One of the key internal rituals we adopted early on at Metalabel is something we call metablogging: internally public blogs written by members of the Metalabel squad detailing what they’re working on and thinking about.

From the start, the group behind Metalabel (Anna Bulbrook, Lauren Dorman, Rob Kalin, Austin Robey, Brandon Valosek, Ilya Yudanov, and myself) has been scattered across the world and timezones, which means our ability to collaborate outside of the small number of hours we can work together is extremely important. In our first core values document we wrote:

We followed through on this commitment. As a group, we began writing frequently, sharing our tasks, our thoughts, and — crucially — commenting and asking questions on each other’s metablogs. Through the posts and comments, core concepts got tighter, language was abandoned and adopted, and decisions were implicitly and explicitly made.

My most recent metablogs

Ten months after starting, there have been more than 200 metablog posts from the seven of us. After all these reps, we’re now discovering the benefits of a metablogging culture, including three especially positive outcomes.

1. Metablogs create transparency around decisions, ideas, and plans

While metablogging we’ve been having deep conversations about what we value, what we believe in, and what we’re building. These conversations aren’t performative — they’re real. We’ve discussed and debated everything from what architecture to use to how to structure equity to who to take money from. 

Because posts are internally public you hear from a wider set of perspectives. With more back and forth, the sharper and more holistic ideas become. By thinking openly and engaging with each other’s points of view, we’re pushed to clarify and integrate our thinking and the more trust builds. 

2. Metablogs produce a chronological record of past thinking

Metablogs are an open record to retrace how decisions were made and how deeply alternate paths were considered. All our metablogs together is our collective brain.

My first twelve Metablog posts

When our most recent team member joined, they spent their first day reading through all of our past metablogs from the beginning. They described the experience as like learning alongside us, soaking up the lessons and evolutions in our thinking as they happened. This way of onboarding greatly increases the context for a newcomer. They learn what you learned in the order you learned it. They can enter as one of you.

3. Metablogs reduce meetings

Most surprisingly, metablogs reduce meetings.

When I look at the things we blog about — how to structure ourselves, what tech stacks to use, architectural and design decisions — all of these would be meetings in a typical organization. Not just one meeting, but a series of them as stakeholders would debate the topic, probably not finding an immediate resolution, then bringing more people into the discussion (yet still likely excluding key voices for logistical reasons just as much as hierarchical ones). The meetings would be endless. 

We still have live conversations and debates about all of these things, but the real work of thinking things through and coming to consensus happens via metablogs where everyone can process and reflect at their own pace.

Collection of my entries from earlier this year 

Metablogs have also become a way to announce work that’s already underway without explicitly needing or asking for approval based on assumed consensus

When we started building the core Metalabel product (coming later this year) there was no official kick-off meeting. Work just… started. The build team updates the full squad on progress, key decisions, and choices via metablogs, and others comment and ask questions back. There is a weekly product meeting where we discuss project status, but most of the deep thinking and collaborative work happens in metablogs. Because we’re all participants in the conversation, we’re aware of where there’s consensus and where there’s not. The team doesn’t need to stop building or wait for a decision to be made while discussions occur.

Compare this to a traditional org. In that setting, the product and dev teams have to make a presentation that pitches the scope of what’s being built to the CEO and other stakeholders. That meeting would become a negotiation as stakeholders fought for their technical needs. Once this was decided (over multiple meetings), the product and dev teams would have to stick to the plan as dictated to them and create a waterfall that must result in hitting deadlines and KPIs. Or else.

The corporate path definitely has a lot more predictability and control. But structures built around a need for control can deeply conflict with processes that produce meaningful creative work.

Metablog all the things

Metablogging is something any team can and should do. Our setup is very basic:

  • We each have our own folder in Notion to host our metablog
  • There’s a Discord channel where we announce when we’ve made a new post
  • That’s it

The simpler the tech the better. You don’t want metablogging to require a lot of effort. You want it to be a seamless default that pulls ideas into your group’s internally public ideaspace to see what connections they create. 

As I’ve come to see it, there are two paths for how groups can communicate:

  • Information hierarchies, which create closed doors; corporate onboarding; individuals choosing what info to share; and lots of meetings
  • Metablogging, which creates transparent discussions; first-person POV onboarding; open information; and few meetings

A year into metablogging, we’re learning first-hand how an open information infrastructure allows for new forms of post-permission collaboration. By building our work on a foundation of curiosity, openness, and trust, we’ve found ourselves with stronger connections, firmer ideas, and a sense of joy in our work together. 

Metablogging doesn’t do this on its own. But it does create a strong foundation of trust that will help any squad fulfill whatever purpose calls them together.

Thanks to my squadmates Anna Bulbrook, Lauren Dorman, Rob Kalin, Austin Robey, Brandon Valosek, and Ilya Yudanov for sharing in this experiment <3