Why I’m in a malaise…

I’ve been in a blog malaise lately. It’s getting harder and harder to write. Why? The stakes are going up. Not for me, I really don’t care. But for the people I’m writing about and who want access to my audience. When I started writing a blog back in 2000 there weren’t any startups. In fact, the news of that day was how the startup world was being cleaned out.

I didn’t have the words for what was happening to the industry, and to me, but Mike Arrington, this morning, put his finger on it: Times are good, money is flowing, and Silicon Valley sucks.”

That explains why I have been avoiding my email lately. I have a folder called “software I want to try.” It’s a lot smaller than all the other folders in my Outlook. It has things like Radar.net and Scrapblog and Buzzword. But I look at my “things I might blog someday” folder and it has more than 1,000 items from companies hoping I’ll video them, or write about them.

There’s still a lot of magic in the valley. This past weekend’s Maker Faire demonstrated that to me. I found it ironic that my favorite meeting of the day was with a club of crafts people who had nothing to do with technology. They were doing it just for the sheer love of it. There’s still a lot of people in the valley who are doing it “for the love of it.” But they are getting obscured by the money, and the sheer volume of stuff coming out.

Just look at TechMeme lately. It’s not about building stuff. You don’t see Ajaxian or the Make Blog on TechMeme. You see Wallstrip selling for a few million to CBS.

I too look wistfully back at the days when we had almost the entire Social Software industry in one little coffee shop back in 2002 — none of whom were talking about making billions of dollars. Back then it was more like the Homebrew Computer Society, where geeks came to show off their stuff (and everyone was pretty much not getting paid anyway so of course we were doing it just for the love of it). Plus getting a link back then was so much easier cause the stakes were so much lower (and there just wasn’t any competition anyway). That’s why I’m focusing more on my link blog lately. Back then it was a good month when we had 100 good blog posts. Today it’s an average day when we have 100 good posts A DAY.

One thing I’m learning to say is “no.” It’s a real pain in the behind, but with a kid on the way I’m being forced to say no to a whole raft of things. Another thing I’m trying to learn to do is to pick some stories that I do for myself. Photowalking is a great example. Or drinking beer with Second Lifer James Au was another. Those are things I do for myself and looking at comments about them they resonate with all of you a lot more than yet another Web 2.0 CEO announcing yet another product aimed at taking on a specific market segment.

But there’s always that business pressure that Mike’s talking about. I’m feeling it too, so I can’t imagine the kinds of pressure that Mike is getting to cover companies.

Kara Swisher, of the Wall Street Journal, has some good advice for us: “just say no.”

67 thoughts on “Why I’m in a malaise…

  1. May I chime in? I know what you mean. I’m feeling it too in France. It’s the “suits”. When guys in suits came to see what bloggers picnics were about, you knew times were a-changing. I trace the sea change to the YouTube/Google deal.

  2. May I chime in? I know what you mean. I’m feeling it too in France. It’s the “suits”. When guys in suits came to see what bloggers picnics were about, you knew times were a-changing. I trace the sea change to the YouTube/Google deal.

  3. As a small-time (mature age) student, and recent tech fanatic (read 5-ish years) I have noticed the decline from true innovation as headlines, to the present trend of copying anything successfull, and the multitude of “similar” boutique products.

    I have a few thougts as to why the current glut of really cool, but boutique, or niche products, depress pple like you.

    The sheeer volume of inovation, and the ammount of takeover activity of best-in-field, re-inforces this to me. Following is an example (ME) of why the more things accelerate, the more they stay the same. I am an early-adopter & tester. But, I have a limited ammount of time, and a lot of passion to absorb… stuff.

    So why do I think a bust is coming?
    Why do I think Robert Scoble is exasberated?
    Why will most start-ups fail, (as in the last bust)?

    One reason M’soft and Google (as the most obvious EXAMPLES) will succeed and others fail in the inevitable “bust”, (which is really just an economic consolidation in any other feild), is beacuse of their sheer size (financialy and product breadth), and therefore capacity to COPY, or emulate a wide variety of products, and therefore pick up users like me. Note: I don’t believe either are particulariy great INOVATORS, although both DO, but producing acceptable competitors is just as profitable…

    I love so many products, but I keep going back to a single login at google.

    WHY.

    1. Great email, with availability wherever I am…
    2. Reader, ONE of the best, available anywhere, and (with a few scripts) integrated with mail…
    3. Calander… integrated with mail, and flexible (also using a few scripts)
    4. igoogle, one stop-shop…
    5. Desktop, (Which I Love) avails me of the ability to search across my computers…

    Absolutely none is a killer app. (well Mabye reader, as I HATE most of the client apps and love the cross-computer availability); But with google docs, Picasa (Which I love) and other products, I have an integrated, worldwide available, single log-in AND with a laptop and PC, as well as using Uni and other computers, if I back-up current docs, bookmarks, and so-on I can acess them any-where.

    Interestingly, (as an Aussie Student) I recently downloaded MS Office 2007 Ultimate for a few dollars, and I am really liking the tools in it. However I still find collaboration and so-on easier with google. HOWEVER, they now have a pretty complete package for even a casual user. BUT I paid $75_00, and would never pay the list $1150… So even the nearest comp loses easily.

    Probably not one of the Google apps will ever be best in field, but if I go on holidays and get on a freinds computer, I sign on once…

  4. As a small-time (mature age) student, and recent tech fanatic (read 5-ish years) I have noticed the decline from true innovation as headlines, to the present trend of copying anything successfull, and the multitude of “similar” boutique products.

    I have a few thougts as to why the current glut of really cool, but boutique, or niche products, depress pple like you.

    The sheeer volume of inovation, and the ammount of takeover activity of best-in-field, re-inforces this to me. Following is an example (ME) of why the more things accelerate, the more they stay the same. I am an early-adopter & tester. But, I have a limited ammount of time, and a lot of passion to absorb… stuff.

    So why do I think a bust is coming?
    Why do I think Robert Scoble is exasberated?
    Why will most start-ups fail, (as in the last bust)?

    One reason M’soft and Google (as the most obvious EXAMPLES) will succeed and others fail in the inevitable “bust”, (which is really just an economic consolidation in any other feild), is beacuse of their sheer size (financialy and product breadth), and therefore capacity to COPY, or emulate a wide variety of products, and therefore pick up users like me. Note: I don’t believe either are particulariy great INOVATORS, although both DO, but producing acceptable competitors is just as profitable…

    I love so many products, but I keep going back to a single login at google.

    WHY.

    1. Great email, with availability wherever I am…
    2. Reader, ONE of the best, available anywhere, and (with a few scripts) integrated with mail…
    3. Calander… integrated with mail, and flexible (also using a few scripts)
    4. igoogle, one stop-shop…
    5. Desktop, (Which I Love) avails me of the ability to search across my computers…

    Absolutely none is a killer app. (well Mabye reader, as I HATE most of the client apps and love the cross-computer availability); But with google docs, Picasa (Which I love) and other products, I have an integrated, worldwide available, single log-in AND with a laptop and PC, as well as using Uni and other computers, if I back-up current docs, bookmarks, and so-on I can acess them any-where.

    Interestingly, (as an Aussie Student) I recently downloaded MS Office 2007 Ultimate for a few dollars, and I am really liking the tools in it. However I still find collaboration and so-on easier with google. HOWEVER, they now have a pretty complete package for even a casual user. BUT I paid $75_00, and would never pay the list $1150… So even the nearest comp loses easily.

    Probably not one of the Google apps will ever be best in field, but if I go on holidays and get on a freinds computer, I sign on once…

  5. I agree with some previous advice that less output would be a good idea. Maybe less input too.

    Do you *really* need to be the most prolific Google Reader user to find interesting things to write about? I don’t even have time to follow along in your Link blog and I’m semi-retired.

    As far as relevance goes, you need to avoid reporting on some things, but I don’t think it has to do with product endorsements, advertising, etc. Two examples:

    Popfly: a very early Alpha test, not working yet, or well, or available to most people who read your blog about it and still don’t know what the heck is so great about it. Microsoft is trying to become web-savvy. Great. What people are interested in is actual working examples that they can actually turn this stuff out. My guess is you still have some personal allegiance to MS that puts their stuff closer to the top of the list than it should be.

    Then there was that product that found you in the lobby of the Web 3 conference (juke? joof? zoop? who can keep up these days?)… the guys from Florida, who’s new, unheard of product could roll just about everybody else’s product together onto one web page. Sounded almost too good to be true. And was. I signed up. Got the reminders in the mail. Got the “One day early” access, which overloaded their servers. Got the message that they were seriously re-working the service for performance and would hear from them later. “Later” has come and gone. And I’ve already forgotten the name of the product and deleted the old e-mails.

    Probably would have been better for their company/product and for your readers/viewers if this thing were closer to production and you had already seen a preview of it before the several hundred people (many of whom probably blogged about it themselves) all jumped onto the not-ready-for-prime-time service at once.

    If you mention one good/interesting thing every few days that I haven’t already heard of it is probably worth visiting your blog to find out about it. If on the other hand I give away my e-mail address for one thing after another that never even launches, I’m probably better off not relying on your picks. The S/N ratio hasn’t gotten unbearable yet, but it has gotten worse.

    Throttling back would probably be a good idea on many levels.

  6. I agree with some previous advice that less output would be a good idea. Maybe less input too.

    Do you *really* need to be the most prolific Google Reader user to find interesting things to write about? I don’t even have time to follow along in your Link blog and I’m semi-retired.

    As far as relevance goes, you need to avoid reporting on some things, but I don’t think it has to do with product endorsements, advertising, etc. Two examples:

    Popfly: a very early Alpha test, not working yet, or well, or available to most people who read your blog about it and still don’t know what the heck is so great about it. Microsoft is trying to become web-savvy. Great. What people are interested in is actual working examples that they can actually turn this stuff out. My guess is you still have some personal allegiance to MS that puts their stuff closer to the top of the list than it should be.

    Then there was that product that found you in the lobby of the Web 3 conference (juke? joof? zoop? who can keep up these days?)… the guys from Florida, who’s new, unheard of product could roll just about everybody else’s product together onto one web page. Sounded almost too good to be true. And was. I signed up. Got the reminders in the mail. Got the “One day early” access, which overloaded their servers. Got the message that they were seriously re-working the service for performance and would hear from them later. “Later” has come and gone. And I’ve already forgotten the name of the product and deleted the old e-mails.

    Probably would have been better for their company/product and for your readers/viewers if this thing were closer to production and you had already seen a preview of it before the several hundred people (many of whom probably blogged about it themselves) all jumped onto the not-ready-for-prime-time service at once.

    If you mention one good/interesting thing every few days that I haven’t already heard of it is probably worth visiting your blog to find out about it. If on the other hand I give away my e-mail address for one thing after another that never even launches, I’m probably better off not relying on your picks. The S/N ratio hasn’t gotten unbearable yet, but it has gotten worse.

    Throttling back would probably be a good idea on many levels.

  7. I like what Paul Fabretti wrote above.

    Also, Robert. You say “with a kid on the way”. A fascinating expression. Seems almost to contain some denial of what’s really happening. It’s not a kid: it’s a baby. A baby is on the way. Babies are a lot more immediate than kids. Kids arte something you have i a few years time (when the babies grow up). “Kids” sounds easier than “babies”.

    Maybe it’s a guy thing. (Can’t remember what I used to say. I’ve got four school age kids)

    Maybe women have babies and guys have kids.

  8. I like what Paul Fabretti wrote above.

    Also, Robert. You say “with a kid on the way”. A fascinating expression. Seems almost to contain some denial of what’s really happening. It’s not a kid: it’s a baby. A baby is on the way. Babies are a lot more immediate than kids. Kids arte something you have i a few years time (when the babies grow up). “Kids” sounds easier than “babies”.

    Maybe it’s a guy thing. (Can’t remember what I used to say. I’ve got four school age kids)

    Maybe women have babies and guys have kids.

  9. Most web 2.0 sites are crap and won’t stick around. Everyone knows this, but you dont need to be an elitist and get angry because Arrington got angry. Aww everyone likes the local band that i liked FIRST. Wah wah. Sure there are a lot of douchebags who only cared about Tech when they read from their real estate or telecom office that Youtube or Myspace got acquired. And now we have to deal with them. Most of them are idiots and lets hope they leave soon, but some of them are as excited about new technology as you are, maybe more.

    They havent had their head cooking in front of a CRT monitor for 15 years; maybe they have some new insight and ideas.

    But tech companies are not for people who just want to make big money, and those people are easy to spot and will tell you their desires very quickly. Its for people who actually care about software, hardware, the web— people who loved it and used it and lived it before it was sexy or the next goldmine. Screw them, they’ll jump on the next passing ship anyways.

  10. Most web 2.0 sites are crap and won’t stick around. Everyone knows this, but you dont need to be an elitist and get angry because Arrington got angry. Aww everyone likes the local band that i liked FIRST. Wah wah. Sure there are a lot of douchebags who only cared about Tech when they read from their real estate or telecom office that Youtube or Myspace got acquired. And now we have to deal with them. Most of them are idiots and lets hope they leave soon, but some of them are as excited about new technology as you are, maybe more.

    They havent had their head cooking in front of a CRT monitor for 15 years; maybe they have some new insight and ideas.

    But tech companies are not for people who just want to make big money, and those people are easy to spot and will tell you their desires very quickly. Its for people who actually care about software, hardware, the web— people who loved it and used it and lived it before it was sexy or the next goldmine. Screw them, they’ll jump on the next passing ship anyways.

  11. Paul, probably because the geeks look to esoteric to the everyday people (and might get severely rejected big time) and the everyday people look like mundane, culture-less and pedestrian.

    Both sides are probably right, and it’s always amusing when one side takes control. Hell part of the reason I love mySpace is because of how irritated geek snobs get at how horrible it all looks.

    Damn kids today!

  12. Paul, probably because the geeks look to esoteric to the everyday people (and might get severely rejected big time) and the everyday people look like mundane, culture-less and pedestrian.

    Both sides are probably right, and it’s always amusing when one side takes control. Hell part of the reason I love mySpace is because of how irritated geek snobs get at how horrible it all looks.

    Damn kids today!

  13. The current climate is being ruined by the very people who created it. Blogs, wikis, twitter, jaiku, sphere, technorati…all created by a geek community keen to cash in on its ability to create software or programs that VC’s would pay money for.

    The result is that very few of these “technologies” have any stickinesss, being nothing but a passing phase. There is no built-in longevity.

    As a result, many of them never make the mainstream. Geeks are quite simply producing ideas for other geeks, never giving the “mainstream public” the time or chance to watch, learn and implement one idea before the next “big idea” comes along.

    Just because people buy online doesn’t mean they live online.

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