Coding Horror

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John Dvorak, blogging O.G.

Like Steve Broback, I spent many of my formative years in computing reading John Dvorak's magazine column.

I started enthusiastically reading John Dvorak's columns back in 1984, at my first job selling IBM PCs and Mac 128k computers from a storefront in Seattle. I have always enjoyed his candor and attitude despite the fact that he has been so wrong, so many times. I still have the 1984 column where he derides the Macintosh mouse as being like a "joystick" and how it tries to make computing like "a game".

It's true-- John Dvorak was the archetypal cranky blogger, way before blogging was even a glint in Dave Winer's eye. But as Steve wryly notes with a graph of Google search results, Dvorak now plays second fiddle to the very bloggers he derides in his latest column:

The influential bloggers should be defined here. These are people whom you've never heard of, but whom other influential A-list utopianist bloggers all know. I reckon there are about 500 of them. He (or she) influences other like-minded bloggers, creating a groupthink form of critical mass, just like atomic fission, as they bounce off each other with repetitive cross-links: trackback links, self-congratulatory links, confirmations, and praise-for-their-genius links. BOOM! You get a formidable explosion -- an A-bomb of groupthink. You could get radiation sickness if you happen to be in the area. Except for Wired online and a few media bloggers, nobody is in the area, so nobody outside the groupthink community really cares about any of this. These explosions are generally self-contained and harmless to the environment.

One thing is for sure: all those damn blogging kids need to get the hell off Dvorak's lawn. It's fascinating how the web can cause these amazing inversions of power. A guy like Dvorak who "has been pounding the keyboard since the day the World Wide Web came online, and was one of the first and most prolific contributors of ongoing content to the Web" won't even rate the first page of your search results.

(May 2007: Steve posted an interesting update elaborating on the inversion of influence between traditional print media and bloggers.)

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: