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How to write ‘long’ content

I’m very interested in how to write ‘long’ content; that which grows in value over the long-term. Specifically, I am interested in what knowledge organisation strategies encourage this type of content to grow organically, through their structure.

[…] the best blogs always seem to be building something: they are rough drafts—works in progress. Gwern: Long Content

Let me try to articulate this thought further: an example would be something like a spaced repetition system; I currently get a huge amount of value out of Anki and, at this stage, could write a few key tips about how to write good prompts and maybe how to organise a deck, that’s probably it. If I am aiming to write ‘long’ content, however, I write a note titled Anki or Spaced Repetition: every time I encounter useful links related to this subject, I can add a little more detail to this note. Slowly, over time, patterns emerge and a loose outline begins to form around the page.

I note how different this approach is to Andy Matuschak’s method of note-taking: he is much more focused on writing ‘atomic’ notes which eventually converge to form a novel insight. I suppose these are stylistically tremendously different forms of writing: one seeks insight through extraction and connection of thoughts, the other uses large collections of disparate data to comprehensively cover a topic. I suppose there are similarities here (e.g. compiling enough data to draw through-lines), however the Matuschak method feels as though it relies heavily on creative insights and thinking one’s way out of a problem, where the Gwern method is more like a patient accrual of data until insights emerge. The key trade-off, then, seems to be one of intelligence versus patience? This doesn’t quite sit right but is probably a decent working definition.

This being the case, I find myself much more comfortable with the patient methodology. This starts with a topic or question of interest and basically fills the page with references and insights from others until it becomes a powerful resource in it’s own right. It is, essentially, curation. Of course, the insights are not actually required to be from others—the page can be written by accruing purely personal insights on the topic too, it just is likely that the works of others will have a large contribution too (necessitated by the comprehension of the page itself).