Category Archives: Beliefs

Looking Pretty

> Marketing is all about looking pretty (as a company)

This is a complete misunderstanding about the fundamental utility of marketing. It would be roughly akin to saying “innovation is all about adding new features”. (Actually even that isn’t quite bad enough.)

Marketing and innovation are the yin-yang dynamic at the heart of every product or every company. It’s like a waltz. Marketing is about developing deep insights into customers (as patterns of human behavior) and the using that to inform the product, and inform the messaging.

Assuming marketing is about looking pretty is like assuming bodybuilding is about getting spray tans. There’s a lot more going on under the hood.

Growth Hacking 

I don’t feel like it’s even necessary to make a distinction between “growth hackers” and “marketers”.

A growth hacker to me is simply somebody who found a way to acquire more-than-expected number of customers with less-than-expected resources.

It’s like calling yourself a “viral marketer”. Viral is what happens when your work resonates with people and takes off. It’s not something you can manufacture consistently.

As a general rule I think growth hackers are just people who’re better at connecting the dots- either through superior pattern recognition and insight or sheer brute force (or a combination of both). I think of Chamath of Facebook. Giving away $10 per PayPal account was a growth hack. Giving away free Dropbox space was a growth hack. But to call yourself a Growth HackER feels really presumptuous. I’d say it’s a title that others bestow upon you, rather than something you call yourself.

Oh well. Semantics is typically a circlejerk, anyway. Have we gotten to the stage where we get sick of saying that we’re sick of talking about growth hacking, and do some real work? Hope so!

You don’t have to be everything to everyone

If you’re just starting out as a content marketer, or as a writer, it’s easy to feel like you have to do everything all at once. There’s an endless amount of information that needs to be conveyed, from an infinite set of perspectives and angles, and they’re somehow all valid or important.

It’s absolutely crucial that you find a way to work despite this. You’ll have to leave stuff out.

Science writer Carl Zimmer had some great things to say about this.

“When I was starting out, I’d try to convey everything I knew about a subject in a story, and I ended up spending days or weeks in painful contortions. There isn’t enough room in an article to present a full story. Even a book is not space enough. It’s like trying to build a ship in a bottle. You end up spending all your time squeezing down all the things you’ve learned into miniaturized story bits. And the result will be unreadable.”

Well, that sucks. So what do you do then?

“It took me a long time to learn that all that research is indeed necessary, but only to enable you to figure out the story you want to tell. That story will be a shadow of reality—a low-dimensional representation of it. But it will make sense in the format of a story. It’s hard to take this step, largely because you look at the heap of information you’ve gathered and absorbed, and you can’t bear to abandon any of it. But that’s not being a good writer. That’s being selfish. I wish someone had told me to just let go.”

This is also consistent with the storytelling advice that Emma Coats (a former Pixar screenwriter) gives:

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Don’t try to do everything all at once. It’s not possible. Instead, try to get one small thing done really well. And then do another. And then do another. Content should be modular, and it should work together as part of a broader whole.



It’s really strange how we sexualize women’s bodies. Is there anything horribly wrong with the above picture? Why shouldn’t children be able to see this?

They shouldn’t be able to see this because we are perverts, and we can’t look at a woman’s nipples without thinking about sex, and we can’t think about sex without thinking about it as some sort of sinful, dirty thing.

And at the same time, we plaster our walls with almost-there advertising, our magazines are loaded with sex tips and insinuations that we’re not sexy enough. But sex is sinful and something to be hidden.

Sometimes we look at women in conservative Arab countries and go, “Wow, how can people live like that?” Well– how do we live like this?

We’re absurd.

Stop spamming your blog at people

Self-promotion isn’t inherently a bad thing. But it’s very shitty when somebody goes to a community and just drops their blog link.

It’s not obvious if one person does it, but once you have more than a few people doing it, the communal pool gets polluted, people get frustrated and they start to leave.

And eventually whatever marketing community you tried to set up ends up becoming filled with nothing but blogspam.

The way out of this, in my opinion, isn’t to ban linking to blogposts altogether. You can’t eliminate self-interest from the equation. If people aren’t allowed to link to their blogposts in one space, they’ll go somewhere else.

The way out is to have community standards where everyone is expected to contribute to the conversation.

I’ve posted links to blogposts to reddit several times, and have had them do quite well. The trick to doing this is to make the blogpost an afterthought, and to focus instead on contributing to the community space. You do this by sharing enough of the content in the community itself. On reddit this means summarizing your blogpost, your findings, etc – so that anybody who doesn’t want to read your blogpost is still able to get some value from the post.

I also recommend leaving comments with questions, and with your personal thoughts, what got you writing the blogpost to begin with, what you grappled with, what you’re uncertain about, what the next steps might be. And engage with people in the comments.