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On Searchblog, and Trying to Do Too Much

By - June 01, 2006

The past few months have not been fun. I feel like I’ve let you, my community of readers and conversants, down, and I’ve failed to do what I really love to do – think out loud about what all this really means.

Why this mea culpa? Well, you all have called me out in the past, and this time, I wanted to be in front of the curve. As I wrote back in August: “It’s real work to write a good site, even when you have the support of an entire community. It needs at least a few hours a day, if not more. Just responding to the PR requests, along with doing original reporting, can take up to half a day.”

I’ve said before that the reason I started FM was to create the company that will, in the end, allow me to get back to what I love to do, which is to make sites like this. But we’re not there … yet. The more we work on FM, the more I believe we’ll get there. We’ve been growing in the double digits in sales month over month over month. Great advertisers like GM, Intel, Absolut, and scores of others have joined us, and we’re at nearly 60 sites with dozens more coming in the coming months.

But in the meantime….

….every day I get about 20 or so pitches from really great companies with really great ideas. They just want an hour, or half an hour, or 15 minutes to give me a demo of their great new application, or product, or launch, or new feature. And I wish I had nothing but time to actually take those calls, and see all that great stuff, and then write up my thoughts.

But I don’t. I’m running a startup, and a major conference, and I need to focus on that. Just trying to get back to everyone that contacts me takes more time than I have to give. But because I’m odd, or anal, or both, I take the time to email back, or call back, and try like mad to schedule those demos if I can.

But it has to stop. I’m canceling more calls than I’m taking, and I’m disappointing a lot of folks – especially folks who actually take the time to show me something, only to find out that I don’t have the time to post on what they’ve spent years developing.

So, unhappily, I have to redefine what I’m going to do on this site, and, I hope, get your input on what you want.

From now on, I propose that there will be no product reviews on Searchblog. None – not even reviews of new stuff from the majors like Amazon, Yahoo, Google, or AOL. Instead, we’ll focus on two things.

One, Melanie, who has been doing a great job of rounding up news on a two to three times weekly basis, will be posting as news comes in, keeping all of you abreast of noteworthy items in the search and media space. And two, I’ll be writing more thoughtful pieces of analysis, probably less frequently, but with more consideration (I hope). But reviewing products? Not going to happen in the near term. Sure, I’ll note the quick this or that (like the DOJ requesting that all Internet companies keep a two year Database of Intentions), but I can’t take the time to learn about every new product in the space. So all you folks in PR – take note. I can’t do it anymore, and I hope you understand. I’ll be pointing you to this post from now on. Please keep us in the loop (ie, send releases!), and I hope to get back to the trenches soon. And please, let me know what you think. I value your input more than you know.


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20 thoughts on “On Searchblog, and Trying to Do Too Much

  1. SorenG says:

    John, good luck with this new direction. The round-ups are great, and a lot of sites give links to general search news and products. My sense is that this site will be best with you sharing your thinking on what you are most passionate about. So it is not something you do “other than your other work.” It is simply the public expression of your explorations and thoughts, something that enhances your life and FM by allowing you to reflect, get clarity, etc. — and hopefully readers will benefit. But if it is somehow other than your other work, my sense is you are going to feel pushed and pulled quite often. That is my sense. Hope the new direction works.

  2. It is vitally important to continue the reviews and the thoughtful posts as frequently as possible.

    The Web/ Internet is once again, in a state of extreme creativity that has not been witnessed since the late 90s – as a result of UGC, Social Networking, mainstram broadband, Web 2.0 and the GYM Search competition.

    Since there is no stortage of brilliance in the tech field, it might be advantageous to enlist the aid of other contribitors – the bottom link is information sharing – so HOW it is done is unimportant as long as the standards of excellence are maintained.

  3. G'luck says:

    John- Good luck on getting FM up and running to your satisfaction.

    Web 2.0-ers focused on search: Worship at the feet of Michael Arrington. He is the gatekeeper to your success now that John is no longer doing product reviews. Send Mike your finest meats and cheeses…and he won’t turn down the odd lady of the night if you so choose.

  4. Tim says:

    Honestly? We don’t need your commentary on the every day news that everyone else comments on anyway… but it is appreciated when we can hear your advice and/or criticism regarding the various search engines and other start-ups that are related to the field.

    Please do continue to post about your thoughts for the future of the search industry – leave the memes for someone else!

  5. JG says:

    I’ve always enjoyed the thoughful distillation posts the most. I’m quite glad to hear that those are still in the works. I hope you get to a stable place with FM soon, and all the best in the meantime.

  6. John, I know how hard it is to get something going, especially on top of a successful already-big gig. Don’t beat yourself up over it – you will find your new rhythm. The best trick I found in early days was to keep reminding myself of what I was trying to accomplish and asking myself if the task / request presented to me was moving me closer to that goal. If not, I’d punt it – knowing that, though hard, it was the right thing to do. Maybe a similar approach is in order for you?

    Chin up my friend. Always darkest, da da da ;-)

    Best,
    Stuart.

  7. AR says:

    Personally I find the round-up posts pointless, no offence to Mel who I’m sure is doing a sterling job. But, in the days of RSS we’re all subscribed to the right blogs/news sources anyway so the round-up is second hand information, a few hours or days out of date. I don’t believe anyone comes here for that.

    We come here for the analysis and the thought. Without that, there’s nothing. Hope you reconsider!

    A.

  8. ZF says:

    This is interesting. Searchblog has gone over the past several months from my central ‘search’ blog resource to being of marginal use even in my RSS reader (and my full-time activity is advanced core search). I find I’ve read about Melanie’s stuff before she posts it.

    It appears to me that the main search players have spread out their focus beyond search, additional ‘Web 2.0′ developers are introducing all sorts of stuff of dubious significance or durability, and in terms of this blog you’ve followed the noise rather than the signal. You do seem to be exhibiting the weariness which comes from listening to a lot of noise.

    If I was an industry outsider my impression from this would be that the rate of meaningful change in core search must have slowed. The truth is that in some ways it has and in others it has not, but it I guess someone else will now have to come along and tell that story.

    Best wishes btw with your start-up, and thanks for all your prior work and insights.

  9. You have my sympathy as I feel I’m going through a similar phase myself. There is a lot of noise in the system at the moment and it is hard to find the signal. I did a couple of days survival training recently. It helped me to focus on essentails again. The muse will return. We just have to listen to her.

  10. Perry says:

    John, like most, I think the greatest value in your writings are the in-depth insights you bring. However, I also think the “activity model” of your blog is a critical success ingredient. Communities engage and thrive with frequency, and feeding the frequency comes from the collection of what people get out of their daily routines here.

    Maybe I’m being a bit thick here, but – given the power of the brand and community you’ve been amassing, isn’t this the time to think of this in the context of scaling up instead of down? some scenario around a reinvented ‘zine model? i.e. “hire” respected editors to do the product depth stuff (report, assess, link), and maintain editorial oversight. I fear the underlying engine of commentary and thoght provocation you’ve got going here will dissipate over time; you’ll have lost a special chance to galvanize and leverage and we’ll have lost a catalyst of considered interaction that has scale and editorial wisdom that an RSS reader can’t fill. If anyone is capable of reinventing the zine model with a powerful and engaged contextual community, it’s you/this.

    I understand RSS and blog tools give us all the access to information, and – of course – the gaps will be closed as people morph their commentary to multiple sites. However, I’d put out the thought that but there would remain a gap “in between aggregation and community” that perhaps can only be closed by the kind of thoughtful integrated community model happening here. Before losing that (over time my theory is the activity and pace will unravel the current community strength), i’d wonder if there isn’t another old world – new world model to be formed in here where you build a team that is capable of retaining the momentum and keep you a couple of steps removed but within a stones throw of your trusted voice.

    My hunch is some of the best and brightest in this commuity people would jump at the chance to “fold in under” your leadership in some new model.

    fwiw.

  11. John is allowing bloggers like me to take their blog full-time this year. Time spent on FM is a great deed to blogspace, I think.

    Looking forward to your essay pieces.

  12. dansroka says:

    Of course, the rule is: do what’s right for you. We’re all big boys and girls, and we’ll be fine with whatever you decide.

    I think your plan to not do reviews is fine. Your essays and analyses are much more valuable (in my opinion).

    As for Melanie’s Roundup, I greatly appreciate these. Yes, as some point out, you can find the news elsewhere. But as you don’t want to waste energy evaluating products, I don’t want to waste my energy searching for interesting/relevant news. There’s so much info overload out there, that I greatly appreciate Melanie’s hard work in sifting through the garbage and present us with the nuggets worth our attention.

    Thanks.

  13. jonathan says:

    It’s your commentary that is truly valuable. I can get the news anywhere.

  14. anon says:

    John,

    I understand you have other priorities but as a person who reads your blog first thing in the morning, I’m really disappointed. I appreciate you’ll blog about your insights on different topics. Those are really valuable. What was also valuable was your telling the world at large about new companies and what you thought about their new products. Melanie’s roundup is frankly not very useful. You need to come up with a creative way of keeping this blog useful if not you’ll lose your audience quickly.

  15. All – thanks for all the input so far. Anon – I’m not planning on stopping posting, just not planning to do many “Techcrunchy” type stuff. The real problem is the time I spend dealing with incoming stuff, instead of posting. I’ve got plenty to say and plenty of incoming, trust me!

  16. John, more power to you.

    My only concern would be that you’d be detracting from FM by not maintaining Searchblog to the same extent as in the past. I’m sure you’ve thought about this … just wondering your thoughts.

  17. PeterMHoward says:

    Everyone else has already said it, but I agree – we don’t need product updates from here / that’s never been what I read your site for.

    Have to say, when Melanie’s RoundUp first appeared I thought it signalled a change in direction that I didn’t really like: a shift to ‘news’ that we can get anywhere. But it’s grown on me, and if it frees you up to write out your thoughts, then so much the better

    And finally, can we get some more Joints After Midnight? I miss those, and it seems it’s been a while since the last one

    -p

  18. Jen says:

    Best wishes in all your endeavors. Your blog has been insightful for many, including me. I’m sure whatever direction you take, you audience will follow.

  19. Bill Kruse says:

    This just reflects the need for greater specialisation. As more information becomes available, we have to decrease our area of specialisation too oherwise we smply can’t keep up. What we really need as human beings right now is a way of processing and absorbing information a whole lot faster than we currently can.

    BB

  20. CH says:

    Sounds like a very good call when there are various groups tugging at you for your time incessantly. I’ve really enjoyed your blog so will appreciate it all the more. Best of luck on the FM and conference endeavors and may both continue to prosper and grow.