Blogging for Tubridy…

One of the first questions any non-blogger asks about blogging when talking about it with a blogger is usually “why do you do it?”.Ryan Tubridy’s show this morning (yes, I was a bit late out the door 😀 ) was somewhat different (as commented on elsewhere today) – he’s already got an answer in mind. Shame that answer is “because you’re all a pack of unqualified attention-seeking amateurs”… and downright rude for him to have that in mind when talking to bloggers face-to-face. It’s like hauling in a guest only to tell them they look ugly with all that new weight they’re carrying…

I did try making two points by text message, but only the first got on air, namely that being a journalist really only qualifies you to talk about journalism. I know of pretty damn few journalists who have the qualifications to talk about the linux kernel or the latest netbook trends or whether you should use the c89 or c99 standards for your C code. Nor do I know of many who’d be given the column inches to do such stories; and yet, for the readers looking for them, those are very high-value articles. And every journalist doing a story about target shooting these days is coming at it from the point of view that Guns Are Bad M’Kay? but not one of them has any time on a range to their credit, nor any knowledge of the sport or the administration of the sport or the licensing system or any of the surrounding apparatus; and it takes too long for them to get up to speed on that and get the article in by deadline. So that’s two strikes against print journalism – it’s the high street book store, it has to cater to the lowest common denominator and the authors have seriously tight deadlines and resource limits for each story. It has to be that way or the publishers would go out of business.

Bloggers on the other hand are out there in the long tail, being the amazon.com of this world. Small audience? Who cares, the service is free. Want to take a week to do the blog post? Sure, why not. Take the time and do it right. Not a journalist? Guess what, unless you have chops in the area, noone will listen anyway, so unless you want to blog about journalism, you’re sorted. And thing is, the amazon.com model, even if it is only selling to J.R. Hartley, kicks the high store street in the pants every time. There’s an awful lot of J.R. Hartley’s out there, it turns out, and there’s more under the long tail than in the “mainstream”.

The other point, the one I did send in but which wasn’t read, was that there are a lot of IT professionals who have blogs for a professional reason; we work under NDA, we can’t show you our work, so if you’re trying to hire us you have to go on the reputation of the company we worked at last and what we said we did. Which isn’t anywhere near as good as just looking at someone’s work. So a lot of programmers and engineers have blogs like this one where they put up examples of past work (filtered so that the NDAs don’t kick in) or of side projects, or of their thoughts on design issues and so on. That way, if you’re looking to interview someone, you have a much better idea of whether or not they will fit in, or whether or not they have the chops for the job.

It doesn’t hurt that writing up these things gives excellent practice in technical writing, nor does it hurt that actually writing stuff up tends to lead to greater understanding on your part.  Years ago, I used to do a lot of aikido, and everyone who trained with me agreed that the classes where you learnt the most were the ones with the complete beginners, because if you didn’t know the basics perfectly, they didn’t know enough to avoid pointing this out to you 😀 The same principle comes into play here (and in writing up academic papers or my thesis); the more I write for an ab initio audience, the better my understanding of a thing becomes.

That’s reason enough to write. Pity a talk show host didn’t know that…

2 comments

  1. Unfortunately, the outbreak of blogging has done nothing for the quality of journalism. Editors now think that EVERYONE wants to write for free and that opinion is what it is all about.
    I went into journalism because I wanted to help people tell their stories – which believe it or not, many find difficult. I still love to read well-researched, detailed, and objective reports, in which the ego of the writer is kept firmly in check. But such stories take time – and shareholders aren’t prepared to pay for quality journalism. Result? I for one have stopped buying papers such as the Observer, which is now stuffed with “lifestyle” supplemensts and opinion pieces. Plus they supported the war in Iraq. If you are truly interested in the state of modern journalism, read a book called “Flat Earth News”. It’s frightening – but proves that journalists, if they are let, still have a valuable job to do.

  2. I didn’t hear the piece you’re talking about but I agree with what you say about blogs. I have found webdesign, computer, photoshop and other such blogs full of useful(and interesting) stuff. I may not use all or any of it, but that doesn’t subtract from it’s value. ‘Attention seeking amateurs’ – I suppose Tubridy went into televison so he could keep a low profile- HAH!!

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