Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Micro-ness reboot: re-dedicating this blog to its “micro” origins

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

This is a 1000-word blog post about how I want to write more 50-word “micro” posts in 2016 and beyond. Irony achievement unlocked! (Actually, it’s really a post about the interesting challenges of writing small posts.)

Supposedly the PainScience blog is where I write about what I’m writing about. For instance, I’m working on a new article about TENS and other forms of thereapeutic electrical stimulation right now, and all kinds of interesting things have come up, like this:

If you’re eccentric, you might choose to run current through your whole body in an electric bath. This current would hopefully only be direct (galvanic) current for safety.?Both kinds of current can be lethal if it’s enough current for long enough, but AC is much less comfortable at the same magnitude, and it’s better at making hearts fibrillate. It takes quite a bit more DC current to cause a heart attack. For instance, the “let-go current” is the highest current at which you can let go of a conductor: above the limit, you can’t let go! The limit for AC is just 22 mA, but 88 mA in DC. But for the same reason it’s safer, direct current is also less stimulating: it causes a smooth, sustained muscle contraction, whereas the alternating current of TENS makes your muscles vibrate. Sounds relaxing, eh? Spasm baths!

In theory, the idea of this blog was that I would package up a snippet like that, give it a fun clickbait-y title like Spasm Baths!, share it on Facebook and Twitter so that readers know that the lights are on and someone’s home, and then get back to the real work: writing and updating feature articles and books. I planned to share a lot of little things as I worked — a quote, a link, an interesting finding from a study, a fun picture, whatever, a steady supply of nuggets and pearls.

And that’s why I called it the micro blog. Three years in, I still think it’s a great idea.

Only I haven’t really been doing it.

There are no small blog posts

My posts have gotten fewer and much less micro in the last couple years. (Still mostly short and sweet, but hardly micro.) Turns out even the tiniest blog posts are a ridiculous amount of work. Here are some reasons I’ve noticed why I’ve had trouble sticking to the micro-mandate:

  1. Shy-ness about super small posts. While I love the idea of microblogging, apparently I hesitate to publish truly short posts. And I just succumb to the temptation to elaborate …
  2. Time and again, I find myself developing new content as I write a blog post, as opposed to just sharing content I’ve already carefully prepared for a feature article or book. Developing new content is obviously much slower, and it creates a whole new category of work for me: making sure that the original writing I’ve done for the blog doesn’t go to waste and actually gets used elsewhere on the website.
  3. The act of preparing “finished” content for presentation on the blog always (every. single. time.) reveals problems and opportunities, and I end up doing “sync editing”: a frenetic editing contortionist act in which I revise both the original version and the blogged version simultaneously, going back and forth between them dozens of times. It sounds ridiculous, but I cannot un-see a perfect word choice that pops into my head as I’m putting the finishing touches on the blog post: it simply has to be used in the original as well.
  4. Even if the post itself is actually quick and easy, the social media fallout can be slow and hard. If someone asks a challenging question on Facebook, even a 10-minute micropost can go into an hour-long tailspin. And this isn’t rare! But when you’re serious about writing serious articles and books, you really can’t give up 3 hours a day to “engagement.” It’s a problem! “Worse” still, often the conversation informs a revision of the content! Which could require another 20 minutes of editing — or a to-do list item.

Damn the micro torpedoes, full speed ahead!

So that’s a lot of things that make microblogging not-so-micro. Maybe it isn’t such a great idea after all? But no, I stand by it. I can get over the shyness. I can succumb to the temptation to elaborate and consider it part of the writing process. If blogging forces me to reconsider and improve what I’ve written, that’s pure win in the end. And all that engagement may be hard on the writing schedule, but it’s a gold mine of valuable feedback and relationships.

The microblog concept is demanding, but it’s worth it. So look forward to a lot of posts this year that are a tenth the size of this one.