This piece could be a virtual Part 2 of The need for new voices, in the sense that I’m going to focus for a moment on the ‘old voices,’ the established sources of today’s online tech debate, and on a practice that I keep seeing very frequently on various blogs. I won’t mention any names in particular, not out of cowardice, but because I want to highlight certain patterns and practices I don’t like as a reader of such blogs, and also because I would be pointing my finger only to a restricted group of people, which is unfair — I would be leaving out other prominent bloggers I don’t follow who may be doing the same things.
Anyway, let’s get to the point now that I’m done with the necessary preamble.
There is a general pattern I have noticed in a lot of tech blogs. Specifically, blogs written by people who were nobodies just a few years ago and have become successful enough to be able to make a living with their website, or at least be a part of that elite circle of pundits I talked about in The need for new voices. Such pattern (with a few exceptions) works as follows: when these people were nobodies, they worked hard and did their best to provide great articles and quality content. Perhaps they showed up with a fresh piece only three-four times in a week, but it usually was some kind of long-form article with insights and interesting observations. Whatever the length, you could see it was something written with passion and interest, something the author felt compelled to share. Once traffic to their sites increased, their names became well-known, etcetera, their blogs started to bloat with frequent updates consisting mainly in ‘filler’ link-posts with one-line commentaries.
If quality was once the main concern, now it seems to be ‘showing up with something new every day.’ And who can blame them? They give their audience the daily breadcrumbs, traffic remains constantly high, sponsors are happy, cash flows. Repeat ad libitum. They can keep coasting. When you get there, it’s tempting to get… comfortable. I’m not saying that some of these pundits have become outright lazy, but in some cases I just can’t see that striving for quality over everything I used to see in their early days. And now I have an expression for them — they have become information dealers, providing the routine fix to the audience of addicted information junkies, always refreshing their feeds in search of more new stuff, more new links every day.
It’s a vicious circle, and it would be unfair to put the blame on the bloggers only. The audience has a part in making all this mechanism work because readers do seem a more forgiving bunch than, say, fans of musicians, movie directors and actors. A renowned musician, band, director, actor, can be vehemently criticised and lose part of their following if they get lazy or produce a crappy movie or record, no matter how famous they are. But there are a few pundits who still look quite successful to me while the quality of their offering hasn’t been as great as once was.
Simply put: on the one hand I’d really wish prominent online writers/bloggers would keep pushing themselves to produce more quality articles on their sites, without having to resort to filler content just because they feel they have to keep their sites updated. On the other hand, I wish their readers were a bit less forgiving and demanded more quality work — especially those who are paying subscribers. You are actively helping these people to make a living, I think it’s only fair to let them know when they’re getting a bit too lazy or complacent. (Don’t get me wrong. This is a generalisation, of course. There are indeed prominent tech writers who keep providing great stuff on a frequent basis.)
The quality of your articles should be more important than how often you update your site/blog. When your pieces can withstand the passing of time, then your archives become a treasure trove that expresses the strength and coherence of your thought and insights. Respect your readers and leave the filler stuff to big tech news websites and the like. Let those be the information dealers.