Within the last months I noticed some important facts about the community of book and blog writers in the area of professional IT related topics. I want to discuss some of them in this posting. I also want to discuss possible ways to increase the quality of online content.
(Date/Datum: 2011-01-07-04:19, Hits: 145)
The first point I want to mention is that professional IT books are becoming boring. The reason for my opinion is as follows: Since about 1999 I write articles and texts about IT security as well as about Linux/Unix operating systems and since 2003 I write books about it. Within the last years I saw so many books that just cover the same topic again and again. This is boring since most books only provide small changes to prior books. Of course, I could, for example, write a book about the Slackware Linux distribution or something like that and maybe I would find a publisher for such a book but there are already so many books available about that topic and it would be very boring to write a third Linux book! What are the reasons for people to still write about these topics? There are some reasons:
The first reason is that it is easy to write about these topics because they are easy to learn (there are already many books available a potential author can learn from). The second reason is to become popular. Combined with the first reason, this means that this is an easy way to become popular. The third reason is maybe that an author can earn lots of money by writing such a book but this is not correct since there are too many competitors on the market and there are new books about the same professional IT topics every month.
The second point I want to mention is that blogs cover the more interesting up-to-date topics. Blog postings cover current topics and can change daily, and books usually cover long-time topics. While it can take only a few minutes to write a good blog posting, it takes months or even years to write or even just to update a book. I do not remember a case where, after finishing a manuscript, a book was published in less than tree months after that. This probably sound evil but it actually is a good thing since this long time is spend to improve the quality of a book's content. I think the quality of a average book is at least as good as the quality of very good blog postings.
Like mentioned before, blogs can cover up-to-date topics that books can only cover in some cases. This sounds good but it is a fact that not every blog does that. Most of the blogs cover basics problems that were already published and discussed in countless other blogs as well as in all books that cover the particular topic. These blog postings do not even add any additional information to what we already know since years. For instance, I don't know how many blog postings I noticed about basic Linux operating system commands like 'ls' or 'du' within the last years. People write these postings to become a little bit popular (what is eligible, because this is how people can get motivated in society and, of course, everybody wants that!) but it would be much better to link other blogs or link textbooks or to improve existing Wikipedia entries. Every blog entry can contain errors and many blog postings can contain numerous errors. If more people would focus on fewer texts and would cooperate in writing them and fixing them, we would have fewer but better blog postings, Wikipedia entries and fewer redundancy. A similar approach is already done in scientific writing as many publications have quite many cooperating authors and scientific publications make clear what was already done by citing previous work.
Back to the topic of non-scientific, i.e. professional IT books and blogs. The above-mentioned concept sounds good and it is what we need but it will not work since there are problems that occur when applying it: The first problem is that, if one person edits Wikipedia, nearly nobody will notice that because his/her Nickname (usually not even a real name) will occur in the changelog entry only. Ergo, Wikipedia does not increase popularity of a single person. We can be more than happy, that Wikipedia works nevertheless. But I expect not many blog authors to write for Wikiedia.
The second problem is the design of the commercial Internet: If a person adds content to his own website, it can display commercial ads (e.g. using Google AdSense) on the website and can earn money. This does not work, if a person contributes to Wikipedia (= no money for the person) or, if the person links other websites about the topic (=the OTHER website owner will probably earn more money (if they display Ads) but the person that linked the website will earn nothing).