Is Thoughtful Analysis Dead?

Mike Arrington’s post on TechCrunch this morning about bloggers and the capital around them was uncanny, as I spent yesterday pondering the ins and outs of blogging in the current climate. A bit of a ramble and frankly, lacking introspection, his post was nonetheless an interesting perspective on the blogging market and its potential future. It’s prompted me to lay bare some concerns and questions I’ve had of late.

The Guidewire is a relative newcomer to the blogosphere. Not counting personal blogs and the weekly posts on DEMO.com, Chris and I haven’t contributed much to the blog conversation. To be honest, our initial stab at a Guidewire Group blog collapsed under its own weight. We approached it with too heavy an editing hand, too complicated an interface, too… much thought, if that’s possible. We’re industry analysts by nature and trade, a profession that doesn’t lend itself to off-the-cuff musings and breaking news. We spend weeks, sometimes months, weighing market trends and startup viability and only then do we craft our analysis aimed toward Guidewire Group’s primary audience of VCs and C-level execs in technology firms. As we delve deeper into directing some of those thoughts into a blog, though, I increasingly struggle with how to build and maintain an online presence by producing interesting, mindful content that people want to read without turning into a ranting egomaniac. It’s right there in About The Guidewire:

Our goal… is to add to the conversation, not echo it. We hope that when we do wade in on an issue, we can offer a different perspective, one that’s missing from the discussion.

Easier said than done. All the well-intentioned, reasoned thought in the world isn’t worth much when people don’t see it. I think Chris best summed up our abrupt education in blogosphere politics when she said recently, “I’ve become a link whore.”

Chris and I have no interest in becoming another TechCrunch. Arrington has built a hell of a business but his philosophy of “leave no lingering emotional stone unturned” isn’t our style. Engaging in blog arguments “as bloody as possible” seems to me a good way to drive oneself completely mental, but if it works for him, so be it. Personally, I want The Guidewire to engage deeper in tech punditry by contributing both a voice of reason and cutting-edge thought. A perfect storm of Chris’ seasoned industry experience – she’s forgotten more about emerging tech in her 25 years than most of us possess in our pinkies – and my position at the forefront of new technologies.

I parsed over some of this with a blog-savvy friend yesterday, who said something I can’t get out of my head. He believes that when you write a blog post with a beginning, middle and end, – as Chris and I often do – there’s nothing for readers to contribute. Take the pretty little bow off The Guidewire, in other words, and expose a bit of the skeleton of our analysis. Does he have a point? Are we presenting our blog readers with flat content? Is that even a negative? If we focus on being thought leaders, must we sacrifice visibility?

The pre-blogosphere way of thinking would hold that I shouldn’t even post this. Publicly questioning The Guidewire’s direction, some may posit, shows a certain weakness. But my immersion in communities like FriendFeed, Twine, Twitter, and Seesmic is making me question a lot about effective interaction and engagement online. So let’s hear it, bloggers, pundits, and just-plain readers (do those exist anymore?) – what do you want from The Guidewire? Is traditional analysis dead?

15 Comments »

  1. That’s a tough question. I get back to the basics:

    1. It’s a Google world. Pick a niche and own it. Seems like you have a pretty good position in the world of startups and innovation. I’d own that.
    2. A good blog is passionate and authoritative. Seems that both of you are passionate and authoritative on the world of technology startups and new products. I’d start there, and build out from there.
    3. If you want an audience you’ve got to add a little salesmanship onto things. Arrington does it his way, you’ve gotta find your own way to make sure that people notice what you’re doing. Me? Good headlines. Interesting photos. Intimate and deep video conversations are the ways I’m doing it.

    I’ll think about this some more and might write a followup post.

  2. carlacthompson said

    Salesmanship is a big part of my problem, and Chris’ too actually. We’re just not the type of people to shove things in people’s faces. But it’s vital, as you point out, and I’m trying to get over the naked narcissism of posting a link in someone else’s comments, as I just did to you.

    We are passionate and authoritative but I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as too much authority for the current blog climate.

    Appreciate the thoughts, Robert, and always interested in more. You’re the textbook case for building a successful voice online.

  3. If I had my way, I’d get to blog in an ivory tower and never care about who or how many were reading what I wrote. I despise things like Digg and StumbleUpon for that very reason; I’m still of the old-school that feels like quality should stand on its own without the constant whoring for Diggs and link-backs and attention. I’m a writer, not a prostitute.

    The reality, however, is that the squeaky wheel gets the eyeballs in this industry, and the eyeballs get the money. I don’t think it’s narcissitic to post links in comments if the link is to relevant content, but it’s the rest of it that I just can’t bring myself to do.

  4. Louis Gray said

    Personally speaking, I think blogging is about sharing your viewpoint and insight with others who share the same interests. I was blogging for a good 15 months before anybody knew I existed (it seemed), and now that some of my posts have impact, it does cause me more thought as to how new items contribute and bring new information, conversations and community.

    Blog about what you want to, when you want to. If you want to gain readers, then engage with influencers, big and small.

  5. carlacthompson said

    “I’m a writer, not a prostitute.” Love it! The squeaky wheel does indeed get eyeballs so perhaps we can be the insight fueling the squeaky wheels? Not as glamorous, perhaps, but more respected in the longrun.

  6. Carla, I really do think that there is a place and a need in the market for thoughtful analysis — certain bloggers like Cindy and Louis are doing it, along people like Nick Carr and he folks over at ReadWriteWeb, to mention a few more. And we’re getting it from the likes of Wired, too. But you and Chris are so far ahead of the market in terms of access and trendspotting, and that coupled with your wisdom, as you say, “both a voice of reason and cutting-edge thought” is where I think your sweet spot is ultimately — you hit the nail on the head. That’s what I’ve always looked to you for, and I hope it continues for a long time!

  7. carlacthompson said

    Louis, you’re so zen. Are you a Buddhist? I envy your attitude.

  8. Cyndy I misspelled your name. Hope you don’t take offense! All apologies;)

  9. Carla,

    No, thoughtful analysis is not dead, but in danger of being drowned out by automated self-marketing frenzy.

    As a life-long print journalist who works for a brilliant magazine (brand eins) that still doesn’t have any blogs, I do believe that any line of argument that wants to be taken seriously should follow the good old arch: opening-middle part-ending. Call it the kicker, if you want to be more emotional. People still are stimulated and will start a debate if you lay out your thoughts.

    You and Chris are indeed so passionate and authoritative that you don’t need to be “link whores.” Truly good, thoughtful content points to itself and is discovered. And there’s also something to be said for storytelling that involves more than gutsy, quick-draw snippets embroidered with smart tags. At least I think so and will write accordingly, since I’m still lucky enough to write 4,000 word stories that have a dramatic arch and hopefully depth.

  10. Carla and Chris,

    I can’t help but chime in myself. What value is the knee-jerk reaction and the lack of reflection in so many of today’s blogs? Insight that comes from experience, by thinking holistically, or from native or social intelligence has great value. I agree with Robert Scoble that passion is key and provacative headlines draw people in intially. But it’s the thoughtful analysis that keeps people coming back.

  11. [...] Her post today asks, essentially, whether thoughtful analysis has any place in the blogosphere. She quoted one colleague who effectively said that if one writes a solid analysis, then what’s there to say in the comments. The subtext: fire off an ill-conceived “rant” and we can really sink our teeth into that. [...]

  12. coop said

    Good post. You ask a hard question. But if thoughful analysis is indeed “dead” and we’ve ceded the ground to shallow noisemakers, the world is in a lot more trouble than I think. Actually, I’m a lot more optimistic. For every snarky loudmouth, there are 10x more insightful and sensible folks blogging away. In the end, I think good conversation wins out.

    Cheers

  13. Pito Salas said

    One idea is to have full articles in your rss feeds rather than just headlines. Predictably I use an rss aggregator and seeing just a snippet of the article is a disincentive to reading the whole thing. Why not deliver full articles in RSS?

  14. [...] blogging, commentary, emerging technology, Robert Scoble Many interesting results came out of our posts yesterday on the current state of the blogosphere. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what reaction to [...]

  15. [...] expected ample comments from the blogging world but anticipated it would trend more towards another discussion of the treadmill on which we’ve put ourselves, how to keep pace, etc etc, ad infinitum. [...]

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