chrischinchilla

7 min read - Posted 16 Jan 20

Why do people write?

Why do people write content online?

I feel the main reasons someone might start committing words to a topic are one or more of the following:

  • To make money
  • To reach an audience
  • To express an opinion, they are passionate about
  • To explain something they are passionate about
  • To evoke a feeling in others
  • To describe an event

Looking at these motivations, we can start to look at the common places people write, and why.

There is a myriad of places online that pay for your contributions, and perhaps understanding why people write primarily for money is the easiest. Platforms that pay their contributors are often those that don't allow contributors to publish freely and have the poorest user experience to contend with, after all, they are paying the contributor.

As a disclaimer, we paid for some submissions. Firstly because these were topics we felt had a knowledge gap that needed filling, second because we are a new platform, and needed seed content, and finally because we feel that writers deserve to be paid. These writers did work with an editor (me), but they posted the content themselves (and fully own it), and could have also posted or changed the content freely.

Why people choose to write in their own time, and for no direct payment is a more nuanced discussion, and varies from industry to industry, and sector to sector. In the developer space, we think of contributing to hosted sites like hackernoon, dev.to, Medium, and (we hope) kauri. Why would someone devote their spare time to write on someone else's platform, and contribute to that platform making revenue? Why would someone spend time setting up, hosting, and maintaining their own blog that people may never find or read?

Every writer's motivation is different, but probably a mixture of those above. Humans (even technically-minded ones) are social creatures. Often the feelings of learning something new, helping others learn something new, expressing an opinion, engaging over opinion, and other interactions over the words you wrote is a powerful and seductive motivator.

Let's set aside discussions on why someone would set up their own self-hosted site for another time. There are valid reasons, but kauri is not a self-hosted platform, and in this post, I am more interested in digging into why people choose to write on those. Kauri has a "protocol" feature on our roadmap that may allow for some degree of self-hosting, and when that's ready, maybe it will be time for part two of this post.

How do people choose where to write?

We know why someone might spend their spare time writing, but now they're motivated, what makes them choose the platform they do?

Many of the motivations above are about network effect, and if you write something, you'd like people to read it, and react to it. Otherwise, the satisfaction of writing something is only a partial one. Therefore, people tend to want to post their content on sites with the highest readership, interaction, or "coolness" factor (and I realize this is a vague term, but I think you know what I mean).

As a newer and less known option, kauri has sometimes found it hard to encourage people that it's worth posting their content to the site. This difficulty is compounded because we currently focus on a niche topic area.

A few years ago everyone posted on Medium, hoping to gain network effect, despite the fact it is a bad experience for technical content. In reality (and I know this from personal experience), you rarely got many reads from just posting to Medium. To get any meaningful reads, you needed to post into a publication and use their network effect, if they had any. This in itself is fine, but it involves either you contacting the bigger publications, or waiting for them to contact you and hoping they include the work you submit to them. Which, doesn't sound that revolutionary, and will remind many writers reading this of the age-old pitch process of writing and hoping that someone will publish it.

Medium also annoyed many people with its poorly executed, kind-of-paywall. A writer is not forced to put content behind the paywall, but if you do, you can guarantee it's going to show in search results better, and surface in recommendations more often. But this does mean that the sort of content you tend to find most read on Medium isn't that different from what you're likely to find on mainstream media, so again we can ask. Is it any different?

Hackernoon moved from Medium, and I think it continues to do well, but their submission process has become more complex than it used to be. And we now also have sites like dev.to that is doing well, but I wonder and worry a little about its business model, and if it will hit similar issues to Medium in the future. We shall see.

Why write on kauri?

Which after a long preamble brings us to kauri, and why we feel it's time you were posting content with us too, and yes, any technical content, not just Blockchain related. Let's look at the main motivations for why people want to post again, and how we help.

To make money

We're winding down paying directly for content but are working on community-funded tipping and direct bounties for content people love or want to be written.

To reach an audience

In recent months, Kauri has consistently experienced the best traffic ever, it's small in the grand scheme of things, but for niche technical content, we're proud. Here's some highlights.

  • A current average of around 10,000 unique visits per month and this has been trending upwards for the past year
  • We have a remarkably even visitor profile, readers come from all parts of the world, and at all times of the day
  • Readers stick around, our bounce rate is low, and people spend a couple of minutes at least, reading an average of two items every visit

(It's also worth noting that users in our ecosystem often use blockers, this data is likely under represented)

To express, explain, evoke, and describe

We have added features to help make a writers life better, and have more to come. These include:

  • Fully featured markdown editor with code syntax highlighting and LaTeX support
  • The ability to import content from most HTML sources
  • Content versioning
  • Author attribution recorded in the Ethereum blockchain. We know this doesn't stop people copying your work, but at least you can now prove it's yours.
  • Others can suggest updates to your content to keep it fresh and up to date. This includes a diff view so you can see the suggestions
  • Communities. One of our flagship features, this helps people organize around a topic and define who editors and contributors are.
  • Language and structure linters for writing improvement recommendations (coming soon)
  • The Kauri protocol for sharing your content elsewhere (coming soon)

Go forth and write!

Hopefully we have you convinced to try Kauri. You can start quickly by adding an external link to existing content, helping bring useful resources into one place. Or you can curate a collection, grouping together existing content into themes.

When you're ready, start writing whatever you want that you think might interest our audience, and we'll do our best to help you with any questions or problems you have.

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Chris Ward

Technical Content Lead

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