Write The Harder Version

Ben Thompson writes a lovely (as usual) essay about the latest Meta-Microsoft partnership. There’s a lot to think about and ponder in that essay, but for the moment, I want to just focus on a part of it that appears in the introduction:

That was why this Article was going to be easy: writing that Meta’s metaverse wasn’t very compelling would slot right in to most people’s mental models, prompting likes and retweets instead of skeptical emails; arguing that Meta should focus on its core business would appeal to shareholders concerned about the money and attention devoted to a vision they feared was unrealistic. Stating that Zuckerberg got it wrong would provide comfortable distance from not just an interview subject but also a company that I have defended in its ongoing dispute with Apple over privacy and advertising.
Indeed, you can sense my skepticism in the most recent episode of Sharp Tech, which was recorded after seeing the video but before trying the Quest Pro. See, that was the turning point: I was really impressed, and that makes this Article much harder to write.


When you’re writing about a particular topic, and particularly if you write often enough, you realize that there are two ways to go about it: the easy way, and the hard way. The easy way isn’t necessarily about slacking off – in fact, part of the reason it might be easy to write is precisely because you haven’t bene slacking off for a long time in terms of writing regularly.

Doing so – writing regularly, that is – gives you a way of thinking about what to write – a mental framework that lays out the broad contours of your write-up, a way to begin the first paragraph, and even a nice rhetorical flourish with which to end.

I speak from personal experience – every now and then, I can see the blogpost that will be written by me while I’m reading something. And this is a truly wonderful superpower – the ability to know that you can churn out a somewhat decent-ish piece about something in very short order. Which is why both writing regularly and writing with self-imposed deadlines is on balance a good thing.

But there is, alas, no such thing as a free lunch. The downside of this is that one also then develops the inability to push oneself more. Why bother coming up with a different way of thinking what to write about, and how to go about it? Even if you’ve developed the intuition while reading something that your regular mental framework will do just fine, and it might well be what your audience is expecting from you anyways, you know that you really should be framing it in a different way. Either because that’s really what the subject matter at hand demands, or because you’re somehow convinced that this new, different way will result in a better framing – but you just know it in your bones.

That’s the hard bit: should you then stick to what you know and thump out a piece, or should you take the time to pause, reflect and push yourself to build out a better essay? Should you pursue that contrarian take, even though it might take longer?

And if you have a regular schedule to keep up with, the answer need not necessarily be yes. But I would argue that every now and then, it does make sense to take a step back, allow yourself the luxury of time, and write the more difficult piece instead.

Yes it will take longer, and yes it will be more tiring, but now what to do. Such is life.

All that being said, three quick points about Ben’s essay that really stood out for me:

  1. What is Mark Zuckerberg optimizing for with this move, and what cost to himself and his firm? Why? Weirdly, it would seem as if he is pushing the technology (VR) at the cost of at least the short-term growth of his firm, and he seems to be fine with it. Huh.
  2. Who are likely to be the early adopters of your service, and how likely are they to eventually become your marketers for free is a question that never goes away, but remains underrated.
  3. I’ve never used a VR headset, but even after reading Ben’s article, it becomes difficult to see why this might take off at current costs – and those costs aren’t just monetary, but also about mass adoption, inconveniences and technological limitations. I just don’t get it (which, of course, is a good thing. More to learn!)

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