The Rise and Demise of Network Computing

It is sad when something that you brought into this world leaves it, and I am feeling a bit blue about the demise of Network Computing magazine, announced today. Even though I haven’t been involved in the publication in many years, it still was my baby – it was back in the summer of 1990 when I packed my family up and headed to Long Island to start the magazine, hire its staff, and set the overall tone and direction for the publication.

So they have had a good run for 17 years now, which in our shrinking industry is pretty remarkable all around. Still, I am saddened by the news. “It is a little disturbing. And it is especially sad when one of your first contributors has had to kill it,” said Art Wittman, who is the current editor-in-chief and someone that I hired long ago to write for the magazine, back when he was toiling in the academic IT fields in Wisconsin. Art has been with CMP longer than I have.

The magazine will fold its editorial into the site, deepening the content already there. I am happy to see that, and hope that they can find a happy home. (I also write for that site from time to time, too.)

CMP is laying off nearly 20% of their current work force as they consolidate production staffs and publications and focus more of their energy on the Web and away from dead trees. It was bound to happen – I mean, when was the last time you eagerly looked forward to reading a computer trade weekly? I remember when Monday evenings would be reading night as I paged through a foot-or-more high stack of pubs. That habit is gladly a thing of the past.

CMP is in the middle of its transformation from print to online publisher, and this layoff is a big correction. They still have a lot of adjustments coming, and I hope that they can succeed – if only because I still get a portion of my income from the company and because there are still many great people who work there.

But tech reading and information habits are changing rapidly. Let’s face it – the Web is where it is at. But running a modern Web site isn’t easy, and the tools and skills that print publishers have collected along the way aren’t relevant or useful in the online world. In some cases, it is easy to develop content and migrate the skills over. In others – such as circulation development, advertising, and marketing – it isn’t all that easy. And it is getting harder to differentiate your product from the thousands of bedroom and basement bloggers who have plenty of passion but little professionalism behind them.

Meanwhile, efforts like Microsoft’s Channel9 and other vendor-sponsored sites are picking up steam and collecting some of the fallout from the traditional tech media publishers. We’ll see more of these in the coming years, just because the vendors are the ones with the dough and energy and willing to still pay for good content.

You can hear more about my thoughts of where CMP and other hi-tech publishers are going during my conversation today with Sam Whitmore on his Media Survey podcast.

Shameless self-promotions dep’t

One small self-promotional plug, while we are on the subject. Paul Gillin and I have been doing for the past several months a series of short 10-15 minute podcasts aimed at technical PR folks, called You can go to our site and subscribe to our feed and download a few of these podcasts if interested. We are having a lot of fun with them. In case you don’t know Paul, he has been around tech journalism as long as I have, running both print and Web pubs (Computerworld and and now on his own with a new book too called “The New Influencers”.

Make that one and half plugs: I am close to rolling out a new Web site for a client that will show the new model of tech journalism. I wish I could talk about it but you’ll just have to wait a few weeks until it is launched. But I promise you’ll be one of the first to know. So stay tuned.

VAR Business State of Technology 2002 and 2003

For VAR Business’s annual State of Technology 2002 issue, I managed, edited, assigned, and wrote a couple of the pieces too. This was the first time VAR Business had such a special printed supplement. I also organized, with the help of the XChange conference group, a special series of conference tracks that was coordinated with the editorial in the print issue, and an awards ceremony for the winners.

I did something similar for the State of Technology 2003 issue.

The online links have been removed sadly.

Buy my book now!

It is hard for me to get back to writing these essays after the events of the past month, but I’ll try. On a personal note, I want to thank those of you who took the time to email me and ask about my health and safety — the number of messages in the past several weeks from all over the world has been very touching and important for getting me back on track. The day of the attacks I was scheduled to appear on TechTV’s Silicon Spin show — that show was finally taped and aired last night. And my
Home Networking Survival Guide book
is finally out in both physical and online stores: the link will take you to Amazon.

If you don’t want to buy the book, you can read my column here.

Project PortNet: Blueprint for Computers in Port Washington NY Schools

Nowadays, we generally accept having computers in the classroom. But back in 1995, it was a radical notion. I co-chaired a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators and we came up with this blueprint on how to do it. Several years later, I was elected to the board of trustees of the school district, and got even more involved in local politics.

Here is the copy of our report.