Update #7: Running aground in Twitter dead-ends

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Shane here again.

As part of the “build in public” model, I promise to send a Friday note to everyone who signs up for the Magnificent Irrelevance email list.

This Week:

I’ve been doing some work.

Not really on anything on the outside, anything I can show you or anything you might ever really see. More along the lines of foundational work. The things that need to happen to make the ground secure to build anything on top.

Because I’ve been having some dissonance with all of this.

When I sit back and think about Magnificent Irrelevance, really think about it, about what it can be, I’m immediately on board again.

I’d never gain top marks in the visualisation class — usually, if I can’t see it, I can’t make myself see it — but it doesn’t take much for me to picture what this could be: a niche publication, showcasing exceptional writing from exceptional writers, from anywhere in the world, all inspired or motivated by sport, even if the link is somewhat tangential.

(I’ve decided tangential links to sport are probably fine, but tenuous links are not.)

But when it comes to the day to day detail of getting the word out, I found that I ran aground a little over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve reflected on why.

Partly, it’s that things almost always take longer than you expect, and go in different directions than you expect.

No matter how much we might be warned otherwise, it is human nature to seek a success graph of steady upward trajectory, but it never works like that. The success graph usually appears more like a roller-coaster, with dips and peaks and spikes and troughs, before finally, the sustained upward curve at the point where you “make it”, which is usually years if not decades further along the road. (That’s the success graphs; the failure graphs, the ones that end with crash and burn, we just don’t ever get to see.)

So I’m okay with things taking time.

And I’m okay with a slow trickle of people signing up to receive these update emails, once they’re into the vision of what this might become. I’d much prefer five email sign-ups who buy into the vision (however much less than crystal clear that picture might be) than 500 who might somehow have arrived here in the hope that they might receive a tailored stream of newsy links about their favourite sports team.

I acknowledge that the vision (especially one that’s less than crystal clear) is insufficient to attract email sign-ups in the sort of numbers that might make this even close to a practical business venture. I understand that I have to offer something real and valuable as part of that transaction; your name and email address are precious, precious pieces of info, and you should never give that up lightly.

Another part of why I’ve run aground a little is the things that I’ve found myself paying attention to. It’s a few years since I started a brand new social media account, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve done that with Magnificent Irrelevance on Twitter. But Twitter is a maze, that maze needs a different map depending on your intentions, and so far I haven’t taken the time to draw the map I need.

And so I found I was invited down avenues of Twitter that ended in multiple wrong turns and dead ends.

When you follow a few sportswriters or publications, the algorithm shows its bluntness and starts bringing what it thinks are similar accounts to the surface, inviting you to follow. If you make the mistake of following a few of these — and yes, I did — suddenly the feed is awash with transfer gossip and news updates of the type that feels like the complete opposite end of the spectrum to what this is all about.

And a third part is that life sometimes gets in the way.

I decided to start two new things in 2020. Those things are this, Magnificent Irrelevance, a small publication dedicated to showcasing exceptional longform sportswriting; and 3000 BC, the daily bread, which forms medium- to long-term partnerships with high-integrity and mission-driven organisations to help them get closer to achieving their vision, through a combination of coaching, communications, marketing and metrics.

Of these two ventures, 3000 BC is the one that’s demanding attention right now, with a handful of clients who need special attention, given that they’re helping me make the transition from freelance marketing and communications consultant, to a business, with a brand name, systems, suppliers, sub-contractors and all the official paperwork that all that entails. And this week, as the tax year begins to draw to a close, has been a lot about the paperwork, meaning that it’s now 11.17pm on Friday night as I write this, intent on sticking to my promise of hitting Publish on a weekly Friday update.

So, a slow week of finding oneself drained by social media deadlines, client commitments and accounting obligations.

But a little progress to report:

  1. It’s now official, in a way. The Magnificent Irrelevance legal business name has now been registered with Companies Office in Ireland.
  2. How I might get the actual under-the-hood hardware and out-front design publication done was inched forward, with a few early conversations with agencies that specialise in building quality systems for publishers. [Fully aware that this may be trying to run before I’ve made it to both feet, but I’m interested in seeing ball-park figures for the market rate for good quality design and development for online publishing.]
  3. Had a chat with a podcast producer who may be in a position to help transform the raw audio of several The Sportswriter’s Life episodes into finished podcasts. This is already overdue, and I’ve been dragging my feet out of a desire to ensure the podcast quality is strong. It’s easy to do podcasts (I know, because I’ve been doing one for almost two years) but it’s not easy to do high-quality podcasts. I see the sense in “perfection is the enemy of good”, and the product can’t be improved without first being shipped. But still, I’m keen to ensure the quality is good. That other saying springs to mind: “You only get one chance to create a first impression.”


Pre-Launch Email List Sign-up Update

Here’s the numbers update.

Over the past week there have been just five visits to the website, with one recorded sign-up. (Thanks, John!)

That’s all for this Magnificent Irrelevance build in public weekly update.

If you’d like to receive these updates each Friday by email, make sure to sign up here.

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