Technical journalism vs. blogging

I “m a blogger. I “m a techie. My vocabulary is limited. I never took classes on writing. My word processor takes care of spelling errors, but I still make syntax errors. To write a blog, I don “t spend hours on Google trying to research a subject, but I just share what I “ve experienced, learned, seen, thought of. Just take it for what it worth.

But since I “ve been writing articles and performed duties of a technical editor, I can also see how rapidly things are changing in the technical journalism field. Technical journalists are people who write technical articles for a living. These people almost ceased to exist. Wide spread of blogging is successfully killing this profession.

OK, why would Mary Lou, the programmer, bother writing an article for a technical magazine? Five years ago, I “d say “to become more visible in the industry and to make her resume stand out rdquo;. Sometimes, the Publications section on your resume can help you to pass through the first line of defense of job agencies. But if Mary is an active technical blogger, she can add HER BLOG to the Publication section of her resume and have the same effect. If I need to interview Mary for the job, I “ll definitely read her blog, and I could care less that it was published on and not in one of the well known magazines.

But there is a group of technical journalists that “s doing just fine, but the trick is to not call themselves journalists even if you are. Because if they did, they would not be able to justify selling 7-8 page stories on where technology is going for several hundred dollars. They call themselves analysts. See, having good English vocab can make a huge difference. As to the credibility and accountability they are pretty much on par with regular technical journalists. Whatever Google returns hellip;

For example, two years ago Forrester was offering a 7-page report for $379 stating that AJAX is great for the enterprise software development. Two years later they offered an 8-page report for $779 stating that Ajax is disappointing.

When the company I work had to price our own software, one of the vendors gave us good advice, “Never set the price too low. The higher it is the more professional you “ll look in the enterprise market. rdquo; Apparently, this guy gave the same advice to Forrester leaders. Who “d be purchasing a 7 page article for forty bucks? You gotta be kidding me, I “d rather get a good technical book for this much. ust raise the price for this article tenfold, and it “s going to sell like hot cakes. Now the rich guys will start look into these articles calling them “technology trends research rdquo;. Of course it makes sense to spend mere $700 to save millions on doing things right the first time.

Every day I spend about an hour reading blogs. If I bump into an interesting blog that resonates with one of my current interests, I write a blog with my opinion on this subject. Tomorrow, my opinion may change, so I ‘ll write a different blog. Blogosphere is overcrowded. The noise-to-signal ration is high. Blog aggregators were created to group blogs by interests. Here ” a place where Java bloggers hang out, and this is a place for Ruby folks. But automated aggregators are not as good as the hand-made ones. I like the place called Developers Zone ( created by Rick Ross. Real people are selecting technical blogs on various programming tools and add a steady stream of daily blogs. Readers can vote these submissions up or down, which helps in finding interesting entries. I like browsing entries having the most negative rating. The noise-to-signal here is a lot higher.

Paid subscriptions for the technical magazines do not make much sense. I “m having hard times to read even a small number of free printed magazines that arrive to my mailbox. Once in a while, they ask you to fill out one of these BS surveys with questions like ,

“Are you planning to make a purchasing decision in three-to-five or six-to-twelve months? rdquo;

“Are you a decision maker when it comes to ordering servers for your firm that has 10000-200000 employees? rdquo;

Sure thing. No purchase order goes out of our organization unless I personally sign it.

Then, these publishers would sell the advertising space flashing these survey results proving that about a half of their readers are decision makers.

But I don ‘t mind reading these free publications if they have columnists that have something to say. For example, in the past I was reading a bi-weekly column by Allen Holub in SD Times. Then something happened, he stopped writing, and this magazine became less appealing to me. The Inc magazine invited Joel Spolsky to write a column there, and this is the only reason why I “m reading it.

I “m getting the InformationWeek magazine too. Once in a blue moon I see there a decent overview of an emerging technology . But most of its content is written by googler-journalists who have little understanding about the subject of THEIR article. Who cares, the editor ordered an article on the subject X and it has to be written by the date Y. And the article will be ready.

A new Web site called Ulitzer will go live this Summer. It will give each author a personal page, and the readers will be able to rate authors. I “ve seen an alpha design of this site and it looks nice and clean.

There is yet another interesting subject to discuss ndash; the money. I “ve written hundreds of articles for free. Once in a blue moon I was paid for writing technical articles. Let me tell you, it “s an absolutely different game. When you write for free, you are free in what you write. When you write for money, you have to write in a politically-correct way.

On another occasion, I was offered to write short online commentaries on a regular basis for a modest honorarium. I thought to myself, “I do it in my blogs anyway, why not pocket a little chunk of change for doing the same thing? rdquo;. It did not work. After writing several commentaries, I realized that I couldn “t write just because I had too. I quit without making a penny.

There are some sites that offer blogger money. I do not believe in this. Blogging should be unconditionally free. But this does not mean that blogging can “t help you in making money. If you are running a small software business, publishing technical blogs on your company Web site is a must. It “s a lot less expensive than hiring PR firms to spread the word about your firm.

You are reading my personal blog at the moment, but I also write for our company blog , which has about 15000 unique visitors a month. This blog brings us new business. We share with people our little discoveries and they think of us when need technical help.

My word processor shows that this blog is about 1200 words. This is more than enough. The end.


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