My Blog, My Rules

Charlie Arehart send me an email the other day  about my Flex charting control and the way it's presented on the site (which is poorly).  I ended up writing a fairly long response that was a bit tangential, but unreasonably so.  The basic premise was that it's my site, and I don't like maintaining web sites, so I do it as little as possible.  For example, I'd never bothered to actually put an email address on my About page.

But that expands out to cover some other bases as well.  For example, I actually release a fair amount of code, and I have a enormous amount of non-released code that I could release.  But you'll notice that I don't have a single software product that I maintain.  Contrast this with Ray Camden.  I don't claim that I produce the quantity of code that he does, but he produces products, not just code.

Productizing a software product is a huge amount of work, and maintaining that product only adds more.  I have little to no interest in dedicating my personal time to that.  Even just prepping code to release it takes a lot of work, in my view.  If I'm excited about something, I want to share it and get other people excited about it too, just like anyone else.  But the ROI is minimal, since I'm not trying to build any sort of brand or create an income stream.  Which isn't to say I don't have personal brand, just I don't cultivate it the way a business(wo)?man or consultant would.

So I'm curious.  Do people use the software I release?  Comment if you do, and list what you use.  I'm just wondering, because the code is rarely polished, it's not formally versioned, rarely has standalone docs (and often very minimal inline docs), and there is no promise of backwards compatibility or long term support.   Is that a deterrent sufficient to turn away people who's problems my code might directly address?  Should it be?

I know I'm apt to discount software packages that aren't actively maintained, but I'm far less likely to discount something if it's source.  Sure, I like to have someone else do the work, but if I find something that addresses a need I have, I'm going to use it if at all possible.  I'm quite lazy that way.

Then there are the blog posts themselves.  I go very back-and-forth on blogging.  I enjoy writing, but the blog is a weird medium.  In one sense, you're writing to nobody, but you're also writing to the readership you're aware of.  But that's never your complete readership.  And unlike most other forms of communication, you have rather little feedback on a blog.  Sure, people comment, but what percentage?  Contrast that with a document you write for responding to an RFP, an email you write to someone, or even an IM conversation.

As such, I dislike writing posts that don't have a clear point (like this one).  It leaves me feeling like I'm not done yet, and that I wasted every reader's time.  But at the same time, any sort of pointed discourse leaves me this wondering how I did.  Did I get my point across?  Was I confusing?  Without a specific audience and direct feedback, those questions are very hard to answer.

So why do I write on my blog?  Usually to share something I'm excited (or frustrated) with.  Hoping that someone else will read it and be excited too.  But it's always technical, because I know that most of the readers are techies, and have this weird feeling like I have to appease my perceived audience or a Bad Thing will happen.   But I want more than that.  I want to have a conversation.  To yell.  To ramble on.  To share the love of something.  I want to turn comments off so I don't have to listen to people.  I want to force every reader to comment.  I want to start an interesting philosophical discussion that persists forever.

I've considered dedicating a period each day to writing.  About whatever.  But I know that would leave me less satisfied, because it'd become a chore, and I wouldn't end up writing about the stuff that really blows my skirt up (no, I don't typically wear a skirt – makes for cold … legs … on the motorcycle).

What's the solution?  Someone knows.  Tell me.  Please.

23 responses to “My Blog, My Rules”

  1. Ken Wilson

    Hey, don't change a thing…unless you wish to. I've silently followed your blog for as it's existed and not because of released/supported products. The ideas, tangents, snippets, random thoughts, whatever…all add up to a valuable resource for the community.

  2. Joe Rinehart

    > Do people use the software I release?

    I use the recursion-safe version of dump.cfm every day. I've mod'd it a bit to handle undefined values.

  3. Scott Fitchet

    Cool graph generator.

  4. Charles William

    Although Charlie is an asset to the community. I would say that he lacts tact. He presented to our group and nobody liked him because of the way he talked down to everyone. He's got a huge chip on his shoulder. You see it on his blog posts and forum replies; it makes you wish you had a big ol' Internet hand to slap him. Maybe he has Aspergers syndrome?

  5. Matt Newby

    You wrote an article a while ago — it used to be at, but I can't find it now — in which you described using the java.lang.StringBuffer instead of doing CF string concatenation. I took that concept and modified the FuseBox 4 parser corefile, which resulted in a HUGE performance increase when FB creates very large parsed files (800K+). Sean Corfield incorporated it in the FB5 fuseboxWriter.cfc.

    I don't know if this counts as "software you've released", but I give you credit for pointing me in the right direction. Using CF string concatenation, I was running into performance issues of 8-10 minutes to create the parsed file. Now it's short enough that it's not really that noticeable. So, here's a very belated thank you!

  6. Ben Nadel

    I use stuff that you write to launch my own investigations or to build on top of the code you already have. I have never used your code stand-alone, but certainly it is inspiring.

  7. Sean Corfield

    Don't change anything unless you want to. I like your blog – it has some really good thought-provoking stuff on it. Your code is interesting but I'd use the concepts more as inspiration for things rather than use the code directly, partly because it's provided "as-is" rather than productized but mostly because only a few things are Apache Source Licensed (so I just can't use them in commercial projects).

  8. hua

    I've subscribed your blog and like it.
    I haven't used any code directly but been inspired by and learned from it.

  9. Sami Hoda

    Same as @Hua.

  10. Charlie Arehart

    Goodness gracious. I didn't tell Barney he "had to change" anything.

    All I did was point out that I'd read his flexchart blog entries, then went to the page for the tool, and noticed that it was kind of spartan. I simply suggested it would be useful to folks who find that page if he just added a link back to the flexchart category of his blog, since he had a lot more explanatory info there. I was just trying to help others, in a way I figured might just have been overlooked (the blog entries likely came after the page was created). I certainly was not trying to be an ass.

    And I made no accusation at all of poor site management. That's all Barney's own words. Really, folks, I didn't try to pick a fight. I really feel that sometimes my simple attempts to help are misunderstood.

    And Charles, wow, buddy, way to ruin my weekend. I'm absolutely shocked. But I don't want to turn Barney's blog into any kind of discussion on that opinion. Rather, I'm going to throw it up on my blog. I certainly want to hear more from folks like you. I'm absolutely stunned by your comment, but if I've totally misgauged my standing in the community, then I want to know where I can improve.

  11. Joe Rinehart

    @Charles William

    Are we talking about the same Charlie, or even sure it's the right first name?

    Three or four years ago, I went to my first tech conference *ever*. I got there a day early, didn't know anyone, but people knew my name because of Model-Glue.

    I ran into Charlie, he introduced himself, and we had an ad-hoc lunch at a vegetarian restaurant next to the conference center. It was a great way to be welcomed into the ColdFusion community (Thanks Charlie! ), and I appreciated one of the "old guard" taking the time to have a one-on-one lunch with someone he didn't even know.


  12. Sean Corfield

    @Charles W

    I think about the only valid criticisms that could be leveled at Charlie A is that he is sometimes *too* helpful and too concerned about everyone being nice to each other :)

    Certainly in my dealings with him, when there has been any hint of an issue, he's always been extremely proactive to ensure that no slight was intended and to make sure that everyone's cool with things.

    He also goes out of his way to ensure every angle has been explored and that information is presented as clearly as possible so that as large an audience as possible can benefit from the information.

    He's a tremendous asset to the community, has produced countless excellent presentations and articles and columns and he works very hard to provide much needed, approachable information for people new to ColdFusion.

  13. Mark Fuqua

    Ditto Sean, Barney and Joe. Charlie A. has helped me many times and has always be gracious about it.

  14. Michael Sharman

    Again +1 (hmm, make that +2) to Charlie, simply browsing his website proves his worth and dedication to the CF community 1000 times over. And that's not taking into consideration his presence on countless mailing lists and blog comments.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie on a social level (at the WebDU conference after party) and have only positive things to say about him.

    Keep doing what you're doing Charlie, I think it was possibly a misunderstanding on Charles' behalf.

  15. Kim Arehart

    This may seem out of place, but as Charlie's wife, I wanted to ring in myself. Naturally, I deal with him on a more regular basis than anyone else. To Charles William, I'm sorry you had that response to Charlie. Still, Sean was right on. Charlie's always concerned about helping…not hurting or offending. I myself have felt at times that he wanted to be "too" helpful with me, and it sometimes has rubbed me the wrong way, but when I look inward in those instances, I see that it's MY issue…not his. To those who came to Charlie's defense, thank you. He pours heart & soul into his work & his relationships, & hurtful comments really disturb him. I've found him completely worthy of my respect & am glad to see that others in the CF community agree.

  16. Charlie Arehart

    Thanks very much to those who stepped up in my defense. I really wasn't asking for that, but of course it's appreciated. I've decided not to bother (for now) to take this up on my blog.

    Charles William, I do want to simply make a plea to you to please give me the chance to apologize to you in person. If you share your email or phone number at charlie (at), I'll be glad to reach out.

    And I'd say the same to anyone who feels that way after reading or seeing something of mine. I really don't ever want to think I've offended someone, and if so not only want to apologize but also address it. Charles, you seem to suggest this is more than one thing, and more than one person who felt as you did. That's all the more reason for me to want very much to learn from my mistakes with you.

    And I'll say, as well, that I learned from this whole ordeal with Barney. I have to wonder if things would have been all very different if instead of just sharing the suggestions, I had instead first asked, "would you like to hear some suggestions?" At that point, he may have said, "nah, I really don't have time to bother updating anything". I'll admit, I might have pressed, though, to make sure he realized how simple my suggestions were. Indeed, as he said, he took them on.

    I don't know that I'll ever fully understand why some bristle at suggestions. I'm certainly open to them myself, and revise my site, writings, and tools all the time. I know some say, "well, you have time to do all that". OK, I guess I do. It just seems the right thing, but I'll accept that Barney sees his situations as different (not "building a brand"). To each his own.

    As for the concerns Charles raised, it seems a related issue: I have to find the balance in knowing when to make a suggestion or when to explain a topic in a class or article. Since I can't really know who I'm talking to in the latter case, it's tough. I'd just ask folks to please be patient (with people like me). I'm (we are) just trying to help. If it doesn't help you (or seems I'm talking down to you), consider whether I might be speaking to someone else, or from their perspective.

    Fortunately, I get enough positive feedback in all that I do to keep me going. I just want to stress, again, that I still want feedback. I regard even the comment of one as likely representing the thoughts of many. Someone needs to be the first one to step up. To quote that coach who went off at the press conference a couple months ago, "I'm a man. I'm 40 (well, 45). I can take it!" :-)
    PS My wife told me she stepped in and made a comment. As I write this, it's not showing up here (the comments are moderated, I guess). Just want to say that's not "my girlfriend taking up my fights for me", rather just my best friend wanting to say to the world, "hey, you ought to try living with him!" :-) Seriously, though, she simply wanted to say that she's had challenges, too, knowing how to take such "feedback", but she admits she usually just took my suggestion the wrong way, or I caught her in a wrong mood. But clearly I can learn from all this, too. Even if just a small number of people respond that way, I still want to work on it. Thankfully God's given her to me to help me do that over the long haul!

  17. Charlie Arehart

    Hmm. My comment took right away. Clearly, they're not moderated. Sorry to insinuate that. I'll ask Kim what she tried. (Maybe she needed to reply to an email to confirm her identity and it got filed somewhere unexpected. I'll get her to look into that.) It was cute for her to try, at least. Apologies to those who think it's too saccharine/sweet . :-)

  18. Mitch Rose

    I've been a fan of your blog for years, and have used some of your code too. I rarely post to anyone's blog, but please, keep up the good work – I for one find it all very helpful.

  19. Charlie Arehart

    Thanks, Barney. Makes total sense. Sorry for the confusion.

    And thanks, too, to Mitch, for bringing the comments back to the main point of your entry, which was your asking people to let you know what they thought of the things you offer on your site, and how you offer them.

    As he says, I too want to say keep up the good work.

    Put it another way: wasn't that suggestion I made the only one I've ever made to you?! And it was just a suggestion, not a complaint. :-)

  20. Raymond Camden

    More than a few people have commented to defend Charlie, but I wanted to put my two cents in as well. Like Sean – if I had to "ding" Charlie for one thing (and I'd be happy to have one fault), it is that he can be a bit wordy. But in the _numerous_ sessions I've attended where Charlie has spoken, I have not once known him to talk down to anyone. He goes out of his way to be polite to everyone he meets.

    Speaking from my own personal experience, I've noticed that when I give a session to 50-60 people, I'll typically get good responses and constructive criticism, but at least least one or two people will _really_ be upset with me and think I gave a horrible presentation. I chalk it up to not being able to please all the people all the time, or just folks randomly having a bad day. In fact, when I get a set of responses back that doesn't have at least one angry person, I begin to worry. ;)

  21. Peter Bell

    A little late to this party, but . . .

    @Ray, I'll bear that in mind next time I fill in a feedback form for one of your talks. Wouldn't ever want you to worry *grins*

    Re: Charlie, +1 to everyone else. Extremely helpful, committed and nice guy. But Ray is right – if nobody has something bad to say about you, you're probably not doing anything worthwhile. It's important to take the average of public sentiment – not the occasional vocal detractor!

    @Barney (and the source of the post), I actually love the stuff you publish. I'm looking to get hints, tips, frustrations so I can get better, quicker, and I often learn something from your Blog. While I love completed products (like Rays armada of apps), I get even more out of snippets and thoughts as they help you to grow and can often be used in a broader range of use cases. They don't just solve a single problem – they give you another tool for solving problems (and not always just in ColdFusion or Java). So as Sean said, I hope you keep doing what you're doing with the blog. But there again, it's your blog, so do what the heck you want with it!