Coming from the blogging world, one of the adjustments I’ve had to make is moving from a daily news mindset to one that is focused on a specific topic. I should add though that I’ve never been much of a news hound. I was fortunate to hire people at ReadWriteWeb who were much better at hunting news and writing about the daily cycle than I was – Marshall Kirkpatrick was a master at it and that’s why we complemented each other so well as bloggers. My own style was always to follow topics that caught my attention, which were invariably future-focused. A great example is Web Office, which intrigued me for a time in the 2005-06 timeframe. Well before Google Docs was even a glint in Sergey and Larry’s eyes. When the Web Office eventually went mainstream, I had moved onto other things. But meanwhile others moved in to deepen the well of knowledge about online office technology. My fellow kiwi, Ben Kepes, is a current master of that topic (I was just chatting on Ben’s Facebook Wall, which got me thinking about all of this).
Back to books. The challenge with writing a book is to focus on a specific topic and ideas, research them deeply, and find a story that will hook people. As one of my literary heroes, Michael Lewis, puts it: making it swing on the page. By ‘it’ he meant the ideas, the story, the characters.
Since swapping the blogging world for the book writing one, I’ve spent time tightening my use of social media. I still check in with ReadWrite on a daily basis, because it’s my baby and also I want to keep in the loop with daily technology news. I also find myself still checking Techmeme regularly. But my main focus now has switched to researching the topic I’m going to write my book about. So I’m using Google a lot for research. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m also using Twitter more. I use a fantastic Twitter and App.net client called Ost (useost.com, currently in private beta), which allows me to follow Twitter users, lists, hashtags and searches in separate web pages. Kind of like Netvibes meets Twitter. For example I have a page devoted to Health Tech conferences, so when a new health tech event starts I put in its hashtag and add it to that Ost page.
Another thing I’m doing differently now is reading more books, to learn more about the topic I’ll write about.
Yes, things like Googling on my topic and reading books is inherently less social than blogging every day. But interestingly I’ve compensated for that by being more social IRL (tonight I emailed some people about a meeting later this week related to my area of research) and also I’m following some of my local peeps more closely on Twitter and Facebook. So in a way I’ve become a bit more social!
As I said though, this is an adjustment period. I’m still figuring out what works for me as a researcher and author. Plus soon I’m going to have to hunker down and spend most of my time every day writing the book!