no worries! I like a good story.I've been pondering the small stature of my first autos, and this is what I've come up with so far. When I was growing photos, the guys growing monster plants were usually using coco or hydro. I've always been a soil grower, but with photos I could make up for some of that medium disadvantage by vegging longer. I might veg for twice as long as the super growers and still only have 2/3's the finished weight, but it was enough for me and I got to grow the way I like to, so it was fine. I never really thought about it that much.
It seems to me that with autos, it's much more difficult to make up for the inherent limitations of growing in soil. I made some HUGE mistakes this first grow, trying to carry over methods that I used with photos (for some reason it worked outdoors, indoors in nearly killed them). I need to do more research to try and figure out what it is about coco/hydro/etc. that makes plants grow so much bigger, and see how much of that I can recreate with soil.
From what I've gathered, non-soil paradigms have very loose airy mediums which allow for unfettered root growth. They also have way more frequent light feedings that are capable of contacting the entire root mass. Soil has far fewer opportunities to feed since we water less frequently, so we end out putting larger amounts of food into our less frequent watering/feedings. So far I'm thinking about adding more perlite to my soil mix to lighten it, and I'm going to switch to liquid nutrients instead of dry for more accessibility and control. I'm definitely moving back to fabric pots from plastic, they dry out more quickly allowing more opportunities for gentle feeding.
I'm sure there are a lot more variables, but for me this will be the starting point. There is only so much I'll be able to do as long as I am me, which is to say, inherently lazy, and a fan of growing in soil. And everything I've said is probably obvious to most growers, it's just news to me. Sorry for the ramble... hope something in there was useful to you.
I've had similar thoughts about perlite recently.