Topology Errors

02 August 2005

Stroking the Ego

Seth Godin has a superb post that explains why people spend time blogging with little hope of financial gain. His analysis explains recent events in the GIS blogosphere and helps to predict the future. If you didn’t click the previous link, I recommend reading about the magic word.

Recent Events

The Sensationalism of the Past Few Months
Undeveloped ideas were picked up and passed on as news by some of the GIS press. A reprinted letter from Dimitri (the Unamapper) to the new (at the time) editor of GIS Monitor was a watershed event. Posting an 1,800+ word excerpt from a rant that basically called 98% of the GIS community stupid for paying more than $250 for software was a classic case of ego stroking. It opened the floodgate for the posting and reposting of other inane ideas. I use the term Unamapper because that letter reminded me of the Unabomber Manifesto. I’ll admit that I honestly find these types of treatises fascinating but wouldn’t pass them on as news.

The Recent Lull in Sensationalism
Nothing coming out of the GIS press or blogosphere in the past week has made me shake my head. I’d like to take credit for this recent lull. However, I’ve been to the ESRI User Conference in past years and know that experience was far more influential. ESRI puts on a “really big show” (to quote Ed Sullivan) that strokes the egos of all attendees. And I don’t mean that ESRI patronizes the attendees, but instead reminds them of the importance of their work and makes them truly feel special. Most people leave the conference jazzed about GIS. Anyway, the GIS press and blogosphere’s egos were sufficiently satisfied this past week so they did not have to resort to attention-getting antics.

The Future

A Rise in the Number of GIS Blogs
Right now there are less than 25 GIS blogs with a recent history of regular posts. The low cost of entry is going to result in an explosion of GIS blogs. Starting a GIS blog is easy and inexpensive. By this time next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if information was posted regularly to over a thousand GIS blogs.

Notoriety for a Few
The rise in useful RSS feeds and ubiquitous RSS Readers (slated for Longhorn/Windows Vista) will provide a marketplace for a few GIS bloggers to gain a large readership. These few will look for ways to monetize their notoriety (analyst papers, books, survey results, advertising, consulting, etc.) The existing GIS press should be looking over their shoulder since their competition will dramatically increase. As an aside, Topology Errors won’t be one of those few. First, I enjoy my day job far too much to spend a whole lot of time covering the foibles of the GIS Press and GIS Blogosphere. Second, far more people are interested in implementing GIS to solve problems than watching the machinations of the GIS Press and GIS Blogosphere.

Obscurity for the Rest
Providing a steady stream of relevant and concise information is difficult and time consuming. Although there will be many blogs, the majority will last as long as a shooting star on a summer’s night. The hoped for monetization of notoriety won’t happen and many bloggers will return to activities that help pay the mortgage and other bills.

Co-opted by the Corporation
What percent of the web pages that you read in the past week (outside of blogs) were written and posted by someone who wasn’t paid? In contrast, the early days of the web (prior to Bill Gate’s embracing in 1995) were ruled by amateurs. Even now, a list of 200 popular feeds includes a fair percentage where the posters are paid by the hour rather than simply motivated by ego/notoriety. The ESRI UC Blog was an indication of how fast this trend will happen.

I see a correlation between these predictions for GIS blogs and the future of the Open Source movement. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on this.