Spiky Points of View: Use the 4 Ps

How to be provocative without being a troll

In my Write of Passage mentor session last week, we created Spiky Points of View (SPOVs.)

Wes Kao created the SPOV idea and defines it this way:

A spiky point of view is a perspective others can disagree with. It’s a belief you feel strongly about and are willing to advocate for. It’s your thesis about topics in your realm of expertise.

Write of Passage is not not a hot-take factory. We want people sharing intellectually rigorous ideas rooted in personal experience. Good SPOVs fit this bill.

The Four Ps of SPOVs help create useful and unique essays:

First P: Spiky Points of View are Personal

Credible opinions come from your own life:

  • Family

  • Career

  • Hobbies

  • Conversations

  • Educational experiences 

  • Travel

Ground your SPOV in personal experience.

Second P: Spiky Points of View are Polarizing 

Your SPOV should have a logically defensible counter-position. People should be able to argue against it.

Your SPOV is not Spiky if everyone agrees.

Third P: Spiky Points of View are Profound 

Your SPOV should surprise us by reframing or refuting a generally accepted idea.

Take on an accepted truth. Reshape it.

Fourth P: Spiky Points of View are Purposeful

A good SPOV serves the reader’s best interests. Don’t just aim to trigger emotions.

Your SPOV should help people see the world and move through it in a new way.

An SPOV Example

Here’s one from Wes:

When you teach online, many people assume they’re 100% an instructor—but you’re actually 50% an instructor and 50% an entertainer. Attention spans are short and the responsibility is on the instructor (not the student) to help students understand why they should care.

I agree with this one. Zoom has a big red button that screams LEAVE and I’m acutely aware any student can replace me with cat videos at any moment. 

Spiky Points of View do not exist just to shock or anger people.

(Although they might elicit those feelings.)

Political and sports hot takes are not SPOVs. They are lowest common denominator content designed to stoke outrage. 

SPOVs offer a new and better way to think and do. They add value to the world’s conversations.