I realized today that I’ve been writing this blog for more than five years. I’ve kept everything up here (even the stuff that now appears hopelessly naive or even downright embarrassing), because it provides a record for me of the lessons (some of them hard earned) that I’ve learned along the way.
Re-reading some of what I’ve written, I’ve decided to write a retrospective, to see how well things have stood up over time (and to review what I’ve learned along the way).
The results are a mixed bag, as you’ll see below.
2008 – 2009
I initially posted up a couple of articles I’d written for local magazines way back when. Then I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to write about next.
The result was a series of articles based on a list of suggested topics that I’d found online. Pretty much all of those early entries fall in the hopelessly naive category. I think I abandoned the list after about ten entries, because it was embarrassing even at the time. The truth is though, it got me started.
But then there’s this and this. Some of what I wrote was just plain wrong (I completely miscalled SalesForce’s continued growth via acquisition). However, the bottom of the second article pretty much describes Twitter’s playbook over the past five years in detail. How the heck did I get that right (I seriously do not recall what I was thinking at the time)? Or did they get it from me somehow?
A few weeks later, I wrote a couple of articles that I think are still relevant. There’s this, which predates the usage of the term Internet of Things (IoT) by a number of years, but describes the same phenomenon. Not entirely original, as a number of authors had touched on the topic years earlier, but still pretty early to the game. And then there’s this article, which describes some of the implications of 3D printing, long before the gold rush.
Here’s an embarrassing one. A three part series (here, here and here) called Business Lessons from Farmville. The idea was to describe some of the things that Zynga (remember them?) were getting right at the time.
The problem, off course, is that they had a one-hit wonder on their hands, and were never able to sustain their momentum. I’ve come to the conclusion that successful viral products are impossible to predict (or control), let alone deliberately harness. The fate of many once-popular phone handset manufacturers (Think: Motorola, Nokia, RIM, and now Samsung) or game producers (both hardware and software: too many to list) or entertainers for that matter (any medium has many examples) is indicative of what happens when people chase hits.
And then there was the painful stuff. Lesson learned the hard way – don’t allow your customer-base to become over-concentrated.
Later that year, I started writing more articles on the topic of business strategy, many of which still get traffic today.
This two part (here and here) series looked at the run up to Facebook’s IPO. Jury is still out on many of the items I wrote about there, but I inadvertently anticipated the rise of “Professional” corporate social networks like Yammer or Slack.
Then there was a series of articles that I wrote on economic topics: (here, here and here). The last of those appears to be the first discussion of a general purpose peer-to-peer market written (I’ve searched for earlier references; please let me know if you find one). All of these are couched in somewhat naive language, but I think I’m still on the right track with them.
Other strategic articles that year included this and this. Called it. Totally. I just wish I remembered what that idea was that I mentioned in the first article. Seriously. No clue. I didn’t even leave myself any notes as a reminder.
I wrote this in 2012. Just re-read it, and it’s actually still relevant today (although many things have changed in the past three years – including several of their CEOs!). It struck a nerve with a number of former Y! staff, including some senior people, and I’ve been chatting with them ever since.
This article on the future of the cellphone still has a couple of years before the predictions expire. Mixed bag so far. I suspect if I’d said ten year’s time, I would have been closer.
These two articles (here and here) were highly predictive of the behavior of many of the large tech companies over the past three years. The push to provide free internet (and particularly free internet via cellphone) is ongoing, and the underlying causes are described there, even if some of the details worked out a little differently.
I described a number of ideas I’d had for inventions in 2012 as well. Examples here, here, here and here. Some of those are now on the market. Some of the people involved spoke to me first. They’re all evolutions of existing ideas though, rather than completely new. No, I didn’t patent any of them.
The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook series (first installment is here) really started in December of 2012, but most of the series was written in January of 2013. I still get a lot of traffic on my blog from these articles. I’ve been approached several times to turn this into a book, but my one attempt at this didn’t go far. Too many other writers have already done it better.
I wrote a number of additional “invention” articles in 2013 as well – see here, here, here, here and here for a few examples. A number of these are already on the market as well. Some of the rest of probably inevitable. Same deal as above though.
This article contains a business idea that I’m still tempted to implement myself. I’m not 100% certain whether it would work exactly as described or not. I’ve done a lot of doodling and back of the napkin modelling. Maybe…
On the strategic side of things, I wrote this. I got most of the details wrong (so far, anyhow), but I think I called Microsoft’s resurgence. I’m going to give this one a few more years to incubate, and then we’ll see.
This is still an ongoing hot topic, so remains to be seen whether any of my predictions are correct. So far, I think I’m pretty close.
This article called the drop of oil before any of the mainstream press noticed (the first articles I spotted in the business press were about a month later; please let me know if you find anything earlier in the year). So far, I think I’m 100% correct.
I didn’t blog as much in 2014 as I’d hoped to. This was largely due to work, family, side projects, my fiction writing, the occasional physical requirements for food and sleep…
The net result of five years of effort?
- Around 200 articles (some of them substantial);the total volume of words (if I don’t discard the chaff, of which there is a great deal) is probably long enough to produce a book.
- Any number of interesting people that I’ve met as a result of what I’ve written.
- A reputational boost (at times).
- A lot of things learned along the way, often as a result of researching topics that I was writing about.
- (Hopefully) improved writing skills.
If you’ve ever considered blogging, just do it. Start writing (doesn’t matter where) and keep doing it regularly for a long period of time. It’s worth it, even if there are embarrassing moments along the way.