What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011

I just added Cadence to the list of companies with blogs on my May 28 post “Bloggers Covering Design Automation.” I didn’t see any announcement but they appear to have re-designed their website in the last three or four weeks and now highlight a community of bloggers on their home page.

My simple projection is that within three years every EDA company, large or small, will have at least one blog, and EDA consulting firms of all sizes will add a blog to their website. So that says we are on track to grow from 70 to over 500. I base this in part on the speed on adoption of the web by EDA firms and what’s already happened for web startups and many other emerging technology spaces: entrepreneurs consider a blog a core component of their corporate identity.

Making sense of 500 feeds will be no easier than surfing across 500 television channels to find something new and worth reading. I mentioned David Lin’s experimental Netvibes page in my “Primer on Blogs for EDA Start-Ups” and it certainly represents a good start. But I think an opportunity exists for community lens approach similar to what Hacker News provides web entrepreneurs (which is different in some important but subtle ways from digg and reddit that allow it to avoid the death of the lowest common denominator topics migrating to the home page). Other models are certainly viable as well, based on forums, wikis, and new forms both emerging and yet to be invented.

Paul Saffo’s 1994 Wired article “It’s the Context Stupid” (also available on www.saffo.com/essays/contextstupid.php)  makes the point that the value is as much in providing context as the raw content.

“It’s the content, stupid.” This catchy apothegm [is] now the mantra of an infant new media industry. […] As compelling as this phrase may be, it is also dead wrong. It is not content but context that will matter most a decade or so from now. The scarce resource will not be stuff, but point of view.
The future belongs to neither the conduit or content players, but those who control the filtering, searching, and sense-making tools we will rely on to navigate through the expanses of cyberspace.

One example of a hybrid model of journalism is what John Byler is doing at Chip Design magazine in adding 8 blogs to complement his print publication. I was particularly impressed by a recent post by Grant Martin on “Leibson’s Law in Action? Cadence returns to ESL with new synthesis tool” because he did something that is natural for a blogger and highly unusual for an article in an on-line paper or magazine: he links to whoever has the best information on the topic, even it’s a competitor to Chip Design. It’s not only a very useful summary that places several recent ESL announcements in context, but Martin links to the source material on-line, regardless of where it came from: EE Times, SCDSource, EDN, and Chip Design Mag. And he has comments from a number of key players ESL.
I was talking to a well respected EDA PR professional recently who was waiting for the EDA blogging ecosystem to sort itself out and pick a dozen “A” blogs so that it would resemble the good old days of print (and EDA PR could “return to normal”). I said I didn’t think that would happen because blogging uses links for context in a way that print didn’t (and can’t). On any given topic there may only be a dozen well respected bloggers, but there would be a lot of topics with different sets for each. It’s different when you have knowledgeable practitioners writing directly on the web.

I believe Grant Martin’s post is a harbinger for a very different kind of “sense-making mechanism” than both traditional EDA print journalism and the press release aggregation model that’s practiced on a number of websites.  Not necessarily better (or worse) but different.

We have time to get ready, and since we are all steering we may end up somewhere else. But I think 500 blogs (plus or minus 250) is likely by 2011 because it they don’t depend upon a business model transition: blogs are like weeds, they don’t require cultivation to thrive. I think they create a substrate that complements and potentially displaces the press release with the RSS/Atom feed as the quantum unit of information distribution for (social) media.

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