July 2007

Created 27th July, 2007 04:31 (UTC), last edited 27th July, 2007 05:22 (UTC)

This is a few days early because Tai and I are off to do our first PADI course. This means when we go see a friend on Phuket who has a diving company we won't annoy him by being complete muppets.

This month I started to post some blog posts. Before this I'd been posting mostly longer and more involved content. Imagine my surprise when Jacob Nielsen sent me a message a couple of days after I'd done my first blog entry to tell me I was doing it all wrong.

I'm not convinced by his argument. First of all his maths is lousy. There is no reason to assume that the quality distribution of my shorter blog posts is any different from my longer posts. Much as I would like to think that the extra time and effort put into the longer and more in-depth pieces leads to better quality results, there's simply no objective reason to suppose that this is true — how do you quantify the results? A popularity contest of the most visited pages seems a poor indicator.

But even if we supposed that it is true, he suggests that spending any of my writing budget on shorter and more quickly delivered posts at places like comp.lang.c++, comp.lang.c++.moderated, programming.reddit.com and various other blogs is essentially a waste of time that is better spent on finishing the longer articles.

It is true that the longer articles take a lot of time and effort. I have some that I think are important (one on Haskell, one on multilingual support in content management systems and one on a software quality scale), but which are taking me a long time to finish. In some cases I've been working on articles for more than two years without getting them to the quality I would like — if I count one I promised to Doctor Dobb's Journal then that's ten years (sorry Jonathan). This is a huge amount of effort to put into them.

How is anybody ever going to find my site and read those longer articles if I don't join discussions in other places? Even if my long articles are the best material on the internet about their specific topics, it's no use if nobody reads them. Posting links to them in relevant places seems a good way to make sure that they do get seen, and in order to do that I need to make a little more effort than just putting a URL up somewhere.

I think that Jacob is absolutely right when he talks about the importance of in-depth articles, but I think he's wrong to discount the value of the shorter blog pieces that are a kind of marketing effort for them.

I expect that over the course of the next few months I'll be doing some experimenting trying to work out which sort of content I want in the main article space and which on the blog. The two types of content appear differently in URLs and they are cross-linked in different ways. The articles will remain much more visible on this site than the blog entries and I will continue to maintain articles, but probably not blog entries.

It's going to mean more posts, probably a wider variety of posts, but hopefully I won't fall into the trap Jacob worries about by only posting shallow pieces that nobody will care about.