Cooperative competition on the internet

“Competing with the best of the best”

A couple of weeks ago, in Hypercritical episode 79 to be exact, Marco Arment, Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin replaced John Siracusa and exchanged ideas on a broad range of topics. Needless to say, it was less focused than Hypercritical usually is.

However, great minds to come together, and this podcast was no exception. Towards the middle of the episode, Arment stated that:

“You end up competing with the best of the best”

Arment was making the point that the internet is a powerful medium used by highly competent people to show their abilities. He explained how that challenged him to continue to improve the quality of his writing.

Are you willing to make mistakes?

It’s a great time for anyone willing to make mistakes and be assisted by the world to learn from these mistakes. If you care to open up to input from others out there, and if you can take direct but often highly constructive criticism, you will learn more than you care to imagine.

As well as access to most of the tools used by those you admire, you will also get access to these people themselves. There are significantly fewer gatekeepers on the internet than there are in the real world. A lot of the people you admire were initially bootstrapped by people they admire. So quite a few of them are willing to pay it forward and coach you or at least give you a couple of minutes of their time to share their ideas about your work and how they would approach your challenges. They will often have been there and made those same mistakes, so theirs are invaluable lessons.

So, that blogger you admire so much: likely to be accessible. That programmer or designer: they may just have some time to help you solve the riddle that has been haunting you for so long. Because what goes for you also goes for them. Had they not gained access to people they admired, they may never have gotten where they are.

Another lesson from the internet

It’s bizarre to conclude that whereas in the “real” world people will close the door on new talent storming on, the internet environment appears to foster people who not only keep the door open, but throw the rope down and help you climb up the wall you’re facing.

By what means?

Solely reaching out through your blog is not very likely to result in reactions … there’s a lot of blogs out there and only 24 hours in a day. But you never know, the best of the best have gotten where they are by checking out the competition, often before the competition knows they are in competition.

I’m not the best placed person to speak about SEO, so I can’t give any meaningful feedback on that. My best guess is that in a world where everything is SEO optimized, SEO is no longer a true differentiator.

What does work, in my personal experience, is sharing your blog posts on a relevant topical social network such as Linked-In. Within Linked-In, topical groups allow you to find and converse with people with experience in or ideas about topics you are interested in and blogging about. These can be very diverse, as long as they are business related.

Competitive collaboration and exchange

What I’ve witnessed within these groups is what I refer to as competitive collaboration and exchange. People who in real life would likely never connect, even for simple reasons like not very be willing to talk to the competition, find each other and exchange very openly within the confines of such a topical group.

Linked-In promotes this, with their top 5 influencer of the week list which is visible within each group.

These platforms are a low threshold access to key expertise and ideas in very specific professional fields. It makes sense to participate in this exchange and even offer some questions of your own.

So dare to go out and learn.