Publish Then Filter

It’s killing me. It really is. Every week I show up for my class, “Narratives and Networks,” and one of our course instructors, Hanson Hosein, says to us, “Publish then filter.”

By this he means, don’t worry about getting everything perfect. Get it out there. Hit submit. It’s an iterative process, and the nature of web publishing is that you refine as you go. Audiences (not editors) filter what they like and don’t like.

Hanson, who is also the director of the Master of Communications in Digital Media program at the UW, is fond of saying, “It’s all beta” meaning it’s all subject to change, testing and improving as we go. The master’s program? Beta. Our course syllabus? Permanently beta.

This unnerves me. Not the program or the syllabus being flexible. It’s the beta nature of publishing and writing these days that feels like “ready, fire, aim.” By personality and training, I want to polish then publish. (And I like the alliteration of “polish” with “publish” better than “filter” even if it changes the meaning.)

I’m old-school. Journalism courses emphasized copy editing and fact-checking and getting it right. Errors and corrections cost money. Years ago, when I was editor of World Vision’s magazines, we received bluelines, photographic proofs of our magazine pages, before they went to press. If we caught a mistake at that stage of the game, we incurred additional expenses to make a change.

It’s hard to tell myself, We’ll make the necessary changes along the way.  What I need to grasp is that life itself is “permanently beta.” It’s ever-changing and shifting. Down days give way to glorious ones. Sweet teenagers swerve into moody moments. We fall and we fail, and then we get up and keep going.

There’s no use trying to get it perfect. I’ve been tinkering with this website wanting to figure out the photos and links and the design before I open it up to everyone. It’s time to just go live and work it out as I go.

This week I read a piece by Christian author Don Miller. (I have a massive writer’s crush on him. See this. And this.) I read his post, and I could swear he was writing to me. Don wrote, “I’ve heard the desire to control is the root of sin. I know it’s just a saying, but I think there’s truth in it. There’s truth and a lack of faith, too…Afraid of writing a blog? Admit it in the first sentence.”

Well, I didn’t say it in the first sentence, but I’m afraid. I fear what people will think of me if I put my words and thoughts out there. I’m wrapped up in my image and ego. I’m worried there will be typos and awkward sentences and a hundred ways my blog (and I) will look unprofessional.

I hold back from a lot of things, big and small, because I don’t want to risk looking foolish. I sing to myself in the shower because, well the acoustics are pretty good in there, but also because I’m pretty sure I don’t have a great singing voice. I dance in my kitchen with my dog, Whistler, as my only witness.

My friend Devin breaks into song every now and then when we’re hanging out together. It takes me by surprise, and then I think, That’s so cool that he sings when a song comes into his head. It helps that he has a good voice, too.

When my kids were little, they laughed and danced and sang with abandon. Self-consciousness is settling over them now. I look at them and see their growing fears of looking foolish, and I hope I can pass on to them what I’m learning: “Publish then filter.”

I’m hitting “Publish Post” now.

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shellyngo

Shelly Ngo is the social media strategist for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's office in Washington state and the creator of www.Citizens ofSeattle.com. She completed her master's degree in digital media from the University of Washington in June 2015. Besides dabbling on Facebook and creating content for websites, she is also the full-time laundress, driver and cook for four kids and a capricious canine.

6 thoughts on “Publish Then Filter”

  1. Self-consciousness kills creativity! “Publish then filter” is a good reminder to us “polish” types not to edit or censor ourselves because we’re worried about what people will think — just put it out there, and trust that our instincts are good! [Dear self: do not edit this comment. Just post it!]

  2. Oh, Shelly, I felt my heart clutch as I read this. “Publish then filter?”
    To this old-school journalist, that sounds like, “Dress, then shower.”
    As always, I admire your courage. Great blog.

  3. Admittedly, computer coding is not writing, but this brings up two memories from my days as a software development director. Both were signs hanging on the wall, placed there by disgruntled programmers:
    “Programs are never finished; they’re just taken away from the programmers.”
    “Customers are the best Quality Control – cheap, reliable, and precise.”

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