that generates index.html. Issues and pull requests welcome ( preferred, but I can understand HTML patches too)! ,

Does a topic here intrigue you, or can you think of some useful follow-ups ? E-mail me at (or file an issue, if you're geeky that way ;) ).

Inspired by anything? Feel free to write your own posts, and send me a link. =)

HTML version: Org:

You can find my blog at .

Click on the headings to expand them.

Books to write someday

Quite some time from now, given the way things are going. =)

Think like an Emacs Geek

  • An approach for learning intermediate Emacs: After you've gotten the hang of the basics, how can you keep learning more about using and tweaking this text editor? This will probably take different forms: small weekly tips for constant improvement, Emacs Lisp and Org Mode courses, and so forth.
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? After doing this, I want to be an even better user of Emacs. I want to work more efficiently and fluently, and I want to have more fun with it too.
    • Who might find it useful? People who want to keep tweaking how they use Emacs. Mostly developers, but probably also writers and people interested in personal information management
    • What is the change I want to help others with? I want people to become confident about using Emacs for the long term. I want them to be able to play around with different mindsets/ideas, seeing the big picture instead of getting lost in lots of configuration details. I want to help people think like an experienced Emacs user.
    • To do this, it would be good to read:
      • Archives of Emacs blogs (ex: the ones featured on
      • Manuals for Emacs, Emacs Lisp, and popular packages
      • the (small) collection of existing Emacs books
      • Related technical books for taking people beyond the beginner stage
      • Books about technical writing and learning design
      • Source code
    • What this book would be:
      • Different mental shifts/ideas, workflows; things people don't even think to search for
    • What this book is not:
      • How to write a package
      • Overloaded on specifics that will be obsolete or that are hard to get right for multiple platforms
    • Related
    • Possible titles
      • Emacs Mind
      • Thinking Like an Emacs Geek
  • Think Like Emacs
    • Why
      • What's the difference between a beginner Emacs user and an experienced one?
        • Beginner struggling with new concepts, frustrated with differences
        • Experienced Emacs users have a sense of where things are and how things fit together
      • In addition to learning new keyboard shortcuts and terms, you also need to make mental shifts
      • Invest time = compounding interest, long-term pay-off
      • As you become more comfortable with Emacs
      • You pick up new ways of thinking, aha!
      • Ideas for workflow as well
      • Community
    • Getting over the first barrier
      • Short-term learning challenge, long-term use
        • Other people are more interested in moving forward, I think
      • Keeping Emacs open, Emacsclient
      • Keyboard shortcuts; CUA, evil-mode, the Emacs Way
      • Terminology, glossary
        • Things that often trip people up
          • Buffer, window, frame
          • Yank, kill, kill ring
        • How to make sense of terms
      • Defaults and customization
      • Finding information
      • Self-documenting
    • Learning how to learn
      • Noticing an opportunity for improvement
        • Limited (ex: forgetting, mis-remembering)
        • Repetitive
        • Complex (distinguish from repetitive)
        • Rough
        • Open for customization
      • Learning slowly
        • Trying out new stuff
        • Keeping things manageable
          • Pick one thing
          • Sticky notes or index cards
        • Continuous improvement
        • Revisiting things you've learned
          • Digging deeper into packages and functionality
          • Spaced repetition, flashcard.el, org-drill
        • Keeping up with changes
        • Things you use infrequently
      • Asking for help
        • Mailing lists / newsgroups, StackOverflow, IRC
        • Examples
        • What to do if it doesn't work
      • What to do when you're frustrated
        • Try a smaller piece
        • Bubble gum and string
      • Managing the yak-shaving impulse
        • What is yak-shaving
        • Write down your tasks
        • Use the 80-20 rule
        • Set time limits
      • Finding inspiration; things you didn't know you didn't know
        • Google
        • YouTube
        • EmacsWiki; randomness
        • Twitter
      • Connecting with other Emacs geeks
        • Mailing lists and newsgroups
        • Twitter
        • IRC
        • Planet Emacsen, sharing
    • Working with the package ecosystem
      • Finding and configuring packages
        • list-packages
        • new packages
        • description or source code
        • Finding blog posts and resources
        • Looking at modes and interactive functions
        • Customizing variables
        • Reading source
      • Sum > parts; combining packages
      • Overriding packages
      • Extending your own
    • Dealing with your limitations
      • Forgetting
        • apropos, helm-apropos
        • smex, helm-M-x
        • where-is, describe-mode, helm-descbindings
        • guide-key
      • Mis-remembering
      • Messing up
        • Undo history, undo tree
        • Backups
        • Version control
      • Back and forth
        • The kill ring, browse-kill-ring, helm
        • Registers
        • Split windows
        • Window management
      • Interruptions
        • org-capture
        • window configuration
      • Distractions
        • dark room
    • Workflows, general ideas, way of thinking
      • Keybindings
        • Your own keys
        • Overriding
        • Prefix key approach
        • Avoiding ctrl-shift-etc.; keychords, command mode, prefix
        • Modes
        • Common keybindings, navigation
        • Extra modifiers: Hyper, Super
      • Automating repetitive actions
        • Keyboard macros
          • How
          • Recording a macro
          • Running a macro
          • Running a macro several times
          • Be careful
          • Registers
          • Counters
          • Saving macros
        • Multiple cursors
          • dwim
          • lines
          • killing and yanking text
          • phi-search
        • Writing your own Emacs Lisp functions
      • Jumping around quickly
        • Why navigation makes sense
        • Projects
        • Finding information
          • Swoop
          • Grep, helm-do-grep
          • Tags
      • Minibuffer
        • History
        • Ido, Helm
        • Mini-edit
      • Narrowing
        • When is it useful?
        • Focus
        • Different modes
        • Limiting the effect of something
        • recursive narrow
      • Indirect buffers
        • When is it useful?
          • Different major modes
          • Looking at different parts of the same buffer
      • Working with multiple systems
        • Sharing your config
        • System-specific configuration
        • Versions
        • Reminding yourself where you are
          • Background colour
      • Overviews and outlines
        • imenu
        • folding
        • Org
        • org-struct
      • For developers
        • Flycheck
        • Syntactic editing
        • Refactoring
        • Read-Evaluate-Print Loops
        • Literate programming
      • Emacs Lisp everywhere with M-: and C-x C-e
      • Working out loud, Org Babel
      • Planning
        • Org
        • Projects
        • Agenda
        • Tags
      • Other things you can do in Emacs
        • Why
        • Shell
        • IRC
        • Emacs 24.4: eww
        • Twitter
        • Mail, news
      • Source diving
        • Why?
          • Find out how things work
          • Modify things, even with just a little knowledge of Emacs Lisp
          • Find out about other cool things you can do
        • describe-key, describe-function, find-function
          • If you don't know the name of the function, but you know the keyboard shortcut or the menu item you use to call it, you can use M-x describe-key to display its name and description.
          • If you know the name of the function, you can use M-x describe-function.
          • Sample output
          • If you already know the name of the function and you want to jump to its source code, you can use M-x find-function.
          • Should have the sources installed
            • How to install sources if you don't have them yet
        • edebug
      • Initialization
        • eval-after-load instead of requiring everything
        • use-package, req-package
      • Font-locking
    • Working with other people
      • Sets of customization
      • Screen-sharing approach
      • Impatient-mode
      • Shared screen or tmux session
      • Vagrant?
    • Writing Emacs Lisp
      • Beginner resources
      • Coming up with your own stuff
        • How to find things that do something close to what you want
        • Hooks
        • Redefining functions
        • Advice
      • Thinking in terms of buffers
        • vs string manipulation
      • Do what I mean
      • Macros
    • Sharing your workflow and configuration
      • Why
      • Examples
    • Helping other people learn Emacs
      • Why this is worth it
      • Spark their interest
      • Help them get started
      • Ease them into it
      • Learn together
      • Tips for presenting within Emacs
  • Thanks
    • @gozes

Thoughts? E-mail me at

52 Weeks to an Awesomer Emacs

  • Overview
    • 5-30 minute tips
    • Slow pace so that you can practice and focus on one thing the whole week
  • Topics
    1. Learning strategies
    2. describe, apropos, where-is
    3. Helm, helm-M-x; Ido, smex
    4. Better defaults
    5. Use search to jump around
    6. Ace-jump
    7. Helm-swoop
    8. miniedit
    9. cycle-spacing
    10. forward-sexp, backward-sexp, kill-sexp
    11. Browse kill ring, Helm
    12. windmove
    13. Configuration structure
    14. Folding
    15. Prefix argument
    16. Multiple cursors
    17. Undo tree
    18. Guide-key
    19. keychord
    20. text-scale-increase, text-scale-decrease
    21. registers
    22. recursive-narrow
    23. visual-line-mode?
    24. Edebug
    25. Dynamic abbreviations
    26. autocomplete
    27. Rainbow delimiters?
    28. Popping the mark
    29. Limiting commands with region, narrowing
    30. Transpose characters
    31. Checkparens
    32. Zap to char, zap up to char
    33. REPLs
    34. Writable Dired
    35. Writable Grep, helm-swoop
    36. Eshell, term, ansi-term
    37. Twit
    38. Eww
    39. Diminish
    40. Super basic Org
    41. Mode line cookies
    42. Calendar
    43. Idle timer
    44. Info
    45. Packages
    46. Navigation
    47. Smartparens or paredit
    48. Imenu
    49. Evil-mode
    50. Multiple systems
    51. Git, magit
    52. Continuous learning about Emacs
      • Planet Emacsen
      • Twitter
      • Gmane

Building your personal knowledge management system

  • A guide for creating your own personal knowledge management system: I doubt that a one-size-fits-all solution will work, at least not with our current understanding. But I want to learn more about different approaches, I want to make mine totally awesome, and I want to help people build their own from the pieces that are already out there.
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? After doing this, I want to have a wonderfully organized system that lets me easily capture, review, make sense of, and share what I know. I also want to have the vocabulary and concepts to be able to critically examine this system, spot gaps or opportunities for improvement, and make things better.
    • Who would find this useful? Fellow information packrats, writers, bloggers, self-directed learners
    • To do this, it would be good to read about:
      • Personal knowledge management and personal information management
      • Guides to using various tools
      • Information architecture
      • Library science
      • Writing and sense-making

Self-directed learning and experimentation

  • Tips for self-directed learning and experimentation: How to structure your time and learning, how to recognize and explore interesting questions, how to take notes, how to make sense of things, and so on. I want to learn more effectively, and I want to help other people learn more effectively too.
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? After doing this, I want to be able to structure courses of study for myself, take great notes, build useful resources, and accumulate new knowledge.
    • Who would find this useful? Self-directed learners who want something more than online courses
    • To do this, it would be good to read about:
      • Quantified Self, experimentation
      • Note-taking and sense-making
      • Self-directed learning

Working out loud

  • More notes on working out loud: particularly addressing the excuses and barriers that get in people's way. To do this, it would be good to read about:
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? After doing this, I want to have a smooth workflow for learning and sharing. I want to have a wide network of people who can build on the stuff I'm learning about, and who get manageable updates that are scoped to their interests.
    • Who would find this useful? Individual practitioners interested in building their skills and network; social business advocates; bloggers who are also working on building personal insight and shared knowledge
    • To do this, it would be good to read about:
      • Social business, social learning, working out loud, personal learning networks, and personal knowledge management
      • Collaboration, team communication
      • Writing at work

Visual thinking

  • Visual thinking: particularly in terms of using it to clarify your thoughts, remember, and share. To do this, it would be good to read about:
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? After doing this, I want to be more fluent in using visual tools to explore thoughts and figure things out. I want to improve in terms of visual organization, technique, clarity, explanation, integration into my self-directed workflow, and so on.
    • Who would find this useful? People who've already started doodling (or who are picking up the hang of it) and who would like to use it for more things
    • To do this, it would be good to read about:
      • Mind mapping and other forms of visual organization
      • Sketchnoting
      • Planning
      • Blogging and other forms of personal publishing
      • Journaling
      • Information organization and sense-making

Following the butterflies of your interest

  • Something about how to follow the butterflies of your interest, because I rarely see this perspective in productivity books and because it's something other people might find helpful.
    • What is the change I want to make in myself? I want to get better at going with the grain of my energy, doing what I want to do (and doing the work that helps me want what is good to want).
    • Who would find this useful? People with many interests - scanners, multi-potentialites, Renaissance-people-to-be.
    • To do this, it would be good to read about:
      • Career and life planning, especially unconventional paths
      • Productivity
      • Writing, note-taking
      • Psychology, cognitive limits, distraction

Learning, writing, sharing knowledge, and constant improvement

Personal knowledge management

Making sense

  • TODO Write about memex, personal knowledge management
  • Planning improvements
    • Current state
      • Journal
      • Blog posts
      • Sketches
        • More on my computer these days
          • Colour
          • Grid
          • Whitespace
        • Possibly missing out on relaxed reflections?
    • Ideas for improvement
      • Tracking the pipeline
        • TODO
        • Learning states
          • learn (plan, research), do (learn, reflect), teach (explain, summarize)
        • Sketch -> post pipeline



  • Different dimensions of scaling up
  • If you can get better at learning, everything else gets better
  • What does better mean?
    • Ask better questions
    • Find resources
    • Apply what you learn
    • Remember what you learn


OUTLINED How I learn: My learning and sharing workflow   requested

This outline can be found at

  • Types of learning/sharing (hmm, move this into separate post, although it's useful to keep goals in mind as you learn)
    • Why keep goals in mind?
      • Choose appropriate techniques
      • Avoid going down the rabbit-hole
    • Request: questions, troubleshooting, feedback
      • Keep track of who requested it
    • Exploration: planning, learning
      • Imagine success and test your goals
      • Figure out steps to take
      • Get feedback on plans
        • Small experiments
        • People
    • Discovery: blog posts, news, new library acquisitions, etc.
      • Old blogs are useful too
  • Planning (could use a separate blog post for this one too)
    • What do I want to learn?
    • How can I learn it?
    • Requests
  • Input
    • Internet
    • Books
    • Troubleshooting
    • Exploration
    • Feedback
    • Old notes
    • I speed-read, so it's easy for me to filter through Google search results, books, etc.
  • Taking notes
    • I structure my notes around how I share (categories, etc.)
    • Notes at my computer
      • Large text file managed with Org Mode in Emacs
        • Easy to add source code snippets or links to additional resources
      • On the web, I use Evernote Web Clipper + tags
        • Mostly as a way of being able to find things again with search, and to save pages even if they go away
      • Big outline -
        • Categories
        • Sometimes I add notes about my Evernote items (otherwise it's easy to lose stuff)
      • Quick notes for weekly reviews
    • Private notes
      • At clients: text file on the work computers
      • My other organizer files (ex:,,, and so on)
    • Sketchnotes
    • Book notes
      • Drawn
      • Written
      • Dictated
      • Scanned
  • Outlining and integrating
    • Taking notes lets you learn over time
    • Adding links to previous posts that I remember
    • Looking at the suggested similar posts
    • Updating my index -
      • Easier than Wordpress categories for me
      • Lets me notice when I've written a lot about a single topic
    • Planning ahead
  • Sharing
    • Part of the learning process for me
      • I try to share as much as possible of what I learn, because otherwise I'll forget within a year
    • What to use when
      • Blog posts for searchability
      • Sketchnotes for shareability, or to make things friendlier
      • Tweets for short tips (also include in quick notes for weekly review)
    • Transforming my notes (see )
    • Sometimes series of posts
  • Next steps for me
    • Get better at re-ordering notes and filling in the gaps
    • Learn more about coaching and delegation as ways of speeding up my learning/sharing
    • Reorganize my index so that it's less chronological; suggest reading order?
    • Spend more time on editing, revising, and integrating so that the posts are even more useful

Requested by @gozes

Learning more effectively

  • Learning more
    • Better: identify and make sense of relevant info; construct more knowledge (vs retrieving it)
    • Actually diving into documentation, experimentation, search
    • Learning from other people's thoughts
      • Do I usually jump to this state for non-technical stuff, or do I try to explore the question a little? It usually develops in a bit of a cycle
  • Tidying up my notes
    • Better: Balance between personal notes (to keep the sense of figuring things out) and tips for other people (to help people learn things quickly)
    • Very little of this, since I want to get stuff out there quickly
    • Trust that future Sacha will pull together
    • YAGNI / lazy organization
  • Planning
    • Before you learn something, plan how you're going to apply it
    • Learn faster by breaking skills down
  • Making sense
    • How to understand what you're thinking
    • Learn holistically by organizing your thoughts
  • OUTLINED Collecting my thoughts, organizing them, identifying gaps
    • fascinated by how nonfiction writers organize their notes
      • nonfiction, because fiction writers have to deal with a whole 'nother kettle of fish
    • Better: Quickly pulling things together, identifying uncertainties or gaps, non-linearly organizing notes into a logical flow
    • What are the key challenges?
      • Finding a specific thing
      • Seeing the overall picture
    • How do other people do it?
      • question by question; forward, or backward
      • Managing information overload, index, etc.
      • Scrivener, non-linear writing
      • Outlines
      • personal knowledge management
      • How to make a map of every thought
    • How do I do it?
      • Outlines
      • Links, blog posts, chunks
      • Good at small outlines; transform
      • Larger outlines sometimes sprawl, or I lose motivation
    • How
      • Sketch or blog post
      • Outline
      • Semi-linear, can be all over
  • OUTLINED Accumulating value

    How small steps can take you great distances

    Beginner: do I need to cover this? maybe in its own post, or if people ask

    • picking a good direction to go in
      • doesn't have to be a complete, detailed plan
      • rough direction, idea of good/better/best
      • I like imagining wild success
      • also see if you don't actually want it strongly enough
    • figuring out what a few good next steps are - people often struggle with breaking things down into small, doable steps
      • too big: I don't have the time
      • too vague: I don't know where to start
      • too small: I don't see how this will help me get there
      • just right: let's try it!
    • checking to see if you're still going in the right direction, tweaking plans
      • keep track of ideas and next steps
      • review your notes
      • following up


    • taking notes, so you don't have to keep rediscovering things you've forgotten
      • questions for reflection
        • what are you doing?
        • how are you doing it?
        • what are you learning?
        • what are the next steps?
      • tools
        • paper journal; write down the date. If you're working on several topics, you might consider having one small notebook per topic, or using an index. tabs, or number your pages and keep an index at the back of the notebook.
        • I like using Evernote because I can add notes using my phone or my computer
      • finding the time
        • do it while you're learning
        • "I am going to …"
        • clarifies your thoughts
        • helps you deal with interruptions and dead ends


    • seeing the connections and patterns over time <- probably worth a post, since I want to dig into this myself
      • why
        • celebrate your achievements
        • check your progress
        • look for gaps and opportunities
        • make sense and solidify your understanding
      • rereading your notes
      • this is not as easy as collecting them, I think
      • comparisons: before and after (ex: a year)
      • summarizing: timelines, outlines
    • teaching other people
      • explaining things in your own words
      • organizing small steps into bigger, more logical chunks
      • teaching specific people vs teaching in the abstract
    • sharing with people
      • because you could save someone out there a little time on that same little step too, and if you multiply that by a thousand people, that's a lot of value

    Alan Lin

  • Intellectual goals   subskills
    • Excerpt

      The book Early Retirement Extreme (Jacob Fisker - CreateSpace: 2010)

      Intellectual goals for someone aspiring to be a Renaissance man are to:

      • Be able to quickly prioritize the relevance of information and be able to quickly research and find relevant information in many different areas. Learn independently and have an interest in doing so.
      • Have enough generalized knowledge to be able to understand the information and put it into the context of a mental framework, a model or procedure, and use it to ask further questions.
      • Recognize which problems the model applies to, take the solution to one problem, generalize it, and apply it to another problem.
      • Be able to critically analyze the model, refine it, and combine different models to achieve an objective. Practice critical thinking in all aspects of life to reach a degree of rational certainty. Be open to new ideas but do not accept anything uncritically.
      • Synthesize interdisciplinary information and laterally connect similarities which are not immediately apparent, discovering new models and procedures.
      • Evaluate different methods, models, and procedures while effectively ranking them for utility, and picking the best one while recognizing the pertinence of other methods. Pursue relevant and correct knowledge persistently and consistently. Master the fundamentals.

      This! I want to get better at all of these things. Based on feedback from my clients, I do pretty well already, prioritizing requests and potential resources, quickly cobbling together a tool from different pieces, and connecting the dots.

      But what would even better look like, and how do I inch closer to that?

      The more you know–the broader and deeper relevant knowledge you have–the easier it is to learn, since you have more resources for understanding and remembering new information. So the more I read and the more I try, the easier it is to learn.


      • Figuring out what's relevant
      • Making sense of things
      • Figuring out how the pieces fit together
      • Recognizing the right nail when you have a hammer
      • Thinking about thinking
      • Connecting the dots
      • Choosing among strategies
  • Integrate your learning into other things you know
  • Application
    • Put your learning into practice
  • Scale
    • Invest the time to get to the point where you can get paid to learn


  • Improve your memory with the peg system
  • Remember things in order by making them part of a journey
  • Remember better with spaced repetition systems

Don't be afraid to make mistakes

Broaden your learning

Practice before passion

Feeling overwhelmed? Focus on just-in-time learning

When you're not the best

Get more value from the time you spend learning

Manage your energy

Deal with discouragement

Use the 80/20 rule

Let your mind wander in order to come up with ideas and solve problems

Spring-clean your learning goals

Learn how to fix things

You don't have to live big to learn lots

Expensive to cheap: Many different ways to learn the same thing

Go back to step one

Talent is overrated

Keep a beginner's mind

Combine learning

Listen and watch at twice the speed

Growth mindsets and fixed mindsets: Why what you think about learning can affect how well you can learn

The learning cycle

Build, measure, learn

Critical thinking

Know your learning styles and make the most of it

Adjust your previously-held beliefs


  • The First 20 Hours
  • The 4-Hour Chef

Learning from things I like

  • How It Should Have Ended

CANCELLED Improving my input speed

  • Currently type ~108wpm on Dvorak
    • Type faster and rely on autocorrect and editing to fix errors?
    • Use speech recognition?
      • Easiest startup, extra benefits for dictating book notes and transcribing my own stuff
      • Highest frustration
    • Learn Colemak for same-hand optimization?
      • Closest to Dvorak in terms of how I use my computer
      • Because it's close, I get the most confusion; sigmoid curve?
      • Colemak FAQ says stick with Dvorak if you're already happy with it
      • Maybe I should play with this incremental approach?
      • Hah, maybe I should see about making my Dvorak home row close to
      • Big selling point of Colemak: similar to QWERTY, common shortcuts stay the same.
        • Emacs has different shortcuts anyway
        • and I've gotten used to where things are
        • and also, normal Ctrl-x, Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v suck because you get tempted to do them on the same hand
      • No
    • Learn Plover (stenography) and much higher WPM?
      • My keyboard doesn't handle some of the chords well
      • Phonetic, so…
    • Draw pictures instead (work on getting even better at communicating concisely?)
    • Bottleneck is not typing speed; improve thinking speed somehow?
  • Three cases
    • Outlining
      • Uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts, so Dvorak or Colemak would be better than Plover or speech recognition
      • Pictures - mindmap?
        • Computer
        • Paper
    • Turning an outline into a blog post
      • Current workflow involves a lot of editing and deleting, so speech recognition and Plover are less useful
      • Speech/Plover might be more useful if I'm typing into a separate buffer
    • Capturing notes from books (quotes, outlines)
  • Decision
    • Focus on improving speech recognition accuracy by dictating book notes
    • Try more tweaks to current keyboard layout (ex: mapping left control to Backspace)
    • Experiment with using speech recognition to draft e-mails and blog posts
    • Revisit Plover after speech recognition is part of my workflow (or shelved)
    • Revisit Colemak after Plover is part of my workflow (or shelved)
  • CANCELLED Learning the Colemak keyboard layout
    • Background
      • Grew up with a computer
      • Learned how to type long before I had computer or typing classes
      • Bad habits
      • One summer, I decided to learn Dvorak. dvorak7min
      • More than ten years ago
      • I type faster and more comfortably in Dvorak than in QWERTY.
      • Also, it keeps people off my laptop and adds to my reputation for geek weirdness.
    • Why
      • Curious about computer-based optimization
        • Rolls
      • Keep my brain flexible
      • Learn about learning
      • Possibly get faster?
        • Trade-offs
    • Nudged by
    • Experience
    • Day 1 (Sept 20, 2013) - two hours
      • Went through the first six lessons of Learn Colemak (I still need to learn the bottom row)
      • Tried out keybr's random words level 1 - dismal 14wpm
      • 23wpm on lesson 1 for Type Faster - a slightly more encouraging 23wpm

Writing / blogging / sharing knowledge

OUTLINED Balancing "useful" and "personal" on my blog

Lower-priority: I can wait until it seems more likely that my balance will change, or I can transform this into a post about blog role models and getting closer

  • Good balance
  • What kind of balance do I want to have?
  • I'm thinking about this because this balance might change
  • As an introvert, I don't want to impose on other people
    • I'm somewhat okay with blog reading being completely voluntary
    • This is why I haven't gotten around to e-mail newsletters yet, even though reading is voluntary too.
    • Maybe I don't have to?
  • I want most of my posts to be useful.
  • I don't want to be generic. What's the point of writing something you could just find on Lifehacker? So I tell stories about what I'm learning.
  • What I want to avoid:
    • Article mills
    • Me-me-me-blah-blah-blah
  • But there are good examples
    • Lifehacker tends to be impersonal
    • The Simple Dollar is a little closer to the impersonal side of things, but is sprinkled with personal stories
    • Penelope Trunk and Mel Chua write more personally than I do
      • What makes their blogs feel more personal?
        • Penelope Trunk writes about more stresses and difficulties.
      • Mel's writing communicates her excitement and passion
    • Mr. Money Mustache is a great mix of useful + personal.

Other post

Also, another note from 2004: My notes were shorter and more plentiful back when I didn't think of it as a blog, just my notebook. That could be handy to bring back. But I like the depth of exploring an idea in a longer post, and I like the way sketches help me build up to more complex ideas too. Perhaps a tidbits category that's not included in the stream, a combination of a web log and features à la BoingBoing (although not as awesome)? One thing I've learned in the past ten years is that if it isn't public, it's hard to remember or keep.

A massive outline and an editorial calendar: How I manage my blog post pipeline

Posts versus pages

  • I want pages to show up in categories too

CANCELLED Improve your writing skills by copying other people

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Witty sayings
  • Sales

    from: Timothy Kenny nudge

OUTLINED Blogging-related skills   skill

Here's my evolving break-down of blogging-related skills, including notes for future blog posts. I'm currently working on getting better at outlining (from high-level down to chunks of ~100 words) and synthesizing (especially combining other people's insights with my experiences). I'm using this outline to think of ways to deliberately practise certain aspects of blogging, to plan posts that will help people learn, and to clarify what I would like to delegate to assistants or work with coaches for.

See also

  • Manage your time and energy
  • Plan what to write
    • more: list, more: another list, more: yet another list
    • Brainstorm ideas to explore or questions to answer
    • Outline topic more, more (with fractals!)
    • Choose a subtopic for a blog post more, more
    • Ask for and respond to requests
    • Brainstorm follow-up topics for future posts more
    • Follow up on past entries
    • Review your metrics more
    • Make creative associations more
    • Check out related blogs more
    • Collect questions and ideas from other sources
      • Internet: blogs, forums, Q&A sites more
      • Life more
      • Publications more
    • Research keywords , more more
    • Test ideas on Twitter or other networks in order to get different perspectives and check for resonance
    • Set up editorial calendar so that people know when to come back for content more
  • Research
    • Identify good blog posts and articles to refer to
    • Identify good books to read
    • Identify full-text research papers
    • Take notes
      • Summarize a blog post or article
      • Summarize a book
      • Summarize a research paper
      • Organize notes for easy reference
    • Synthesize information
  • Write
    • Brainstorm titles more, more (fill in the blanks)
    • Choose a format more
    • Draft blog post based on outline
    • Draft blog post starting with an idea or a question
    • Write a technical post
      • Explain how something works
      • Share trouble-shooting experiences
      • Teach people about a useful feature
    • Write about news and other topical events
    • Write a list post
    • Write a debate post
    • Write a summary post that links to several articles
    • Write a link round-up
    • Ask a question or run a poll more,
    • Plan longer articles more
    • Find and share interesting things
      • Role model: Boingboing
    • Share personal stories
      • Role models: Brazen Careerist by Penelope Trunk, Mel Chua
    • Set up experiments and share experiences
      • Role models: A.J. Jacobs
    • Share resources that other people might not have access to (ex: summarize a book or presentation)
    • Write a business post
      • Help people identify a need for your services
      • Help people make better use of your services
      • Share complementary services or tips
  • Format your post
  • Make posts more engaging
    • Choose stock photo or illustration, and attribute it properly - post
      • Modify the image and make a title more
    • Add relevant quotes or epigraphs more more
      • Watch out for frequently mis-attributed quotes
    • Draw an illustration
    • Make a short presentation
    • Make a short animation
    • Record a podcast
    • Record video
  • Proofread and revise
    • Strengthen first paragraph (you-focus, question or contradiction, promise)
    • Strengthen last paragraph (conclusion, call to action, question)
    • Read post out loud
    • Check if the post answers a question or addresses a need
    • Check if the post makes sense
    • Determine what can be removed from a post
    • Determine what needs to be added to a post
  • Revisit old posts to see how they can be improved
  • Organize
    • Organize and review drafts
    • Organize previously-published resources
  • Reach out
    • Identify blog posts with similar topics
    • Write thoughtful, insightful, and not overly self-promotional comment
    • Identify target blogs for guest posts
    • Pitch target blog for guest posts
    • Identify related blogs in niche
    • Share your posts on social media
    • Invite and work with guest bloggers
  • Work with your blogging platform
    • Set up or improve your blog
    • Experiment with plugins and add-ons
    • Experiment with blog editors
    • Analyze metrics
    • Back up and restore
  • Study
    • Identify the differences between writing styles
    • Imitate other people's writing styles
    • Get feedback and use it appropriately
    • Create and work with checklists/templates more

OUTLINED How to blog, five minutes at a time: Making the most of little chunks of time   writing

see the possibilities

  • This is good for your blogging! more
  • This makes writing less intimidating. Transitions can be awkward, but you can fix that while editing. more
  • Get rid of your rituals and requirements (must do this first, can't have that…). Stop in the middle of a sentence so that you'll find it easier to resume. more
  • Don't edit as you write. Save that for another day. more
  • … or edit as you go. Whichever way works for you. more
  • People write books on commutes, lunch hours, ferry rides, etc. Plan ahead so that you always know what the next task is. That way, when you find yourself with a moment of spare time, you can make the most of it. more
  • don't give yourself excuses more
  • break it down into tasks more
  • Outline all the way down to chunks of 100 words more
  • Brainstorm things you can do in 15 minutes more
  • Use those little chunks of time to get ahead more
  • Write and publish a little at a time more
  • Brainstorm ideas and questions: Keep a text file and add to it whenever something inspires you.
  • Brainstorm titles: Come up with three or more possible titles. Note: this is a separate step from brainstorming ideas, so you don't have to come up with an idea and an awesome title right from the start
  • Make a rough outline: Outline topics (one line per post idea) or outline posts (one line per paragraph) to speed up writing.
  • Research your topic and clip the pages: See what else is out there. Don't forget to bookmark or save the pages so that you can refer to it easily. Better yet, add links to your outline right away.
  • Write a few sentences:
  • Proofread
  • Edit
  • Look for an image

OUTLINED What could I do if I spent four or more hours on a single blog post?

:Effort: 4:00

  • What happens if I spend four or more hours on a blog post? :TODO:
  • New superpower - I can take more time to do things than I used to.
    • Cooking. Reading.
    • And it pays off.
  • Also why: too much
  • Spending more time on each blog post
    • Why? It's not just a blog post, it's the learning
    • No time pressures anyway
      • I've written far enough ahead that I'm not worried about running out of posts any time soon
      • I'm surrounded by ideas
    • I don't want to write a massive, useful, linkbait post that disappears from my brain after I write it. Like cramming for a school exam and then moving on.
  • What can I improve?
  • Now that I've confessed my primary motivation for writing a blog, I should also say that I get warm and fuzzies when people find my notes useful.
  • Adjusting the slider; nudge it up a little, play with it
  • Now
    • Half an hour to an hour, effective rate 30wpm
    • Some posts come out of technical learning or troubleshooting, so the time doesn't count the time I spent solving the problem.
    • Other posts, I start from scratch, do some research, think about stuff, dig deeper.
    • Outline helps a lot with that.
      • It was hard to do this before outlining because I couldn't see and manage my drafts as well.
    • Easy for me to track, especially if I'm writing it in Emacs.
      • I can track how much time I spend outlining a specific post and which days I worked on it.
      • I can set a target effort (ex: at least two hours4 hours) and compare the total time against that.
  • Four hours is around the time I usually take to plan a presentation
    • Who
    • What do I want people to remember or act on
    • What do I need to share to help them get from A to B
    • Illustrations
  • Oh, maybe that will be my reason to split off sub-blogs
    • If I wrote like other people
      • I would include less "I" and more "You", giving people advice
      • I would emphasize the categories more
      • More lists and stats?
      • 1% better.

OUTLINED Think about your blogging goals and how your posts align with them   data

:Effort: 4:00

I've been thinking about my goals for blogging because I want to get better. I write almost every day, fueled by habits of reading and experimenting. I have time to learn things, and I can learn more effectively if I learn deliberately. Here's what I'm learning about being clear about your goals and analyzing how your actions match up with them.

  • 1. Clarify your goals

    It's good to know what your goals are and how the different approaches serve those goals so that you can choose the ones that are the most effective. You can also look at each approach to see how you can improve it.

    After some reflection, I came up with this list of goals for my blog:

    1. Learn more effectively by thinking through complexity or explaining what I'm learning
    2. Explore assumptions and possibilities; become more aware of them myself, and help other people see them
    3. Improve core skills through practice: making decisions, explaining ideas, organizing thoughts, etc.
    4. Save myself and other people time spent re-solving the same problems or learning the same things
    5. Build a long-term archive that I can use to remember what I'm learning and see differences over time
    6. Learn from other people through questions, comments, and conversations

    Your list of goals will probably look different. Many people have goals such as building a business by promoting their products or services, educating clients or readers, keeping family members up to date, working through difficult issues by writing anonymously, and so on. Take a moment to think about and prioritize your goals.

    If you're having problems expressing your goals, you can also take a look at your recent blog posts and ask yourself, "Why did I write this?" What results did you want to get? What purpose did it serve? One blog post might work towards several different goals.

  • 2. Analyze the ways you approach those goals

    Different actions support different goals to different extents. Think about the different types of blog posts you write. Score them against each of your goals on a scale of 1 to 5, where a score of 5 means that type of post helps a specific goal a lot, while 1 means it does very little or even nothing for that particular goal.

    Here are some of the types of posts I share and how they line up with the goals I listed above:

      Goal 1: Learn Goal 2: Explore Goal 3: Improve Goal 4: Save time Goal 5: Build Goal 6: Learn from others Total
    T1: Draw original stuff 5 5 5 5 5 3 28
    T2: Draw book reviews and events 5 2 5 5 5 5 27
    T3: Think out loud 5 5 5 1 5 3 24
    T4: Share tech tips, troubleshooting notes, or code 5 5 3 4 2 4 23
    T5: Review longer spans of time (yearly, decisions) 5 4 5 1 5 3 23
    T6: Write tips that few other people can cover 4 2 3 3 4 3 19
    T7: Write tips that other people can also cover 3 1 2 2 2 2 12
    T8: Review recent posts (weekly, monthly) 1 1 4 1 4 1 12

    Sorting the table by the total score makes it easy to see which approaches you value more. If some goals are much more important to you than others, you can also weight those goals in your calculations. For example, if building a long-term archive was twice as important to me, I could double that column when calculating the total score.

    Anyway, this ranking makes it clearer why I feel good about original drawings and sketchnotes, and why I skew towards decision reviews and "thinking through things"-type posts even if they don't feel focused enough on saving other people time. Most of the blogging advice tends to focus on writing tips, but they don't motivate me as much.

    How about you? Do your post types match up with your goals? Are there clear winners that you should focus on? You can write lower-value posts from time to time because they address different needs. For example, I post weekly reviews because they're useful to me even if they're less useful for others.

  • 3. Adjust your priorities based on feedback

    Of course, since these values are subjective, it helps to adjust them based on your website analytics or feedback from your readers. For example, if you think a type of post saves people a lot of time, you'll probably see a lot of visits or comments on it. If you have Google Analytics, you can export the Content - Site Content - All Pages table to a spreadsheet, classify the top X links, and then see what types of posts people spend their time on. For example, I analyzed the top 500 pages visited in July 2013, classified each by type, calculated average views and time per page, and sorted it by average views to get a sense of which posts tend to be more popular.

    Post type Number of pages Number of views Average page views per page Average minutes per page view Average bounce rate
    T1: draw original 23 2875 125 3.4 67%
    T4: share tech 149 12468 84 5.8 74%
    T2: draw book / event 41 2346 57 2.3 64%
    T3: think out loud 62 2452 40 3.4 72%
    T5: review long / decision 14 504 36 2.7 73%
    T6: write tip (few) 41 1392 34 3.1 72%
    T8: review 9 283 31 1.0 61%
    T7: write tip (many) 24 461 19 4.7 73%

    My sketchnotes are more popular by far. My technical notes are surprisingly durable over time, even though you'd expect them to be superseded by bugfixes, technical changes, better documentation, and so on. Posts as old as 2004 still turn up. Because people still get a lot of value from my old tech posts, I adjusted the "Save time" rating for tech tips from my original value of 3 to 4. (I had started with a lower value because I figured that not a lot of people would probably have run into the same issues I did, but it turns out that time makes up for audience size and the long tail works.) As I expected, tips that few other people have written about get more pageviews than tips that more people have written about, although I'm surprised that people tend to spend more time on the common tips. My "thinking out loud" posts are more popular than I expected. (Limitations: This only looks at single-page views in a single month.) Also, people tend to click on my weekly reviews if I add a brief description to the title, so that's something.

    Anecdotally speaking, I get a lot of comments and links to my sketchnotes. I'm also delighted by the conversations that occasionally grow out of the "thinking out loud" posts, and how sometimes people will share even better solutions when I post my technical notes.

  • 4. Identify ways to improve each approach

    Now that you've looked at what makes each type of post different, you can focus on how to improve each type by building on its strengths or compensating for its weaknesses. Here's what I'm planning for the kinds of posts I write:

    Draw original stuff: It takes me 2-4 hours to make one of these. I like making technical notes (ex: Emacs), sketchnote tutorials (to help people draw more), and other drawings related to life and planning. I'm getting used to drawing them with less up-front planning. Even though I end up moving things around, I think it's useful to just get started. Drawing involves a trade-off because images are not as searchable as text. I can fix that by including the text, but it's a little awkward and it takes more time. Still, people like the drawings a lot, and I like them too.

    Draw book reviews and events: I go to fewer events these days, but I'm reading a lot more books. It takes me two hours to read a typical business book in depth, drawing notes along the way. I tend to draw book reviews only when I've already gotten a sense that a book is worth reading in depth. One way to increase my frequency is to draw book notes based on the skimmed parts of books that I'm not reading deeply - perhaps breaking out just the chapter or idea that resonates with me, and using that to illustrate a blog post reflecting on it. I can also work on getting more high-quality books into my pipeline, or practise by drawing more books with fewer value judgments.

    Think out loud: I can improve the "Save time" score by stashing the notes in my outline, adding observations, until I've fleshed it out enough for preliminary findings and advice. It means that the output will be more concise in its reasoning and I'll have to do more learning on my own instead of opening up the conversation early, but then the posts will be useful for other people as well as for me. Mr. Money Mustache is a good example of a blog that mixes personal stories and useful observations. The main thing that was holding me back from doing this before was losing track of my drafts, but my outline is a good step.

    For example, this post started as a rough outline, thinking out loud about what kinds of posts I wanted to write. Now I'm going back and filling it in with other information that might be useful for people. If it ends up too long, I might have to trim it. We'll get there!

    Share tech tips, troubleshooting notes, or code: The limiting factor here is that I'm not working on any professional projects that I can write about, so I'm forced to run into and resolve fewer issues. I can replace that with working on my own projects or on open source projects, or helping people with questions. I often tweak or work on things related to Emacs, Wordpress, or data visualization, so there's that. If I set aside time and find a good source of small bugs so that I can ease my way into a habit of contributing to open source again, then that will also help me with my life goal to keep my technical skills sharp.

    Review longer spans of time: I can increase the frequency of decision reviews by scheduling them so that I don't lose track of items. Because I manage my outline in Org Mode, that should be relatively easy to do. I can also bootstrap this by reviewing last year and last decade's monthly reviews (if available), or the blog posts if not. I have an advantage here because I have a lot of public notes over the years.

    Write tips that few other people can cover: There are lots of information gaps to fill. Sometimes it's because people don't have the time, inclination, or confidence to write about something. Sometimes it's because I have a useful combination of skills or I can bring a different perspective. If I can't find information, that's a good reason to write it.

    Write tips that other people can also cover: The world doesn't really need another "how to find the time to blog" tutorial. If I can filter through search results for a good one and make it more findable, that beats writing one from scratch–unless I can add something special or relate different types of advice to each other.

    Review recent posts (weekly, monthly): These are low-value in the short term (mostly lists of links, plus the nudge to do my weekly planning process), but I've found them to be surprisingly useful over the years. They also help keep my large blog archive manageable. That's why I keep posting them. I've started using the weekly and monthly reviews to give people less-frequent subscription options (daily can be a little overwhelming), so that's helpful too.

  • Wrapping up

    "Get better" is a vague goal. If you can identify the specific goals you would like to work toward, different ways to move towards those goals, and specific actions you can take to improve those approaches, you'll have a lot of flexibility in terms of growing. You'll find it easier to recognize or create opportunities to grow, and you can track your progress along the way. You might also be able to identify counter-productive approaches and replace them with ones that move towards more of your goals. Good luck and have fun!

OUTLINED Blog models: Learning from Mr. Money Mustache

  • Why I like Mr. Money Mustache's blog
    • Excellent balance of useful and personal
    • topic is interesting as well, of course
    • frugality - not just pinching pennies or juggling finances, but living well
  • What are some of the things that Mr. Money Mustache does differently?
    • Writing
      • The alias is nifty and amusing.
      • He's more frank about finance (naturally).
      • He's great at poking fun at himself. more
      • He uses stronger language, including more intense adjectives and some swearing. He also uses a wider vocabulary and more wordplay. more I should totally give myself permission to use less common words. =)
      • He uses more stats, calculations, and case studies. more
      • He's more confident about giving advice.
    • Formatting
      • He doesn't always emphasize the key points in his paragraphs, but they're readable anyway.
      • His posts tend to be longer.
      • He uses shorter paragraphs.
      • His tables are formatted more prettily. Hey, sometimes it's the small stuff… =)
    • Organization
      • He's focused on financial blogging and the frugal lifestyle, while I blog about whatever I'm interested in.
    • He gets a lot of input from readers
      • People share their situations and give each other advice
    • Layout
      • His front page uses a summary layout with larger visuals.
      • He has large graphical ads in the sidebar.
      • He uses a serif font and a visually divided background
      • His links are underlined in the post body, although not elsewhere.
      • Links open in a new window. (Hmm, I've got mixed feelings about that…)
      • He has a large post footer which has a blog, a new reader welcome, a random link, subscription/social media instructions, a community forum, and a subscription form, previous/next links with titles, and then comments, trackbacks, and the comment form.
      • He has a large page footer with a blog roll, popular posts, stats, selected categories, and tags.
      • He has a "Start Here" and a menu item for various how-tos.
      • He has a recommendations page with links to posts.

OUTLINED Learning how to outline   imagine learn

:Effort: 1:00

Objectives for this post

  • Be more effective at outlining my blog posts
  • Help other people improve their writing
  • Share a list of things I'd like to write about
  • Breaking skills down into their components
    • Writing -> learning
  • Why outlining?
    • Pseudocode and prototypes
    • Some moments of discipline to keep fleshing things out
    • More about the freedom to make slow and steady progress, knowing that a plan keeps me roughly on track
    • Freedom to cut and rearrange
  • What I'm doing
    • Tracking outlining time separately; butt-in-chair time
    • Sharing my outline
    • Tracking versions
  • Tools
    • Org Mode workflow
      • Outline
      • Lists
      • Navigation
        • C-c j (org-goto) to jump around
      • Filtering
        • C-c v (org-show-todo-tree) shows the ones that have been marked with a status (good to see which ones I've outlined)
        • Tags
      • Refiling?
      • Publishing and archiving
    • Github
  • Imagining wild success
    • Outline of things I want to share
    • The feel for how things flow together
    • People can easily review the outline - maybe with org-info?
    • People can tell me what they're interested in - maybe with a way for me to note who I should follow up with, but in a way that doesn't require me to keep a private repository? Maybe tied in with e-mail…

Get "Thinking on Paper" first?

OUTLINED Update: What I want my blog to become

  • I took a month off from my two-days-a-week consulting gig so that I could experiment with focusing on writing.
  • I want to be all-the-way-retired. There's a chance I might be. I'm not sure.
  • Most writers don't even have this luxury: to write about whatever they want to write, without worrying about whether the book will be picked up by a publisher or whether the magazine will accept the article.
  • The M word: Monetization
  • So this is what's going to happen for as long as I can do it.
    • I'm going to learn lots of things.
      • Curious
      • What people ask me about
      • From time to time, I may even dust off my outlines for future books
      • but I'd rather publish things bit by bit
      • Eventually I'll get good enough at writing from outlines (or slotting things back into them) that I can put together larger resources, like articles and books

Writing into the differences

  • What do I do differently?
    • Learning, writing, visual notetaking, sharing knowledge, and constant improvement
    • Planning, deciding, and tracking
    • Personal finance, semi-retirement, cooking, frugality, and household life

Stuff that works for me

  • Writing works better than interviews or speaking
    • Outlines, links
    • Even though I say a lot more words in an interview
    • Things I like about interviews
      • Other people's questions
      • Back and forth

Managing a daily blog

:Effort: 4:00

  • There's so much to learn and so much to write about.
    • Read books, blog posts, and manuals
    • Try something new
    • Learn at least one thing a day.
  • One complete thought per post
  • Not everyone is interested in everything.
  • Arrangement
    • I write posts in advance
    • I move posts around so that a variety of interests are covered each week
      • Emacs, visual thinking, blogging, life, productivity, learning
      • Things I want to write more about
        • Books: I read faster than most people do, and I have an awesome library nearby. Summaries?
        • Learning
    • When I've got several posts lined up in a weekly series, I link them together and add a note to help people anticipate the next one.
  • Categories
    • Category feeds
  • Syndication, Planet Emacsen
  • Making this better
    • Series?
    • Visualizations?
    • Highlight
      • What is a good essay?
        • Montaigne's Essays
        • Start with a question or something I want to learn
        • Both geeky and personal
        • Point to other people's perspectives
          • Books
          • Blog posts
      • How about a series every month or every two months, wrapped up in a PDF?
        • Weekly post

Once you're there, how can you make it better?

  • Why
  • How I work
    • Gigantic outline helps me remember what I wanted to write about so that I don't forget while I'm in the middle of research.
    • I use a feed reader to quickly skim updates from hundreds of blogs.
  • Ideas
    • Outline
  • Editorial calendar
    • Shuffle posts around to cover a variety of interests
  • Challenges
    • People are interested in different things
  • When you blog every day

What would it take to become comfortable with giving people advice?

Return on time   data

It took me around two hours each to create the two images in

It took me four hours to create

It takes me about two hours to read a business book in depth, creating a visual summary on the go.

Sketching a 1-hour talk generally takes 2-4 hours, including time to get there and a schedule that usually includes networking.

Shorter talks tend to be lighter-weight unless they've been rigorously planned and rehearsed.

Sneak peeks

  • One post a day, unless I'm sketchnoting an event or I'm super-excited
  • Share A Draft and Editorial Calendar
  • makes it possible to spread posts out while giving people links to the resource
  • Windows Live Writer doesn't pick up the date, so I need to make sure I set the date again

Blogging advice that I'm not planning to follow

  • keyword optimization
  • e-mail list
  • linkbait
  • RSS feed summaries
  • summaries on front page

Blogs and e-mail newsletters

  • conversation with Timothy Kenny, who has just started experimenting with daily e-mail newsletters
  • I suggested public archive
  • I've been thinking about e-mail newsletters because Timothy Kenny has just started with his.
  • Typical advice for growing and (dare I say it?) monetizing your blog.
    • Offer an incentive for people to sign up for your mailing list.
      • PDF
      • exclusive content
    • Put people on an autoresponder.
    • Mail people regularly to build the relationship
      • Sell them stuff later on
  • I don't even send friends or family e-mail normally
    • Hmm, maybe I'm not used to the grammar of it?
  • also, it takes me an average of 6 minutes to reply to an e-mail.
    • Oddly,
  • RSS is mostly dead. Only geeky people use it.
  • Automatic e-mail newsletters
  • I want to sell things only if they save you a lot of time
  • Forget that. I want to give away so much that you almost feel obliged to help.
    • and since I don't need that much money for my lifestyle (I think)
  • I'm very good at planning inexpensive experiments. Besides, that makes it easier for other people to replicate.

Why: because there are people who send e-mail, but don't blog

  • why don't they blog?
    • self-conscious: only the "best content" out there


Blogging excuse-buster: I don't want to blog because I want to put my best foot forward

This is something I hear a lot from people. "I don't want to blog because I might be embarrassed."

Thoughts on growing an audience

  • Sometimes I wonder if I should do more of the "Right Things" when it comes to building a blog.
    • Focus on one or two topics so that people will subscribe because you're consistent and reliable.
    • Research keywords so that you can optimize for search engines queries and write content that will bring people in.
    • Reach out to new audiences with guest posts.
    • Send e-mail newsletters so that you can build relationships and so that you can sell to people later on.
  • Why
    • Can save other people time
    • Can learn from more people
    • Scale up - create more value for each unit of time I invest
  • Sometimes I'm envious of blogs with hundreds of comments. On sites like that, people learn a lot from each other, not just me. But I remember that reading and responding to comments takes time, and I'd want to filter through them for spam, and that other people glaze over when they see pages and pages of comments and end up not reading them. It's okay. I like the in-depth conversations we have in comments. I'm not entirely sure if I'm sour-graping, but it seems to make sense.
  • Sometimes I wonder if this should be more like other blogs. But then that's a well-travelled path, with lots of other people exploring it. I have this amazing opportunity to try something different. I should.
  • Actually, I already know what I should do–what works for me, what I should do more.
    • The enduring posts on my blog are either tech notes (Emacs, Drupal) or sketches.
  • The clearer my "no", the less I'm distracted from the things that I can do.
  • Like the way I hack around my introversion
    • Write about whatever I'm learning about - variety of interests, and let more focused people use search results and category links
    • Look at other people's questions and failed search results to nudge me to write about certain topics if I'm curious about them too
    • Read good blogs and write about what inspires me, linking. Invite people who don't have blogs to share their tips and lessons learned on mine.
    • Build relationships through comments. Give away as much as I can of what I know. Let people show their appreciation if they want to. Money is nice, but there are other ways too.
  • Risks in getting too big
    • Internet has a seamy underside
  • Introvert
  • The time I would spend in pitching guest posts, etc.
    • versus making things
  • Drawing
    • Nearly 39,000 people visited in May, when I published
    • Plenty of blogs
    • Lots of infographics
    • Not that many useful, non-marketing drawings
  • It's okay
  • Are there low-effort, high-benefit things I can do to make this better?
    • Might get to the point where people are learning from each other
      • You can do this elsewhere on the Internet
      • So it would have to be a particularly interesting combination of people

Why and how to subscribe to blogs

  • since not everyone knows about this
  • why
    • i read a lot of blogs
    • i skim a lot of blog headlines and excerpts, and I read maybe 3-5 posts a day
    • i mostly read on my phone
  • how
    • my favourite: feedly
    • there are a number of alternatives, so it mostly depends on what you like

How to manage a free-ranging blog

Role model:

How to research keywords for blog posts

Writing while you're doing and learning: the power of the gerund

  • stats

Unexpected benefit of outlining

  • More research, because I'm not worried about losing my thought!
  • Longer time, book research
  • Sub-outlines

Mapping skills and prerequisites

  • Limitations of outlining
    • which I came across while browsing examples of D3.js visualizations
  • Reminds me of the Civilization skill tree
  • Pieces, but if I define prerequisites and recommended next steps

Building a resources page

"It's not enough for a blog post"   challenge

  • Tidbits go in my weekly review

Brainstorming outlines

Following the butterflies of your interest

Hangout experiment

How I got started

  • Taking notes for myself

Writing through resistance and self-doubt


  • Windows Live Writer
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Share a Draft

How to write a lot

Writing is a way to think

Blogging is a way to remember

Things I don't write about (yet) - should I write about them?

  • Semi-retirement

    Don't want to gloat or attract unwanted attention

There's always something to write about

If you're not the writing type…

Finding writing topics in conversations

A platform for helping others

Writing blog posts by starting with titles

Other titles:

  • Titles make blog posts easier to write
  • Braindump titles to break through blogging bottlenecks

The freedom of pay what you can

Give away advice

Breaking down the skills for writing

What to teach

I miss teaching. I had tons of fun teaching computer science when I was in the Philippines, coming up with different analogies and exercises.

Stephanie Diamond suggested making a sketchnotes course on Udemy. People have asked me about teaching Emacs, or blogging, or Quantified Self tracking and analysis.

  • What would you want to learn for free?
  • What would you value at $49?
  • What would you value at $99?

Help me figure out a good curriculum that could help you!

It's okay to be wrong

At an applied rationality meetup in Toronto, the guest speaker confessed to being afraid of blogging because she didn't want to be pinned down to words.

People think of writing as final. The fuzziness of conversation in memory might let you argue, "That's not what I said," but writing leaves you no wiggle room.

It's okay to be wrong.

  • What people are afraid of
    • Not being able to adjust
    • Misunderstandings
    • Unexpected audience
  • Being wrong
    • Inevitable
    • Story about class
    • Story about blog
    • Story about comics
    • Keeps me honest
  • Going forward
    • Not an expert
    • Conversation
    • Modeling it

What I like writing about

Writing everywhere

Collecting stories and quotes

Improving my writing system

The power of long lists

Organizing what I know

Flipping through my notes

Getting the hang of passing everything through Evernote

E-book tips

Embracing the resistance in terms of writing

The resistance is a symptom that you're on the right track. /The resistance is not something to be avoided; it's something to seek out./ … The artist sees out the feeling of the resistance and then tries to maximize it. The cog, the day laborer, the compliant student–they seek to eliminate the feeling instead.

  • Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

Psychology, etc.

Confirmation bias

Constant improvement

Weekly reviews - schedule everything, think of people, analyze what didn't happen

Visual thinking: sketchnotes, mindmaps, models, etc.

Get better at web design by analyzing contrasts and improving your vocabulary   tip

  • How can you develop your design skills?
  • "Interesting" "nice"
  • Idea books and blogs

2x2 matrices

Two-dimensional graphs

Mindmapping a book

Planning your life

Looking at the combinations

Keeping a visual journal

Hobonichi techo

Making sense of a big topic

Organizing what you learn from books

Working through your feelings

Coaching yourself

Visual brainstorming

Your personal board of directors

Collect and visualize your data for better decisions

Making a one-page summary

Reasoning with drawings

Visual thinking and writing

Visual thinking and problem-solving

Drawing meditation

Imagining futures


Draw it so that you can see it

Sorting cards

Lay it all out where you can look at it

Dan Roam

Collect everything you can

Dan Roam

Visual triage

Dan Roam

Establishing coordinates

Dan Roam

Seeing your journey

Make your own calendar

Don't break the chain

Maps of your inner life

Use visual thinking to improve your creativity

Figuring out the root causes with fishbones

Making decisions with graphs


CANCELLED Accelerate Your Learning with Sketchnotes :book-idea:PROJECT:

Audience: Entrepreneurial visual thinkers who would like to learn more effectively

Outcome: People have taken their first few sketchnotes and are ready to use it for learning

OUTLINED Sketchnotes and digital color

  • Black and white
  • Color change
  • Highlighter
  • Shading
  • Eyedropper tool
  • Quick color schemes
    • 10%, 90%

OUTLINED Thinking about a virtual meetup for sketchnoters

  • Kevin Dulle organizing tweetchats
  • It would be great to go over different techniques
  • Finding speakers is always a challenge
  • But it's a great learning experience, so even if I sketch out a "curriculum" and prepare many of the talks, that's fine.
  • Also, people can always step forward and volunteer.
  • Next steps:
    • Experiment with Google Hangout

DRAFTED How to get started with sketchnoting :one-pager:

Draw this

  1. Take notes
  2. Why
  3. Take hand-written notes
  4. Slow down and write legibly You don't have to write everything Leave yourself space, then come back and fill things in later A good ink helps: find one that's readable and doesn't smear Tip: stash pens everywhere so that you're never without one!
  5. Emphasize important concepts Boxes, highlighter, color pencils, etc (Test the highlighter - sometimes ink can get messed up!)
  6. Use simple shapes. Star - important point Box, check - TODO Arrow - next step Speech bubble - quote Thought cloud - what you were thinking Lightbulb - idea

    Make rough copies of diagrams

  7. Have fun by drawing faces. This is a surprisingly good way to remember an event, and it's also a good way to settle in if you're early. (Being early is great for grabbing good seats.)

    Write down the topic title and the speaker name, then spend a few minutes sketching the person's face. You can start with a simple rectangle with roughly the right proportions. Hair style? Glasses or eyes? Nose? Facial hair? Smile? Doesn't have to be perfect.

  8. Draw other icons. People often repeat themselves or say things you don't have to write down, so you can doodle during those parts. Draw simple images related to what people are talking about. (Or draw things that are completely unrelated - up to you!) Listen for visual metaphors and try to draw them. Leave yourself space, and then come back and doodle when you have time.


Storyboards and rough layouts

Drawing tutorials   series

stick figure styles, colour, word forms, depth, hierarchy…

  • Layouts


  • Visual hierarchy
    • Weight
    • Emphasis
    • Space
    • Color
    • Size
  • Quick layouts and connectors
    • Boxes
    • Ribbons
    • Arrows
    • Shaped arrows
    • Clouds
    • Shadows
    • Radial layouts
  • Layout samples
  • Adding depth
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Business
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Technology
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Science
  • Building your visual vocabulary: The Web
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Math
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Art
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Life
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Health
  • Building your visual vocabulary: Metaphors

Draw like other people


  • Flickr
  • Blog
    • Wordpress, NextGen Gallery etc.
  • Pinterest

Cleaning up your sketch

  • Analog
    • Taking a good picture
  • Move things around
  • Fix errors
  • Remove anything unnecessary

Sketching cheats

  • Draw a little, then come back later
  • Cover up mistakes
  • Fill in space
  • Reorganize
  • Use layers

Digital tools

Paper tools

Space management

Planning your life with and Evernote

Drawing your future: Graphic organizers for planning and brainstorming

  • Templates

How I got started drawing

Not about drawing better

Not better drawing

better use of what I draw

better inspiration for others

Planning a sketch on index cards

Building your visual vocabulary

Printing sketchnotes

I printed many of my sketchnotes and put them in a binder. That way, I can easily flip through them, and I can also spread them out. It was a good thing I did, because I found myself frequently referring to them in conversation. It was much more natural to flip through pages than to jump through images on a tablet, even with a tablet's enhanced search capabilities. If I find a binder that can double as a landscape presentation stand, I think that will be solid.

Colour would make this much better. Highlights jump out more with colour. Different events are easier to distinguish with colour schemes. We have more of a visceral reaction to colour. The ING Orange coworking space has an a

I should always keep black and white printing in mind, though, because that's what many people will have. Observations: foreground colour isn't enough of a distinguisher. Bright red becomes a dark gray, which recedes compared to black (or the darkest tone I use). A plain white background works best, then a dot grid, then a line grid.

Landscape is harder to work with in compilations, but it's better for viewing on-screen - how do other people handle this well? Must prototype with binder…

How to draw abstract concepts

Better digital sketchnoting animations

Revising sketchnotes

Sketching faces on the go

Reviewing my book notes

Animating drawings with Artrage Studio

Experimenting with stock

Organizing my sketchnotes



  • digital workflow: grids and templates,can adapt in real-time, can colour-match logos


  • Autodesk Sketchbook Pro; Artrage Studio Pro
  • paper for personal brainstorming, when I want to see the big picture
  • large pieces of paper, blackboards, or whiteboards for group facilitation


  • add credits
  • add a light blue dotted grid for lines and proportions
  • write the event header (name, hashtag, date)
  • write the title and speaker name
  • draw the speakers' faces
  • the talk itself

Keywords Capture more detail, can always edit later Duplicate and erase as needed







Animation workflow

How to listen and draw at the same time

How to listen and draw at the same time

When people see the sketchnotes I post right after presentations , they often ask me: “How do you listen and do all that at the same time?” Let me let you in on a little secret: I don’t. Not all at the same time. Mostly because during live presentations, I have no idea where the presenter might go. Depending on how quickly the speaker talks and how much interesting content they pack into their sentences, I might be scrambling to quickly jot down some keywords. When they pause for breath or transition to a new topic, I’ll go back and add stick figures and diagrams. As I figure out which points are important, I move parts of my drawing around or erase and refine what I’ve written. To help you see the process, here’s a recording of my screen as I sketchnote an hour-long presentation. I don’t draw that fast in real life - I’ve condensed the video to three minutes for your convenience. Enjoy!

Learning with Sketchnotes :book-idea:PROJECT:

Audience: Teachers, homeschoolers/unschoolers/parents who want to teach more engagingly and help their students develop notetaking skills Outcome: Ready to practise on their own, and possibly teaching others how to sketchnote in their classes

  • Why sketchnote?
    • Understand things better?
    • Share more effectively
    • Engage students
    • Model note-taking skills by example
  • Examples
  • Common challenges
  • Getting started
  • Sketchnote basics
    • Annotating printed text
    • Starting with hand-written notes
    • Adding emphasis
    • Starting with stick figures
    • Drawing symbols
    • Drawing abstract concepts
    • Organizing the page
  • Sketching your preparatory notes
  • Sketching your lesson
  • Sketching worksheets
  • Teaching others how to sketchnote
    • A one-page guide
  • Drawing practice
    • Stick figures
    • Emotions
    • Symbols
      • Science
      • Technology
      • Math
      • History
      • Art
      • Language
      • Music
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