Some of you may have seen my final column in Inc., in which I announce my retirement from blogging effective March 18th, the 10-year anniversary of Joel on Software.
Writing for Inc. was an enormous honor, but it was very different than writing on my own website. Every article I submitted was extensively rewritten in the house style by a very talented editor, Mike Hofman. When Mike got done with it, it was almost always better, but it never felt like my own words. I look back on those Inc. columns and they literally don’t feel like mine. It’s as if somebody kidnapped me and replaced me with an indistinguishable imposter who went to Columbia Journalism School. Or I slipped into an alternate universe where Joel Spolsky is left-handed and everything he does is subtlely different.
I’m not going to stop writing altogether.
What I am stopping is the traditional opinionated essay that has characterized Joel on Software for a decade. I’m not going to write Ten Ways to Get VCs to Salivate, I’m not going to write Why You Have To Buy a $10,000 Italian Espresso Machine for your Programmers, and I’m not going to write Python is For Aspergers Geeks or Ruby is for Tear-streaked Emo Teenagers. After a decade of this, the whole genre of Hacker News fodder is just too boring to me personally. It’s still a great format… the rest of you, knock yourselves out… I just can’t keep doing that particular thing.
There will still be some posts here—don’t unsubscribe. There will be announcements of new projects, stories of things that I’m doing, and links to other things I might write, like HgInit, the Mercurial tutorial.
Philip Greenspun and Dave Winer (with DaveNet, even before Scripting News) pioneered the Internet Pundit style of essay writing which has served so well for fifteen years. They started as lone voices in a new medium, but the genre spread like wildfire. It was perfectly prognosticated in the 1990 Christian Slater movie Pump Up The Volume. If you’ve already forgotten it, here’s what happens (not a spoiler): Slater plays a kid with a low-power radio station in his bedroom, broadcasting in the middle of the night to the other isolated, angsty kids in his high school. Interesting drama ensues. 102 minutes later, by the time the credits roll, high school kids everywhere are spouting their opinions on their own pirate radio stations. And that’s exactly what happened with blogging, until we got where we are today, with millions of people expressing themselves and using the exact same narrative techniques and stories and styles that the first bloggers pioneered.
What we need now, I feel, is not another essay repeating No Silver Bullet for the 18,000th time. We need something that is more objective (based on measurable truth and falseness rather than just lists of anecdotes about successful projects and failed projects). We need something that reflects the best new ideas about what authorship means in 2010, not just electronic forms of 18th-century pamphlets. We need to stop rewriting the same things again and again (fail fast! NDAs are worthless! Execution matters, not ideas! Use the right tools for the job!). Instead we should start filling in the long tail of knowledge.
So that’s what I’m going to do with the next decade.
More details on my faux retirement:
- I’m drastically cutting back on speaking engagements. I already committed to speak at Business of Software 2010, in Boston in October, so that’s still on.
- This week’s StackOverflow Podcast will be the last in that format. Jeff and I are working on a new format and will come up with something exciting, new and different, so stay tuned for the details, but the current format is getting kind of tired.
- Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long. It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid, irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica. I would write an essay describing why Twitter gives me a headache and makes me fear for the future of humanity, but it doesn’t deserve more than 140 characters of explanation, and I’ve already spent 820.
- The Joel on Software discussion group, in long decline, will close. The Business of Software group will remain open.