Knowledge enables us to solve problems big and small. Over the last four decades, an explosion of communal knowledge has led to drastic improvements in our quality of life. What if this is only the beginning?
In 2018, anyone with a smartphone can look up all the world’s capitals or what actress was in When Harry Met Sally. We can learn how to tie a tie, or watch a tutorial of how to use a new piece of technology, but even today too many students’ careers are stunted because they don’t have a wise aunt to ask about getting that breakthrough internship. Others spend nights and weekends hunched over their laptops and mobile phones searching for ways to start a business, only to be greeted with clickbait.
We can depend on Google and Wikipedia for most facts, but if we ask for advice on how to approach complicated problems we all face, the results could be a lot more helpful than this:
As we came to depend on Google for answers, publishing companies couldn’t come to an agreement with Google to fill our search results with the content of their books—the products of decades worth of effort and expertise. In the absence of competition from book publishers, our search results are now crammed with shallow answers to deep challenges by bloggers who are really trying to sell us something, shallow reference (About.com), lightly moderated forums (Reddit, Quora), and online magazines.
We shouldn’t have to put up with new credit card offers when we’re learning how to strengthen our credit scores, need a corporate lawyer in the family to get our businesses off the ground or constantly wonder if the advice we’re reading online has our best interests at heart.
With almost four billion Internet users worldwide, there are more than enough of us who understand the frameworks for tackling complicated challenges. We have the opportunity to create a world where all of us have access to those frameworks instead of being limited by who we know or where we were born.
In 2016, my co-founder, Joshua Levy, wondered what would happen if he spent a few months to create the most helpful resource that exists on or offline on a few topics. He recruited a few of the smartest people he knew and created The Open Guide to Amazon Web Services and The Open Guide to Equity Compensation. Published on GitHub, each guide drew hundreds of thousands of readers. Hundreds of which then proposed changes, made suggestions, and asked questions.
I met Joshua shortly after leaving Mattermark. I had become deeply interested in why Google still doesn’t answer all of our questions despite the explosion of information on the Internet, and was playing around with curating the best resources I could find on topics like CRISPR. Both of us were amazed (and still are) at how so many talented people are willing to put in significant time and share their valuable knowledge for free — simply because it can be helpful. We started work on a new guide together and began thinking about how the guides could become something bigger.
We found ourselves with three problems. First, there weren’t enough of them!People asked us for guides on buying a home, choosing a career, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, sounding smart about wine, getting out of debt, and so much more! Second, most existing platforms and tools are unusually clumsy when it comes to publishing 20,000+ word guides to hundreds of thousands of readers. Third, we found our friends and mentors much more willing to contribute in small yet deeply helpful ways but simply unable to donate large amounts of time to writing for free.
After wrestling with these problems for months, we’re ready to try our hand at a solution. Instead of convincing the smartest people we know to spend days or months as writers, we’ve decided to take a page (ha!) out of traditional publishers’ books and pay authors to work with an internal editorial team to produce comprehensive manuscripts of helpful knowledge called “Guides.” To make each guide easy to navigate and delightful to poke around in, we’ve built our own reading experience. Finally, we’ll start by creating a small number of Guides in order to make sure they hit the bar of being the most helpful resource that exists on or offline on that subject.
So, world, we’d like you to meet Holloway. We believe we have a shot at making reliable access to trustworthy knowledge the standard, not the exception.
We’re going to do our damndest to make it worth your time. We’re going to do our best to build something we can be proud of together and treat people well along the way. We’re going to have to earn and keep your trust. None of this will happen overnight, and we look to the many deeply helpful people we know to tell us when we make mistakes.
In the coming months, we’ll be giving access to a small number of users to give us feedback on what we publish (our content), where we publish it (our product), and how we improve and keep it all up-to-date (our community).The original guides, to Amazon Web Services and Equity Compensation, will remain open and free on GitHub for all time. If you’re interested in getting early access, please sign up at holloway.com.
Finally, whether you’re a seasoned expert willing to donate just thirty minutes to share your knowledge with one of our writers, an established author looking to write your next book, a journalist looking for something fresh, or trying to get your start as a writer, we’d love to talk at email@example.com. We’re currently working on the following topics (but we’d love to hear fresh ideas, too!):
Thanks for reading!
— Andy and Josh