What matters more? Quantity or Quality

Monday Mail #12

Hi Friends 👋,

Happy Monday!

There’s a story I read a while back which tries to answer the question of Quantity vs Quality using pots.

A woman creates two groups (Group A and B) and instructs both contingents to make pots. She tells Group A they will be graded on the number of pots produced and tells Group B they will be graded on the quality of one pot. At the end of the experiment, the woman notices not only did Group B create more pots, the pots they made at the end were of higher quality than Group A. What’s the lesson here?

Many online content creators like to conclude from this story you should publish more, often, and as quickly as possible. Because it’s clear — quantity will lead to quality. And so just publish. I thought so too and hence why for the first month of writing online I went on a publishing splurge. I post twice to three times a week. Quantity over Quality.

But as I reflect on the things I published, the pieces barely scratched the surface of the topics I wrote about, and often my intention wasn’t to inform/provide value— it was to check off a box that said I finished posting an article. But isn’t writing consistently a good thing?

Yes, I would agree. It’s important to be consistent, but being consistently bad is still bad. And I would rather not pollute the internet with more low-quality pieces than it has already.

So when we go back to the question of Quantity vs Quality, I firmly believe the answer is more nuanced and less black-and-white than the story of pots portray. It’s not a boolean, either-or. Rather, the answer is on a spectrum and we need to figure out for ourselves how we want to optimize on that spectrum. If we focus too much on quantity, the things we post probably won’t have much thought put into it. And if we focus too much on quality, we’d never ship anything because there are always imperfections to be found.

I’m still figuring out for myself how I want to optimize on that spectrum but here is what I’m thinking for the future.

Write every day (quantity & consistency) on a topic of interest until you’re no longer interested and out of things to say (quality). Then, publish on the internet. This way you don’t sabotage the quality of a piece with an arbitrary deadline to post something. A good example of this strategy in motion is Julian Shapiro’ julian.com. He doesn’t have a lot of posts, but each one provides so much value and quality that the lack of quantity doesn’t matter.

Clearly, this mental model of writing doesn't align with something such as this newsletter. I write this newsletter weekly and if I were to write until I ran out of things to say, there’s a non-zero chance I won’t make the deadline of posting each Monday.

Which leaves me at an impasse about the future of this newsletter. What should I do? Should I continue to write weekly sharing 1 idea and 5 interesting finds or focus my efforts on less regular quality posts?

For now, I’m planning on taking a hiatus until I decide on the direction I’m want to head (and will update you guys once I figure it out). But I would love some suggestions and feedback. Let me know if I should continue this format or create something longer that’s on a monthly basis.

📖 Reading Highlights:

How to Start a Blog that Changes Your Life: My favorite read of the week. In this article, Nat Eliason lays out the blueprint of starting a blog and what it takes to make it successful. It’s 6 years of experience wrapped into one long article. A high-level overview of what’s covered:

  • Why Start a Blog

  • Blog Setup

  • The Writing Habit

  • What To Write About

  • Building an Audience

  • Monetization

What to Work On: As I mentioned before above, Julian’s quality of articles is unrivaled. This one is no different. In this piece, Julian reflects and analyzes why people do things and also why people do things even when they hate it. And it boils down to values. When people do things and enjoy it, it’s because it aligns with your values. On the other hand, if you do things even though you hate it, it’s probably a disconnect between your values and perceived values.

IKEA Effect: Something cool I learned this week is that people “place a disproportionate amount of value on products they partially/fully build”. It’s known as the Ikea Effect. And it’s why while most IKEA furniture is shit, we think it’s very high quality.

📱Tech Highlight:

The AI Coming to Take your Job: OpenAI just released the third iteration of their artificial intelligence API and its pretty wild the things it can do. To list a few, it can design UI/UX mockups, write standup comedy, convert colloquial language into lawyer-speak, and even code. Yeah, it’s coming for all of our jobs.

📷Picture Highlight:

Here’s a picture of our food from this weekend at BCD Tofu House in New York.

Final Notes:

That’s all folks! Thanks for reading the past 3 months of Monday Mail. If you have time, I’d appreciate any feedback about what you thought/suggestions for the future iteration of my newsletter post-hiatus (via reply to this email).

If you would like to support this Newsletter and my various endeavors, feel free to do so here!

And finally, if you want to get in touch, you can DM me on Twitter. I'm the most active there.

Until next time,

Andy Gao

Fun Fact: Broccoli is the only vegetable that is also a flower.

QOTW: What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.” -Aristotle