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Not paid to read you

When in school we can write whatever we want and we will still be guaranteed and audience of at least one person, because our teachers are paid to read our writing.

Once we graduate, that guarantee is gone forever. Even if you paid (like we do with ads) you are not guaranteed that someone will care about what you write.

But that in itself is not bad news. We’re not, after all, writing just to get read. We’re writing to feel helpful and, more importantly, to be helpful.

Helpfulness can come in many forms, but in the context of writing as an expert, being helpful means challenging the community’s (e.g. the scientific community, or the software development community) current understanding of something so as to move the collective understanding in the field forward.

they will demand value

When writing from expertise, you need to write differently than when writing a journal or travel blog, because your readers are going to demand value for their time. They will not bother to engage with your writing otherwise.

In this case, it’s reasonable to expect that the reader is someone who either:

  1. has the same area of expertise as you (e.g. you are a web developer, and the person reading is a mobile app developer; but you’re both software developers);
  2. or, is interested in understanding or fixing the problem you’re writing about.

I find this instructive for me as a person who believes that he has been writing mostly to communicate my ideas to his readers. Now I think that at least a part of my effort in writing should be to contribute to collective knowledge in a field that I’m an expert in, like the intersection of software and X. Not sure what X is yet, but I’ll figure it out eventually.




notes from the field of software engineering

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Nick Ang

Nick Ang

Software Engineer @ Shopify. Dad, rock climber, writer, something something. Big on learning everyday.

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