Minding the gap & is it even worth playing?

April 19, 2018

In the past week Signal v. Noise and Kottke.org, both had posts that spoke to me.

At Wildbit, we’re close to the private beta of Conveyor. On the Customer Success side of things we’re starting to build the audience. This means writing about Conveyor, running a newsletter, and doing things like creating videos for our landing page. When the beta is available, we want a pool of possible testers and excited people willing to pay for Conveyor. It’s an exciting time.

The hard part is always knowing where to spend those extra minutes in the day and when to call something good. I think to myself If I spend one more hour on the video, it’ll be 10X better, right? Eh, most likely not. . . Or if there are any metrics at this point to focus on, what are they? Because it’s scary when you send out a newsletter and have a few unsubscribes.

Over on Signal v. Noise, Jason Fried touches on marginal improvement with a post title Mind the Gap:

There’s a tendency to keep pushing the thing you’re on because you’re already in the middle of it. Natural. But it’s on us to inject a sense of enough so we don’t sink good time into something that doesn’t need it. Going from 99% to 100% is expensive. I’d rather we spend that 1% going from 0% nothing to 1% something (or 50% on the fence to 51% conviction) on something else.

So I gently reminded him that we’re all good here. He did great work, the layout looks great, and there’s even a risk of fucking up a good thing (it’s always easier to fuck up a good thing than to fix a bad thing). There’s more to do elsewhere, and his time would be better spent on those things.

At Kottke.org, Jason Kottke and Tim Carmody have a newish newsletter titled Noticing. Jason wrote a post titled The only winning move is not to play? that touches on the scariest part of newsletter∗:

The other day I observed that whenever a new issue of the Noticing newsletter goes out, a bunch of people unsubscribe. When this happens each week I panic a little…

But Jason, as he always does has a very smart take. It’s not about the current newsletter you’re sending or activity that you’re doing, it’s about the why and the rest will take care of itself:

With my efforts here and with the newsletter, I’m not playing a subscriber or profits maximization game — I want to share my ideas & information that I find and connect with people. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t keep your eye on how much money you make or how many subscribers you’ve got for a relatively new newsletter, but keeping your purpose firmly in mind while you do those things is of paramount importance. Otherwise you’re just stalemating yourself.

∗ I will digress and say sending an email to hundreds of people is also terrifying.

There are good lessons from both posts. Personally, I take away that it’s always good to focus on the long game and not get lost in the weeds. The weeds could be short-term vanity metrics or making the hard call to decide when something is good enough (with fresh eyes you can always return to something).

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