This is disturbing on several levels. No, I don’t know Joel Spolsky but I feel like I do because I’ve been reading his work for years. He’s not just an expert on software development, he’s a very good writer and thinker. I’ve quoted him a lot.
So what’s disturbing? In Let’s Take This Offline Joel’s saying he’s going to stop blogging. That’s bad enough, because there aren’t that many thoughtful eloquent software developers around. But what’s worse is his reason (quoting):
The truth is, as much as I’ve enjoyed it, blogging has become increasingly impossible to do the way I want to as Fog Creek has become a larger company. We now have 32 employees and at least six substantial product lines. We have so many customers that I can’t always write freely without inadvertently insulting one of them. And my daily duties now take so much time that it has become a major effort to post something thoughtful even once or twice a month.
The best evidence also suggests that there are many other effective ways to market Fog Creek’s products — and that our historical overreliance on blogging as a marketing channel has meant that we’ve ignored them. I realize now that blogging made me, and Fog Creek, a big fish in a very small pond. As a result, we have the undisputed No. 1 product among the 5 percent to 10 percent of programmers who regularly read blogs about programming. Meanwhile, we’re almost unknown in every other demographic.
I think that’s a real business mistake. As I write this and as you read it, of course, we should both recognize that I know absolutely nothing about the specific business of Fog Creek software, so I’m probably way off base here. But then, in defense of what I’m about to say, I am relying on Joel’s own words. I’m taking him at his word.
The mistake here is related to one of my favorite quotes: “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”
I think every company needs to recognize its strengths and weaknesses. Sure, you try to bolster the weaknesses over time, but never give up a strength. Here’s my message to Joel:
Joel, your blogging is your stronghold. It’s all about focus. You can’t do everything. Having a clear and well-identified strength is really important. Keep it. Use it to defend your business while you expand elsewhere. You don’t have to give that up in order to broaden channels. You’ve got a business going, you have revenue, you can hire people to do those other things, open those other channels. If you look, you’ll find people who know how to do that, and can do it better than you will. Keep your writing and build on it.