Blogs Will Eat Themselves

This entry is a bit of meta-blogging – blogging about blogging.I try to avoid doing this, but blogging is an “industry” inserious need of a reality check, and while I’m hardly in a positionto do so, I can at least take a nibble at the toes of it.

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Why I Blog

Firstly, to avoid the seeming hypocrisy of me criticizing blogsin a blog entry, I should answer the simple question why do Iblog?

The easiest answer is that it’s an on-the-record (e.g.searchable) archive of thoughts and technical explanationsthat I think are valuable (not to all people, but rather tosome people, some of the time). Under my control andownership, I am publishing thoughts and opinions for worldwideconsumption. Not that everyone in the world – or even thetiniest percentage of it – is going to want toconsume it, but it is accessible to most of the world. Itbeats posting thoughts on random discussion boards, to be edited orcensored beyond my control, and for someone else’s benefit.

Right now, for instance, with a relatively middling pagerank,Google is sending about 100 people a day from around the world herefor their search terms (usually technical searches), followed farbehind by a dogfight between Yahoo and MSN. I get a feeling ofsatisfaction knowing that I’ve (hopefully) helped people, whetherit’s implementing hierarchies in SQL Server, understanding thebenefits of the new functionality of SourceSafe 2005, filter EXIFfrom their images or understand what value GPS will add to ourdigital photography, building Firefox extensions, or convertingcolor schemes. On top of that, about 20x more get here daily viaRSS readers, links, or bookmarks. More still have accessibility tothese thoughts via aggregators.

Knowing that some people can get value from some of the entriesis very satisfying to me. Most of the people will skim past andmove on, but some will get genuine use out of it.

I also blog for reputation. To a small degree I am laying outwho I am on here. I think I’ve demonstrated that I’m a fairlysmart guy, with a lot of experience and a pragmatic perspective,and I have a given set of beliefs and perceptions. I’ve neverattempted to pander to anyone: I’ve alternately offended both thepro-Linux and pro-Microsoft crowds, as well as the open-source andcommercial software vendors: I am not a mouthpiece of someone’sdogma, and while sometimes my opinion and perspective coincides, itdoesn’t indicate any alignment.

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A lot of the people who I (along with associates andsubcontractors) consult for (consulting on SQL Server, softwarearchitecture, Biztalk, Sharepoint, outsource softwareauditing, and custom software development in the GreaterToronto Area) – the real revenue generating sideof yafla – view these pages, and it has been very beneficial.

Additionally (and most importantly to me) I am laying thecommunications groundwork for a product (Product X).I’m not into pushing vapour so I won’t say anymore, but that islargely the selfish reason why I’ve sought PageRank andreaders.

So that’s why I blog. The fact that these are sequential,time-based entries is largely irrelevant (which is why I removedthe time on the entries – it doesn’t matter if I put this up at1:32pm or 2:27pm) – ultimately it’s just a convenient contentmanagement system with a usable delivery mechanism (RSS).

The Blogging World

Which brings me to blogging in general. <1% of the blogworld, I would say, are interface blogs – they’reinformation conduits – a one-way interface – between a business orproject (or even celebrity) to consumers. Want to know what’s upwith SVG in Mozilla Just read http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/tor/.If you want to know what’s up with Web Services @Apache,just  visit http://ws.apache.org/blog/.

There are similar blogs for most software groups andtechnologies these days.

These sorts of blogs – often faceless blogs with littlepersonality – can be tremendously valuable inkeeping customers up to date on a project or product’s happenings.They can even be internally beneficial in corporations as projector team fa├žades. For instance “Project Life Admin OverhaulProject” with frequently added status updates: Anon-the-record, historically-traceable, centralized location forinformation dissemination. This could be a Sharepoint site aseasily as it could be a bonafide blog, but the purpose and value isexactly the same. The goal is usually to limit the scope to theproduct or project (no personal chatter about team lunch gettogethers or funny cat incidents), and when something pops up thereader knows that it impacts the product.

Eventually as Project X is publicized here, a separateproject blog will be created that contains nothing but productnews. No pictures of my car rides, meta-blog comments, or randomtechnical commentary.

Of the remaining 99% of blogs, a significant percentage arepersonal blogs that really aren’t intended for anyone other thanfamily members and close friends (and even they only visit whenthey’re guilted into doing so. “Hey Tom…did you see my latestblog entry?”).

The remainder is filled up with opinion blogs (blogs largelypatronized by people who already drank the kool-aid, and they’rejust going there to surround themselves with like-minded far-Rightor far-Left minded individuals): These blogs are vastlyless influential than they are generally imagined to be, as theirreadership is already stuffed with the converted. The only peoplereading an Open Source Evangelism blog, forinstance, are open source advocates. Joe VP isn’t wandering inthere when deciding what to base the next platform on.

The Meta-Bloggers

I left out one rather large group, which is bloggers that blogabout blogging and bloggers – the meta-bloggers. This is a very,very large group of individuals. See Robert Scoble, strangely oneof the most popular bloggers out there (something which I attributeto a “first mover advantage” – Robert was associated with some ofthe people who basically invented the concept of blogging, so hestarted getting the links early. Now that he’s entrenched, andvirtually no one really bothers linking anymore, he remains”powerful” among the blogging about blogging community). 90% of hisblog is filled with either links to random stuff that other peopleare saying (there is very little original content in theblog world it sadly seems. It’s easier to say “someone says…”than it is to actually say yourself. For every actual piece ofcontent posted, there are probably 100 “someone said” blogentries), or talk about blogging.

If you look at his adoring community, and follow some of thebacklinks, you discover a large, incestuous network of bloggersthat are blogging about blogging, and linking to each others blogentries about blog entries about blog entries that talk aboutblogging about blogging on blogging with blogging. You even getpeople warning about blog “celebrities”, like Scoble, releasingtoomuch personal information. “As public interest in blogginggrows, he can only get more famous.” the blogger writes.

Give me a break. Bloggers are just so full ofthemselves.

While Scoble is surrounded by pro-Microsoft sycophants beggingfor a job at Microsoft, and has an adoring community ofplease-link-to-me advocates (9 times out of 10 you’ll find the sameincestuous link between Scoble and the sites he links to. Oh boy, Isure hope Scoble links here!), most of the world justdoesn’t care. Scoble’s appeal is extraordinarily limited,and the idea of him being a celebrity among anyone other than acore group of Microsoft groupies and blog evangelists (the latteris a declining group – it really isn’t an innovation anymore. Theformer will exist as long as there are people desperate to work forMicrosoft) is delusional.

I commented in my notes regardingMicrosoft’s Launch 2005 event that one of the presenters askedwho in the audience read the TechNet Canada blogs, and thiswas just another example of bloggers getting full of themselves. Ofcourse they didn’t – the audience reaction was almost entirelynegative. Why would they Why would some corporate developertrying to fight with SQL Server to solve a deadlock issue sitreading the blogs of a Canadian Microsoft technology evangelists(basically glorified salespeople)?

The idea is ludicrous, but there was that expectation, just asthere’s the flawed perception that the majority of peopleare eagerly and anxiously consuming blogs every day. It’s acomplete disconnect with reality, because people are grosslyover-estimating the impact of blogs.

And this is the crux of blogging – It is a domain that has somedefinite uses, but in some ways it’s a pyramid scheme: The illusionof the rising impact of bloggers is really just the blog communityeating itself – selling itself toitself – all desperately tracking each other tolazily gain content for the next entry. “So and so said….here’smy off the cuff take on that”.

Sort of like this entry. Chomp!