I took a lot of time over the past few weeks building a product I hope to use for the next many years of my life--what you are engaging with right now is a revamped personal website and integrated personal blog. To begin this new blog, I thought it best to delve into the philosophy and motivations surrounding it.
Admittedly, I spent a lot of time debating the utility of either of these online features (the website and the blog) ever since I published my first personal website years back in high school. Even further, I've spent considerably more time weighing the advantages and disadvantages of building the features myself rather than going through popular website and blog providers. Over this past year, however, a selection of interactions, talks, and experiences convinced me that this specific site is what I wanted to build and that I wanted to pivot away from some of the presentation choices I made in my original website.
To be honest, I don't remember the setting or speaker for this quote--surprising given how much it has stuck with me. I do, however, remember hastily tracking it down in my Google Keep immediately after hearing it to ensure I would never forget it.
Medium is a beautiful service. It's interface is sleek, malleable, and does nothing but add to the content posted on it. Anyone can read a Medium post and thoroughly enjoy it.
In this quote is a valuable business lesson: know your consumer and know what they want to get out of your platform. Don't build features and dilute your product to design it for people who aren't your target users to begin with. Even still, having limited and refined features and functionality does not mean access to the product must or should be.
Returning to the quote, not everyone is or wants to be an active Medium user. Those who are enjoy introspective, reflective, and softly-opinionated pieces. This is where the objectives of Medium and my own objectives at times split far enough for me to find worth in developing a platform integrated to my personal site.
Yes, I want to write pieces which reflect on experiences and look ahead, though so too do I want to write about what I've worked on, on new technologies and trends, and on whatever else I find interesting. Further, I want to be able to organize my thoughts in a way not restricted by a generalized platform which is for a far wider audience. Last of all, I want my thoughts and writing to be directly connected to my other experiences, projects, and work. In this sense, Medium is not (entirely) for me. For the posts which I do fit Medium's platform, I'll be sure to cross-post with my Medium account.
Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg's talk at Penn gave each attendant much to consider. They discussed topics ranging from grief, to gender inequality, to the search for success and meaning. The above quote, in particular, made me reconsider the way I presented myself, my projects, and my learning and growth.
Sandberg stresses a key difference between one's personal brand and one's personal image—the latter natural and real, the former forced and deceptive. In looking at my website in this context, I realized I was more so constructing a personal brand than uplifting my personal image. Thus, in building the second iteration of my website, I worked towards more modest and straightforward graphics, typefaces, and layouts which focused on information, concepts, and learning above all else.
This quote goes without saying, though it was in context of this talk during a YouthHack Sunday Session that it proved so impactful.
Josh is a highly driven entrepreneur who did and continues to do whatever he can to build long lasting products. Even in just 15 minutes of talking to him I learned an incredible about personal drive and project-based learning through the stories he told about hustling for clients and knowledge alike. I aimed to channel that spirit in developing a platform of my own to explore, discuss, and build upon my interests.
As I've hinted at, I want this blog and website on the whole to serve as an extension of my learning and projects. For those interested, it will be a source of information and spirit which I hope you can all build off of and benefit from. Further, this blog will keep me honest and focused with what I build and work on.
Being able to present one's work is arguably more important than the building process itself, and through this platform I hope to develop that skill into a defining strength.