Monday, 17 January 2011

why would you be interested in past data storage news?

As the editor of there are many times in the day when I hop backwards and forwards in time like a speeded up and demented pilot of HG Wells's time machine.

You may not be surprised that articles which predict the future of the market are popular. Even though we all know that such predictions are educated guesses rather than reliable facts - it can be useful to get a view of someone else's vison of the future and compare it with your own. Maybe it will mention a factor which you have overlooked completely. No problem. As it's talking about the future - there's still plenty of time to research that subject if you think it might intersect with your own interests.

Why would anyone be interested in past data storage news?

That's a question which I asked myself in the 2nd week of January 2000 - as I was deciding whether I should simply delete old news stories when they rolled to a particular point past the bottom of the viewer's screen - or archive it for future reference. Deletion would have been much easier. And deletion had been what I did before with my vendor product listings. Archiving news stories implied adding to the collection of assets which had to be managed in my web page life-cycle.

Starting a news page in January 2000 was a big decision for me. Before then my news page was simply a list of suggested links to other news pages which were springing up all over the web. I mean - what value could I add? And would enough people be interested - when there were so many other news pages, aggregators, newsfeeds and email updates available? Although I'd been publishing online since 1996 - my thinking had been that news was always going to have a short life and that the effort expended in offering news wouldn't be a good use of time compared to compiling directories. And what did I know about managing a news page anyway? Nothing. But once it started - it seemed like a waste to throw the content way. That's how my news archives were born.

Looking back now - more than a decade later - I'm glad I did it.

News gives readers another reason to come to a web site. In the case of it's not the main reason - because my readers are more interested in articles which explain what's going on in the market - and lists of who does what and why. But having news content helps to calibrate the content in the time dimension.

News gives vendors and other stakeholders in the market more reasons to contact me. Although that did happen anyway before - because vendors are always interested in being listed in buyers guides - being featured on our news page is particularly good for new vendors. For startups emerging from stealth mode maybe the first time their new website becomes widely visible on the web is in the hours after Google picks up the links from my news page. That's also benefits me too. When I publish a new article - the first thing I do is mention it on my news page.Of course - when my ftp upload died for a handful of days in 2010 I couldn't do that. So the only way I could let readers know about my new blog - which chronicled those problems - was to use an external newswire. I also informed some vendors via email. But as I hate getting spam myself I've never compiled a bulk email list. And in fact most of my outgoing emails are replies to incoming queries.

Archived news gives me a powerful tool for analyzing and commenting on "new" news stories. That may sound incestuous but here's how it works. Let's say someone sends me a news story claiming they're the first company to offer a product which has a specific size, speed or some other feature. I can quickly look through my news archives and get a feeling for whether the claim is plausible. I can often make an otherwise clone-like story (which you'll see on 100 other sites) more interesting by adding a comment which says something like - another company did this 2 years before. Or if someone is launching a new company - I can use my archives to answer questions like... What did they do before? And does what they did before make it more or less likely that the new venture will succeed too?

For newcomers to the storage market and storage veterans people who are looking at a newsubject for the first time - the archived news pages can quickly give them a flavor for... Who are the main players in the market? What is the state of the art from the technical point of view? and How quickly is the market changing?

At some point in time archived news does become history. In the data storage market which I write about I sometimes find it useful to go back a long way to supply information in market growth articles which answer questions like... How much has the capacity of an SSD grown in the past 10 years? and Were the market predictions made by such and such market analyst wildly out of line with what happened - or about right? Answers to the latter type of question helps me filter new prononuncements from the same sources.

Remember, the web has no memory! is an article I wrote in November 2001 on my Marketing Views web site. Although the Internet Archive had been doing a good job of picking up and saving content from many of the sites I was interested in at the time the situation today in 2011 is that many gaps have started to appear in the data storage market narrative accessible via that route. I've noticed that when the domains of gone-away storage market companies are acquired - many of the new owners kill the old content in the external archive. That makes it hard to rediscover details which might be interesting to people like me who want to check particular facts about the market from years gone by. (I still have a readable email archive which has most of my relevant emails going back to about 1996 sitting on my pc - but the emails don't always contain the full text of press releases - and sometimes just tell me about a product link which was once on the web - but which has since disappeared.)

I think that delving daily into archived news has helped me become a better judge of what is newsworthy today. I ask myself the question - is anyone going to be interested in any of this stuff as a tracket to what happened in the market - next month? next year? or in 5 years time? If not then why mention it? Just as back in January 2000 - there are plenty of news aggregators operating in January 2011. Part of my added value to readers is to ignore what isn't really new and comment more on what is.

That's why I've stopped writing stories which start with "EMC has just spent N hundred million, or N billion dollars acquiring XYZ company" for example. Going back through history EMC has always acquired other storage companies. So that's not news. Unless you are a stakeholder in the acquired company or one of its competitors. But my reader stats show our readers don't expect EMC to do anything new or innovative in the storage market - so the acquisition story gets a low news score with this editor and rarely hits the news pages. Instead - what would rate a high news score would be if EMC announced it had decided to never again acquire another company and instead would be focusing its resources on organic growth and internally developed technologies. But I don't expect to see such a press release until April 1st.

I've never had any illusions about the transient and ephemeral nature of most of the things that have preoccupied my professional thoughts in the 34 years I've worked in the digital electronics market. The burning issues and hot products of one day are shunted into the mental trash pile to make way for the next new thing. Despite all that history sites can now be found all over the web - preserving the nostalgic appetites of generations of people - like me - for whom these past digital crazes were once a big part of their daily lives. Maybe there is a future in past news after all.

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