Blogging as 20% Time?

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Been a busy day here at RedMonk HQ, with a few vendor conversations (great chat with Peter Yared of ActiveGrid among them), and spent the afternoon dropping in some products on my combination workstation/server here – ZendCore for IBM, ActiveGrid Application Builder, and trying to hunt down the bits for Splunk now that I’m on the beta. But I try to frame every day so as to leave a few minutes to blog, and it’s that topic I wanted to address today, partially in response to another question I’m getting more and more these days: how do I find the time to blog, particularly given how long some of the entries are (which may be a warning sign that the entries are getting unreadably long)?

To answer the question, I should first explain how long it takes me to write the individual entries themselves. It varies, of course – relatively widely. I’ll spend maybe 30 minutes on most of the couple-of-paragraph posts, but an hour or more on the lengthier analysis or Q&A style posts. I think the high volume of grammatical and spelling errors should make it apparent that in the blogging equivalent of “Cost, quality and speed: pick two,” I lean towards cost and speed, at the expense of quality. With the rare exception, none of my entries here have taken more than about 90 minutes to put together, which is in stark contrast to the traditional analyst publishing model with is write, edit, edit, edit, and edit some more.

That model undoubtedly still has a place in the industry analyst business – I’m not going to try to blog something like the COA, for example – but I find the returns from a higher volume, less polished-to-a-sliver approach to be substantially higher, and our Apache logs and customer portfolio mostly agree. Beyond the higher publishing rate, however, our blogs allow us to refine our thinking on particular issues, either through on site comments or linked responses. To use an overused word, it makes us part of the conversation rather than someone just eavesdropping.

All of this is just a fancy way of saying that for us, we don’t find the time for blogging, we make time for it. I’ve commented in the past that blogging isn’t an addition to our day job, it’s part of our day job. In recent weeks I’ve come to think of it as something akin – though different – to Google’s 20% time. We have nothing so formalized, but we probably spend something like 20% of our time (ok, more) researching and writing and pursuing what we consider to be new and interesting avenues of interest. Some of these bear fruit for RedMonk, some don’t. But it only takes a couple of hits to make the whole thing worthwhile.

So anyhow, I hope that serves as an answer to those of you who wonder where and how we find the time to do what we do. If it doesn’t, and you have specific questions drop them here and I’ll do what I can to answer them. And with that, I’ll quit the RedMonk navel-gazing.


  1. I think the trick is, like you said, to incorporate blogging into your day job, rather doing it as a separate activity.

    Sam Ruby said it perfectly when he explained that he started blogging “because I was spending too much time in email – saying the same things over, not being able to effectively point at and build upon prior conversations. I reasoned that if I was able to siphon off 5% of my emails and cc: world, I would be more productive.”

    One thing I’ve been experimenting with recently is using the blog as a mechanism to support mentoring activities. My management asked me to mentor several people in the use of our Rational Software Architect tool, so instead of using internal materials and a bunch of phone calls, I’m publishing the tutorials via my developerWorks blog. Not only is this available to the folks I actively mentor, but it will also reach a much wider audience (many of whom I’m not even aware of), and give the Rational marketing folks some extra intellectual capital to point at for interested customers and new users.

    PS – Could you explain the phrase “navel-gazing”? That’s a new one!

  2. Bill: good points all around, particularly the “answering email in public” idea, which folks from Doc to Ruby have discussed.

    re: the navel-gazing, it’s a phrase referring to the tendency of some folks to focus too much on matters close to home, of little relevance to wider audiences. we try to avoid it, but sometimes it just happens 😉

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