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Lessons Learned from the Firestorm of Controversy

Two days ago I wrote the Genius and Tragedy post. It was extremely controversial - very popular on one hand, but got some very strong visceral negative reactions. I'd like to share with you what I've learned about writing, so I can step my game up and improve. Also, I got some downright hateful comments made about me, some really bad and terrible stuff. If this has never happened to you, maybe you don't know what it feels like, and I've got some advice on how to deal with it. I also did some detailed reading and analysis of the kinds of comments I got, and there was some fascinating results that I'll share.

So, first and foremost, I made a mistake - If you're writing to help someone, it can be pretty presumptuous to do it without touching base and clearing it with them first. I made that error for a few reasons - first, two of my best posts have come from the same format, and both achieved their desired objective. ("How do I write so much, you ask?" and "I think greatness is something you do, not something you are" both publicly called people I like out - and both times it worked) - so that's the first thing, I'd had a good track record with this, however those were people I'd been touching base with already.

Second, as a general principal I believe in working really quickly. I analogize it to "fighting out of formation" - quick, lightly edited writing is always worse than well-edited best practices. But, the more you do of it, the better you get at it. And by producing anything really quickly, you get better faster. If someone produces 10 times as much content, how long until their lightly edited work is superior to the other person's highly polished work? This isn't a rhetorical question - check out "Quantity Always Trumps Quality" on codinghorror.com sometime. If you produce quickly and of lower quality at first, you can iterate and improve, and eventually your quick production work is better than the obsessively refined person's work who isn't getting as much done (and thus not learning the lessons). Pablo Picasso talked about this quite a bit, if you're particularly interested on the topic.

The downside, of course, is that you make mistakes. And I did - I should've touched base before writing that post, or had it vetted, or at least, spent more time editing it to be clear, concise, and unambiguous, and even more polite. Mea culpa - my mistake! It's okay for me to work quickly and bring errors upon myself because of it, but I need to be more careful when involving others.

Then, why is that post still up? This is what I wrote as the episode was winding down, it was well-received by the community -

Not Liking vs. Not Knowing

On Tynan

Do you like racing big wheels down the hills in the rain? I do.

When I was in middle school, I was a picky eater. I didn't eat meat and I didn't eat any vegetables besides corn, potatoes, and artichokes. If it weren't for my parents cleverly blending all sorts of vegetables into pasta sauce, I'd probably be about four feet tall and be even skinnier than I am now. I told people that I didn't like meat or vegetables, but in reality I just didn't know; I stubbornly refused to try them.

This sounds ridiculous, but we do it all the time. We write off certain activities that we've never experienced, usually because of a lack of information. Recently I've been challenging my prejudices by doing things that don't particularly appeal to me. It comes back to the risk/reward idea: if I don't like the activity I've wasted an hour of my time (because I'll leave if it seems hopeless in the first hour), but if I do like it I might find an awesome new hobby or interest.

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