Living on an island

by Volker Weber

Declan writes about the Lotus Domino community:

If I prompted them by asking if they read any of the Notes related blogs they would, nearly always, say no. And this isn't restricted to job interviews. When my wife is out doing consultancy gigs at different clients around the country, nine times out of ten the client she is with will have never read any of the blogs

Could this mean, that the blogging community does not matter as much as it thinks it does?

Comments

Right.

People don't read much. The higher ranks less than others. The younger less than the older. Men less than women. That's a fact. So why should these folks read blogs? They don't read books. Or newspapers. Maybe manuals (OK, that's a joke).

It's only about personal publishing of some tiny group of people who care about things and some of them want to communicate with others about it. That's all. In former times you xeroxed and takcked booklets and sold them to your friends and family. Today you blog.

Cem Basman, 2006-07-13 22:16

I couldn't agree more with Declan.

When I have presented at the LCTY events and user group meetings I have found that 95 percent or so of the audience do not read ANY blogs. I believe I have also spoken about this on the Taking Notes podcast. How much of an effect do we really think our blogs and podcasts have on the masses (?) of Notes developer, administrator, end-user or CxO.

Then again how many Notes developers are out there - 38,000? Admins - 4,500? Just wild ass guesses.

And finally - yes we bloggers/podcasters does not matter as much as we think it does - in the Notes/Domino community for sure.

Bruce Elgort, 2006-07-13 22:28

Maybe some of us aren't trying to reach millions, but just those few who come by and who are interested. Let's put it this way...

I don't reach a hundredth of the people I would reach with a daily TV show on my local TV channel, but I don't have a daily TV show on my local TV channel. I do have a blog.

I don't reach a ten thousandeth of the people I would reach with a national TV show, but I don't have a national TV show. I do have a blog.

I don't reach a two millionth of the people I would reach if I played soccer (football) in the World Cup, but I don't play soccer (football) any more, and I was never World Cup material. I do have a blog.

Am I making myself clear?

Ben Langhinrichs, 2006-07-13 22:42

Does this mean the blogging community does not matter as much as it thinks it does? I take your point, Volker, and certainly my experience parallels Dec's and Bruce's.

But to answer your question seriously (we now pause for a collective double-take over the idea of me being serious), don't we also have to consider the relative influence of the blogging audience in addition to the absolute numbers? If, to take Bruce's numbers, 3800 developers and 4500 admins are in the Notes universe but only 5-10% of them read blogs, are those 5-10% the trend-setters, tech leads, alpha geeks, early adopters of their respective companies or communities? Or are they ordinary? I would argue that the people who take the time and make the effort are more likely to exert additional influence than the people who go home at the end of the day and forget all about Notes.

In other words, as with many things, in my opinion the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Certainly many bloggers have delusions of grandeur (I have delusions of competence occasionally...), but is it any more accurate to say that bloggers are only as important as the percentage of people who read their articles?

Rob McDonagh, 2006-07-13 22:45

Regarding "7.0.2" I don't think we will see huge spike of end users, admins, developers, managers etc. blogging now that Notes/Domino has a new template. Just my prediction. Let's talk about this six months after 7.0.2 ships.

Bruce Elgort, 2006-07-13 22:47

as I said in my post :

"If I had to answer the question as to why I think this is then I'd probably say it's because these people just think of what they do as a nine to five job and no more. "

That being said, when these people are introduced to the community and shown how to get a RSS reader up and running so they can keep track of the blogs they enevitably become involved in the community and start commenting on blogs and maybe even may start their own if they feel they have the material.

So while it may be a bit of an island there is no border control or immigration laws to work through to come visit or even live there.

Declan Lynch, 2006-07-13 22:50

@Declan,

As for RSS...after I gave my Intro to RSS class at work to 40 people only of them is still using an RSS reader. Just a fact.

Bruce Elgort, 2006-07-13 22:55

Ben if Peter Crouch can play in a World Cup, then beleive me so can you!

Carl Tyler, 2006-07-13 23:01

I'd have to agree with Declan completely on this.

The majority of the people that I run into don't even know that such blogs exist, and quite frankly I don't think they care.

Most of these people are "nine to five job"-ers as Declan put it... and outside of doing juuuuuuuust enough to get by they typically don't care enough to spend their time learning more about such a business-class technology as IBM Lotus Notes / Domino.

Bloggers, and I'm certain that I fall into this group on occasion, can often come across as self-important and self-absorbed. From vanity-Googling plug-ins to the occasional ASW stunt... we bloggers are an interesting mix of people with a lot to say... regardless of whether there is an audience who will listen.

I can't help but wonder if the 'blog is dead, or at least ready for 2.0...

Chris Toohey, 2006-07-13 23:14

The majority of U.S. high school students think Canada is a state, or even a city. Does that make Canada less valid?

I'm sorry, if people were under the delusion that the world was listening just because they were blogging, or commenting on other people's blog, then of course they are doomed to disappointment. But that really missed the point. It is not about who doesn't read you, it is about who does. If I publish a book, and only 100,000 people read it, am I to worry about the billions who didn't? I have made friends and established relationships with people from many countries through my blog. I have made good contacts at many major companies that I would never have made any other way. I have learned a great deal from others about Notes/Domino and many other things through their blogs. I have interacted with people who now respect me, and probably lost the respect of a few more. I have learned to respect people I might not have.

Anything Declan might say about blogs could as easily be said about podcasts, local newspapers, radio talk shows, etc. etc. etc. So, get over the grandiose expectations, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Blogs have their place, and that place is neither as large or as small as people would make out.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2006-07-13 23:29

May be there's no focus on what are we delivering or may be that our audience is especting something different....

... may be.

.::AleX::.

Alex Hernandez, 2006-07-13 23:39

Blogging is like CB radio. It will be hot for a while, the number of people doing it will eventually drop and I believe we'll be left with the bloggers that are almost like journalists.

We'll still have blogs from companies, that are acting as a marketing channel, but people will start to see them for what they are and pay less attention.

That's my belief anyway :-)

Carl Tyler, 2006-07-13 23:50

I read Declan's post, and it resonanted with my experience, but I have a different perspective. First, I need to apologize to Declan for not posting directly on his blog, but I needed a little time to mull over his observation.

I'm pretty much have come to accept that 90% of IT professionals don't read many (or any) blogs, slashdot, digg, or any on-line resource. This 90% don't use any extra technical material, other than the help files, and rely 100% on the vendor's technical support (over the phone) for resolving problems. They might go to a conference, and they might go to training.

The consequence is that 90% of the sites that I visit, have quite restrained deployments. For instance, in the Lotus world, we know that only 15% of the installed base uses Sametime (even though it is free).

But, I think that Blogs poor penetration in the IT community is neither a sign of an inevitable waning influence (shades of Radicatti) or an indication that Blogs lack influence. On the contrary, my experience has also been that the top 10% of the IT community are incredibly productive and well-connected. And, they are the influencers for everyone else. Blogging requires just enough effort to be its own gatekeeper.

Jack Dausman, 2006-07-14 01:23

I don't think bloggers are self absorbed at all. I think the Lotus Domino community is as important as it feels it *needs* to be in order to "move and shake" things up as it wants to.

I think the small majority of people who blog have the types of personalities that aren't satisfied with just doing a 9-5 job, or just going through the motions. In fact, it's moved and shaked things up enough at times to help shake the direction that IBM is moving in. It's shaked things up enough to make Microsoft quake in their boots. Does it matter if anyone any reads the blogs? Not really, I think. The people that participate are the ones that can help shape the way things are to come.

No matter what pond I belong to, there are always other people more into it than I am. The things that I really care about, those are the things I throw myself head over heels into. Lotus just happens to be one of them.

Jess Stratton, 2006-07-14 01:31

Let's also not forget that a non-reader today can be a blog reader tomorrow. All it takes is a question (maybe a dubious market share stat?), a Google search, a visit from a Lotus or Microsoft or independent sales rep, and they could come looking to learn more about what's out there. And here all those posts will be, waiting for them.

Adam Gartenberg, 2006-07-14 02:23

The best part of this is - most of us don't care if we're important or not. We don't do it to "be important" - we do it because the act of blogging itself is satisfying, and of interacting with the X number of readers we do have.

At least that's the case for me.

I love doing it, and I love interacting with the other readers - even if the bulk of those readers are other bloggers. Don't care - it is satisfying nonetheless.

Rocky Oliver, 2006-07-14 03:33

there are way more than 4500 admins in the Domino world, dudes. There are 50,000 or more organizations using Domino, and many have more than one administrator.

Anyway.

I certainly never assume that the thousands of people who visit my site every day represent even a majority of the market. They're disproportionately people who speak and understand English, for example. But those that do represent influencers, decision-makers, journalists, industry analysts, partners, and competitors. As Jess and Adam said, the blogging and read-blogs crowd may be the alpha males and females, pace-setting.

also there are FAR more lurkers than there are contributors. I have received a dozen e-mails this week that have all been from lurkers. So I know the reach is out there (and the gratitude, too, as Rocky say...they've all thanked me for blogging).

I don't think it's coincidental that Notes has been a growing business for IBM over the last two years, at a time when the information available about Notes is more complete and more accessible than ever. Microsoft's FUD doesn't get taken at face value anymore (most of the time). The information available is more "perfect" (as in the economics term) than ever.

Ed Brill, 2006-07-14 03:58

There may be few (of the total) that read blogs, but I would think that the numbers that get value from them (indirectly) is much higher. When Lotus announced the Linux client, some on-line news sources linked to Ed as a source. Most weekly news magazines have a small article of some nature that they label "blog watch" where they pull snippets from the blogs. And a lot of pundits are saying that blogging may well have an effect on elections. I am thinking that the traditional media outlets watch the blogosphere for a better understanding of what's hot (or not).

And as a Credit Whore if I have posted a solution to a problem/issue I have had with Notes/Domino on my blog, and there is a similar question on notes.net, I will link to my blog. Who knows, maybe someone stays long enough to click on some links on my Blogroll?

And I have to agree with Rocky, I enjoy connecting with other bloggers.

Gregg Eldred, 2006-07-14 04:55

Ed's point is important. Blogs play a definite role both in getting out information and debunking misinformation. Not always perfectly, but often with astonishing speed and effectiveness. As for lurkers vs. responders, I know that at least 100 people read my blog for every one who responds. The ones who respond are often my fellow bloggers, but the ones who read are often my customers, or just those who think I might have something interesting to say. I hope that once in a while I do.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2006-07-14 05:16

When Lotus announced the Linux client, some on-line news sources linked to Ed as a source.

I am not surprised. Read the IBM press release. It is mostly enterprise-strength blabla. If it weren't for Ed's blurry picture on Flickr, we wouldn't even know what it looks like.

Lotus press relations has been dysfunctional for years. And nobody is doing anything about it. You get bad press releases, no pictures, no screenshots, no nothing. You do not even get them when you ask three months in advance. Try to go to http://lotus.com/press and see what happens.

For me, Lotus press relations has been useless ever since Karen Lilla went on maternal leave. This must have been 5 years ago, but it feels like 50. She is now at Rational, and good as ever. I have sent an email to Lotus and Rational press relations 16 days ago. Karen replied within two hours. I am still waiting for any reaction from Lotus.

Volker Weber, 2006-07-14 09:36

As a "not yet", but perhaps "someday-blogger" and Domino guy I can assure you that your blogs are important. Of course reading all domino related blogs would be very time-consuming, so I make a choice and vowe (qui n'est pas un blog) is among those ;-) Thanks to the published blog rolls as well as my bookmarks I can access a lot of domino related stuff very quickly. Although I personally know only a few of you I have the impression that I have access to a large community if needed.

Not only are the blogs interesting for technical information, but they also offer hints of where Domino is strategically headed. IBM obviously is paying attention to IBM-related blogs and is encouraging employees to run their own blogs, because such non-regluated "free" and personal communication is working much better than any press-release. Blogs are like a human face of a compnay. For an outsider it is difficult "to connect" to any large corporation, but IBM always understood better than most competitors how to include it's business partners in the IBM world.

It doesn't matter that 90% of the Domino world is not reading your blogs regularly, those 10% who do are spreading news and views with others. And via the "comment" function you offer your readers to voice their opinion as well. A pressure group does not need thousands of people to influence the world.

Moritz Schroeder, 2006-07-14 12:52

Meanwhile it seems to me that the word "blog" and the "blogger" is not taken too serious by most people. So the sentence "Ceci n'est pas un blog" starts to really make sense now, Volker. A "blogger" is somewhat of a hobbyist to some. It doesn't sound professional. Sorry about being negative.

Cem Basman, 2006-07-14 15:32

As an avid lurker, but non-participant, I've noticed that the blogging community is, as stated, the people who are driven and passionate about Notes, and who make things happen.

And in some jobs, this is good.
But in my experience, it pigeonholes you in your career. Management tends to look at this type of people as "The Notes person." It makes it more difficult to move into management, or into other technologies. This is why the more standard IT person will not develop that level of passion.

The bloggers don't care -- they like Notes and want to keep doing it. But most IT folks are not that focused. They do this for a job. I think we all agree on that. Their priority is not on making Notes better -- it is on paying their bills, supporting their families, etc. Notes is a means to that end, and their loyalty to Notes extends only as far as Notes can help them with the things they really care about.

I think both types of people deserve respect for following their own personal priorities. Care just needs to be taken to not judge others actions based on passions that are not shared.

Dave Armstrong, 2006-07-14 16:41

@Dave,

Amen.

Bruce Elgort, 2006-07-14 16:51

Excellent comments Dave.

Ben Rose, 2006-07-14 17:55

I also want to point out that many people still may not know what a blog is per se, but go to Ed's and Rocky's and Volker's "websites"

When I look at a lot of speakers at Lotusphere last year, a vast majority of them have "blogs" and pretty much all of them listed them at the end of their presentations.

To some in the audience, they are simply going to the website of a person. And frankly, a blog is just a name for regularly updated website.

So I think that the community does have a little more influence than you might give it credit for Volker, but it's not as huge as some others might believe.

-Grey

John Roling, 2006-07-14 19:17

What percentage of the Notes community goes to Lotusphere? If it's a small percentage, does that mean that Lotusphere doesn't matter much?

Yes, I know that there's a cost associated with going to Lotusphere, but reading blogs isn't exactly free. It costs time -- a lot of time if you follow any number of blogs regularly.

The value in both cases is not measured in volume of people but in quality of information. Information that can easily be used by people who see/read it, and passed on to people who don't.

Who cares if only some small percent of "passionate" people read blogs. Those are the ones you care about reaching. Those are the ones who will take the time to process and use and share the information they get, rather than yawn at it and play another game of Minesweeper as they wait for the clock to hit 5:00.

Your definition of "Notes Community" can be as big or as small as you want it to be. Is it every single person who uses or touches Lotus Notes in some way during the day? Great, we've got a community of millions. Is it just the developers and administrators? Fine, we're in the tens or possibly hundreds of thousands.

But how many of those people do you count? Do you need to throw out all the ones that are "forced" to use the product, just because it's in their job requirement somewhere? Are you allowed to count the ones who are largely developers or administrators of other systems/platforms, and Notes is 20% or less or their work? What about the people who just don't care?

Anyway, I'm convinced that it's a small number of people who make the big changes in the world. If it's some small percentage of influencers who are reading blogs rather than some large percentage of sheep, I'm okay with that. And I think that's closer to where those numbers are coming from.

I think the trick, as a blogger, is to keep your ego in enough check that you're in it to *spread information* rather than *become famous*. If you want to be famous, a blog is a poor place to start.

It's not the blog that makes you famous, it's the Google search ranking.
;-)

Julian Robichaux, 2006-07-14 21:41

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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