A few thoughts on writing that resonates.

As I read through some articles on Pocket this morning, a question struck me: What’s the difference between the writing that sticks in my head, and the writing that doesn’t?

The writing that sticks has some personality. It’s “me” or “we”. There’s a perspective or an opinion. Compare that to the dreck of marketing content that doesn’t take a position, written with the air of loose authority.

(Cue the disembodied voices of endless marketing articles echoing from the depths of a content mill.)

It’s generic statements rehashed from thirty minutes of Googling because the author has no experience and didn’t have the time, or the motivation, to interview someone who does.

I’m guilty of it. I’ve chased broad topics under tight deadlines and hoped for the best. But there’s no conviction or motivation behind the words. It’s just regurgitated information shifted five degrees — a bad homework assignment that needs to be handed in on time.

I enjoy writing, and I write a lot. I have years worth of journals stacked in my office filled with notes and ideas. Yet most of what I share publicly is just a curation of what others have written.

A colleague pinged me on Slack a couple weeks ago. He follows me on Twitter and wanted to know my thoughts on an article I shared about grocery store influencers.

To his disappointment, I didn’t offer any take of my own. “Just write a few sentences”, he said. My reply? “I don’t have the time.”

Yet I have the time to compose wordy emails, to dive into Slack conversations, to soapbox and pontificate on back-to-back Zoom calls.

What’s the difference?

I’m not chasing keywords when I pour myself into those activities. I’m not concerned about SEO or word count. They’re off the cuff, unfiltered opinions, hot takes on issues, me offering a perspective on something that I care about.

So I’m going to try and do more of that. Here in my little corner of the web, I will try to write more, but only to get ideas out of my head, kinda like a one-way Slack conversation.

Let’s see how it goes.

Help your customers succeed during a crisis.

“How can your customers use your tool to save money or earn revenue? Provide templates, workflows, and inspiration to help them get more from your software/services. Share what your best customers are doing and consider hosting webinars or even 1:1 consulting to help the rest do more with a product they already have.”

Take Charge, Be a Voice of Reason and Keep Publishing (Animalz)

Advice for SaaS companies that applies to every business right now: help your customers do more with what they’ve already bought from you. You’ll do well if they’re doing well. So help them out, and give them a reason to stick around.

Don’t make your online community a walled garden.

Who should support an online community? Everyone in the community that can help share expertise and knowledge. Without the sharing of everyone, we create walled gardens and allow our competition a major opportunity to steal away disenchanted customers.”

Who Should Support an Online Community? (Growing Community)

I see content and community as layers within a business, rather than silos. They’re resources that we can use for marketing, sales, onboarding, support, and retention. It’s a waste of resources to isolate them.

Grocery stores & everyday influencers

“Aldi doesn’t pay Youngpeter for her content about her favorite brands at the store— Girl Scout cookies knockoffs and German chocolates. But she and other grocery store superfans with Facebook and Instagram accounts dedicated to the stores are powerful advocates for the companies.”

These are the grocery store influencers (CNN)

With grocery stores becoming the only open public venue during Covid-19 shutdowns, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see a rise in this sort of content.

The unique benefits of virtual community events

“Virtual conferences can be quite powerful, and scale to many thousands of attendees that would be very difficult to gather in-person. And online meetups and roundtables give your members an opportunity to have intimate discussions from the comfort of their home. Are they the same? No. But they do have unique benefits.”

Examples for Event Organizers During the Coronavirus Outbreak (CMX)

On a related note, we’re hosting our first virtual meetup for WP Durham this evening.

Crowdsourcing resources for community organizers

“The goal of most meetups is for everyone to walk away learning one new concept, idea, idea, or person. The “Top 9” aims to help those who organize monthly meetups by freely sharing slides and materials. It’s an easy way to share relevant information and topics within a group without organizers and volunteers investing time to research and create the slides themselves.”

Top 9 (mycamp.rocks)

A cool initiative from David Bissett and his mycamp.rocks site for community organizers. While the focus is primarily on WordCamps and WordPress meetups, the resources are useful for all kinds of event-based community groups.

I’m seeing a lot of curated content floating around right now in light of CORVID-19, social distancing, remote work, and shelter-in-place lockdowns, et al.


Cheap inclusive tech

“The Estonian experience also demonstrates that high rates of basic technological penetration pay off better than cutting-edge technology only in the hands of a selected few. Cheap, common technology that is inclusively used by society as a whole brings much greater benefits than exclusive ones only accessible to upwardly mobile populations.

Estonia is running its country like a tech company (Quartz)

We know the upsides of connectivity during social isolation. But that’s a privilege for those who have access. What about those who can’t afford it? Or those who are under-served by the infrastructure in their area?


Recognize your blessings

Not recognizing your blessings feeds into the dark side of capitalism and meritocracy: the notion that success is a choice, and that those who haven’t achieved success are not unlucky, but unworthy. This leads to regressive policies that further reward the perceived winners and punish the perceived losers based on income level.”

Third Base (Scott Galloway)

Those of us who can make a living by working from home are blessed right now.

Sure, it might be inconvenient, if you’d prefer to be in the office with your colleagues every day. But think of all the people who don’t have that option.

And as office workers stay home, think of all the people who’ll likely find their hours being cut because their usual customers aren’t showing up. Then what are the ripple effects from that, further up the chain, as revenue declines?

If you’re not impacted by that ripple effect, that’s another blessing — you’ll be better off, not because you chose to be, but because you got lucky.

Aristotle’s five rhetorical devices for great presentations

Note: This was originally published in Our Favorite Management Tips from 2019 on Harvard Business Review. Clipped it here because I thought it was really useful.


When you need to sell an idea at work or in a presentation, how do you do it? Five rhetorical devices can help — Aristotle identified them 2,000 years ago, and masters of persuasion still use them today:

1. Ethos. Start your talk by establishing your credibility and character. Show your audience that you are committed to the welfare of others, and you will gain their trust.

2. Logos. Use data, evidence, and facts to support your pitch.

3. Pathos. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Wrap your big idea in a story that will elicit an emotional reaction.

4. Metaphor. Compare your idea to something that is familiar to your audience. It will help you clarify your argument by making the abstract concrete.

5. Brevity. Explain your idea in as few words as possible. People have a limited attention span, so talk about your strongest points first.

All hail the welcome bots

New members of online communities are more likely to stick around if they’re welcomed by fellow members — but Nickerson and his team found that new Wikipedia users who interacted with advisor- and protector-bots were significantly more likely to become long-term contributors than those greeted by humans. That remained true even when the bots were contacting users to point out errors or delete their contributions, as long as the bots were cordial and clear about their reasons.”

Rise of the bots (Science Daily)

Since 2017, Discourse — an open source forum platform that’s an absolute delight to use — has welcomed new members via Discobot. You can think of it as a customizable autoresponder taking on the form of another user.

This sort of automation, when used transparently, can offer a good deal of scalable utility to help with new member onboarding. It acquaints users with the platform and sets expectations out of the gate.

It’s kind of like the introductory levels or tutorials in a multiplayer game. You learn the gameplay mechanics in a safe space before jumping in with real players.