Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog

During the 46th Design Automation Conference (DAC) held in San Francisco, California, I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to John Cooley (ESNUG & Deepchip founder). John was one of the speakers at "Conversation Central" hosted by Synopsys. John's topic was "The Evolution of ESNUG and Deepchip", where he described his journey with ESNUG and now Deepchip. I have to say that over the years, I have met more people who view John with contempt and very few who have directly stated anything to the contrary. When I was at a small startup called Verplex systems, I ran into John at DAC 2000. During my brief conversation with him on topics that included the point of esnug, he abruptly stopped me and said, "Give me the top 10 bugs with Verplex software, known workarounds and fixes in the works and I will be happy to post that on esnug". His position was, "You will get some serious press from that". I was kind of taken aback by his words. I mean who in the EDA world in the right mind would openly put out known bugs and issues for the world to consume. It was imperative that you protect the company and not give the competition any ammunition and openly offer up marketing fodder for the competition. John had ended with "My audience is only interested in hearing about bugs in the software, workarounds and what's being done to fix the bug. This material they will consume, any others they are not interested". We walked away from each other and that was that. We never crossed paths again until now.

This time at DAC, John pretty much repeated the same words that I had heard him say in 2000. I thought, "This guy is relentless, he never gives up his mantra". But there was one change this time around. I had left the EDA world for over 2 years and My time outside of EDA was spent in new areas of Consumer and Enterprise Mobile Applications, and Social Media (SM). Armed with new found knowledge of SM and its acceptance in other areas of the industry, I wanted to come back to DAC to see if I could tie in these new areas and it's relevance and applicability to the high technology industry.

There is no doubt that John has achieved significant success with ESNUG and Deepchip. These forums moderated by John, offers a discussion platform where engineers email him their personal experiences with EDA tools. He forces people to give him real data and not fluff. He wants benchmark data and testcase stats (run time, design size, memory used, crashes, known issues, workarounds etc.). As you know, the tendency within the EDA and the semiconductor design industry is to frown upon this kind of postings by employees. There is the risk that either party may overstep the bounds of their mutual NDA's or that some secrets might be revealed by openly discussing issues at such forums. Also the EDA industry is a small world and one could risk alienating themselves or hurt future job prospects. This is an industry where everyone plays nice. In terms of identity, John gives people the necessary cover if they request anonymity, hoping that they will be elaborate with their posts. While this has mostly resulted in good information exchange for the engineers, much to the EDA world does not look forward to these posts, mainly because this is perceived by them as having their dirty laundry exposed and openly discussed on his forum. I for one, don't believe that John acts against the EDA industry or against any particular company. Neither do I think that he specifically sides with any one company. It is quite clear that he will post articles submitted by his user community as long as they meet the basic requirements he sets for them. John does allow controversial unverified statements or arguments to be posted on his forum. Its obvious he can't really verify the validity of every claim made by these posts. But, he does allow EDA companies to respond to these posts. The only thing John does not allow is people/companies to post any information that he considers as marketing or publicity material. One thing is certain, he seems to cherish controversy.

What surprised me was his comment and strong opinion that, "Engineers should not write personal blogs". He said that engineers should instead post in forums with an established audience, such as deepchip.com. He claims to have 25,000 active readers. John argues that the trouble with personal blogs is the following:
  • A blogger may not have enough material to maintain the continuity of the blog site. He quoted some random stats. (#1: 99.5% of blogs fail within 2 months #2: 99.5% consist of 2 or 3 posts on EDA, followed by irrelevant posts or nothing)
  • A blog owner doesn't have time to moderate comments or may be too biased to allow comments against the post.
  • Personal blogs are not focused and some postings are of a personal nature.
  • The audience is limited and that there's no money in it.
  • He says no one ever got a job writing a blog. He counters that by adding that many people on his forum have gotten job offers merely by John's recommendation.
His claim is that established sites like deepchip offer a platform for interactive discussion. Yes, John will give you all kinds of reasons not to write blogs. That's because if you do so and get good at it, maybe he will lose some traffic from his site. He obviously wants deepchip.com to be the center of the universe for EDA discussion. His 25,000 subscribers keep coming back for more and that means he has eyeballs on his site which translates to Ad revenues. Of course he is going to tell you not to write.

I want to tell each and every engineer out there that if you feel like writing, please do so. Don't ever let anyone (including John Cooley) discourage you from creating a blog. Just ensure that you counter the 5 points he raises above which are quite valid. Write because you like to do so and not because it's a one time thing. Be expressive, Be bold and take a stance. Plan your blog beyond just the first article.

Just remember:
  • It is very easy to get a blog site up and running.
  • Create a community, find other bloggers and cross link your sites so that you can share viewers.
  • Identify yourself. Don't ever write anonymously, for it is useless.
  • Have pre-screened guest authors share their views on your site, so your site can have regular and quality updates.
  • Don't do it for money. With falling CPM's and low traffic you will hardly get anything to write home about.
  • Allow un-moderated comments. Have people who comment identify themselves to weed out spammers and flamers.
  • Be prudent about what you say and always use common sense. Your first amendment right does not protect you from slander.
  • If you work for a large corporation, make sure that your personal blog does not meander away from the Social Media Policies of your corporation.
  • Provide value to your audience

8 comments:

marketingeda said...

Cooley is simply wrong about engineers not blogging. As more and more engineers do blog, then we need to visit ESNUG less and less.

In the future I see ESNUG morphing from an edited newsletter into an actual, two-way, interactive blog.

Deepak Das said...

I totally disagree with Cooley's assessment of engineer bloggers and the reasons that he gives not to blog. Blogs need not be elaborate. They can provide value in their brevity and by connecting with other bloggers, one can have a community as well.

Agree with you that maybe ESNUG is morphing, but it is not realtime

Karen Bartleson said...

I, too, completely disagree with Cooley's view that engineers shouldn't blog. As I said on John MacDonald's blog: "I said it at DAC and I'll say it again here - if a person likes to write and has something noteworthy to say, he/she should absolutely give blogging a try."

http://www.chip101.com/content/cooley-says-my-blog-sucks

Does blogging take time? Of course. I spend about 1.5 hours a week on my blog, "The Standards Game".

One of my esteemed colleagues says a blog is like a garden. You have to tend it. But the rewards can be quite tangible.

Deepak Das said...

Karen,

Thanks For sharing your views here. That's the other thing that I forgot to maybe add. Any blogger should consider that it does take time to gather data and conduct the proper research to publish any article.

Daniel Nenni said...

Cooley has a point, some of the EDA blogs out there hurt your eyes. But to discourage someone from trying is degrading. Let blogger Darwinism run its course.

Key to blogger success: develop a recipe, stick with it, it must have a sustainable value proposition for the reader.

Cheers,

D.A.N.
http://danielnenni.com/

Deepak Das said...

Hi Daniel,

I like the way you phrase it "blogger Darwinism". I totally agree with your point about some blogs hurting the eyes. I think you are right about developing a recipe and sticking with it.

John Busco said...

Nice post.

I'm surprised by some of the arguments attributed to Cooley. If he's trying to be provocative, it worked. As you point out, he's a bit self-serving in discouraging development of competition to DeepChip.

And what exactly does it mean for a blog to "fail" in 2 months? As for money, I don't think many of us go into blogging for that. The vast majority won't make much money on their own blogs or by posting to Cooley.

I also don't understand the comment about deleting unfavorable comments. Can't he do the same thing, since he moderates his list? Do we know that all his testimonials are from real users and not fronts for EDA vendors?

I don't mean to take away from DeepChip. He's got a large audience and has been around for years. It is a great resource for EDA. But many of the "problems" he raises with blogs exist for his site as well.

Keep blogging!

John

Deepak Das said...

John,

Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them. As Daniel said "To discourage someone from trying is degrading". I would encourage anyone to "pick up a pen" and start writing. I just feel that he raised "Ghost" issues and doesn't really have a valid argument for why Engineers shouldn't blog.

regards,

Deepak