Content on demand

This place was launched a little more than two months ago. Feedback has been generally poor so far, where by ‘poor’ I mean both quantitatively and qualitatively. With the usual exceptions, of course. Also, by ‘feedback’ I mean email messages sent to me privately, not public comments. Among the emails I received, albeit few and far between, I nonetheless noticed some sort of trend slowly building up again. It’s the same trend I started noticing when I was publishing The Quillink Observer and my Italian-only tech blog Autoritratto con mele before that.

It seems that when a weblog about any specific topic starts gathering an audience of constant readers, there are always people among them who treat your blog as a TV channel, and write you ‘requests’ or give you unsolicited advice. Like: I value your opinion: that’s why I think you should write more software reviews or You don’t get enough traffic because you don’t always talk about the stuff other tech pundits are talking about or Everybody’s talking about Windows 8, when are you planning to join the debate?

When the issue is not related to the content itself, it’s about frequency: Love your site, but you should definitely post more frequently. Gotta keep them entertained. [Note: I’m not making this stuff up. These are all real excerpts.]

Sometimes these requests or pieces of advice are surrounded by appreciative statements, in a (failed) attempt to sound less harsh or demanding (note that I value your opinion above, for instance). What I hear is I want you to talk about the things I like and the things I want.

Here’s the thing, though. Firstly, I have this strange tendency to talk about things I have some knowledge of. Secondly, but not less importantly, there are topics which I’m not particularly interested in discussing, no matter how close they are to other topics I instead care about. For instance, being interested in user interfaces and usability doesn’t mean being interested in everything that has been written about it or that is being discussed lately. And what’s more, it doesn’t mean I have an opinion on everything related to user interfaces and usability.

If you follow the tech world and keep up-to-date with the various topics of the day or debates of the week, you may be disappointed by their absence in these pages. When I don’t talk about something ‘big’, it’s not that I’m not aware of it or that I don’t keep myself up-to-date. Usually the reasons for my silence about it are, in no particular order:

  1. I’m not really interested in it.
  2. I’m interested in it, but don’t know enough of it to have an opinion or a series of observations worth sharing.
  3. Some other people have already done a good job at analysing it, and I’ve nothing substantial to add. (In this case, I might link to someone else’s article, unless the source is as obvious as Daring Fireball).
  4. It’s certainly an interesting topic, but perhaps I feel it’s too soon to discuss because of an evident lack of factual information about it. (E.g. rumours, software at its very early stage of development, vapourware, etc.)

As I’m rationalising this, I’m realising that the most frequent reasons of my unwillingness to speak about some topic du jour are 2. and 4. I think we’re all already being flooded with constant chatter about rumours, software/hardware which is not even out of alpha stage but everybody has to say something about it, services which aren’t yet ready to launch but everybody seems to be already dispensing their judgment on the matter. And I should join the debate?

You see, I think that one of the biggest problems of the tech sphere is that in the whole process of ‘keeping folks informed’, too often theories and opinions get mixed with factual information and data even before said information and data are definite and ready for analysis. You know the drill: there’s some announcement about an upcoming product, and in giving you the story about the announcement, pundits are already passing judgment, foreseeing trends, babbling about strategies, playing ‘Armchair CEO’, and so on. Then there are rumours about a product, and long discussions about possible features, possible uses, possible problems, etc. etc. Then the product is finally introduced, and if you’ve kept track of all the previous nonsense you’ll realise that a good 80% of those ‘opinions’ and ‘analyses’ were completely off the mark, but the same guys are now talking again about the product, often course-correcting themselves. Few notice that, some pundits get away with it, and the wheels keep spinning. (Okay, this is a more general problem, but I’m focussing on the tech world now).

As Sherlock Holmes famously reminds Dr Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia, “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”. That above is a game I won’t play. And a mistake I’m doing my best to avoid.

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!