Who are the Hacker Bloggers?

by Glyn Moody

If you look at the font of all wisdom - no, I don't mean Wikipedia, but Amazon - you will find stacks of books with titles like The Corporate Blogging Book, Blogging for Business, Blog Marketing and the rest.  Whatever the title, the basic message is the same: if you're in business, you've got to be blogging.  Because if you aren't, you're not "having the conversation" with your customers, which means, in turn, that you're not getting your message out or valuable comments back.

In many ways, an open source project is just like a business.  There is a product - admittedly one with a price tag of zero - serving customers; ideally, the managers, aka project leaders, would like more people to use that "product".  So doesn't this imply that those in the open source "business" should be blogging away just like their commercial brothers and sisters?  Indeed, given that free software is famously about community, isn't there a strong argument that the "CEOs" of the open source world should be blogging away rather more than those merely motivated by money?

So let's see who's doing what.  But please note: this is not meant to be a complete list.  It's just a quick scamper through the hacker blogosphere, and doesn't even begin to address the broader issue of whether those that do blog are doing it in the right way.

Among the patriarchs of the free software world, RMS blogs, and so does ESR (although his blog doesn't have much about Python programming these days).  On the Linux kernel side, David Miller does, and so does Alan Cox - even if it's hard to glean much about his hacking activities unless you speak Welsh.  Those with more formal management roles within the GNU/Linux world often have blogs - for example, Ian Murdock and Mark Shuttleworth; perhaps they've been buying corporate blogging books on Amazon.  Similarly, open source champions in big computer companies nearly always blog - people like Irving Wladawsky-Berger and Bob Sutor at IBM, or Simon Phipps and Erwin Tenhumberg at Sun.

It's striking that one of the most blog-savvy free software projects is Firefox.  Big name Firefoxers who blog include Ben Goodger, Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler, and there's also the Planet Mozilla blog.  This relative abundance doubtless reflects the fact that Firefox is as much a marketing as a coding phenomenon.  OpenOffice.org has a personal blog from Louis Suarez-Potts as well as a generic one offering OOo news.  This is similar to what's happening in the world of GNOME.  As well as blogs from Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman, there's also a Mono blog, while on the KDE side, there's Planet KDE and a blog aimed at KDE developers.  The main Apache blog seems to be the marketing site Feather, while Thunderbird has The Rumbling Edge.

There are some obvious names conspicuous by their absence in this short and by no means comprehensive list (and please, do send in your own favourite hacker bloggers that I've not mentioned).  First, and foremost, that of Linus.  That's a pity, because he would be a great blogger.  As anyone who has read his postings on the Linux-kernel mailing list or one of the occasional public interviews knows, he has a dry wit and a natural way with words, both of which cry out for a more regular expression in a readily-accessible form.  Aside from being hugely entertaining, a blog from Linus, with all the knock-on publicity it would doubtless generate among the media, would boost awareness of Linux and open source enormously.

How about it, Linus?

Glyn Moody blogs about open source at opendotdotdot

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