The value of content creation

Here we consider how much impact writing online can make on the world.

Value for the creator

Easily-accessible online content can be useful for oneself; Terence Tao says:

There were many occasions early in my career when I read, heard about, or stumbled upon some neat mathematical trick or argument, and thought I understood it well enough that I didn’t need to write it down; and then, say six months later, when I actually needed to recall that trick, I couldn’t reconstruct it at all. Eventually I resolved to write down (preferably on a computer) a sketch of any interesting argument I came across – not necessarily at a publication level of quality, but detailed enough that I could then safely forget about the details, and readily recover the argument from the sketch whenever the need arises.

Within mathematics, Terence Tao argues that sharing online helps with networking:

In particular, your work will show up in search engine queries in your topic (I have come across many an interesting paper this way). This will help spread awareness of you and your work among your colleagues, and hopefully lead to future collaborations, or other people building upon (and citing) your papers.

Value for the world

Vipul Naik asks whether there is low-hanging fruit for encouraging young people to work on side projects, including web content creation:

Do you think there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be plucked by encouraging more young people to do side projects (particularly things that benefit from scale, such as websites or apps)? What are some pieces of advice you would offer to young people to help them choose side projects that are doable and impactful personally (learning, consumption, and signaling) and socially?

Vipul Naik also asks whether academic research or blogging produces more social value. Brian Tomasik has his take on the issue in Is It Better to Blog or Formally Publish? | Essays on Reducing Suffering.

See also Robert Winslow’s answer to the Quora question “What do effective altruists think of online content creation?”, which begins:

I doubt that anyone except the most high-profile content creators could generate more good from content creation than they could from spending that time on a high-impact career, but spending your leisure time on valuable content creation seems like an okay idea, especially if you can provide a unique contribution with your content.

See What’s the relative social value of 1 Quora pageview (as measured by Quora stats and 1 Wikipedia pageview (as measured at, say, Wikipedia article traffic statistics)? for a comparison of Quora and Wikipedia.