One Weird Longform Trick…on the Blockchain!

Good news everyone!

We are now accepting applications for the second offering of the Ribbonfarm Longform Blogging Course, Summer 2017 edition. The first time Sarah Perry and I ran the course, which was last November, we had 15 participants. We also ended up with 31 people on the waitlist. This time we have an upfront application process (application deadline, Friday May 5) rather than a first-come-first-serve ticket sale.

The application process is to help us screen for participants who are most likely to both benefit from the course, as well as turn into regular contributors. Which is kinda the main point of us doing this.

The course will run in June/July on TBD dates/times based on the scheduling constraints of accepted applicants. It will be an expanded offering compared to last time (6 live video sessions instead of 4), and incorporate all the feedback and meta-learnings we got out of the pilot offering.

We’re also going to try and accept more participants this time. The main constraint there is our editing bandwidth. The most demanding part of teaching the course last time was working 1:1 with participants on their course essays. But I have some tricks planned to make that easier.

And what’s all this about blockchain? Well, read on!

As an added incentive for applying, if accepted, you’ll get to join the (beta) ribbonfarm colony on, a blockchain-based platform for virtual, open, decentralized organizations. We’ll be using the ribbonfarm colony to run a sort of swirling marketplace of pitches and prompts, using fancy blockchain-based tokens to coordinate the coursework and essay writing.

Why a blockchain experiment?

Well, partly because the guys just happened to join this other experiment I’m running, a Slack-based consulting thingie called Q Lab. So an unexpected fringe benefit of that was that I got into their beta, which just launched yesterday. It’s a great product (I was playing with it all day yesterday), and it is giving me all sorts of clever ideas for the future of ribbonfarm.

But mainly, this is because I want to try and evolve a healthy marketplace of ideas around ribbonfarm, based on people pitching great article ideas, issuing interesting prompts and provocations to each other, and in general, leveling up the art of blogging itself. is an early stage beta product with significant limitations of course, but it’s perfect for running this sort of future-of-blogging experiment.

My personal goal within that future, of course, is to emulate the founder of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Hurling Frootmig. If my cunning plans work out, by 2027, most of the actual work of writing and editing great articles for ribbonfarm will be done by any passing stranger who happens to wander into the empty ribbonfarm offices on a lazy afternoon, and sees a blockchain smart contract for a writing prompt worth acting on.

As editor-in-chief, I of course, will be relaxing on a beach somewhere, eating lunch and sipping mai tais. Like Hurling Frootmig, I am a big believer in long lunches.

The 10-year ribbonfarm business plan is as follows:

  • Phase 1: Teach people to write longform, refactored perception style
  • Phase 2: ?????
  • Phase 3: Profit… on the Blockchain!

Applications are due by Friday, May 5th. There is an application fee of $5 you’ll pay when you submit the form, and the course fee for accepted applicants will be $100, due upon acceptance.

There will be a few free scholarship spots for people who cannot afford the course fee (that’s another reason for the application fee).

As with the pilot offering, you’ll have a chance to earn back your course fee if we accept the article you work on during the course for ribbonfarm.

Not kidding. Last time, we ended up accepting all 10 of the completed course essays for publication. And not because we didn’t want to admit failure as editors, but because we actually thought all of them made for pretty good ribbonfarm posts.

So we mean it when we say this isn’t about making money, but about cultivating a community of good writers around ribbonfarm, who can boldly go refactoring where no blogger has gone before.

Finally, here’s the cherry on top.

As a thank you for applying (and whether or not you’re accepted), you’ll get immediate free access to the DIY slides-only version of the first pilot course via Teachable. The list price of that is $10, so you can think of your Summer 2017 course application as a way to earn a $5 discount on the Fall 2016 course materials. Of course, if the live course doesn’t interest you and you just want the materials, you can directly enroll in the Teachable course.

If you recommend this course to friends/family members who are not familiar with ribbonfarm, I suggest you also share a few of your favorite ribbonfarm posts with them, so they get some idea what they are potentially signing up for. One of the application questions asks for favorite ribbonfarm posts, so applicants who come in cold will need to do some reading/browsing around anyway.

So apply now! Remember, the due date is Friday May 5th. Don’t wait till the last minute please, since I’d like to get a head start on reviewing applications. I hope to have all reviews done, and decisions out, by May 15.

Here’s hoping to see a lot of quality applications, and meeting a lot of great new writers. Hail blockchain!

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Timothy Roy says

    Venkat and Sarah had astonishingly good content as teachers/editors in the first round of this course. Really brilliant stuff, which continues to prove fruitful. I’m sure they will only hav improved their course offering, after experimenting on us guinea pigs ;-). And while I had Venkat as an editor (was it Sonya Mann who tweeted the other day that it felt like cheating to have Venkat edit for free?), I’d feel very fortunate to have either Venkat or Sarah as editor.

    Another benefit, of course, was the other participants/students/writers – a smart, fun, lively, and supportive bunch, many already well-established essayists. So much fun to see each other’s essays come out!

    I can’t be there for the second round, so apply and earn my envy.

  2. Pamela J. Hobart says

    The first round was a great course – it really helped me to break out of my post-academic writing slump. Venkat and Sarah are brilliant but approachable non-ego monsters and they really want to help you learn. It would not be an overstatement to say that this course was the highlight of my intellectual year in 2016. Second round should be even better.

  3. I did the inaugural course in November and, well, it was incredible. There aren’t many places you can go to get truly unique blogging insights. Venkat and Sarah are just so damn good.

    I use the stuff I learned in the course every day. The metaphors, frameworks, and permissions they provide have helped me have a more interesting way of thinking.

    If you care about writing/blogging/thinking better you’ve got to apply to this thing. The opportunity to learn from Venkat and Sarah for FREE (you’re basically guaranteed to get your $100 back) isn’t one you should pass on.

    Hell, Venkat edited my piece, which should have cost me thousands of dollars in consulting fees… but he ended up paying *me* for it.

    • Alex Schleber says

      Clearly, Venkat has gone over to the “saintly” “economics of pricelessness” side full tilt in this regard… :)

  4. Davis Dulin says

    Venkat and Sarah, do you all or the ribbonfarm community curate a list of topics [+resources] that you would like to eventually get around to writing about?

    • That’s exactly where we’re headed with the colony experiment. But for such a list to be useful a few more things need to be in place, like a bunch of people who kinda get each other’s writing strengths and the prompts they might actually act on.

      Otherwise it would be wishful thinking mainly… a list of prompts that would never get acted on. A waterfall plan full of intention debt for never-to-be-written stuff.

  5. This is a really fantastic course. I experienced the content both in its messier “pre-formal” form, and then audited the first round of the official course, which this is a version 2 of.

    There are very few places where you can get an insider’s view of what it takes to write at this length and for this kind of audience, and even fewer sites that have done it long enough to be able to teach it.

    Highly recommended if you’re interested in constructing ideas larger than can fit in working memory, or more impactful than can be accomplished by one person.

  6. Late comment because I’m behind on my email inbox, but I want to chime in to say that I enjoyed the first round of the longform course. Venkat and Sarah are good at brining together an interesting group of people who care a lot about ideas. The editing experience is enriching.

  7. I wish I found out about this sooner! (At Ribbonfarm clearly we don’t use a lot of “!”, am I breaking the rule for good?) I’d love to join if there is a Fall course.