July 9, 2021
Do you provide more value than you consume? If interacting with you is a net positive experience then I'm likely to continue interacting with you and vice versa.
Any message you send me consumes some of my time and attention. Long messages consume more time than short messages. Frequent messages consume the most attention. The best way to establish a relationship with me is to message me infrequently. Note that "infrequently" is more than "never".
The fact that a message implicitly consumes time and attention means you start out in the hole. The value a message provides must exceed the value of the time and attention it demands. A well-written email should provide me with net positive value.
I have organized ways of providing value from least to most valuable.
The simplest way to make me happy is to say "I am an $x$. I liked your post about $y$ because $z$". This message does two things.
If it's your first time messaging me you should add an "I found out about you from $x$". This helps me build an audience. "If you wrote about $x$ I would read it" is useful for the same reason. Tell me what city you live in too. That way I can say hi if I'm in town.
If you like my writing then do send at least one email like this. Send it sooner rather than later. The sooner you send it, the more time will elapse before your second message. The more time elapses between your first and second email the more infrequently I get messages from you. Infrequent is good because it signals you take my time seriously.
Another thing I like hearing is "You said to do $x$. I did $x$. I got result $y$". This is useful in multiple ways.
Do not send me emails of the form "You said to do $x$. I will do $x$". Do $x$ first. Send me the message when you're done.
If you have a cool opportunity like "hedge fund quant" then you can send it to me. I'll almost certainly turn down the offer but that's not important. Providing such a concrete offer signals you are willing to incorporate me into your professional network.
"I am an $x$ looking for job $y$" is useful for the same reason.
The "keep emails short" advice reverses here. Include all the relevant information you can. Don't make me ask for it.
I always like to receive corrections to my spelling, grammar and math. Batch them together so I can correct them all at once. Send objective corrections only. Critical opinions waste my time.
Redactions like █████████ are not mistakes. They are deliberate.
If you have a podcast or other media platform then interviewing me is valuable to me because it's a way for me to get attention for my blog. Publishing positive reactions to my posts accomplishes a similar result.
My favorite message I ever received from a reader was an invitation to an incredible party. Instant friend.
This list is not exhaustive. Use your imagination. You still get partial credit even if I say no. It's the thought that counts.
I have ordered these from least to most expensive in terms of how much attention they cost me.
Questions vary in how much time they consume. Simple questions I can quickly answer in 1-3 sentences are fine. Sending a 1-3 sentence response does not take significantly more attention beyond reading the initial email. The big issue here is frequency. If you have lots of questions, batch them together. If a question requires a long response then try to write it in a way I could turn it into a blog post.
Offer something concrete in return. Make it worth my time. Respond in a timely manner. Prove you're serious. Don't flake. If accepted, send regular reports every two weeks. Don't flake. Go above and beyond. Don't flake. Finish things early. Don't flake.
Synchronous communication is an inefficient use of time and attention. Prove you can operate from short written orders.
The stupidest way to waste my time is by arguing with me. Do not argue with me via email or private messages. If you do, it'll go straight into the spam folder.
Note that counterpoint is not the same as argumentation. Good counterpoints are productive and do not waste my time. However, email and private messages are not the right place for counterpoints. They should usually be published as a comment like this or as their own separate post like this.
Here is an approximate chart of how much each thing is worth. If you want me to like you, try to keep the total positive.
I don't actually keep score. Use common sense. If it sounds like I'm enjoying our back-and-forth dialogue then you can ignore the chart.
|Cost per message||$-0.5$|
|Cost per word||$-0.005$|
|Compliment||$+1$||Gets annoying quickly. Do do this but do not do it frequently. Maximum +3 per year.|
|Correct a typo||$+0.6$|
|Party invitation I accept||$+10$|
|Party invitation I decline||$+2$|
|Question that demonstrates you read my work carefully||$+0.1$|
|Question that demonstrates you did not read my work carefully||$-0.1$|
|Weird ideas/proposals in general||$+?$||If you're not sure, just ask. I won't penalize you for it.|
|Phone or video call (excluding media opportunities)||$-10$|
|Want to use me to commit to something?||N/A||Use the commitment form|