Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Blogs written by geeks are boring and too topical

Anyone else feel the same way?

All the blogs I see mentioned here are lengthy topical dissertations about the tempest in the teapot of the day re: Microsoft product strategy as perceived by some internal MS developer who happens to have a following of readers.

For some reason, an arcane product differentiation such as .Net or managed or unmanaged code or COM+ or Longhorn or ShortCock or whatever is supposed to be causing this person to feel elated/bummed/life-affirmed/transformed. And it's supposed to be worth reading about. As though all meaning in life could be extracted from working as a slightly better than unknown cubicle-drone at Microsoft or at some ISV whose owner has blogging repute.  And hordes of techie sycophants intently lap this highly topical crap up like they're reading "Revelations".

Let's say that blogging existed in 1989 to 1995. Would it be absolutely "fascinating" today to read about the "human drama" of defining Win32s, or developing NT, or migrating away from DOS or Windows 3.1...?

Here's what *I* would find fascinating: a techie undergoing some personal crisis and undergoing personal transformation necessary to survive.

Coding for Longhorn isn't a personal crisis nor a personal growth opportunity, and isn't worth reading about, IMO. In fact, the next time MS changes its product strategy, all that writing will seem like so much naive, unstudied crap.

Back to my favorite meal.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

While I privately understand your sentiment, I think it's great these boring blogs out there. Because they're history, and occasionally people will want to sift through them.

An audience for every desire.

I wish that so much of lisp history were out there too. I have to mess around with out-of-print book departments to scan things in, and it's just so tiring. Also I've spent a stupid amount of time politely annoying people to record events and let me release their slides, as well as writing up events which weren't recorded.

Yesterday, a free software guy corrected some analysis I made about his wiki software. (My analysis was still right, just he could tell I had a misconception.) Can you imagine how wrong historians have history? As far as I'm concerned, these MSFT blogs are great ideas even if I will almost never ever find them useful.

If you want nontechnical fun, you might get a kick one night from on Winamp tv.

Also, I think these hosted by MSFT are unusually interesting, with Brian Eno and Google's Larry Page.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Saturday, June 26, 2004

The discussions hits close to home with many geeks quite simply because it may not be life or death, but it is a potential lifestyle & career death to "low level" developers who haven't abstracted their role -- we're in a career where broad skills, or perceived unrelated skills, have little value to many employers. Instead they want to see highly specific skills (just look at the job listings - It doesn't say "open minded, proven, experienced software developer in the finance industry", it says "Software developer with 4 years experience programming SOA .NET applications using a WebCache Database system, MSMQ, the 9 Sigma directory listing service, and a Biztalk orchestration layer. Candidates must be named Bob".

Many developers feel that they have to take this to the extreme, and must declare their fealty to a particular technology or platform, and must defend it to the death (there's a particularly strong .NET contingent of this sort right now - people who threw all their chips into the .NET pot and they'll be damned if they allow a criticism to stand unchallenged). This leads to highly passionate, charged debates over technical nuances because one crowd is trying to marginalize it, while another is trying to evangelize it (and both have the perception that their arguments for or against will really have an effect, and the winds of change will blow in the direction of their well conceived retort).

This is actually a pet peeve of mine in this industry - many try to read into everything you say to determine where your technical loyalties lie. It is impossible to either praise or criticize a technology without the technical fascists presuming that you hold the banner of whatever the obvious opponent is. I remember, as a zit-faced nerd in Grade 10, watching a friend berate a fellow who had just criticized an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". "You call yourself a trekkie!" Quite a pathetic incident to fondly recall, but that was just one instance of many where I was made aware of the inability of people to rationally hold opinions on a topic without feeling that they must polarize to one extreme or the other, but sadly that is how many are on a wide range of topics.


Dennis Forbes
Saturday, June 26, 2004

>> Many developers feel that they have to take this to the extreme, and must declare their fealty to a particular technology or platform, and must defend it to the death

Dennis, this is an excellent analysis of the underlying problem.

The problem is basically that most of us are considered expendable unless we have exactly the right experience blend at a particular instant of hiring. Techies know this, and they then start to  create an entire personal value system, code of honor, and personal philosophy based upon "being" a particular flavor of developer.

So the tech blogging is a symptom not so much as a "problem" itself. In many ways it is a symptom of the exact opposite of professionalism: transient, topical discardable skills practiced by people who are regarded as little more than human kleenexes...

I think what's so sad/offputting about this scene is that most developers aren't conscious that this is happening, so they develop these intricate webs of rationalizations and personal loyalties that resemble kids fighting over comic books or TV shows - what you said.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

You seem pretty bitter...

The notion you have of some "cubicle drone" at Microsoft who is like a "disposable kleenex" really reflects that you have no idea just how cool it is to work at Microsoft. Seriously.

People love the stuff they work on. They do it not because it's a job but because they absolutely eat, sleep and breathe the stuff. They really do love it.

If that infuriates you for some strange could always not read the blogs.

Mike Treit
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Would you rather read what Joel had for breakfast or what he did with his partner last night?
In that case there are zillion blogs written by teenage girls adressing that topics :)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Actually, I don't read anyone's blogs. I just find the subject matter of notable-geek blogs to be especially bizarre and narrow.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

I'm going to blog this thread

Saturday, June 26, 2004

"Here's what *I* would find fascinating: a techie undergoing some personal crisis and undergoing personal transformation necessary to survive."

This board has expressed fairly vocally that that is *exactly* what they're not interested in. Generally when someone posts a personal drama or success there are at least five or six posts that people here don't care about personal drama - they want to hear about technical solutions. Of course, that would be the result of the standard "only negative comments made" effect.

My point is that you aren't the internet - the internet consists of millions of people with a myriad of different interests. That's what makes it so wonderful; if you don't like this web page, move on.

I'm sure there are blogs that document personal drama - find them, and don't read the ones you don't like.


Saturday, June 26, 2004

"Actually, I don't read anyone's blogs. I just find the subject matter of notable-geek blogs to be especially bizarre and narrow."

You may be right, but this doesn't means other's are wrong!

what do you want to confirm?

Just wanted to know...
Saturday, June 26, 2004

I'm not wanting to confirm anything except to express the original viewpoint I posted at the top of this thread.

Philo, you have an excellent point. Geeks only want to read propellor-head topics. As soon as someone mentions real world concerns outside the context of the programming environment du jour, they feel their heads exploding or they experience profound catalepsy.

I just find it very strange that the only way to understand some blogs is to have development mastery of Visual Studio 2003 and other MS tools and to have a high degree of commitment to the exact technical leanings of the author.

I once thought the whole purpose of published writing was the dissemination of material of general interest. Instead this stuff is a drone of one specially interested technician on arcana to other specially interested technicians.

The mindset reminds of me a sleep over I had a friend's house when I was 11. We were into model rocketry. We woke up in the morning and my friend, a committed Estes modeler, says to me in all earnestness "Centauri rockets are a piece of shit, aren't they?" I assented with the sort of absolute earnestness that only a third grader could muster. In our little world that one summer, that was absolutely and positively all that mattered. Peking could have been in flames, "film at 11", and it would not have mattered. The supremacy of the Estes Big Bertha rocket was THE THING. 

And the test of time issue: I doubt any of this stuff, aside from some blog artices written at Joel's level of industry overview, will even be understandable in 3 or 5 years. I think Joel's stuff will survive and will make interesting reading in the future because it's about ideas and the intersection of the business environment with tech - it's not just about tech.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Third grader ==> Sixth grader ... whoopsie

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

With all respects, how old are you? Left of 25?

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Read the blogs that give you the most bang for your buck.  If reading Joel's blog gives you some ideas and helps you out a bit then read it.  If you think it is just a techie whining then skip it.  For some strange reason I like reading about how Joel maintains his server down at Peer 1 because, quite frankly, I would like to own and operate a business where I would have a website generating enough traffic to justify a standalone server so that I could go down and maintain it.  Dreaming big? Yup.  But also learning about things I may or may not have a chance to do.

Back up that pony son.
Saturday, June 26, 2004

"In writing about technology our institutions—journals, conferences, etc.—prefer a dry, jargon-laden style of writing. Perhaps there is some precision in jargon, but the reader is not invited in—at least not a diversity of readers. Without diversity in the scientific conversation, there is diminished opportunities for creativity through multiple ideas bouncing off each other.

"When we think back to the early days of almost every new programming language innovation in computing, the papers that described them were often very accessible. Often, the purpose of the paper was to explain the philosophy behind the new language or constructs in order to gain converts to that way of thinking, and so the style and use of vernacular was aimed at attracting readers, not protecting against being accused of error.

"At this point in our history, we need this sort of writing again."

However, you seem to have an anti-diversity tone which bothers me. I can't tell whether you intend it or I mistakenly hear it.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Saturday, June 26, 2004

> Would it be absolutely "fascinating" today to read about
> the "human drama" of defining Win32s...?

What do you think the purpose is behind blogs?
Are all of them to be fascinating for some unknown
future audience? Are they to solve current problems?
Are they to comment on topics you find interesting,
whatever those may be? Where would you go for
talk about specific technical topics if everyone addressed
only great thoughts? Most of life is not deep or
interesting, so what are we to write about other
than our experience?

I for one am quite sure there's little i could write that will
be of enduring interest.

son of parnas
Saturday, June 26, 2004

>> "At this point in our history, we need this sort of writing again."

- Amen.

>> However, you seem to have an anti-diversity tone which bothers me. I can't tell whether you intend it or I mistakenly hear it.

Tayssir, I can easily see how my rant leaves that impression. What I am "against" is the seeming mindest of geek "balkanization", the feeling one gets from more and more blog type stuff that there are many little camps of "true believers" of some platform, language or API. The Angry Coder and his guest columnists with their petty tirade of the moment about certain kinds of "fakers" or some insufficiency in Microsoft's product plans kind of exemplify the vibe.

I kind of like the idea that if I read an essay, that I feel that I could carry on a decent conversation with the author. The geek blogosphere doesn't generally leave me with that feeling. I get the general vibe of "niche cultists" each with some little axe to grind. I don't even want to talk to most of these people (yeah, they probably feel the same.)

I have perused old Bell Labs Technical Journals describing early innovations in (say) VLSI design. Yeah, it's a "corporate tool" product all the way. But the writing style is very accessible and non elitist, even though the people writing the stuff are generally creating fundamental new technologies.

The comment above from "Back up that pony son" about Joel's writings is a good one. Yes, Joel is one who can write in an "open" way and who seems to have a good feel for topics that are "liberal" in nature, interesting to more people than the .0001 % of the developer population deemed "worthy and cool" by the author...

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Football game commentators covering this year's Euro
in Portugal are boring and too topical, too.

I mean, it's always who's passed the ball to whom, who
missed a free kick and stuff like that. They never talk
if player had a car accident this year or how many times he
got drunk lately, do they cheat their wives and how often,
or how difficult is to move from one city to another. You
know, when kids have to leave their friends and pets.

Worse, stupid commentators just need to remind us how
this team was beaten by another team in 1964 or even
1936. I mean, who cares if someone lost from the same
team few years ago at World Cup in Japan/Korea?

Mexican soap operas have much more drama than these
stupid games. Would you expect more romance watching
Denmark vs Sweden or El corazón de chica campesina?

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I agree that blogs written by geeks tend to be boring and too topical.  Now having said this, what I want to know is the point are you trying to make.

Maybe what you are really asking is "Why does it seem to me that only the hardcore (people who live and breath technology) software developers blog and post in forums such as JOS and slashdot?"

One Programmer's Opinion
Saturday, June 26, 2004

In an earlier thread, I too made a point that blogs are bad.

They're mere useless diaries of people that want to be cool. They _think_ that they are being cool in having a blog, expressing their viewpoints to whomever wants to know. Like politicians (and politicians, too, tend to polarize).

However, there is one good counter argument: you don't have to read everything that's on the web. The internet is free. It's a library and forum for both narrow and broad minded people. For those who care about the Euro 2004 game, and for those who don't. And it's true.

It's so true. But in the real world, you can generally distinguish good reading from bad, and narrow minded from broad minded. You can tell by looking at a book's cover, title, and publisher. Besides, a book on .NET details is not in the prose section of a library. The internet is not sorted, and all publishers are equal. Just _because_ it's free.

So you'll have to judge about quality and genre yourself. But hey, if you're not a geek, you probably can. What bothers me is that people automatically assume I am one of those geeks if they know that I'm in IT...

By the way, I think this is the only forum on the internet that discusses computer issues at such a philosophical level. I love it. It's amazing to see such a low level of geekiness around here. Chapeau.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Oops, I should know that a book is not human. Book's cover => cover of a book.

Just like Son of Parnas != Parnas' son, or Parnas Jr.  I Saw that, and laughed. Now I do the same. Shame...

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Uh, in english you can use the possessive form on inanimate objects. "Car's horn" is perfectly acceptable.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

Blogs are like the rest of the internet... you need to just sample a few, see what you like and leave the ones you don't. Also, because they are like the rest of the internet... it will take you a while to find something you like.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Whoop's, s'orry 'bout that. I gues's I wa's wrong.

Proves my point though. The internet is free, and free information may be worthless. :-D

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Blogs seldom make for great literature. There's a reason for this. Your typical blogger, churning out a steady stream of short daily entries, is focused on the here and now. When you're in the midst of significant personal transformations, it's hard to recognize them as such. That understanding is more likely to happen after you come out on the other side of the experience. Most blogging is more "here's what I'm doing this week" than "here's a long, introspective essay about what I did six months ago."

It's also a big challenge to be interesting when blogging about work. Your co-workers, employers, and contacts at other companies might wind up reading your blog. That creates some pressure to avoid writing anything which someone might take the wrong way - not just criticism, but even overly colorful descriptions of people or interactions. Once you've filtered out anything about other people and anything that might give away confidential business info, what's left?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Hi Beth:

Your comments are spot-on.

I don't find most blogs compelling reading. I think that techie blogs are a special case - they're generally incredibly dweeby considering the talent and the brains behind the keyboard. And maybe that's as much due to the posting volume as it is the subject matter.

That was my original point - blogs by developers about development generally seem to be "beneath" the intellectual capabilities of the authors - they read like some kids arguing about superheroes or race car models, not like a professional describing his priorities and key decision points at work. As stated earlier in the thread, this may be a defensive position taken because companies in this industry marginalize anyone who isn't allied with a certain political-cum-technical viewpoint, so the attitude of many bloggers and writers is "jihaad".  It makes the viewpoints of the authors seem really arrested if you aren't part of the scene.

The problem of anonymity is interesting. Yes, it doesn't leave a lot else to write about w/o liability. My response would be: bloggers should not be on an ego trip, just as writers are better when they get into their subject and forget about themselves. It's possible to write anonymously and generalize about specific people and situations. In fact, if you're describing conflicts or arguments, it's probably necessary unless you're about to retire or pass away... Only problem is, if you write anonymously it's dificult to take credit or develop a following.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Sunday, June 27, 2004

Just a guess but "Steak, Waffles etc.." sounds like our esteemed Bored Bystander.

That was not a very intelligent thing to say.
Sunday, June 27, 2004

A blog is just an on-line diary.  Strangely diaries tend to be topical and (if you're not directly involved) a bit boring.  Blogs can be boring - what a surprise!

Let's face it the fact that some blogs rise above the banal is the real surprise.  Even Pepys diary was for the most part a bit dull - it's just it's the good bits people remember.  Such as the time his wife caught him with the maid - gave him a bollocking, went bed in tears, woke up at 3 in the morning and gave him another bollocking. 

Expecting a blog to rise to that standard is asking a bit much.

a cynic writes...
Monday, June 28, 2004

mmm...thinking about this replace diary with journal.

diary=what I did today
journal= what I thought today

Otherwise the comment stands.

a cynic writes...
Monday, June 28, 2004

"This is actually a pet peeve of mine in this industry - many try to read into everything you say to determine where your technical loyalties lie.

Yes!  Exactly!  Maddening, too :)

My trouble with most geek blogs is that they aren't saying anything new or personal or interesting, just rehashes of stuff that's already been said elsewhere dozens of times.  There's also a definite fixation on the superiority of one product over another.  Booorring.  Rather than have someone advocate X, I'd like to hear about things that person actually is doing with X on a daily basis, told in a straightforward way.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Let me help you all understand something.  If you were all that good at writing interesting stories, wouldn't you be doing that for a living instead of programming?  I seriously doubt that Mark Twain or John Steinbeck would've chosen programming as a career, just to be able to make interesting stories. I think that these blogs will be a testament to the banal existence that most people attribute to themselves.  In the future, perhaps society will look back, read them, and make some important cultural changes to boost overall perceived happiness and thus productivity.

If you don't like something, change the channel.  If you "have" to read something even though you don't want to, then no one can help you.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Blogging is like writing a diary on tissue paper.  Web pages are just extremely ephemeral.

That said, I love the Wayback Machine.

Aaron F Stanton
Monday, June 28, 2004

"change the channel"

Right. But in the real world, channels have to pay actual money to broadcast - and thus have to be paid by listeners/viewers/advertisers. It's a controlling mechanism.

Now I wonder how many people actually read those blogs. Probably 1.5 a day each? It should be clear to most bloggers that they're not very popular, yet they consider themselves omnescent gurus, anxiously defending the last bit of what's good in their own little worlds. Get real. Unless you really have something to say, get to work!

I'm not saying that we should forbid blogs, or take any other measures. And bloggers themselves might be very nice people, too. I'm just warning those people that many others, including me, do not consider them cool, and in fact find their pen fruits pathetic. Thank you. [ I know this ain't gonna go well with some o'da peepz here :-D ]

Positive note: I think forums are a far better place to share technical problems and experiences than blogs (that is - if you really have something to share). They're a nice, social alternative to the egocentric nature of blogs (that is - unless you really have something to share, like Joel).

Monday, June 28, 2004

Janonymous, you said it all quite concisely and compactly. Well done.

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Monday, June 28, 2004

Thanks, Steak Etc. I know I should start a blog ;-)

Monday, June 28, 2004

I'll start a blog about techie blogs. Then we can criticize each other. :-)

Steak, waffles, french fries, & scotch
Monday, June 28, 2004

> many others, including me, do not consider them cool,
> and in fact find their pen fruits pathetic.

I am just wondering why you would think anyone
would care if you think they are cool? Is that the criteria
you use to judge your own efforts? Pathetic
definitely applys then.

son of parnas
Monday, June 28, 2004

Son of Parnas,

I didn't say they should care. I said they should know. Many don't - and behave like that.

And no, I do not judge my succes upon the coolness criterium alone. But I do care what people think, especially people whom I care about. I left the puberty stage years ago, and found out that egocentrism does not yield respect. With all due,


P.S. please don't take this too seriously and/or personal. As I said, bloggers themselves may be very nice people.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Enumerations are intrinsically convergent simply because they are monotone and limited. Exactly the opposite, deconstructing ideas is a divergent process. Understanding motivation leads into infinite regression; looking into the future uncovers myriads of choices.

Needless to say, blogs are enumerations and therefore boring.

Monday, June 28, 2004

I think the point of blogs is to be topical.  If they were vague and generic, they'd be completely useless.  What the web needs is more specific, detailed information, and something like Google to index it.

So when I buy a brand new Barfoo and it isn't working with my Frobbable computer, I just go to Google, it points me to somebody's blog, where they talk about the trouble they had, the 6 hours they spent listening to tech support muzak, and the 10-second fix.  Topical + indexed = good!

not a blogger
Monday, June 28, 2004

The first thing I think when I see a blog with entry after entry going over some technical minutae is that the blogger in question is using the blog as a "supplement" to his or her resume. I tend not to believe that they're *really* that interested.

I guess it says something about me that I simply do not believe that anyone could be that that amped about the technical topics involved. Whether what it says is bad or good is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I doubt resume-readers are, either.  I find it far more likely it's so in 6 months when somebody runs over and says "help, the foobaz function isn't working!", he can just say "oh, google my blog, I ran into that problem before".

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home