Writing a Book

Update: I’ve published the latest draft of my work at https://catchingup.dev. For updates, follow @CatchingUpDev on Twitter or sign up for the newsletter.

I finally get why people say writing a book is so hard.

It’s all about time and attention.

John Allsopp summed up my experience perfectly in the “Thank You” section of his book, Developing with Web Standards:

To my wife Sara and darling girls ZK and Scarlie, thanks for putting up with yet one more “Daddy’s got to finish his book.” It’s finished now, so hopefully we’ll have a bit more time to play.

Back in January, I saw Adam Wathan retweeted this little gem of inspiration from Gumroad: “Turn your consumption goals (read 52 books) to creation goals (write one!).”

To which I said, “Deal.”

Gumroad on Twitter: “Turn your consumption goals (read 52 books) to creation goals (write one!).” Tanner on Twitter: “Deal.”

Now here we are, 3 months later, and I have a couple of pages worth to show for my efforts. You can see what I have so far in my working draft on Google Docs: [Draft] Catching Up With Web Performance. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Why so little after so long?

Well, time and attention.

Between work and family, I’ve only set aside a few hours a week to really work on this thing. Now I know why people take paid time off to write. Even now, I’m typing this blog post on the kitchen table as my kids play downstairs. (But wait, here they come! Annnd it’s lunchtime…)

Most of my time isn’t actually spent writing—it’s spent on research.

It would be one thing if I just wanted to have a conversation, or write generally about how I feel. But I’m trying to make a guidebook—a map to a technical landscape that so many people find themselves just thrown into. I’m digging for details.

And more, I want history… I want context!

While there are tons of blogs, tweets, video tutorials, podcasts, newsletters, and conference talks about web performance, few of them answer the question, “How did we get here?”

How did we get from the World Wide Web’s launch in 1990 to Core Web Vitals in 2020?

That’s the story I want to tell.

So I’ve been spelunking… sifting through ten years of mailing list archives from the Web Performance Working Group, searching Google Groups for notes about Progressive Web Metrics, watching conference talks on historical performance metrics and real user monitoring, reading blog posts about mobile performance, listening to podcasts about internet history, diving deep into the Wayback Machine, and reading books, books, books out the wazoo…

Tanner on Twitter: “Write a book they said. It'll be fun they said.”

Who knows how long this’ll take.

But hopefully by the end of it I’ll have something useful.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, feel free to tweet me, email me, or drop a comment in the working draft. I always enjoy getting a chance to talk about this stuff. 🙂

P.S. Maybe I’ll start talking out loud more often… see if something like a YouTube channel would help get my wheels turning a bit more. Eh, no promises. We’ll see what happens.

Update 2021-11-28: New Website + Newsletter

For the past several months, I’ve been “mini blogging” about performance at https://world.hey.com/tannerhodges. Now, I think I’m finally ready to take the next step: publishing updates to a new website + newsletter.

Starting today, I’ll be sharing updates on the latest book progress here:

Here’s to the next phase of the journey.