Ideas of March 2012

That time again.  I wrote something last year, covering the ideas of march.  Last year, bloggers came out and shared their ideas, and I imagine this year will be just as fun.  So, once again, I’d like to share my thoughts on blogs.  This year, I’d like to take on the point of view of a reader as opposed to a writer of blogs.  After all, far more people consume blogs then actually write them.

Having trouble keeping up? Share!

It’s hard.  Even with a feed reader, it’s hard to keep up with everything that is going on.  In the PHP world, I can head on over to good-ole PHPDeveloper to find out what is going on in the PHP world, but these days, it’s more than just PHP.  I can of course subscribe to my favorite blogs, but as I said, there is far more out there to read than I have time to enjoy.  Twitter helps some, as I can follow a link from twitter from someone I followed, but even if they post something, I might miss it in the ever moving Twitter stream.

What really helps is when people share.  Between Reddit, HackerNews, people retweeting things they’ve found, DZone, and, of course, PHPDeveloper, there are numerous ways to share.  If you are a reader, and you’ve read something, share it!  A tweet about an article might only bring in a few people, but those are people that might not otherwise have found the article.  Share the article!  Help curate, and get it out there.

That’s something I’m trying to commit to.  And while sharing and those ‘social media’ buttons on articles might seem annoying, they actually serve a purpose to remind us how we get our information.  Just because someone has tweeted an article doesn’t mean his followers will see it.  Too often I find myself following a retweet because I missed the original.

And don’t be afraid to submit to sites like Reddit or HackerNews.  Both are wonderful resources.

Your voice matters

Even if it’s a simple thank you.  You don’t need to spend much time, but every little bit helps.  If you read something, and enjoy it, let the author know.  Nothing makes us happier than when someone takes the time to actually respond.  Not everyone will comment, but getting just one comment usually spawns a few others.

If you are nervous about what you have to say, you can also always send an email.  I think it’s fair to say that unless they say otherwise, bloggers have a standing invitation to contact them.  We’re geeks just like you, and we’re writing about stuff you’re clearly interested in as well, so we already have at least one thing in common.

Read, enjoy

Most of all, and most important, is to read the articles.  Spend time and enjoy them.  All too often we get sucked into the 140-characters or less, StackOverflow-style short answers that let us get in and get out.  I find I enjoy blogs so much more when I just allow myself to read and focus.  I don’t just skim the headlines looking for the answer to a solution.  I sit back with a cup of coffee, and spend a little bit of time reading.  I don’t rush through.  I don’t start an internal debate with what’s being said.  I just read.  I just enjoy.

Too often we allow ourselves to become masters of multitasking.  And there are times this is good.  But we need to learn to shut this off.  Blogs give us this chance.  If it’s worth reading, it’s worth focusing on.

To Bloggers

This is a message to bloggers.  Don’t wait for the perfect article.  Just write.  Share stories of projects.  You don’t need to provide a tutorial or novel solution every time you write.  Simply recounting what you did, even if everything you did is what is normally done, can be just as revealing, just as interesting.  Just write.  Share your stories.  People want to read, and not every article need contain examples of code.

Share your mistakes, share your accomplishments.

I should take my own advice.  Recently we launched Locals at myYearbook.  The web version was my baby.  It’s an awesome product, and combined with the mobile version, makes for something an interesting story on the challenges we faced and how it works.  I haven’t written anything on it because, frankly, I worked on it so much that I can’t see the forest for the trees.  It’s completed, and remembering all the interesting details would take time.  And, wrongly, I feel that to do it justice, I would need to go over everything.

Ideas of March

Finally, here are some ideas I am working on for future articles.

  • Basics of tmux, getting strated with the terminal multiplexer
  • vim maps based on file types
  • An approach for a DIC for PHP 5.4
  • And just for kicks, writing a PHP app without conditions or loops (not recommended for sanity!)


Reddit, HN, Digg reducing writer recognition

I’d like to posit a theory: that social news sites benefit more than the sources they link to. Submit a quality article to Reddit, or HN, or Digg, and these sites, not yours, will most likely gain the most benefit of your content. Your site will see an increase in visitors, but it will not see a sustained growth. It will take a lot of work to differentiate your success from the social news site. The reason for this is simple: users equate finding your content with the social news site. The news site gains the reputation for being the source of the content.

This can be seen with Google. Google has gained a reputation, not for creating it’s own content, but for pointing its users toward content. The users credit Google with getting the content, and so Google gains that mind share. This is why Google News is so threatening. Google News merely links to the sources. However, Google News gets the credit, and therefore the readers. Suddenly, people aren’t concerned with branding. They trust in Google News, or Reddit, or HN. If these sources link to the result, the result is good. If they don’t link to the result, then it’s not worth the users time.

Branding is important. The source of content is important. This is something that is known. News Papers for decades worked hard to preserve their branding. The news paper itself was the brand, pointing toward the writers individual articles. Readers would look to the news papers to decide what was important and critical. Front page news is headline news, important, something you need to read. Just like front page news on Reddit is what people have deemed to be most important. Google News is doing what newspapers have done before. Taking the news, filtering it, and presenting what it deems is important.

The danger here is credibility. A source like Digg is controlled by democracy, and must fight against spam. Newspapers had problems with publishers and other problems that they had to contend with. The problems were different, but the results were the same. What ends up on the front page directly reflects the on the brand. Rarely with the actual creator of the content. True, people knew the name of journalists. But how many journalists can you name for the Washington Post or the New York Times off the top of your head? Now, how many newspapers can you name? Probably more, and I’m willing to bet the majority of the news consuming world can’t even name one journalist while naming off numerous news sources.

So, these sources of news become credible because of the work of content creators, and anything posted on these sources becomes credible, regardless of the source. Sure, you have your fact checkers, but it’s far too easy to make a statement and get it into the headlines and bank on the brand of the source. If your article reaches the front page of Reddit, the Reddit population makes certain assumptions. Often times the fact checking is left to the comments (or possibly other headlines later on). But still, the original headline has used the Reddit name (or HN, or Digg, etc) for it’s own purpose. But in the end, it’s content the readers will associate with Reddit, not necessarily the author.

So what does this mean for you, dear reader? The danger is information overload. Something like Digg is supposed to feed you your news. You associate Digg with relevance and meaning. But it leads you to more and more information. You visit a dozen sites each day, and rarely will you remember any particular site, but you will remember what you read through Digg. Or Reddit. And you’ll associate that article with your social news site of preference. You’ll associate that article with the brand of your choice, and as a result, provide that source with more credit then it deserves, or provide your brand with more power than it needs.

I should note I use Reddit, HN, Digg, /., and many other sites each day looking for interesting things to read. I used these sites because I associate them with the type of thing I like to read. Because of this, they enforce and validate the way I view the world. Anything not on these sites becomes suspicious and worrisome. I realize this isn’t just the internet. This is how everything is fed to us. I think it’s coming to that realization, that content and information is re-branded by practically everyone, that makes me wonder how it can be fixed. If it can be fixed.

If it should be fixed.