Content Creation: The Best Means Of Open Sourcing Your Life’s Thinking (And Knowledge)

An argument in favor of sharing just about anything that might be of interest to other humans

How and why creating content on the internet can be a way to open source your life and thinking — particularly as it evolves.

I posted here a few days ago about the value I see in open sourcing information:

I explained how that belief has grown out of the fact that I’ve been using Linux for well over ten years.

Technology may have been the wellspring, but the power of sharing what you know freely with others is an idea that has come to permeate my thinking and touch upon topics far beyond that domain.

Or otherwise put: Having benefited quite significantly from the technology that other Linux users have released to the community for improvement and derivation, I like to try to do the same thing myself.

My policy is therefore roughly this:

If I don’t need to monetize knowledge, I don’t monetize it. Like many, to pay my bills, I monetize selectively. Unlike some, I don’t jump at every monetization opportunity that exists in today’s world. If I feel like something I write or share could help somebody and the potential payoff is small (see: paywalling Medium articles), I generally go for sharing. The return I get from relationships started is higher than small checks.

Here are a few smatterings of that.

A small trove of knowledge (un-paywalled, at least at the time of writing):

And to give a technical example, the actual backup strategy I use and which I shared on Github:

But there’s another reason why, over the past few years, I’ve become something of an avid content creator, creating blog posts here on Medium, videos on YouTube, and podcasts on Spotify.

And it’s this.

An Argument In Favor Of Open Sourcing All Your Thinking And Just About Everything You Know How To Do

Although my YouTube channel is tiny (at the time I’m writing this, my subscriber count, which I don’t show publicly, is just a notch north of 250), I often mention some version of this during the screencasts that I upload there about how to do various things using computers:

“This may not be the best way to do this, but it’s a method I’ve discovered that works. And therefore I’m showing it in case it might also help you.”

I also often mention this:

“I’m recording this video as much for myself as for anybody else.”

Both are true — at least for me. And I think that both are important from the perspective of open sourcing.

Creating With Fervor Rather Than Sharing Your Thoughts More Selectively

The first affirmation reflects my belief that it’s generally better to share what you know or think you know now than to wait for the point of time at which you’re absolutely sure that you’ve arrived at your ultimate conclusion about a topic.

Why do a lot of people shy away from this?

Because there’s no way of hiding the fact that your thinking may evolve over time. It’s all there. On show. On the record. Anybody can look back through your blog or YouTube account and see how you’ve evolved and how your opinions may have shifted.

This Medium account is a demonstration of that point.

I’ve written quite a number of articles about freelance writing. My publication on the subject has amassed a few followers. Recently, I affirmed that freelance writing is no longer the career path that is best helping me fulfill my objectives.

There’s a possibility — though right now I think slight — that I’ll write a third post in a year’s time about how I got back into writing and changed my mind.

Would that make me look stupid? Perhaps to some. But I wouldn’t see it that way. All the perspectives I’ve shared, to my mind, are valid. They just reflected my thinking at a particular point in time. In backup terms, they’re snapshots of my thinking. Like operating systems, they change over time.

Creating Documentation About Your Own Thinking And Life

I also mention in many of my how-to videos that I’m recording this screencast because I want to be able to remember how I did something.

Recently, I shared a few videos about how I configured a basic backup (failover) internet system. I know that this is a niche topic that is unlikely to be of interest to very many people.

Would I be able to remember all those settings changes in three months after I’ve possibly completely a whole boatload of other technical projects? Potentially not. And that’s why I took the few minutes out of my day to commit my steps to video.

But in the process, I’m also creating a set of instructions that are now in the public domain. Anybody — whether they live in Australia or Bulgaria — can access those same instructions and follow along.

The result?

I’ve benefited. I now have my own documentation that I can refer back to at any time.

Other people have potentially benefited.

If I chose not to create that video — or any of the content or thinking I share including this post — then the potential pool of beneficiaries is zero.

Why Self-Censorship Is A Creative’s Worst Enemy

Besides maintaining a social life and having hobbies, the only pressures I face to not spend all my spare time creating content are two fold:

  • I have to work in order to support myself. Like most people, the majority of my time goes towards billable activities.
  • I’m relentlessly critical of my own work and — despite creating a lot of ‘content’ — tend to be a tough self-censor. Before setting up my webcam to record a video or putting keyboard to (digital) page here I face a battle to get past my own thoughts that argue “nobody cares what you have to say. There’s no point in saying it.”

What I’ve Concluded

  • Sharing is good. Although it’s a morbid thought, none of us are going to be around forever. It makes sense to share what we think and know with our humans. Even when those thoughts are likely to change in the future. That fact doesn’t delegitimize them. It just represents the fact that they reflect a snapshot of your thinking or experiences at a particular point in time.
  • While it’s unlikely that anybody wants to read about what you had for breakfast, I think there’s a strong argument to be made in favor of open sourcing as much knowledge as you’ve accrued throughout life. Should you open source your bathroom habits? I think you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would say ‘yes’ to that. So we can agree that there is a limit somewhere. But I’d like to suggest that it makes sense to set the threshold as low as you are comfortable with. Or slightly beneath that.
  • Be aware of self-censorship. Like most defensive instincts, a small amount of it is probably helpful. But beyond that, it may be impeding the progress you make in your creative journey through life.

Daytime: tech-focused MarCom. Night-time: somewhat regular musings here. Or the other way round. Likes: Linux, tech, beer.