A Summary Of What I Wrote In 2023
This is the Three Data Point Thursday, making your business smarter with data & AI.
Let’s dive in!
I pause whenever I see a “summary of …. 202X” post. At first sight, it feels like a placeholder, a cheap way to fill a post. And it can be. But when I stumbled over Henrik Karlsson and his retrospective in 2023, I changed my mind.
Public retrospectives can be helpful if you do them right. Newsletters aren’t static; they change over time and the audience and content change. Doing a retrospective in public is an excellent way of allowing you to peek behind the curtain and understand the future direction. Henrik accomplished that, and that’s what I’ll try to do with this post: help you learn if this newsletter is for you!
Let’s start with what changed this year and then dive into the summary of what I wrote.
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What changed in 2023
I made three substantial changes to my newsletter in 2023; some might scare you off, and some might not notice. But I think it’s essential to be open about what I write and who I write for:
I changed the newsletter from private to open mode!
I rearranged the topics I wanted to write about and ditched some.
Around September, I decided to focus in deeper and make my newsletters longer and more thoughtful. (Focus on going deep, not doing any distribution!)
Private to open
I had a lot going on professionally and personally over the last 1.5 years, like publishing my first book, “Data Mesh in Action,” and becoming the Head of Marketing at Arch. Therefore, I planned on keeping my newsletter private for the foreseeable future. I figured that was less pressure for me.
However, after I got three requests to open it up to the public quickly, I realized there wasn’t a good reason to keep it closed - people wanted in, and I was standing in the way. So I opened it up in the beginning of 2023. If you’re reading this, you’re likely one of the 80% of subscribers that have joined since then.
So, a happy welcome to you all!
Narrowing in on the topics I want to write about was painful; I love to explore all kinds of things! And yet, I also know that focus is good. If I concentrate, my stuff is 10x better, so feel free to tell me when I deviate again ;)
I refined my so-called content buckets, the categories I tried to write content for a couple of times, but I ended the year with version 4, which looks like this:
Hot data trends explained
Product management for data & AI
Making companies smarter with data & AI in general
Data startup management
The overarching theme is “Making companies smarter with data & AI in general.” There’s no good hierarchy in those buckets, and they might overlap. I’m trying to always keep the larger objective in mind.
It was hard for me to drop niche topics and open source, but I realized I had to, even if writing about them was fun. But after dropping open source, I felt so bad I started to put my writing onto a separate site: UnpackingBOS.com. At least now I know when I’m off-focus ;)
Finally, I hope you noticed that I switched from my “three points” format around September and went for long-form, deep articles instead. There’s no good reason other than that I like them better and enjoy writing them more.
I also noticed that my time is best spent writing, period. I played around with LinkedIn and X this year, a bit of YouTube, and lighter medium posts, but I gotta say, I’m not good at that stuff, and I don’t enjoy it (that might be related.)
So, I decided: I won’t do any distribution, no short-form stuff, no videos, no nothing. When I sit down, I create and write deep, thoughtful stuff that hopefully helps you all.
I know that by not engaging in X and LinkedIn, I’m missing out on the action and a larger audience, but at the end of the day, I need to focus, and what I do best is this.
Finally, I decided not to write about data engineering anymore, other than curating The Finish Slime, a project I started this year. Why did I start another newsletter on data engineering? Because there are next to no good curated article lists for data engineers, and I tend to learn a lot while researching through data articles.
Now, let’s get to the meat!
I wrote 49 articles in my newsletter this year, and the top were:
Looking at this list, I think they capture my content buckets above pretty well. I picked up the good data vs. bad data strategy idea recently a couple of times because I enjoyed writing about it and, frankly, because I think the default way for people is to choose a bad data strategy. That has to change for us to move forward, so I’ll probably keep annoying you.
Frankly, besides focusing on what I do, one of the most significant changes I made this year was to change my writing habits. I now have a straightforward schedule: I write my newsletter in batches:
I basically spend three weeks collecting ideas, writing outlines, and sorting them from best to worst.
Then, I spend a full week creating great articles for a whole month.
I always work in big blocks of time, at 60-90 mins a piece.
And that’s it. Since I’ve switched to this schedule, I get 2-3 times as much done. Previously, I would write whenever I could squeeze in 10-30 mins, but now I’m getting down to the work and finishing stuff.
What it feels like to write
I write about data because I genuinely believe the future will be dominated by it. To make that work, however, companies need to get shit done the right way. So that’s what I want to help with: help us progress by helping companies & founders progress with data.
However, I also write for myself. I’ve been writing daily for over a decade now, and I can tell that every day I write deeply for 60 minutes or more will be a good day.
I happen to think by writing. That’s why I love to write on a whiteboard or a computer, where I can reorganize big chunks because what I start writing is always very far from the result, as I haven’t finished thinking yet.
So, if this sounds like you could fancy it, subscribe and join me for another year.