Arnaud’s Open blog

Opinions on open source and standards

Introduction

I work for Bob Sutor in IBM’s Open source and standards project office. Given Bob’s level of activity and celebrity in the “blogosphere” I suppose it won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say that he’s been trying to get me to create my own blog for a long time.

So, why am I doing this now? Well, I’ve been participating in various public debates lately, such as the Goscon panel, and the need to be able to follow up and tell what I think on certain issues, such as OOXML, has been nagging me. Since blogs have now become the main communication channel for one to express himself, for better or for worse, I’ve decided to put aside all of the issues I have with them and forge ahead.

Now, let me explain why despite Bob’s insistence I have until now refrained from creating a public blog.

The first reason is that I find blogs to be very egocentric. And while I don’t claim to be particularly more humble than anyone else this fundamentally bugs me.

I’m a long time internet user and I used to be very active in public forums (a.k.a newsgroups) and mailing lists. The fundamental difference between these communication channels and blogs is that each of them typically focuses on a particular topic. Blogs on the other hand are centered around individuals. Furthermore, while comments and trackbacks provide for some level of dialog, blogs are primarily one way communication channels, unlike newsgroups and mailing lists that are essentially symmetrical. The fact that most syndication feeds merely communicate the blogger’s entries and not the comments only makes this worse.

Aside from the egocentric nature of blogs, another reason for not having created a blog earlier is the fact that blogs very often have no particular topic. This means that readers have to deal with all sorts of information that they may have no interest in to get to the information they do have an interest in. A perfect example of this is Bob’s blog. I’m very interested in Bob’s opinion when it comes to open source and standards. In fact, open source and standards being the focus of my own job it’s pretty essential for me to read Bob’s blog. But quite frankly I’m not so interested in his opinion on music and Bob Dylan. Not that I think there is anything wrong with his taste, I might actually be happy to engage in a discussion on that very topic while having a casual dinner with him but in the context of my work this is just noise.

Finally, the third reason for not having created a blog earlier is simply time. Lack of it that is. Like many, I already have a hard time keeping up with the email I receive and dealing with the long list of projects I’m responsible for. I know from past experience that engaging in public discussions on the internet can be very time consuming and I just don’t know that I can dedicate enough time to this to do it well.

For what it’s worth I’ve been wondering how Bob manages to write so much. Having just traveled with him I think I now have part of the answer. I think the amount of travel he does associated with the fact that he insists on being at the airport up to 4 hours ahead of his flight has something to do with it… ;-)

Don’t expect this to be my personal diary. Even though the opinions expressed hereby are only mine and do not necessarily represent those of my employer I intend to use this blog primarily for work purposes.

Of course, the lack of time will remain a problem and for that reason if nothing else I won’t commit to writing on a regular basis. Hopefully though, one will find interest in what I manage to publish.

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October 22, 2007 - Posted by | blogs, ibm, open, opensource, standards

7 Comments »

  1. Welcome to the tar pit of egocentricity my friend… you might as well face it, within three months you’ll be posting photos of your cat and rambling on about your own tastes in music. :-)

    Comment by James Snell | October 22, 2007 | Reply

  2. Welcome, even if you don’t find time to blog in airports and power-failed hotels. Hey, Starbucks has a Dylan collection that is probably just right. Uh, no … ?

    Comment by orcmid | October 22, 2007 | Reply

  3. Arnaud,

    would you not agree that the style of a blog and how egocentric it is, is dependent upon the person creating it. On your blog, it is true, you choose what the rules are and what subjects to right about, but, the amount you editorialise and the level of discussion you encourage can make a blog very egocentric or very open.

    For me a good example of a more open blog is Groklaw. Yes, PJ decides what articles go up (and writes many of them), but there is a high level of debate and in many cases disagreement. The rules she sets are designed to encourage a high level of debate rather than flame wars.

    PS What is your blog for?

    Comment by Jerome | October 23, 2007 | Reply

  4. Jerome,

    You have a good point. How one uses a blog certainly makes it more or less egocentric. Hopefully I can succeed in steering this one the right way.

    I’m interested in using this blog to talk about topics where maybe I can make a difference. Given my professional experience, this will primarily be around standards and open source. For instance, I’d like to clear up some of the confusion about what is worth making a standard, what should or shouldn’t be a standard and why.

    Comment by Arnaud J Le Hors | October 23, 2007 | Reply

  5. Welcome Arnaud! There’s nothing wrong with talking about non-work-related things occasionally (that’s what categories are for; people can subscribe to the categories they’re interested in). Reading some of your opinions on wine could be interesting for lots of us as well, you know. But it’s your blog, and you should do what you want with it as you feel inspired.

    Comment by Lauren Wood | October 23, 2007 | Reply

  6. Same here, Arnaud, welcome! As others have commented, it’s a good idea to keep a blog about one thing: youself, your work, your interest/s, hobby, obsession, etc. However, as others have noted, when Bob writes about Dylan, I listen, and besides, that reminds me that he a whole person rather than a replicant.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with replicants….

    I’ve had a software blog for years and my only advice is to take regular sabbaticals from your blog; when you have something to say, you’ll write about it, whether it takes a day or two months between posts. Either way, I’ll read it.

    Comment by Zaine Ridling | October 23, 2007 | Reply

  7. I followed a link from Bob Sutor’s blog to see what he meant by “slapping him around”.

    I’ve started (and stopped) blogging three times, and found a partial solution to the challenge of theme: I have two blogs.

    I had started at http://daviding.com/blog blogging everything, but my sister-in-law complained that she wanted to see more family pictures and wasn’t interested in business content. I had started at http://coevolving.com/blogs with two colleagues (Doug McDavid and Martin Gladwell) on professional content, but they never caught the public blogging virus. (Doug does post on his internal company blog, and I’ve set up an external blog for him, but he doesn’t use it much … at least yet).

    The result is that on http://daviding.com , I’ve got strong date-oriented content, and more photographs. This has the result of slowing down the posting — right now, at the end of October, I’m still posting photographs from the end of July, because I did a major trip to Japan.

    On http://coevolving.com , however, the topics are more subject oriented, and date doesn’t matter. (That’s not completely true, because I may refer to an earlier post if my thinking evolves).

    I haven’t found an effective way to maintain a single blog using different categories. The major impediment to this is that the over-40 generation doesn’t use RSS readers, so I have a e-mail notification plug-in that pushes teasers out. I have discovered that when I’m blogging travel photos, I do that in bursts, so I now don’t notify people on every post.

    I encourage colleagues to blog, but I also give them the warning that I’ve started and stopped 3 times. This is due to “finding a voice” that is authentic to yourself. It’s more experiential than rational, so planning out a future isn’t necessarily helpful. As with a lot of open/web technologies, it’s something that you can try out, and if the time isn’t right now, it may be right at some other time.

    Comment by David Ing | October 25, 2007 | Reply


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