Book Review: Clear Blogging

Disclaimer: The author of this book – Bob Walsh – was a CodeSniper last year, set me up with a free copy of this latest work, and recently invited me to contribute to the new Business of Software Wiki on Joel On Software. I may be biased, but would I buy it again? Read on…

When I left on my most recent cross-country trip for the MySQL Conference in April, I brought this book along. I had already had the book sitting on my shelf for a couple weeks and knew I should give it a shot. After reading the Cluetrain Manifesto a few years ago, I thought it would be old hat. "Yes, markets are conversations… yes, people should blog… yes, people can learn from each other." You know what I mean, the same old stuff, different day. But I was pleasantly surprised… then as I dug in, whoa.

Bob starts with the standard disection of the Blogosphere, what the point is, and how it came to prominence. If you've been blogging or reading about blogs for a while, this is old hat… until he touches on the business aspects of a blog. I won't steal his thunder here but the discussion of how marketing has fundamentally changed along with how a blog fills the new hole. More importantly, he gives the reader a sampling of the tools and tech that are out there to help you keep up and even participate. If you aren't familiar with syndication, comments, trackbacks, etc, he gets you up to speed. And intermixed with every section of the book are interviews with top bloggers, technologists, marketing types, and generally other people with insightful bits and information to share.

Then Bob takes the next step. He knows he has you convinced of the value. He's already armed you with the jargon. Now he shares how you can get started… either personally or professionally. He takes the value points from before and provides a number of tangible examples of professionals – not just technology professionals – using blogging to get ahead and expand their business and opportunities.

One of the things that I think he should have noted a bit more clearly – and it's an idea that I've been pushing for a while – is that blogging can also serve as a resume better than your regular resume. For example, if you look at my resume, you'll see a mix of Java and PHP in a variety of different capacities. But I can guarantee that I'm only including my successes… this space is quite a bit different and a bit less polished – as one friend often notes via IM ;). But the point is that having months or even years of that person's thoughts are 100x more powerful and useful than a two-page summary. Now, back on topic…

So Bob has laid out his case pretty clearly, pointed us in the right direction, but then he goes a step further and arms the reader with the tools of the trade. This isn't 2003 or even 2005 and there are a plethora of tools and tricks out there… made by people who have been operating and working in this space quite a bit longer. Honestly, I hadn't heard of a few of them and have since made a couple of them part of my normal flow and have allowed me to organize my thoughts and ideas that much better. If you've paid attention, you've noticed that blogging here on CaseySoftware has averaged about 3-4/week ever since… the MySQL Conference. Not a coincidence.

So there must be something bad about this book… yes, other than the slight criticism above, the other criticism is about the interviews and supporting data. Yes, the interviews are great and they include some of the top people in blogging, technology, and online marketing… the problem is that since this space moves so quickly, there are others in the picture now. Most importantly, the supporting data cited throughout is already 6 or 12+ months out of date. In the blogging world, that's ancient.

So, would I buy this again? Yes, yes, yes. In fact, due to a slight mistake (thanks Apress!), I ended up with a second copy. After letting it sit on the big pile on my shelf, it struck me… I knew of someone at an organization that had to read this… and they had to read it immediately. Yes, I gave a copy to one of the top people at Organization A. I don't think they'll use it, but it will be that harder to ignore it…

I would give this a 9.5 with the only criticisms being the two above.