Tech Blogging: The Web Mind at Warp Speed

17 Comments

There’s this idea wandering around the web that less is better: less work, generally, and less writing and blogging and especially less press release rehashing. But more and faster conversation about technology means more chances for interesting ideas and useful analysis to emerge. There’s certainly a place for deep thought, but the web mind can work at many speeds — fast, slow and in between.

Marketing consultant and blogger Brian Oberkirch suggests that tech blogging happens too fast, without enough thought, and that a decrease in ad spending could have a helpful effect:

A minor correction in the ad market might be the best thing to happen to blogging. Maybe writers would turn away from becoming page mills and boring the crap out of us, and instead, will turn back to value, passion, thinking things through, making connections previously unseen.

Forrester blogger Josh Bernoff recently voiced a similar criticism:

When it comes to blogging, faster is often perceived to be better. GigaOm and TechCrunch are all over the trends, covering the same announcements, often within minutes of each other.

I’m not convinced, however, that better ideas emerge by holding back on them, deeply thinking them, and polishing them until they’re just right. With the global Internet mind, offering more tentative and provisional ideas and doing it faster may be a better strategy than sitting in an isolation chamber, devoid of feedback.

Writing coach Angela Booth tells writers they should write more, not less:

Many years ago, I wanted to be a “good” writer. So I wrote less. I became obsessive about revision — polishing the life out of my writing. It finally dawned on me that “good” doesn’t mean slow. In fact the faster I wrote (which was my natural inclination anyway), the more quality I could winnow from the chaff.

There’s a parallel that can be drawn with tech blogging — not just that individual bloggers become better writers as they write more, but that the ideas we come up with as a community get better as they are batted about the blogosphere.

If all tech blogs did was rewrite press releases, they would add little to the evolving understanding of technology. What they do instead is consistently introduce timely information and quick analysis into an ongoing conversation. While it’s not a perfect approach, it can contribute to an incremental growth in understanding — especially when that new information is mixed and mashed up by other writers working at different paces and with knowledge of other spheres.

Richard Ogle in his book “Smart World” proposes that the world of ideas thinks for itself. Blogs can radically accelerate that process by encouraging a much broader range of people to participate, speeding up the flows of information and allowing connections to be made across a range of topics. On the web, less is definitely not more.

17 Comments

Josh Bernoff

Om is right on target.

Speed is a fine thing. And when it comes to fast analysis GigaOm is pretty good.

I also think — as my colleague Jeremiah Owyang has pointed out — that there’s value in the conversation in the blogosphere, which happens because of the speed.

But I stand by what I said — that immediacy on its own is not a virtue. And thoughtfulness that comes from years of observation and interactions with people doing the actual work in the space has some value.

There’s room for all of this. So long as we don’t make a fetish of immediacy.

Wayne Smallman

Sounds to me like Brian Oberkirch needs to prune his feeds list.

Whether you’re pondering the imponderable, or writing at 300 words per minute, it’s all about catering and then latterly delivering to your niche…

Dr Farrukh Malik

Well the it is an long discussion and no limits to thoughts pouring in about it. I think one of the comments suggested that we need a mix of both fast pace and critical thinking. Moreover, the level of communication and pattern of blogging has made me think that at times if some one is going off the track, a visitor can point it out and educate the post writer. In fact, while reading this post and comments here, I came up with an idea to write a post that will be carrying something that requires a bit of polishing/correction and will sit back and would like to see my readers point it out to me/educate me. I don’t know if it will work or not but at least, it appears worth trying!!!! The idea is crude but it can add something to my knowledge and understanding of dynamics of interaction in blogsphere!

Dimitrios

Balance and logic has to be the best options. A blog entry about a new product with a description of the main features and anticipated price cannot wait in the backburner for ever. On the other hand, the critical analysis of a certain situation and the expression of one’s opinion is another matter and needs more work. So in other words I agree with Om, different situations, different strategies. We cannot have optimum fast or slow speed for all entries.

James Urquhart

I guess I’m a little bit concerned that you are glossing over the difference between blogging on technical issues and blogging about the technology industry. Frankly, I love the pace of those who are churning out random comments about the industry (such as the Giga Om crew). However, when it comes to blogging about technical issues, I often prefer a little thought being put into the post. Todd Biske (http://www.biske.com/blog/) is one of the few that I think balances discussing technology often with any depth of thought, but even he can go days between posts. Nick Carr sort of does this, but frankly he saves his deepest exploration of topics for his paid gigs.

My own style (click on my name to see my blog) is to post less frequently with greater depth of thinking about the issues. I am not so much reporting what is going on in the industry, as I am trying to put together a “hitchhiker’s guide” to utility computing and service level automation. As such, it makes little sense for me to reach for a post just to fill in some time. (In fact, I used to do link posts, but I’ve found I’m not always inspired to keep that up.)

What you guys do requires as much insight as you can muster while beating the rest of the blog community to the punch. As such, you are a “hub” in the blog community, while blogs like mine are “spokes” targeted at deep study of one or two specific issues.

Mari Silbey

Great points in this post. While I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that I need to read just to keep up, that volume contributes to the ability of everyone to make connections between topics and data points and form new and useful conclusions.

One other point: when I left my full-time job two years ago and moved to freelance work, I re-discovered the value of reading news, and lots of it, every day. Reading wasn’t a billable activity for me in the office rat race, but it certainly makes me more productive and capable of serving my clients. And I need both the rapid news posts and the “feature” posts from bloggers. GigaOm is the best example I know of a blog that delivers both.

Though I do wonder if you guys ever sleep.

alan p

Agree its good to have a mix of “real time” on the fly comments about something plus some deep thought pieces. For the real time stuff imho what is required is to add value – inject a new angle or cross connect to something else that is relevant.

Sometimes I want to do a quick sketch, sometimes a painting, sometimes a few doodles – you have to follow what you want to do, as to tie yourself to rote makes it a chore, not fun. And imho when you stop having fun, your community stops having fun.

Om Malik

@ Libran Lover,

First of all thank you for all your nice comments, and reading us. Specifically about this part of your comment, “Om Malik deliberately and strictly take a few hours off every week to meditate on the bigger picture emerging the tech world” I wonder if my posts on Verizon Open, and Google Infrastructure are the kind of posts you had in mind in terms of expectations.

Thankfully, my team has basically made it mandatory for me to take two days off a week to think. Hopefully, results will start to show over next few weeks :-)

Om Malik

What an interesting thread. In the early days it was thoughtful opinion that mattered, then the speed became part of the blogging mix. I am not sure there are either/or situations.

Most of us who blog about technology have a different mental rhythm. Sure sometimes you need to blog fast and let the audience educate you. Sometimes you need to take some time off and meditate.

I think what really matters is knowing your readers and your community. Six years of writing have taught me that one little fact of life.

Libran Lover

Just want to add that for an individual writer as well as a blog to be truly effective and add value, there must be a mix of both: quick posts as well as deeper analytical posts. The two ways of doing things have a positive effect on each other, creating a synergistic feedback loop.

Libran Lover

I agree that writers should write as often as possible. I do not want Gigaom to stop disseminating quick information, announcements and news. I rely on this blog for a lot of such information.

But those criticizing copy-paste-quick type bloggers do have a point. If people like Om Malik deliberately and strictly take a few hours off every week to meditate on the bigger picture emerging the tech world, make the deeper connections and write about those, everybody will benefit. What’s more, that will also make their quick posts so much better!

Something to think about. Hope Om sees this comment.

Anne Zelenka

Deva: I do think there are problems with the current situation, like everyone’s too interconnected and they don’t pay attention to other areas of thought. That makes it stagnant sometimes. And it seems harder now for people to have their ideas heard.

However, there’s plenty of conversation that goes on outside techmeme or beyond the so-called a-list blogs. I blogged for a long time at a slower pace and found plenty of opportunities to participate in the conversation like that (I still do, on my personal blog).

It may be true that there is a lot of light analysis without much thought and perhaps too much regurgitation. But quick analysis isn’t necessarily light, and restating something in a slightly different way can sometimes be just the spark that’s needed for a new way to look at things.

Better thought and insight doesn’t happen just with one person sitting around coming up with it after a long time either — part of my point is that the rapid fire back and forth with feedback is a thought process of its own. But it’s distributed across many people.

Deva Hazarika

Anne, I think it’s hard to argue against the fact that for MOST bloggers, if they don’t write about something VERY quickly after a high profile media outlet or blogger has written about the topic, it’s very hard for them to get much attention. Which leads to lots of people regurgitating the same facts and very similar light analysis on topics. A lot of the better thought out pieces never make it to places like Techmeme because they are not anchored to something that top bloggers are currently writing about – creating a self-reinforcing effect of lots of bloggers writing very light content about the same set of topics. I wrote about this a while back (http://www.emaildashboard.com/2007/10/a-list-blogger-.html), but outside of subscribers to my blog, few other people likely saw it… When it comes to blogging attention, speed often trumps insight and accuracy.

Sam Sethi

I differentiate Techcrunch from RWW – one writes first and the other thinks offering analysis rather than just being first. Take the technorati story today – TC say its has changed its UI.

Often the simple test of a blog post is to ask so what. Seeing the wood from the trees is an art only able to the few who both have a deep technical and business understanding of the implications.

Just saying look another tree because you are at point is (excuse the pun) pointless. I’d love to hear Arrington’s views on how APML combined with Openid will change the advertising landscape or how HTML5 differs from XHTML2 and what impact that will have on social blogging but I go to people like Brian Oberkirch, Chris Messina, Danny Ayres, Alex Iskold and many others for that thought insight.

Sp yes less is more if it means cutting down the pointless noise and PR lapdog mentality for some personal insight after careful consideration which does take time.

Anne Zelenka

Most bloggers working at any pace pay some attention to what commenters and other bloggers (and journalists and analysts etc. etc.) are saying. Do they read everything and synthesize everything? No, no one can do that.

The power of distributed thinking — the smart world — is that no one person does it alone. But many slow, deep thinkers rely on fast availability of news and quick analysis, just as the quick news is best when it incorporates thought moving at other speeds and produced at different volumes.

“magical” other writers? Other bloggers, analysts, journalists, writers, commenters, and even PR people and company executives. It’s not magic.

Crunchazoom

Seems like your point is only true if the fast writing blogger takes the time to synthesize the feedback / comments and other postings to arrive at revised or new conclusions. Put differently, how do you follow the thread as it hops from blog to blog if there’s no consistent follow-up / review. Who are these magical “other writers working at different paces and with knowledge of other spheres?”

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