Teaching People to Work in Public

The topic of Working in Public came up recently on Twitter and it's timely given some of the things I've been working on, so I thought I'd walk through a few observations and lessons learned from attempting to teach people to do this.

First, I define working in public as sharing the exhaust of your process, largely through writing up what you learn as you go.  That is, you are the primary beneficiary of your writing—the public is secondary.

This is important because if you lack a regular ritual of being alone in your thoughts to reflect, then you're simply not going to learn anything.  And, in order to keep you honest you need to implement a system: a blogging platform and a challenge, whether it's daily, weekly or something else.

In our 2012 Entrepreneurial Design class, we had a requirement to blog once a week.  And, over the years we experimented with a number of tactics, all of which you can find in our past syllabi.

Today, it's still a challenge.

Writing for yourself rather than for attention feels like it goes against the grain  Further, the tooling is still too blog-centric.  The practice of writing itself—much less blogging publicly—gets lost in the fray.  The Internet is still scary and people are afraid to put their ideas out in the world.

Most importantly, we lack spaces that are really designed to facilitate such working in public.  Most existing internet infrastructure—whether it's Twitch for livestreaming your coding sessions, or Medium which has become a repository for content marketing, or Twitter which is now for sowing misinformation—is designed for amplification and maximum attention, and it's been only the daring who've repurposed it for working in public.

These are metropolises designed for scale.  They're not exactly conducive for such a use case.

On the positive side, we're starting to see a number of new products and services that at least feel directionally correct, and hopefully, we'll see a lot more.