Dear techosphere — my wishes for 2011

blogging, geekery

Hi techosphere!

I realize I don’t have much right to demand stuff from you.  I’ve been a lackluster blogger lately, and as someone who sold his soul to a big evil Don’t Be Evil corporation, I can’t claim to understand the grinding challenges of running a profitable and popular tech blog.  But that’s not going to stop me from asking, nay, begging you to do a better job in 2011.

  • Focus on thoughtful coverage rather than fast coverage.
    Yes, yes, I know you covered the leaked whatsit 42 seconds faster than OtherTechBlog.  I know you think the world is just pee-in-their-pants excited to read live-blogging revelations like, “Oh wait!  He’s now walking up to the stage…”  And even if this admittedly (and sadly) gets you a big traffic boost for the moment, no one is going to give a flying patootie about this shallow commentary two days later.  Substantive, thoughtful reporting will garner you far more long-time traffic and loyalty.
  • This ain’t the Killing Fields.  Cut out the “killing” crap, won’t you?
    With few exceptions, the “winner-take-all” mentality is both stupid and false.
  • Every time you blather that “[x] is the new [y],” a dog kills a kitten.
    ’nuff said.
  • Quit it with the “Ex-Googler” and “Former Facebooker” headlines, please
    Former employment at these firms pretty much means diddly-squat as a predictor of future entrepreneurial success. I’ve seen innumerable admirable successes and embarrassing flops from former Googlers/Facebookers, and probably around the same ratio of wins/failures as from other geeks.  Yeah, I guess, “Well-respected engineer experienced in [x & y]” makes for a longer and less-compelling lede, but still…
  • Monitor your comments and/or use a comments system that allows trusted users to flag spam/spammers!
    HINT:  When you have the same asshole successfully comment-spamming exactly the same URL for months, you’re pissing off your readers and you have a problem.  Get a better commenting system, hire an intern to moderate spam and ban spammers, or both.
  • Avoid the pile-on (or, just because it’s all the rage on Twitter doesn’t make it news)
    Sure, it feels good to kick the big guys when they’re down, but it’s uninformative and lame and a waste of your time and your readers’ time.  Ask yourself:  was there really substantial harm, and in particular, harm that hasn’t already been identified 42,000 times by others online?  Are you offering insight, or are you merely channeling the journalistic “skills” of Geraldo Rivera?
  • Engage thoughtfully with your readers, and give love to those who contribute value to your blog
    I have to call out LifeHacker specifically as a blog that does a great job with this.  I regularly see the authors thoughtfully and substantively engage with their readers in the comments, clarifying points, apologizing for mistakes, and so on.  This starkly contrasts with authors’ absence or hubris and snarkiness I see displayed on at least one other prominent tech blog.
  • Be respectful of other people and other companies by refusing trade traffic for integrity
    I don’t hold out much hope on this one, but it has to be said:  When you publish an internal, confidential document, you’re a amoral jerk (unless by doing so you’re exposing a ring of child traffickers or a dastardly plot to poison the water supply of New York, etc. etc.).  You and your readers typically gain nothing but schaudenfreudic glee or lookie-loo gratification, while threatening the safety, security, and/or morale of those associated with that document.  What are you hoping to accomplish, aside from boosting your blog’s popularity?  In the end, you — yes, you! – cause companies to be less open with their employees (communicating with less internal breadth, frequency and transparency), and so little by little you are harming corporate culture and negatively affecting the happiness and productivity of tens of thousands of workers… the same workers who produce the cool stuff you make a living writing about. Ain’t that counterproductive in the long run?

    Similarly, when you publish photos of an unreleased product, you’re hurting the morale of people working their ass off on that product, potentially damaging the competitiveness of that product and company, and generally being a douchebag for desperately prioritizing page views over Doing the Right Thing.  Not only that, but 8 times out of 10, you’ve got it wrong.  Sheesh.

Gah, in re-reading this, I seem especially negative, particularly on New Year’s Day.  Sorry about that :\.  But something’s gotta change… not only in how bloggers cover the world, but in how we readers consume information and support blogs.  From 2011 forward, I pledge to spend more time rewarding those blogs and bloggers who blog responsibly and thoughtfully with my pageviews and comments and links.  I hope you will do the same.
In the meantime, help redeem this entry :-)  Why not highlight some tech-oriented bloggers below that serve as good examples?  I’d love to shake up my Reader subscriptions a bit!

10 comments… add one

  • Louis Gray Jan 1, 2011

    I want names and links or this is hot air (which I agree with), sir.

    I know I recently referred to Beluga from ex-Googlers, but on the rest of this list, I am comfortable.

  • Denton Gentry Jan 1, 2011

    > Why not highlight some tech-oriented bloggers below that serve as good examples?
    > I’d love to shake up my Reader subscriptions a bit!

    I read http://www.theregister.co.uk for tech news, though I have to admit its mostly because of the snark and double-entendre and not particularly spectacular reporting.

    Bloggers providing good insight and analysis of the tech industry:
    Louis Gray: blog.louisgray.com
    Rob Diana: http://www.regulargeek.com

    I follow a largish number of people who post infrequently, starting from a bundle of interesting people put together by DeWitt Clinton with various feeds added since then. I’ve exported it as a bundle of 195 feeds, at http://www.google.com/reader/bundle/user%2F03912031380151669604%2Fbundle%2FInteresting%20People

    I also follow a number of programmers and coding blogs, with a bundle of 72 feeds at http://www.google.com/reader/bundle/user%2F03912031380151669604%2Fbundle%2FProgramming

  • John Mueller Jan 2, 2011

    One of the difficulties around some of those items is that you’re “in” the circle, while the largest part of the readers of those blogs are probably “outside the circle.” Those readers are the ones swallowing up the rumors, wanting to hear about ex-Googlers, wanting to read the internal notes, etc. Think of it being similar to the celebrity rumors sites/newspapers; they’re not written for celebrities, they’re written for those who aren’t. The hard part is extracting the useful content from the rest …

  • Johnfurrier Jan 2, 2011

    I really like this blog post..having been in the tech blogging corps since its beginning it certainly has changed… many people are reading the tech blogs like magazines because the tech blogs can only make money from cpm ads and events… so it limits their capability.

    I think that what you will see in the future is not so much “reading” tech blogs but “following them”. Everyone know techcrunch is lame on depth but great on speed and TMZ like content – not good for “following”.

    Blogging is changing for sure and what it can provide in value to users will still be important. I agree with you that indepth is the way to go.

  • AJ Kohn Jan 2, 2011

    Your first point hits home for me. I’ve really never tried to be the first or fastest. Though I’m not sure how well I’ve succeeded in being thoughtful. I’ll let other people decide that.

    I hope your wish comes true, but the real-time, instant nature of information and the ability to publish on demand make me think we’re in for a lot more knee-jerk posts in 2011.

    Now look who’s negative!

  • Lillian2611 Jan 3, 2011

    It makes me queasy to think that I implied I did the ‘right’ thing when it came to TechCrunch and the Twitter documents, yet now that I face that implication I must admit I do think it was the right choice to make. But I believe I have an advantage, which is that I used to be a newspaper reporter and I used to make decisions like that one on a regular basis. TechCrunch should never have published the documents and I believe I may have made my one-and-only comment on TechCrunch about that.

    I really don’t want to judge the folks who did choose to read some or all of the Twitter documents, and I say that in partial response to your question about what to do to encourage different decisions.

    I’m reading Nudge (http://nudges.org/) right now and the answer lies in there. We have to make it easier for people to choose the best option. Perhaps I can comment more often on material, observing gently that there’s another choice. As a blogger, a Twitter user, a fan of Quora, I can also take a moment now and then to open discussions like this one.

    And when we see a blog doing something we don’t think is ideal, we can say so. Gently, without judgment. Allowing everyone their full menu of options while trying to show why one is more desirable than the others.

  • SuratL Jan 4, 2011

    I think this is another effect that comes from so many people blogging, thinking, and sharing: sometimes different people have the same or similar ideas. There’s an abundance of ideas, and it creates a lot of redundancy. It’s an incredible resource, and it’s ultimately good, but it has the side effect of overload, and the same ideas being independently reproduced.

  • Carsten Pötter Jan 4, 2011

    Well, you asked for some good examples. :)

  • ThatAdamGuy Jan 4, 2011

    Indeed I did :D

  • Posicionamiento May 29, 2011

    Hi Adam !! think that what you will see in the future is not so much “reading” tech blogs but “following them”. Everyone know techcrunch is lame on depth but great on speed and TMZ like content – not good for “following”.
    Gettings from Chile
    Pablo

What do you think?