Dewey defeats Truman

Byron H. Rollins

How to Write a Popular Blog Post

What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right. - Albert Einstein

Thanks GM NoelStuder for persuading me to write this, as his absurdly vague advice again appears on Lichess' front page. Amateurs love "shortcuts" even when they aren't reading or watching content.

Imagine that you have been playing and studying this complex, beautiful game for decades, and wish to fully monetize your experience. How invested are you in the success of your students, and how invested are you in the success of your readers? Why should you care if your average reader learns nothing of value, as long as they are excited enough to become your paying student and then as a student, they learn things of value?

Let's try this multi-step formula for getting featured on Lichess' front page:

Create stories and quotes

There isn't space within a blog post to tell your entire life story. But why bother with a genuine, personal experience when someone else's cheap, short story (truthful or otherwise) is just as convincing to casual readers who don't have your experiences?

Fabricate definitions and experiments

The vaguer, the catchier! Why talk about thousands of hours or practice which produce good results, when you can talk about about that one time one person you barely knew told you something which tangentially supports the "shortcut" you're discussing?

Draw illogical, broad conclusions

Since you're not a scientist, your results don't need to be reproducible. Focus only on those who succeed, or if someone did fail only consider failure causes which support your predetermined narrative. Only the results matter, not the methods or techniques; and the more striking the results, the more inspiring to a reader who lacks the experience of traveling far from home to lose hundreds of games against stronger opposition.

Call reader to action

Sure, you might not own a chess center or have a permanent place to teach, but why should that stop you from encouraging readers to try making random changes and leaving comments? If your blog posts are confusing enough, perhaps gaslit readers will want to try purchasing your paywalled content in the hope that they might improve enough to understand what you and other successful chess players are saying. Perhaps readers will engage with other readers in debates over what you may or may not have been trying to say. The more comments and engagement, the better... why leave an audience satisfied?

It would be hypocritical for me to write a call to action after the above arguments, so I'll leave it there. I respect Studer's magnificent OTB achievements and I envy his ability to write captivating stories; I just wish he and other professionals had the time to write quality free content with integrity, as they make time to do quality coaching and care for their students and their remarkable achievements.

Perhaps some decade we'll see a resurgence of apprenticeships, for chess rather than for trade crafts. Who wouldn't love to share not only their stories, but the stories of their best pupils, with the world? Outside of PogChamps, why hasn't such a renaissance happened yet? Well, why should the status quo change?

Image credit: Byron H. Rollins