Blog post

Writing “the” Book is Less Impressive than Authoring “the” Blog

By Jenny Sussin | January 09, 2012 | 14 Comments

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Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of “he wrote the book on…” or even “I wrote the book on…” and I am wondering why I’m unimpressed.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s impressive to write a book. Writing a book is a lot of work, a lot of research, a lot of conversation; but writing a book doesn’t make you the end-all be-all expert. It just doesn’t.

Keeping up a blog on a topic, to me, is more impressive. Keeping up a blog means that the blog author(s) is/are constantly learning about a topic and articulating what they know to their audience. It requires continuous acknowledgment of the evolution of individual and personal disposition and again, the articulation of why. (Maybe a year or so down the line I will look at this blog and think, “really, Sussin?!”)

While a book is the representative of the accumulation of knowledge, a blog is the continuous regurgitation of most recently acquired knowledge that has been swashed around, chewed, swallowed and then shared (this sounds a little sickening.) The book was vetted by the publisher, sure – and they blog may not need any sort of review approval – but there is a difference in timeliness of delivery.

Net of how I think about it: we’re constantly learning. Freezing cumulative thought is difficult and commendable, but it isn’t a bragging point as for as I’m concerned. It is a point of pride to admit “I am open to learning and I am dedicated to articulating and sharing what I’ve learned with my peers day-by-day or week-by-week or month-by-month.”

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14 Comments

  • Doug Laney says:

    Interesting thought Jenny. Yes, the notion of a point-in-time static compendium of expertise increasingly is an old-school notion. Just look to Wikipedia as an example of that. However I think the level of rigor, peer review and editorial review that goes into a book warrants consideration of its and its author’s comparative authoritative-ness over that of a blog/blogger.

    Cheers,
    Doug [Someone currently writing a book] Laney
    VP Research, Business Analytics, Gartner

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Ha! I knew I was going to get it from someone who is writing or has written a book. I agree, the degree of work that goes into a book not only by the author but by reviewers, editors and publishers is something to acknowledge.

    I think the “authoritative-ness” is where I find the issue. It is a pain in the rear to write a book (or so I’d imagine) but as soon as you finish the book, I’d imagine you’d find 30 other things you’d wished you’d included.

    So perhaps the argument isn’t against the esteem of authoring a book but for following it up with a blog on the topic? Then you can demonstrate and distribute that knowledge but also evolve the book’s thought with feedback from others. Perhaps that give you the ammo to write another book.

  • Sebastian Fuenzalida says:

    I really think that you are missing an important point when you talk about “writing a book”. When you write one, you aren’t just thinking in inform a group of people about a topic or a situation, you are seeking to go beyond that!, to touch the reader and get them involved and interested, not just because they like the subjet, but like the way you told it and how you try to involve them in it.

    Write a book means gather all the knowledge you got and make it interesting and attractive for others!

    And make this knowledge, like you call it “Freezing cumulative”, to come out and to be remembered.

    I expect you get my point of view, from a good side hehe, i love books and i think that the writers of famous books are just amazings!

    Cheers

    Ingeniering Studen from Chile!

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Thank you so much for you comment Sebastian!

    I’m happy we’ve got real dialogue happening here. That is what I prefer about the blog medium over the book I suppose.

    We’ve always considered what we read to be “learning” but no one really looks at a blog that way. We “find out” from blogs but the expectation of retention isn’t the same as with a book.

    Authors of books work hard for the retention of their composition. So perhaps the time put in to the piece of work is the share of the reader’s brain you then get?

    What do you think?

  • Sebastian Fuenzalida says:

    Maybe thats a “part of it”.

    But you have to include the difference of recolect a huge amount of history, experiencies or imagination, and transform them into a book, instead of add constantly a part that can be small or maybe big, but far from a book.

    The other thing that i think is important here, is that the blogs just have like 20 years of life so maybe they haven’t reach all of his potential or even they real purpose or use. Perhaps in some years the blogs will be like a tv series where you get a new chapter every day or week, but in words.

    That apply for both point of view, or not?

  • David Loshin says:

    I agree with you, especially in one respect: the content in a book (of which I have written 6) is *static* while the content in a blog is dynamic. Now that i am a series editor, I advise all prospective authors to put together a web site to accompany the book.My one most recent book is on data quality, and the corresponding blog site is dataqualitybook.com (good title, no?).

    It gives me the chance to elaborate on topics in the book but also add to its body of content, as well as open up a discussion for others to add their one viewpoints. I am interested in your thoughts, Jenny.

  • Jenny,

    I would agree with you almost 100% – except that you cannot say that from a Gartner Blog that does not allow you to share your knowledge freely, no?

    I share more than I should’ve probably in my blog – and I have been approached to write a book but am not interested (partly for what you say about timing, but mostly because i cannot focus for that long :-)) until I find the right topic that will be pervasive in spite of time and changes.

    Maybe that is the secret to a good book, you gotta find the topic that is pervasive and not frozen in time. Book on Social x? not going to be actual by the time you finish it. Book on CRM? getting there, Paul Greenberg did a good job with his for the past 10 years. Book on Customer Service? Becky Carroll did the same as Paul did just last year (but will remain a classic) and so forth.

    If you have the right topic and coverage, a book is an invaluable reference… to know how to do Social x? Blog, thanks.

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Sebastian – absolutely.

    David – I think that’s a great idea. I like thinking of it as “static” vs. “dynamic” data. What I am looking for is the knowledge captured in the book to be dynamically perpetuated through practical application at different moments in time. I think what you’re doing is smart. How has that worked out so far?

    Esteban – Pervasive in spite of time and changes nails it. That would make relevant books more conceptual than practical, no? (I’m baiting everyone with this one…)

  • Pearl Zhu says:

    Hi, Jenny, very interesting blog with unique point of view, I would say, masterpiece of book is really an accomplishment for both author and readers, though author may put much more effort on it; but at today’s changing environment, especially at technology arena, book is not as dynamic and broad as blogs, blogs can also become the raw material for the book, the book author may have the authority to be qualified as the writer; the blogger could be more vividly portrayed as the thought leader with character: You are what they read. thanks.

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Thanks for your comment Pearl. Nice way of framing it!

  • Well, I guess there is a fundamental difference. Books go through the excruciating pain of peer review and editing while blog posts are more immediate and while you sustain a dialogue with your readers, you can almost instantly publish. Having been a Gartner analyst for a while I do value a lot the contribution from peer reviewers.
    It is true that in our field some books get old very soon. But you can’t replace the due diligence that goes into writing a book (or a Gartner research note, for that matter) with the chatter on a blog.
    As somebody pointed out, blending the two together is the way to go. Write the book first, and make it a living document through an associated blog or web site.
    Just my two cebts.

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Thanks Andrea.

    I think we all have come to a similar conclusion in that writing a book is a ton of work, a different beast from a blog. Peer review, from the analyst’s perspective as well, is invaluable. The process of perfecting each sentence so that a story is cohesive is laborious but undoubtedly rewarding.

    I also think we’ve all come to a similar conclusion about the need for dynamic story-telling (be it nonfiction or fiction…but fiction is another topic…) Today, because of the way the world works, they way we’ve constructed it to work – it is laudable to be able to keep up with the culture of “now.” Even the peer review/commentary, we want now.

    Take this one blog post for example. The initial POV is stated clearly isn’t it? But because of the conversation going on beneath the initial post, we as a group have evolved our thinking and the message. Not only have I taken to a different way of looking at this, but it seems like, and I hope that, we all have.

    But that is the value of a blog and what is so impressive about maintaining a blog.

  • I’ve both written books and blogs. Books are great, like you said a ton of work and research and something to be proud of. But they also have an expiration date on usefulness.

    To be honest, I wrote several books on Intranets (Back when that was actually a cool term) and websites back when Apache was new and Microsoft was thinking about building a web server.

    The last time I had to edit HTML, I had to google how to make something bold and centered. So while I may have gotten away with calling myself an expert on that in the mid 90’s. I’d be hard pressed to try and sell that now. 🙂

  • Jenny Sussin says:

    Haha, thanks for the honesty Rich – and from my POV, anyone who attempts writing code of any sort, even HTML, deserves a Klondike bar.

    I won’t tell people “intranet” isn’t a cool term if you don’t.