The Role of Professional Journalists
Monday, May 6, 2002 by Dave Winer.
Last week we had a big outage on our network, so I could only write one DaveNet, but I would have liked to write more because early May is a time when I'm allowed to self-indulge. I was born in early-May in the mid-1950's. Last week I turned 47. What a trip. Inside I still feel 22. But I'm wiser, and more experienced, and all that. I'd still like to have the body I had at 22. Oh la. Life goes on.
On Friday, an important story appeared on WebMonkey.
A survey of weblog tools. A category review. A very well-done piece.
Hardly a day goes by that there isn't an article somewhere about the rising influence of people who write weblogs. This is a survey of the tools they use. Well-done.
I'm old enough to remember a time, in the 1980s, when the big software categories were all at least three-deep, and InfoWorld, PC Week, MacWEEK and PC Magazine periodically ran category reviews to survey the state of the art in word processing, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, communication and presentation software. They even reached into peripheral categories, like outlining, the one I was camped out in.
These category reviews were incredibly useful both to vendors and users. I've already read the WebMonkey survey three times, and I'll read it three more times. All of a sudden I have a much better idea of what my competition is doing and of course they have a better idea of what I'm doing.
In technology, the confusion of the dotcom years left a wrecked landscape, not just in the industry, but in journalism too. I welcome the WebMoneky survey. To get back on track, they should do it again in six months after the market reshapes because of their review. And again and again.
For the last few years the pros just wrote about battles to the death. A category-level review celebrates competition. A big difference in philosophy.
After reading yet-another Blogs-Don't-Matter piece in yesterday's NY Times, I now can see the disconnect more clearly. Sorry I didn't see it sooner, but that's how it works sometimes.
If I ever said that the amateurs would certainly wipe out the professionals, let me now retract that statement. If I ever hinted that this would happen, I would like to retract the hint.
I would be very happy if professional journalists covered news in software in a serious way, without dismissing independent developers, based on the deep thought and research that they are so famous for. (A touch of sarcasm there.)
Look at how Joshua Allen researched his weblog tools survey. Please do more of that, and I will be happy and sing your praises. "Look what the pros add," says Dave. When done thoughtfully by people who cared about the categories they were covering, they helped everyone compete, and helped software move forward.
Buf it the pros won't, we'll do it for ourselves, not just in technology journalism, but in all categories. We need journalism, if the pros won't supply it, amateurs can and I hope will.
The VCs stopped funding technology in the Dotcom period. The BigCo's, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle, etc, are lost in Web Services Land, and in the meantime, a group of products few have heard of are making something new happen. Blogger, DiaryLand, Greymatter, Movable Type and our own Radio UserLand. Most of these products have XML-RPC interfaces that work, and tools developers creating new interfaces for flowing content to weblogs. We have XML syndication formats that are supported by lots of publications, yet the technology press still covers the minutia of BigCo wranglings and ignores the bootstrap that's happening in DIY-Land.
The professional journalists have been asleep at the wheel, leaving a void. They hear irritation, and infer bluster. Wrong. We want help. And we want to help you get back on solid ground, reporting news in technology that matters to people, not the latest Boy Kills Boy story from Redmond or Mountain View.
There was a time when professional journalists anxiously awaited new versions of our software, and wrote about them, and compared and debated their merits. I want to see that happen again. Then the lights can come back on and we can move forward. Let's go!!