Tag Archives: 500 words

“This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.”

I have a section in my feeds called “Friends”. This folder includes RSS feeds for virtually all my friend’s personal blogs, and for about a year there’s something interesting about it: there’s virtually nothing new in it.

Oh sure, there are updates. But they’re the virtual equivalent of an alarm set on a phone you no longer use. They’re things like “My tweets for Thursday”, “Links I liked”, and other automatic posts created by other services. They’re the kind of thing which, a few years ago, would have been the filler between interesting comments, essays, and more. Now, they’re all my friends are producing.

Except that they’re not. Some of my friends have moved away from creating things online and sharing them, mostly due to the ever-evolving pressures on their time: increasing families, work that becomes more time consuming. Houses. Even more kids.

But mostly, they’re sharing smaller and smaller snippets, on social networks. Or they’ve abandoned writing on their own blogs in favour of other platforms like Medium.

This makes me a little sad. There’s a lot of friends out there who I initially discovered through their blogging. Back in the late 90’s and early noughties, having a blog was an essential way of expressing yourself and your thoughts. It was also, truth be told, a place to show off a bit.

But there was also a genuinely political element to it, in the sense that for the first time in history, publishing was something anyone could do. You would write, post your pictures, do what the heck you wanted without having to rely on a third party. If you put in the effort, you could own everything bar the connection your server had to the wider Internet. It brought to life the slogan The Well used: “You own your own words”.

All things pass, and it feels like the time of the blog has in some sense passed too. Who has time to write, when you can pump out status updates which let your friends and family know exactly what you’re thinking and doing at any moment? And why bother to think through what you’re going to say and express in in a few hundred words, when really all anyone cares about is the pithy headline, the punchy hook. “This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.”

Keeping writing a blog is hard work, and takes commitment, and it’s very easy to drift out of that commitment. One of the reasons that I decided to start trying to write 500 words a day is because I believed that making this kind of commitment was good for me. But it was also an attempt to avoid pouring too much of a my energy into things like Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks which – while fun, and generally positive – don’t feel like they have the permanence of my own space. This blog is older than Facebook, and I like that.

 

What exactly does it mean for Apple to be a “growth” company?

One of the most consistent questions asked about Apple at the moment is whether it will ever be a “growth” company again. And, of course, the answer you’ll see is usually “no”.

I disagree. There’s nothing in the present state of Apple and its core businesses which indicates it won’t continue to be a growth company. In fact, it has grown all the way through Tim Cook’s leadership.

What it won’t necessarily be is the kind of hyper-growth company it was during the earlier days of the iPhone. But the kind of opportunity which the iPhone represented are rare, and largely driven by factors outside the direct control of the company. The iPhone was launched into a mature mobile phone market, where there was weak competition and the potential for high margins. Apple’s execution was superb, which enabled them to grow massively and quickly, but it took the existence of a particular set of market conditions to allow this execution to work.

I don’t see any potential product categories which would present the same level of hyper-growth opportunity as smartphones did. TV is huge in revenue, but short on margin, and massively complicated. The regular update cycle is too long to support rapid repeat sales if you look at TVs themselves. You can sell a $100 product like the Apple TV, but it’s effectively a peripheral, a value-add to the iTunes/iOS/Mac ecosystem.

Wearable a feels like a big opportunity to me, but as a value-add for iOS devices rather than a standalone. It’s a way of getting iPhone and iPad owners to pay another $100-250 rather than a $20bn business on its own. And with more and more iPhones sold through the Apple Stores, Apple has a clear path to upselling customers with an incredible health-related wearable.

So where could Apple get iPhone-levels of growth? I just don’t see anywhere. To put the size Apple is at into a little context: if Apple somehow magically owned the entire global online ad market in 2016, it would only add another $163bn of revenue: that’s less than the $170bn revenue the company earned in FY 2013.

It seems, then, Apple is doomed to be merely an enormous, vastly profitable player in the biggest technology markets on the planet until whatever the next big wave is comes alone. And when that wave comes along, it will have to completely miss it or fail to execute as brilliant as it did with the iPhone. At that point, yeah, Apple will be doomed. As doomed as, say, IBM. I’m sure Tim Cook will live with that possibility.

The 500

There are lots of reasons to write.

Sometimes, you write because you have an important point you want to get across. Blogging allowed all of us to do this, to publish our perspective on the world in a way which hasn’t been possible before.

Sometimes you write because you’re responding to someone. Maybe you’re outraged by someone’s simply ridiculous views on the world. Perhaps you’re trying to pick holes in someone else’s argument. Maybe, you’re just practicing the fine art of snark. Lord knows, there’s a worldwide shortage of snark. The snark, after all, is an endangered species.

Sometimes, you write because you think it might be a career, something you can do to earn a living. And there’s no doubt that if you can make a living at it, writing is a fun occupation. I’ve been lucky enough, at various times of my life, to be paid to write.

But there’s another reason to write, and I think for most people it’s the most important reason of all. Writing helps you understand yourself. It forces you to focus your thoughts and move them from the massively-parallel way that your mind works into a kind of linear order. The process of writing something down turns it from a fleeting thought into something much more concrete.

When you write for this reason, it doesn’t really matter if anyone else reads. What matters is that you have written something that’s more than a single thought.

Over the past few years, mostly because of the emergence into my life of services like Twitter and Facebook, I’ve been neglecting writing to any length other than that of a single though. I’ve become good at paring back what I write to just 140 characters, sometimes less (sometimes much less).

But 140 characters leaves no room for nuance, for anything except the most crystal clear of statements. There’s no room for argument (in the positive, rationalist sense) or for anything other than a single thought, a single witticism.

And I think that I’ve begun to feel this a little in the way that I think. My thinking, which used to be all about focus, has felt… fuzzy. Frayed around the edges. Jumping around like the proverbial Mexican jumping bean. Oooh look! Another tweet has arrived! Must… write… pithy… epigram…

So, rather than carry on in the same way, I’m going to try and break a habit to make a habit: and the habit that I want to get into, like MG Siegler, is to write 500 words a day. I’ve no idea what it will be about. Mostly, I’d guess, technology and publishing, the two things that I spend most of my waking hours thinking about. Probably stuff which lies at the intersection between the two. But some days it might be politics, or the attention span of cats, or how incredible the weather is.

Who knows? But it will be no less than 500 words. Sometimes a little more. But never less. And this post needs to be finished, now.