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Van Smith said the following a little while back:

. . . more nefarious are Big Money hardware sites poised to be launched soon. These outfits will try to carry the banner of the Internet hardware community, but — and I can speak from personal experience — the polished guise they bear will only be skin deep.

Less than a week later, up pops up ExtremeTech.com, a website out to lure away “hardcore technologists” from, among other places, “homegrown” Websites.

I suppose this is an example of what Mr. Smith has in mind. He seems to have concluded that this must be evil. After looking at the site, my question is: Does it matter?

Why The Homegrown Media Exists

The Internet has been very, very bad for computer-related print media. A few years back, Computer Shopper was a lethal weapon, with hundreds of pages of ads. Now you can use it to fan yourself.

Print media is just too slow for a lot of computer business. It’s bad enough on the editorial side. Only a portion of computer news can be aged a couple months and not rot.

Two-month old computer component price listings might as well be ancient history, though, and there’s not a lot of computer price historians out there.

Once the Internet could do better, goodbye price ads. That’s why Computer Shopper went from Al Roker to Kate Moss size.

The sedate pace of print imprints itself on the printers, too. You write an article in a couple days. Then the editor lets it sit for a while. Then you argue with the editor, or editors. Meetings, meetings, meetings. This takes time.

In contrast, I came, I saw, I wrote. Bang, here it is. Total time from inception to completion: a few hours.

The homegrown media is nimble and quick. They pay a price for it, of course. At best, what you get won’t be quite as polished and all-inclusive. At worst, it can be downright amateurish.

But good enough quick enough usually beats perfect but late. Ask Microsoft.

In short, the professional sites need some overclocking. 🙂

Meet Your Audience

Per that Register article, this is the audience ExtremeTech is targeting, the audience it wants to lure away from,:

These are “passionate, high-volume technology buyers, such as technical managers, programmers and developers, network professionals, technology enthusiasts and others that have unprecedented buying influence“.

Hmmm. Seems like “technology enthusiasts” are pretty low on the totem pole. Technical managers and network professionals must be ordering a ton of GeForce3 cards for all their corporate computers. 🙂

There are certainly “technical managers, programmers and developers and network professionals” who go to the homegrown media to get information they do not get fast enough or at all. Seems to me ExtremeTech better come up with some more potent homegrown if they want these people back.

But if you think “technology enthusiasts” are all IT people without an IT job, think again.

The “technology enthusiast” audience is incredibly diverse. It ranges from a horde of teenage hotrodders to blue-collar computer whizzes to those IT professionals.

More critically, technology enthusiasts transcend social class. These are not just sons of yuppies. These are also sons (and increasingly daughters) of mechanics, and they can have very different attitudes, desires and goals than the typical computer magazine subscriber.

They don’t want generalities. They want concrete, specific information. They want to know, “How do I do this, step by step?” They want nuts-and-bolts.

Why? Some like to tinker. Some find this a source of personal accomplishment. Others just want bragging rights: Look at me, I got the fastest computer in town.

Not quite the same motivations as your typical IT professional.

This group reacts very badly when they perceive condescension. Even something as simple as an author signing a piece “J. Scott Gardner” can send a negative signal to some.

There is also a pervasive belief that “professional computer media” is just another way of saying “corrupt mouthpieces of the manufacturers,” and there’s a class element to that, too.

Now personally, I find that at least questionable, and consider even more dubious the notion that homegrown media consists
solely of shining archangels. Nonetheless, that’s the perception out there, and it’s a big obstacle to overcome.

An Article On Overclocking

One of the initial pieces on the website is an article about overclocking.

If this is the sort of article we’re going to see, the homegrown websites have nothing to fear. This is the sort of article that made all those people run away in the first place.

It’s an odd mish-mash of old wives’ tales and misinformation about overclocking along with some half-understood overclocking principles. It emphasizes problems that rarely happen, and ignores some big, growing ones that affect even non-overclockers.

It does not realize that there are different levels of overclocking, different motivations for it, and different levels of risk-acceptance.

There are specific situations where a significant degree of overclocking is quite safe by anyone’s standards.

From purely a safety standard, I would have no problem building that particular kind of box and putting it in a mission-critical situation. In fact, I’d feel better about that machine than the typical OEM box simply because I’d provide much better cooling.

On the other hand, there are overclocked boxes out there where I’d agree it would be insane to put in places where it has to work all the time.

However, I also know there are a lot of overclocked machines out there that aren’t in critical situations, and their owners are willing to accept a certain degree of risk to explore and discover those limits, and achieve their goals.

If these concepts and attitudes are foreign to you, if you do not understand and accept this, then you cannot reach this audience. You cannot say you are cutting-edge and then treat cutting-edgers as all crazy. The “hardcore technologists” will just laugh at you.

Hobbyists are Technology Enthusiasts, Too

Do you know where the type of people who read Popular Mechanics and Popular Electronics a while back are? They’re here smoking the homegrown. Do they have the same needs and attitudes as those who normally read mainstream computer magazines? No, they don’t.

The sort of audience those at ExtremeTech are used to dealing with are the computing Car and Driver set. The sort of people I’m talking about would read the hot rod magazines.

You will not get the hotrodders with Car and Driver material and attitude. That’s why they went away. If you want them back, you are going to have to meet them on their terms. You are going to have to give them what they want. And you had better not look like you are stooping when you do it.

ExtremeTech doesn’t have to, of course, but if they don’t, they’ve kissed off a sizable chunk of the potential audience. If you are Dell, this may not bother you too much. If you are selling GeForce3 cards or case mods, or high-end coolers, it should bother you a lot.

If you want that homegrown audience, and you don’t “get it,” get some people who do, support them with your technical resources, and pretty much get out of their way. That’s how you get the homegrown audience.

You don’t have to give up the Car and Driver stuff, that certainly has its place.

But you don’t get to the edge by talking cool and tossing up some links to keep the edge a safe distance away. You get to the edge by going to the edge.

If you want the pioneers, the hotrodders, the edgers, you must provide them a place.

We are talking about down-and-dirty, nuts-and-bolts material; material a lot different than you usually find in a computer magazine.

What people are doing here is cutting-and-sometimes-bleeding-edge advance work for what the Car and Driver people will get down the road. That’s why a lot of Car and Driver people visit the homegrown sites, just to see what they’ll be doing in a little while.

Look upon this as pioneers clearing the place out for the later settlers. These are the pre-early adopters.

Back in the nineteenth century, I’m sure most of the people back East thought the pioneers were crazy, too. That’s why they called it the Wild, Wild West.

But if there were no Wild, Wild West first, there wouldn’t have been a West at all, and unlike the West, this frontier never ends.

Remember How This All Started

If this sounds like handing the keys to the asylum over to the lunatics, just how was the original IBM PC created?

It was created precisely by handing the keys to the asylum over to a small band of certifiables (by IBM’s standards of sanity) who broke practically every
IBM rule to design what will likely be regarded by history as one of man’s most influential events. The precepts and attitudes that went into the IBM PC have
largely shaped and molded the whole computer industry ever since. There always has been, and always will be a wild element to a healthy computer industry.

This hardly has the potential to match that action, but if you really want to be what you say you want to be, you can’t just talk a good game. You have to walk the walk.

Email Ed

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