Tag Archives: blogging

On gender and blogging frequency

One other point that Anne Zelenka made while reflecting on the Adobe Engage event had to do with gender and blogging frequency:

The world of technology blogging is an architecture of non-participation for women–and it’s partly because we may, in general, blog differently than men. I was really impressed with Ryan Stewart’s blogging output at the event. I sat next to him and watched him pump out post after post. Many of the other bloggers–men, natch–did likewise. Then it all appeared on techmeme. I didn’t post at all yesterday. I didn’t feel inspired, didn’t have much to add to the conversation, don’t much care about what traffic I get to either Anne 2.0 or tech decentral. In this way I seem quite different from the other bloggers at the event.

Is it a gender thing? Who knows. There are plenty of women blogging frequently with attention to popularity (I do so–on Web Worker Daily, but I don’t do it out of a personal urge). But it does seem to me that women publish less frequently than men and may be less likely to post on something just because it’s news and might get them noticed. This behavior means they’re less likely to get linked to, less likely to become more visible, and consequently less likely to be invited to events targeted at influencers like this one.

So this isn’t an exhaustive study or anything like that, but I’d bet that more than anything else, this has to do with the way that blogging is turning into a business or career booster for people. It think (sadly) that posting quickly and frequently does have an impact on the attention that you get in the blogosphere. I personally think that is sad, and there are a number of very very high quality blogs which I read, whose authors post infrequently. But when it’s about the flow, the ad impressions or other related things, early and often is a big deal.

There’s another factor, which I experienced. When I first started going to conferences, I blogged everything, sometime live-blogged it. After about a year or so, I realized that I was losing part of the value of being in at the conference in person. Sure, it was great for the readers — and things like the live notes of Greg Stein’s Python at Google talk are still racking up major hits for me because people are interested in that information. But in order to get all that stuff up and early, I was giving up talking with people and/or sleep. I decided that I didn’t want the first and most frequent niche. I wasn’t getting enough value for the exchange. I’m philosophically opposed to ads on my blog, so the hits are just for my ego, but ego is cheap. Losing out on the chance to make personal contacts with people that I might later want to collaborate with was much more important. Another drawback of being the hare and not the tortoise was that there just wasn’t enough time to really think things through. So you could dump the notes, and some light analysis, but anything deeper takes time. And it’s the deepest stuff that is most interesting to me.

One of the reasons that I asked Gabe Rivera for a personalizable Techmeme is that my personal “A-list” is very different from the A-list that Techmeme tracks. The majority of these folks don’t build systems, and they are all doing variations of the same analysis. For my reading hours, the best values are the blogs of those people who are actually building systems, getting cut by the sharp edges, exulting in the delights of a new discovery, or just the downright cool hack. The tech blogosphere is getting “enterprisey”, for lack of a better description, and as it does, it gets less interesting.

One other data point on gender and posting frequency. When Julie was cranking (which was like a year ago), her output was prodigious. There’s at least one woman that can crank it out.

A second reason it’s important to include more women is to break the vicious cycle of women not being invited because they’re not visible and then not being visible because they’re not in attendance. James figured out how the A list works: you go to events like Adobe’s yesterday, you post or otherwise get noticed for your attendance, and you become more well known. Then more people seek you out. That’s a virtuous cycle. I consider that working with the architecture of the social space–not fighting against it.

Sadly, this is not how it ought to work. Ideas/blog posts should have merit whether you got invited (or could afford) to go to an event or not. Anne didn’t make her way into my “A-list” folder in NetNewsWire because she was being invited to Adobe private meetings. I trusted Cote, James and Steven because I had read their stuff. Their hiring her was a recommendation (she was unknown to me before that). For that reason, her blog went in the 30 day holding bin. Having survived the 30 day holding bin, I put her on the “A-list”. The move happened based on the strength of her ideas. The world is going distributed, and trying to sort people onto the A-list based on event invitation/attendance seems to me like a great way to make sure that the echo chamber gets louder and louder. Or maybe it really is true that the blogsphere is just high school all over again.

The locker room that is the tech business

Anne Zelenka is a (relatively) new analyst at the Analyst 2.0 company, RedMonk. She’s covering the Rich Internet App and Rich Client platform spaces, which are near and dear to my heart because of Cosmo and Chandler. I’ve followed the RedMonk blogs for some time now, and I got a chance to spend some decent time with Cote late last year at ApacheCon, and we had several good conversations. Since the RedMonk folks are (widely) geographically distributed, they’ve taken to Twitter with a passion, which is the same reason that I’ve taken to Twitter, albeit without quite as much passion. Of course, all the Redmonk folks made my friends list.

So it was that I saw their (along with others) live Twittering of Adobe’s invite only meeting on Flex and Apollo. I’m going to save my commentary on the tech stuff for a separate post. But I was stunned to read Anne’s account of a long Victoria’s Secret demo and a few other maddening comments (which I can’t quote, because Twitter’s history is currently broken). I can relate to being stuck in an environment where people are being offensive and don’t even know it (I am sure that no one at Adobe intended to be offensive). My brother and I were the only 2 Chinese kids in our school for a number of years, so I have some idea of what it’s like to be in Anne’s situation. It’s as if you don’t exist, and people do things that offend and then genuinely have no idea why a particular action might have given offense. I’m fairly sure that’s what happened at the Adobe shindig. Still, not good.

Even worse is the general locker room atmosphere in the technology business. I didn’t care for locker rooms when I was in school, and I don’t like them any better now. I have 3 daughters. My older two can already write simple Squeak programs (sorry, they’ve forgotten their Python). If they wanted to go into technology there are lots of statements that I’ve heard that I would never want said about one of my girls, or about any other woman. Forget the arguments about leaving out half the workforce and all of that. When you make that argument, you just objectify someone in a different way, either because they have money or because of “valuable” skills. Some of what I’ve seen and heard — it’s just not right. These are people we are talking about here, and it’s just not right to treat another human being that way.

Size isn’t everything

Stephen O’Grady del.icio.us’ed the inaugural post of the new blog, and his comment was “biggest community wins”. It’s true that the size of a community matters, but it’s not as simple as absolute size. Communities need to reach a point where they become resilient and self sustaining.

That means you need people, and you need enough of them so that there can be an reasonable distribution of work – if one or two people are doing all the work and there are lots of bug/feature requests, then that’s not a reasonable distribution of work. I’ve heard this called ‘scalable’ but it’s not necessarily the case the communities need to scale to accommodate lots and lots of users, but it does need to support its user base well, and the key to that is to share the work.

Another way of measuring the reasonable sharing of work is to look at the “hit by a bus” number – the number of people that would need to be hit by a bus/truck/etc in order to make a substantial impact on the sustainability of the community. If this number is “1” or if there are multiple “1”‘s, then that would be another indicator that the community hasn’t become self-sustaining.

Communities (like marriages, I suppose) that can’t fight well, can’t stay together. So another indicator of a healthy community is the ability to have and resolve conflicts. This is especially important, but often left un-stated as an important quality. It is important for communities to have diversity of opinion and approach, and if they do, conflicts will inevitably follow.

Also related to conflict resolution is the ability of a community do deal with difficult people – Ben and Fitz have a great talk on this [PDF], and it also contains some good content on what makes a healthy community.

So these are just a few of the other factors that influence the quality of a development community.

Happy New Year!

If you are reading the RSS feeds, you may not have noticed that I’ve done a revamp of the blog. Starting with 2007, I’m switching over to the WordPress blogging system. The contents of my old blog can be reached via http://www.sauria.com/pyblog. Existing permalinks to the old content should continue to work. If they don’t that’s a bug and I’d appreciate a comment or an e-mail. Expect there to be falling plaster and such for the next few days while I get things sorted out. I’m going to redirect existing RSS feeds for quite some time, so the move should be invisible to most RSS subscribers as well. The one thing which looks to be a problem is per-category RSS feeds, but the only people really using those are Artima.com, which will just have to be broken for now.

So why the switch? For the past few years, around New Year’s I’ve pondered switching my blog to a blogging package that has a larger community. I originally got involved with PyBlosxom because I was really interested in learning more about blogging specifications, and I wanted a project to force me to play with Python. While it’s been fun to hack on a blogging package, I’ve reached the point where I want to simplify some things in my life in order to open up some time. Also, the comment spam situation has gotten ridiculous, and I wanted some better tools for working against spammers. So for now, what I really want is to move my blog onto a community owned blogging system (as opposed to a commercial or hosted system). That’s not to say that PyBlosxom is not a community owned blogging system, and indeed the community there seems to be broadening out a little bit. But there’s a huge difference between the size of the PyBlosxom community and the size of the WordPress community, and that’s what won me over in the end.