Friction

If you’re a regular reader, you haven’t really been reading me regularly for a while now. This is because I haven’t been writing here on the site regularly for some time. The home page displays 10 articles at a time; as I’m writing this (prior to posting this), the oldest article is from March 22. Today is June 12; I’ve only managed 10 articles in the past 3 months.

This weekend I’ve been reading Joel On Software. While I’ve read a number of Joel’s more frequently linked articles on his site (from which the book is culled), I’ve not read alot of his material, so picking up the book seemed like a good choice. I always prefer hardcopy for extended reading. One of the topics he expounds on at great length in the book is the need for writing good functional specs. I found this interesting, as I’ve recently been battling my inability to write at work- not on specs, but on documentation. Joel gives this advice:

Writing is a muscle. The more you write, the more you’ll be able to write. If you need to write specs and you can’t, start a journal, create a weblog, take a creative writing class, or just write a nice letter to every relative and college roommate you’ve blown off for the last 4 years. Anything that involves putting words down on paper will improve your spec writing skills.

(from Painless Functional Specifications – Part 1: Why Bother?)

And of course, he’s right. That’s one of the reasons I started this weblog. And yet I don’t write enough. I attribute this largely to friction – things that make the act of writing a blog entry more effort then necessary.

One example of friction is the posting interface- when I first started the site, I posted everything via a simple web form, which was functional but it required me to pick a category before writing the entry. This doesn’t sound like much friction, but friction is cumulative, and every little bit hurts. Also, editing large amounts of text in a browser edit box isn’t really alot of fun. Worst of all, I couldn’t begin a draft and leave it till later to finish – I could only post completed works.

Last December, I started using Michael McCraken’s Blapp, a dedicated OS X editor for Blosxom weblog posts. It lets me write locally, see a preview of my post using my own templates, I can write the entire post before assigning a category, and I can save my work without posting it. This all amounts to lower friction, and it has made it easier for me to write for this site.

Another source of friction is inertia- the less often I post, the harder it is to get around to posting. To that end, I’m going to challenge myself to post here more often. After the November Blogging Challenge, I’m not going to try and hold my self to a post a day. Instead, I’ll shoot for a post every other day.

Another source of friction has been concern over content; I’ve often tried to keep my posts to a certain technical scope (which at other times I’ve ignored wholesale), to this end I’ll try and loosen up what I post about. A special case of this problem is a certain aversion I have to the release early, release often mindset- when I have a project in mind that I might want to tackle, I have a need to get a certain amount of progress under my belt before talking about it. In my defense, this site contains a number of examples to the contrary- things I’ve posted with “more info to come later” which never came. Nonetheless, I’m going to try and follow Les Orchard‘s example, and post about whatever I’m currently tinkering with, even if it won’t come to fruition.

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2 Responses to “Friction”

  1. John Says:

    Just a comment<br/>

    Nice site

  2. jclark.org/weblog Says:

    […] In my last post, I talked about the forces that prevent me from writing blog posts- factors I collectively call friction. One of the things that I cited was a desire to get things done first- for example, to make some headway on a new project before discussing it. Another version of the same problem is the desire to work out an idea completely before trying to explain it. In this entry I’m going to try and throw caution to the wind, and write about some ideas which aren’t fully formed, but which have been rattling around in my skull for a while. […]