Sunday Mar 31, 2013

Eight Years Of Blogging on NetBeans

It is now 8 years since I started this blog, i.e., it was 31 March 2005 when, inspired by my colleague at the time Roumen Strobl, I hesitantly began my existence as a blogger: https://blogs.oracle.com/geertjan/date/200503

What pearls of wisdom do I have to show for these 8 years of blogging? Not only have I been blogging, more or less daily, for 8 years, but I have done so almost exclusively about one very specific software product, i.e., of course, NetBeans IDE. Come to think of it, I kind of suspect that this may be the only blog written, pretty much daily, by a single person for 8 years on one software product. Other blogs have been written for as long and probably longer, but are there any out there that have been written by one person (i.e., not a team, but a single individual) on one software product? I've done zero research into this question at all, not even bothered to Google for 'competitors', so I'm likely to be inundated with links to other similar longliving blogs written by other individuals out there.

What can be said about individuals that blog consecutively on one specific thing for 8 years? Clearly, on the face of it, one suspects a certain level of fanaticism and possible mental aberrations of various kinds. Would I have been blogging this long and this monomanically about NetBeans IDE for 8 years had I not been paid to write this blog? But I am not paid to write this blog. If I didn't blog at all, Oracle would continue to pay me, as Sun Microsystems would also have done during the time that I was employed by Sun. Blogging is not my function for the organizations where I have been blogging; under Sun I was a technical writer and under Oracle I am a product manager. Though blogging certainly helps a lot with those functions, they're not a requirement and many technical writers and product managers don't blog at all and certainly not as frequently as me. Of course, on the other hand, I haven't been blogging about lawnmowers or garden gnomes, because neither Oracle (and, before that, Sun) are in the lawnmower nor garden gnome business.

More closer to home, I haven't been blogging about other software technologies, only NetBeans IDE. But is that really true? I've blogged a considerable amount about technologies which don't relate to NetBeans IDE at all. Or at least not directly, since every software technology relates to an IDE in the sense that the IDE potentially provides tools for it. For example, I've blogged (and openly promoted) technologies such as Wicket, Gradle, and Groovy. And this blog has not always followed the "party line" of the organization for which I work. It hasn't followed whatever trend is currently interesting. Instead, I have consistently argued a number of contentious positions, some of which have not been welcomed amongst those with whom I work. Not frequently, of course, but where it mattered, to me. For example, in several instances I have argued against curent trends and in favor of well established approaches to solving software problems. And on a different note, I've also, via this blog, facilitated a lot of interaction between developers working on disparate solutions and technologies, some of which were completely unrelated to NetBeans IDE.

In short, and personally, I don't feel that I have been promoting anything with which I myself don't feel comfortable. I've been completely (and in some cases, on later reading, maybe too) frank and honest and never hyped anything for the sake of it or for the sake of anyone other than my own understanding of the value of a particular technology or solution. And that also brings me back round to the questions with which I started this blog entry. I think the single pearl of wisdom that I carry away (and onwards to the next 8 years) with me is that a blog such as this, i.e., one focused on a product, by an employee of the company producing the product, can only "work" in the sense of it being edifying for both its writer and reader, if it is completely true to itself. So long as one is willing to take a few risks, occasionally skirting the lines of the agreeable, as far as possible with an undertone of self reflection and humor, a product-centered blog has a valid place in the larger ecosystem of which it is a part.

What also helps a lot is if the product in question is interesting and open to close and varied scrutiny. That certainly is the case for NetBeans. Wow, what an interesting and multilayered product! On its surface, sure, one can blog on how to use various features. But much more interesting is blogging on how to MAKE those features. That's where creativity and endless explorations can lead to an array of insights useful to software developers in any and every domain imaginable. It's been great, meeting and sharing and learning with so many people over the past years. Here's to the next 8! 

About

Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.

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