Learning In Public


Learning In Public means sharing the following publicly as you learn:

  • What you learn
  • How you're applying it
  • Results you're getting

It can mean sharing in various places:


Below are examples of the types of learning dendritis you might consider sharing:

Benefits Of Learning In Public

  • Build your network (new and existing relationships)
  • Overcome fear of judgement by others
  • Get more inbound opportunities
  • Build your expertise

Case Against Learning In Public

  • It sounds easier than it actually is (mindset, setup, strategy).
  • Opportunity cost
  • If I invest all of the time, is it actually going to pay off?
  • Requires extra work to make it consumable to other people

Why Learning In Public Is On The Rise

We've grown up in a paradigm where there is a large gap between how we take private notes and what we share publicly.


Our private notes are often:

  • Hard for someone else to fully understand and appreciate, because they lack context and because the notes are incomplete.
  • Spoken in a very personal voice written to ourselves that we might feel uncomfortable for others to see.

Our public posts often:

  • Are highly edited for others.
  • Are written for an unknown audience.
  • Have extrinsic goals (followers, reputation, money, impact)

Why People Don't Do More Public Posts

#1. Public notes take a lot of extra time to create.

This directly takes away time from absorbing new information or writing on more topics.

#2. Public notes require new mindsets

  • Confronting imposter syndrome
  • Dealing with extra pressure of getting engagement on posts

#3. Public posts require new skills:

  • Creating titles
  • Creating images
  • Better writing
  • Learning platform mechanics

#4. People may not enjoy writing

  • Many people who love learning and applying it to their life either don't enjoy writing or don't want to improve at it.

#5. Decision Overwhelm

Writing publicly and maximizing for extrinsic rewards leads to a lot of complicated, high stakes decisions:

  • Where to public
  • What topic to write on
  • How to convert readers into members/students/customers

Many of these reasons are beginning to change now...

What's Different Now

In the past, the digital tools we used for private note-taking and public sharing were different:

  • Private Note-Taking (Evernote, Scrivener)
  • Public Sharing (Social Media, WordPress)

Recently, a shift with tools and culture started to happen. As a result of these shifts, the worlds of private note-taking and public sharing started to merge.


As the two circles merged, they created a new space for Hybrid Thinking. With hybrid thinking, a few things are different:

  • People's private notes are public by default
  • Hybrid notes are more refined than private notes and less refined than public notes
  • They can be shared on social media and/or on digital gardens.

There are three shifts causing the rise of hybrid thinking now...

Shift #1: Hybrid Note Tools


Starting in 2020, we saw the advent of new tools for thought like Roam (public) and Obsidian (public). Then, we saw key new features added to existing tools like Tiddly Wiki and Notion (public). Most importantly, these tools enabled the following...

  • Reduce the friction of creating and linking various pages. With these new tools, you can create new pages as you're creating the link to it. This reduces the annoyances of having a public blog.
  • Possible to publish your notes as a beautiful website. You don't have to click publish. As you write in an editor, your website updates automatically.
  • Make it possible to keep some pages private or semi-private. This makes it possible to post publicly and privately using one only tool.
  • For every page, you can see every other page on the site that links to it (backlinks). This increases the density of notes. More density means a deeper rabbit holees.
  • Easy to work at the block level. In a typical website, the default is page linking. Linking to a specific block is hard. Furthermore, it's not easy to copy and sync blocks so that when you update it once, it updates across the entire site. The block allows for more granular thinking.

At first, these features may seem like just features. But, together they mark the beginning of a new game-changing paradigm.

Michael Case Study If I were writing a blockbuster article in the past, I might spend 50 hours researching and 20 hours writing. During the research process I would create a research brief that was dozens of pages long with links to the top thinkers in the areas, keywords I needed to know, the big ideas in the field, and links to the top resources along with my top highlights. During the writing phase, I might write 8,000 words for a 2,000 word article. In the new paradigm of digital gardening, I could turn my research brief into dozens of pages. More specifically, I could create a separate page for each resource containing my highlights. In addition, each thinker could have their own page on my site. And so on. As for my writing, during the editing process, I often have to remove whole sections. In the digital gardening paradigm, I could create separate pages for each section and link to them. Therefore, as a result of digital gardening, I no longer waste dozens of valuable pages of content because I don't have somewhere to put them. Previously, I took all of my notes in Google Docs. Over the last 5 years, I've collected thousands of pages of research briefs. I used Google Docs, because I liked that I could collaborate with other researchers on the docs and also share the docs with others publicly. I often shared the docs with friends when relevant and students in our courses. If I heard someone exploring a topic, I would say something like, "Hey dude! I spent about 50 hours researching that. Let me share my research with you." At the same time, I knew Google Docs wasn't what I ultimately wanted, but there wasn't a tool that matched what I was looking for until Notion. If you want more of my thoughts on why I chose it, read my review of Notion here.

Shift #2: Culture

Culture is changing on several dimensions:

#1. Over the last 20 years or so, people have progressively shared more and more online


The exceptions to increased sharing would be the rise of political correctness and cancel culture

#2. We have become progressively less formal in how we communicate online

  • Typos are allowed
  • Doesn't have to be perfect grammar
  • More acronyms (ngmi, gm, LOL)
  • More emojis
  • Business memes are more common
  • We see each other's personal home environments via Zoom

#3: The Rise Of Personal Branding

  • Ten years ago, it was considered risky for employees of companies to have public brands. Now, it is seen as more of an advantage.
  • Previously, it was viewed that CEOs shouldn't have big personal brands because it could lower the resale value of the company. Now, it is becoming increasingly common and valuable.
  • People's online brands are increasingly becoming more important than their offline brands.

Shift #3: Monetization

  • Finally, there is a whole new set of monetization tools and platforms rising
    • Platforms: Appsumo
    • New Tools: Gumroad, Roam Reads
    • Subscription Management: Memberful, Patreon, Ghost, Substack, Outseta
  • People are used to paying for knowledge
  • The blockchain is enabling people to share their knowledge

A few harbingers of this emerging reality include:

  • Blinkist, which provides book and podcast summaries, has raised $35 million dollars, $100 per year, and claims to have 17 million users
  • Scribe DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization (DAOs) is working on building a structure to pay people to create summaries of in-depth articles on crypto. If this model works, it could work in many other niches.
  • Curation (The Graph)

Related Quotes

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." —Reid Hoffman
“Learning in Public” is scary for many reasons – people can find and cling to outdated information and users are exposing their knowledge during a vulnerable time in the project (i.e. when they don’t yet have all the answers). However, during this part of the process is when learning can be most valuable. — via How Do Rocket Scientists Learn? (aka, knowledge management lessons learned at Goddard, NASA)
“Authenticity consists in having a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks that it involves, in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror and hate.” — Jean Paul Sartre
The best way to truly understand anything is to use the generation effect: to produce your own content, in your own words, and to share it with the world to create a feedback loop. —Anne Laure