Cost Benefit Analysis of Blogging
Recently I’ve written a short stream of short posts. They take quite a while (2-8 Pomodoros each), so I’ve been trying to figure out how useful they really are. Here are some costs and benefits I’ve come up with. I realize that typically only a few will carry the vast majority of the importance (see the Pareto Principle) so have indicated my impressions of the importance of each one.
Idea Dissemination (Important)
Take my ideas from inside my head and provide them for the world! The obvious reason for blogging. Can be somewhat measured by tracking visitors, reading comments, and talking to readers.
Online Credibility (Important)
I find that reading someone’s blog is one of the best ways to know them, particularly if they are an introvert. Blogging is a good way to show others that you’re generally thoughtful and intelligent.
- Experience Writing (Slightly Important)
Writing is a useful skill to have, and practice makes one better. With blogs there is some feedback as well as a clear incentive to improve. Blog writing seems quite similar to book writing and report writing, which are two fields that a lot of important people seem to need.
I could probably improve this a lot by focussing in on each of the following.
If I’m spending 4 hours writing a post, it may make sense to spend $5-$20 (oDesk perhaps) on an editor, mainly for the feedback to improve it. This may also take another 1-3 hours per post. I assume I could measure quality improvement by going back to my old essays and seeing if they are obviously worse. If not, perhaps I haven’t improved.
Recently I have been measuring the number of Pomodoros my writing has taken me. I’ll try to post future numbers along with future posts.
- Idea Generation (Very Important)
Writing blog posts forces me to lay out my ideas and ideate on them enough to produce something somewhat coherent. This may be the most valuable aspect, now that I reflect on this. My reports/longer posts have forced me to do analysis and reference external materials.
I imagine I could measure this a bit by looking back and judging how much of my current thought process is directly because of research from my previous blog posts. This may be quite considerable.
- Personal Reference (Very Slightly Important)
I would like to keep track of what I know. I could somewhat measure this by keeping track of how often I actually go back to read previous material. So far the answer is not often for the vast majority, but occationally for the most important papers. Much of the reference seems only useful so far as for me to see if I’m improving as a writer, for reasons mentioned above.
Time to Write (Opportunity Cost) (Important)
My work flow with Octopress is somewhat complicated, and as of now it takes me at least 2 Pomodoros (one hour of intense concentration) to write a small post. My previous on on the Epistemologies of Effective Altruist Groups took me a good 4-6 hours to write, effectively the most productive part of my Saturday. I stopped tracking Pomodoros for a while as I started grinding (this is normally a bad idea in my experience). This definitely was far more than I was expecting and I could have gotten a lot of work done for 80,000 Hours in that time.
I estimate that so far my blog (this specific one, not my old one) has taken me about 20 hours to set up and about 15 hours to write on (around 7 posts in that time). If my time is worth $50 an hour, that means that this cost me almost $2k so far. I’m currently very low on money so this is a lot to me.
Time to Socialize (Opportunity Cost) (Important)
I split this up for transparency and because it’s not very obvious. I find that so far for each blog post I write, I tend to spend at least 30 minutes to 2 hours checking & replying to comments, seeing Facebook likes, and looking at Google Analytics. I could reduce this with discipline. One reason why I’m worried about changing to LessWrong is that I may spend a lot of time replying to comments there (it would seem rude not to).
Attention (Not Very Important)
When I’ve been blogging I’ve noticed that I’ve thought a lot about new topics. This attention is incredibly hard to quantify. I expect it isn’t too important to consider here, because these seem like good things for me to come up with anyway.
What Do You Think?
Do any of you have input in the order and/or importance of these costs and benefits? Ideally we could eventually put together a Fermi estimate, but some of these are really difficult to estimate.
This post took me approximately 3.5 Pomodoros to write and publish While writing it I started 2 other blog posts which I would like to soon finish (one of which took another 0.5 Pomodoros). This post is around 900 words, so this results in around 250 words per Pomodoro, or 10 words per minute.) One of these new blog posts includes details on my existing blog traffic to provide insight to some of the above. I would love to write a rigorous analysis of each, but it would take quite a long time.