The ZEN of my blogging

Hi everyone! Just got back from a 2 week vacation in sunny Greece. Met up with family, spent a lot of time at the sea and in Greek taverna’s, and virtually no contact with the outside world, except for a crappy 2G iPhone connection I used every once in a while (a rant on that will follow in another post 😉 )

Taking time off is great. It helps me to get out of my daily pattern and think a little bit about my life. I spent all of my time with my family, which is more important than anything else, but I also managed to think a little bit about my blogging experiences the past year.

It’s a bit early, but I’m about to celebrate my first year of blogging here. I wrote my very first blog post on September 10th 2007. Yes, it’s true, I’m a blogging newbie. I spent many years reading blogs and finally decided it was time I started contributing something. Now, almost a year later, I feel it was one of the best choices I have ever made.  If you want stats, I am approaching 500 subscribers according to Feedburner, a Technorati index of 270-something, I get about 10.000 visitors a month right now, some posts are read a few hundred times right after I publish them, some reach the 1500-2000 mark. I don’t care much about stats, but it is a bit amazing to me. I may be a small blogger in terms of statistics, but I am very happy with the amount of people willing to read my stuff, and even better, respond to them.

It took me a little while to experiment and discover my own blogging style. I tend to write long posts. I’m not a breaking news blogger, but write from personal experience and observations. My strengths are within different fields ranging from technology to the human factor. I understand technology (I have a PhD in computer science). I’ve spent a lot of my working life of what I call the “first use” of technology.

Based upon my experiences, I have found that first use of new technology is always about 2 things: the human factor and the business model. Technology needs to work but it’s impact is often less important than the attention it gets from us geeks. Technology needs to work for its user, not the other way around. It needs to solve a problem, enable something, but mostly, it needs to be dead-simple (a criteria that is hardly ever met when a new service is launched).

The tech blogging community seems to step over this quite easily. We easily jump the wagon of yet another great web 2.0 service and hail the hallelujah. But how many of those services EVER cross the chasm? How many REALLY become mainstream? New services love to get the A-list attention and attraction. And don’t get me wrong, you need early adaptors to get to mainstream. But don’t get yourself fooled by the tech blogging hurrays. They aren’t the ones that need to be convinced of the value of you service. Most new web services chose this path to become successful. And because of that most fail, they are contained within a tech “Silicon Valley” bubble, a vacuum if you will. Together with investors, bloggers and advertisers. All screaming success and none of them able to make the jump and getting out to the real world.The only successful business model here seems to get bought by an old-school media company that doesn’t understand the first thing about social media and pays too much for an highly overrated service (suckers).

As a side note, a perfect example of this vacuum I mentioned I found on my return from vacation. On Friendfeed, one of the love baby within this vacuum,  I found that Robert Scoble was wondering if there were any other interesting people to follow than the ones he was following already. He asked:

“Is there no one more interesting than Mike Arrington? FriendFeed tells me I find him most interesting. Louis Gray is still #2. Who is your most interesting FF’er according to FF stats?”

It took him over 60 comments to prove (and he already knew of course) that there is only one kind of person on Friendfeed right now. It is that same early adopter screaming hallelujah. It makes Friendfeed yet another echo chamber of thing we already know, with the additional benefit that we can discuss (ehh, I mean write our own opinions) this stuff yet again (can you hear the ECHOOOOOOOOOO here 😉 ). That doesn’t make Friendfeed a bad service. But the people that are so enthusiastic about it may want to think about the value of such a service for a mainstream user. Being able to answer that question is the hardest thing to do.
Why is the business model so important you ask? It isn’t important because it might create revenues (that’s is just a very handy side effect). The business model determines what kind of a company you will be. It isn’t something you should be considering lightly. The business model determines the way you will approach your users or customers. Personally I feel that the success of what we now call web 2.0 is also it’s failure. It’s the FREE business model. It brings you free services, but it comes at a great cost. The cost is obviously advertisement, but much worse it brings us containment. The FREE business model puts focus on the network, on the size of the community, on traffic, click troughs, on keeping users locked in (I hate customer lock in, it’s such an arrogant corporate angle). It makes thee things more important than user value. It locks users in, instead of setting them free. It holds web 2.0 in a death grip. And that sucks. See how the choice of a business model makes you behave in a certain way towards your user?

So what will you find here on this blog? I have this crappy long title because somehow it seems to cover best what I like to write about. I will keep writing on the effects new (social) media technologies will have on human behavior. I write critically about services that aren’t user-centric. I will write about business models and their effect on the user. I will provide different ideas of how to make services more user centric. And I will attempt to be a pattern hound, following the best example I know in the blogosphere, Rolf Skyberg.

There has been a lot of self-reflection the past few days from some of the best tech bloggers I know. Robert Scoble has written an excellent post called “Why tech blogging has failed you”. When Robert gets personal he does his best writing. Personal, energetic, passionate. That’s what I like and admire about him. Steven Hodson takes a great stance, he writes in the hope that people will start to think. Hutch Carpenter, in a guest post at writes about the different phases a blogger can be in. In essence he says that the more popular a blogger becomes, the less he is able/willing to interact with the reader. Once arrived, the interaction itself becomes less important. I’m not sure if this theory of Hutch holds for all bloggers. But Fred Wilson made the best remark on that post.

i don’t want to get to stage 4 if it means you have to stop engaging with readers. i’d rather stop blogging.

Why do I write? Writing helps me understand the way things work. it isn’t about being right or wrong. To me it is more of an exploration. It helps me to write down my thoughts and shape them as people start reacting and responding. I hope, like Steven does, that it makes people think. But I also feel that it will help me learn new things too. I am not so interested in the traffic, the numbers, the leaderboads. It’s nice to have, good for the ego, but honestly, I’m much more interested in engaged readers. People who are willing to take the time to go through my writings and respond. I am lucky to have plenty of those, and I thank you for it. I’m moving on into my second year of blogging, and I hope that you will still have the time to stay with me 😉


About vanelsas

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6 Responses to The ZEN of my blogging

  1. Phil says:

    Congratulations on your first year of blogging.

    Actually, “The Zen of my blogging” is a good title. It’s easy to make blogging complicated, so taking a “zen” approach probably keeps blogging more of a clear way to understand things.

    As long as you enjoy your blogging, the stats won’t matter much.

    Keep up the blogging! Enjoy your second year.

  2. Phil Thanks 😉 You are quite right about the stats. I have found that if I write about things passionately there are always folks willing to listen and respond. It is what makes blogging fun and inspirational for me.

  3. erwin blom says:

    Funny you say businessmodels are important and at the same time you say stats and everything don’t matter that much. You put time in your blog without a businessmodel. My most valuable information on internet comes from people that write about what they are passionate about without a direct goal of making money.

    To put it extreme: the internet doesn’t need businessmodels other than isp’s asking money for connection, we need people with stories that want to communicate. As long as internet gives me inspiration and communication it’s good enough for me!

  4. Erwin, nice to drop by and take the time to comment, thanks;-)

    The funny thing about a business model is that it needs to be chosen very carefully. As a very thin one, I do not have any business model for this blog. It’s passion only and that works fine for me (and hopefully for you too).

    But when it comes to a web service, the right business model is crucial. Not having one can be a choice which is fine. But choosing the FREE model simply because everyone else does, investors like it, advertisers love it, and the entrepreneur thinking to make a quick buck, can be a really bad choice. It leads to focus on other things than on the user you shuld be creating value for. That doesn’t mean btw that the FREE business model can’t work or isn’t the right choice. But an entrepreneur should understand it’s consequences. That is why I feel it is so important. Too many services copy the basic business model of Facebook (or any other web 2.0 service for that matter), without understanding the downside of that model. I write about that a lot because it affects the human factor.
    Stats can be used to understand the effectiveness of a business model (or a blog for that matter). But if stats are becoming more important than the thing you and your users are passionate about then they become pretty much useless.
    I like the (somewhat romantic) take of Fred Wilson on it. I remember reading that he feels that you can share anything you want with others, even if you are sitting on a great business idea. Sharing it makes your idea better, and if you have the passion to go for it, you shouldn’t worry too much about competition. I’ve always thought that ideas are free and pretty much useless in terms of value. It is the ability to execute the idea with passion and a great team that creates the value in the end (but that’s the topic of yet another blog post 😉 )

  5. Alexander –

    Just wanted to say I’ve been reading you in my Reader for a while now, and think you’re spot on. I hadn’t visited the site in a while, so what better than a holiday weekend to catch up on some articles I missed. Actually, you’re like the New York Times for me – something I can really only get to on the weekends, but enjoy the longer, in-depth writing. Congrats on the 1-year mark!

    Keep up the killer writing – Cheers!


  6. @Marc, thank you for these kind words. Really appreciate it 😉

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