When I was initially asked to contribute to this blog, it was just days after one of my idols had passed away. I, like so many of his many fans, decided to use my newfound public platform to pen a brief tribute. After all, David Bowie meant (and still means) the world to me, and I was crushed. Really crushed. So I wrote some words about his deep investment in technology, his insatiable curiosity and unparalleled ambition, and his keen powers of observation in an effort to tie my grief into something tangible and related to my day job. But it felt really wrong, so I pulled the post and instead wrote a tribute of another kind, to one of my favorite contributors. A man no less deserving in my eyes, if on substantially a smaller scale.
But that got me to thinking about influencers big and small, past and future, old and new.
I’ve been with developerWorks® almost since its inception, and during that time I’ve seen more than my share of directional changes — not just in technology, but with with the writers I hire, my personal editorial style, and my preferences for what I acquire and publish. The past five years, especially, have been a constant rethinking about what we do, how we do it, who we do it for, what success looks like, and so on. While such an exercise is critical to staying relevant, it has a downside, too: The foundation of what I do — building and maintaining a network of notable writers external to IBM — has been put to the test, compromised by other requirements. I’ve watched a number of writers move on to other venues to write and/or get really great jobs that made it more difficult for them to write on a topic and timeframe that I needed.
dW is on the precipice of something now that fully embraces both a return to what built our reputation as a destination for high-quality open standards content, as well as several new directions that will allow us to forge a deeper, broader, more relevant connection with developers. And with the refresh comes the opportunity for me to get back to the business of tending to that aforementioned network of writers.
I take content acquisitions seriously, doing my best to find the right writer for the right topic at the right time, and though it doesn’t always work out as planned, that age-old combination of preparation and luck sometimes pays off handsomely. A case in point, long ago I had a fortuitous conversation with a bright and ambitious young man who wished to write for me. It didn’t take me long to realize what a gold mine he was and our professional relationship was born. He ended up becoming a regular contributor, penning a long-running column called Java theory and practice. His extended presence on dW, not to mention the high quality of the articles he wrote and his hard work in related areas, took him down other roads, most notably as the Java™ Language Architect at Oracle. But things have a way of coming full circle, and that man, who you probably guessed is Brian Goetz, will be making a return to dW this spring.
Brian knew then that the hoops I made him jump through were there to ensure he put his best foot forward and help him attain his goals, while simultaneously building the dW brand, particularly for Java. And it worked for us both. Years later, I’m back to looking for those writers who will help me take dW to the next level. Some will share a similar pedigree to Brian, others may be complete unknowns … for now.
Said my idol back in 1997, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”