The life of an independent blogger is never boring. With all the news coming out about acquisitions and speculations about lines of business converging and moving, we have a lot to write about. When you factor in the realization that practically no one is secure anymore and the next major data breech is just around the corner, you can see how one might stay busy with all the things coming out that need to be written about. However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about something that I’ve been hearing recently with regards to the independent blogging community that has me a bit distressed.
In the last couple of months, we’ve seen several of the voices in the blogging community moving on to working with vendors. It started with Andrew von Nagy (@revolutionwifi) heading to Aerohive. Since then, we’ve seen Marcus Burton (@marcusburton) jumping to Ruckus Wireless, Hans de Leenheer (@hansdeleenheer) moving to Veeam, and most recently, Derick Winkworth (@cloudtoad) landing at Juniper. I’ve met each and every one of these people and I greatly admire their work and their voice in the community. I’m very happy for them that they’ve found gainful employment with a vendor and the fact that they will be bringing their talents and opinions to those that want to hear them is a boon to everyone. However, I had a chance to talk with Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett) the other day on the phone. We were talking about some Tech Field Day related material when the subject of independent bloggers came up. Stephen told me that he’d heard from some people out there that we’d lost people like Andrew and Marcus to vendors. We both agreed that kind of terminology wasn’t the best phrasing for what had occurred.
Yes, it’s true that the bloggers above are no longer independent in the strictest sense of the word. They now have a vendor patron that will shape their views and give them information and insights that they might not otherwise get elsewhere. They also still possess the sense of independence and critical thinking that have always made them such great resources for us all. They are going to keep creating amazing content and helping out the community in every way they can. They just wear a different shirt to work everyday. They aren’t dead to us. We don’t have to recoil in horror every time we speak to them. Some of the best and brightest people I know work for vendors. Especially as of late, vendors have shown that they are willing to go out and get the best and brightest of the industry. Independent bloggers are no different. Every word that is written or every tweet that is tweeted gives a better picture of the talent of the independent blogging community. We all listen, and so do the vendors.
Don’t look at a vendor hiring an independent and think to yourself, “Oh boy. What are we going to do now?” Instead, look at this as an opportunity. There are hundreds of people out there that have stories to tell and information to share. The independent community is overflowing with opportunity to step up and tell the world what you want them to hear. When you listen to the opening comment videos that I’ve done recently for Tech Field Day events, I always close with the same line – Make sure that your voice is heard. I chose that line very carefully. A lot of people will say that an independent blogger needs to “find their voice.” That statement makes no sense to me. Those of you out there with more than 30 seconds of experience with something already have a voice. You have a thinking strategy and an opinion and a way to form words out of those, whether they be out loud or on a printed page. You don’t need to find your voice. You need to project it. Blogging is all about writing down your thoughts. I initially started this place to codify those thoughts in my head that were 141+ characters and wouldn’t fit on my Twitter stream. Instead, it’s evolved into a place where I can prognosticate about industry news or give my opinions about things. The key is that I put all those thoughts down here and get them out there. People read them. People comment on them. People discuss them. Sometimes people even yell at me about them. What’s important is that people are talking. That’s the key to becoming an independent blogger. Every time I get a new follower on Twitter or a new LinkedIn request, I always go out to see if that person has a blog. I like to read the things they have to talk about. I like to see what kind of discussions they are having with people. I like to know more about what makes them tick. That’s the kind of information that can’t be conveyed in a profile or a 140-character stream.
Those of you out there in the community that are on the fence about making your voice heard need to stop what you are doing right now and go do it. It doesn’t matter if you think it will amount to anything in the long run. I sure didn’t think I’d be making 250 posts when I started. When I was talking to Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) and Ethan Banks (@ecbanks) about their plans for the opening Packet Pushers up to independent bloggers, I told them that I thought it was a great idea because “Everyone has a blog post in them somewhere.” If I had it to do over again today, I’d probably be a Packet Pushers blogger. I don’t like the hassle of dealing with site administration stuff. I don’t like picking themes or deciding what widgets to put in the sidebar. I care more about the message and the information. Packet Pushers is great for the blogger that wants to get their feet wet and put out a few posts to gauge interest. People like Derick and Mrs. Y (@mrsyiswhy) blog almost exclusively on Packet Pushers. It’s a great platform for the community. For those of you that want to make a go of it yourself there are also great options available. WordPress and Blogger offer great free platforms. Just pick a theme and start writing. My blog is still hosted by WordPress and likely will be for the foreseeable future. I’m not in this to make money or rule the world. I want to share my thoughts and opinions with the world. I want to generate good technical posts to help people out of tight spots. I want to make bad NAT videos. Wordpress helps me do that, and they can help you too. Even if you start out writing a post a month, the key is to start. Once you’ve gotten a post or two under your belt, you may find you like it and you want to keep doing it. I constantly push myself to keep writing because I know that if I stop, I’m not going to keep up with it like I should. I’m not saying you have to make a post a day, but you need to start before it can become a habit.
In the end, the independent blogging community exists because people write. People share ideas and start conversations. The more people that are out there doing those things, the bigger and better the blogger community becomes. That’s the reason why Google Plus has had such a hard time competing with Facebook. Facebook is where the people are. In the blogging community, we already have a large number of people out there reading posts. In order for us to truly prosper, we need to grow. When independent bloggers get the chance to go to a vendor, that means that there is all that much more opportunity for someone new to step up. Participation guarantees citizenship in the independent blogger community. If you have ever wanted to share with the rest of the world, now is the time to do it. Sit down and think about that one blog post that everyone has in them. Write it down tonight. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Just put the thoughts on paper. Editing can happen later. Once you have that good blog post down and committed to paper (or text file), then decide how you want to tell the world about it. Whether it be Packet Pushers or your own blog, just get everything together and out there so people can start reading it. Tell the community where to find your blog. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many others are good sounding boards. Heck, you could rent an airplane to tow a banner around downtown New York City if you wanted. They important thing is to make sure you are heard so we know where to go to read what you have to say.
If even one person reading this decides to start a blog or share their thoughts about the industry, then I will have succeeded in my call to arms. I don’t want to hear people telling me that the independent blogging community is being diminished because vendors are hiring the best and brightest. Instead, I want the vendors to be telling me that there are so many great independent bloggers out there that they couldn’t possibly hire them all even though they want to. That’s the way to keep a community strong. And I challenge each and every one of you to make us all great.