On Blogging For Optionality’s Sake

June 12, 2015

Which of the following two statements is correct:

1) All bloggers are rich and famous
2) Some bloggers are rich and famous

Blogging doesn’t make you rich and famous but it does expose the author to a rare form of optionality, namely, a positive Black Swam.

Taleb describes the Black Swan as being: unpredictable, high impact, and can be rationally explained after the fact or suffers from the narrative fallacy.

Startups ( read tech startups in a bubble ) are built on the hope of positive Black Swans (pBS) given that employees and owners trade their time and money for pieces of paper ( they aren’t even on paper anymore ) that will make them rich one day. This is the definition of leveraged optionality and in moderation is a great position to hold.

Blogging works the same way.

Each blog post, increases the author’s exposure to a pBS. Maybe someone will post this to Hacker News or Reddit ( maybe I will ) and maybe a book publisher will read it and say, “Wow! Blogging meets the Black Swan, call his agent!”. Ten minutes later my agent’s phone rings ( it’s my phone, I don’t have an agent )

Book Publisher:
Kent! We read your post, we love it. Would you be interested in singing a… five book deal?

Ohhh yessssssss

And just like that, I am rich and famous.

Not really though. Obviously.

Not all bloggers are rich and famous. However, without their blogs, would some of them be rich and famous? I would argue that many wouldn’t be for the reasons above: blog posts increase optionality and given the connected structure of the internet, the chance of a single post spreading to beyond it’s target audience is higher than any other writing medium.

Consider that Naseem Taleb and his book is itself a Black Swan. He talks at length about how book publishing is a winner take all, extremistan world. Take 3 random authors who’s book sales total 1,000,000 copies and ask someone on the street to guess the distribution between them. If you don’t know anything about book publishing you might guess around 333K each = 1M, when in reality it’s likely more like:
Author 1 – 969,000
Author 2 – 20,000
Author 3 – 11, 000

Most people are blind to the extreme nature of book publishing, startup IPOs, and successful bloggers.

Books, movies, and startups are hard to predict. Therefore publishers, studios, and venture capitals need to make a lot of small bets in order to win. You can think of writers the same way. Knowing what you know about writing being a winner take all game, doesn’t it makes sense for authors to write more books? Yes of course it does. Each book they write, increases the chance of being exposed to a pBS. Look at Dan Brown, one of the most read authors in the world. He didn’t find his pBS until his third full novel, The DaVinci Code. Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons are now best sellers, but not when they debuted.

Book publishing is a winner take all game, blogging is a little different because of the long tail. You can write about esoteric topics that only a handful of communities are interested in and find success given the power of Google and their eigenvectors. The reason blogging is such a good investment is that you can write for the niche, and still enjoy the chance of finding a pBS.

So should you blog for optionality’s sake? No. Blog because you love to write, but yes, you are “buying lottery” tickets each time you hit publish ( not really ).

Since we didn’t officially call it, and I hate loose ends, the answer is 2).


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