Posted by: Jim Adcock | February 14, 2011

Specialists vs Generalists

Caitlin Kelly, aka broadsideblog, commented on one of my posts

The challenge for generalists is that we write on everything and the posts that keep bringing in readers can be very weirdly random.

and

Well, we’re all supposed to be hyper-niche super-specialists now — experts in the climate of upper Borneo of the lyrics of John Lennon, but my brain just doesn’t work like that!

It got me thinking.

First of all, I appreciated the use of the word “generalist”, as it captures a concept I have been trying to describe. Sometimes my memory can’t support my vocabulary…

More to the point, though, there are a lot of generalist bloggers out there, writing about whatever suits their mood at the moment. I tend to be more of a specialist blogger, but I don’t look down at “generalist” blogging. In fact, I have a certain admiration for generalist bloggers, because the job of getting eyeballs is harder. They have to rely on style and skill to retain a repeat audience, whereas I only have to have posts with some interesting fact or other on the subject matter of my choice. As long as the fact itself is informative, I’m covered.

I do think, though, that even generalist bloggers need a purpose (from the post “If a Tree Falls in a Forest”). If your purpose is to wander, then you are successful if you are wandering. (Though a little page view love is always appreciated!) It is the people who aren’t aware of their purpose, and find that their wandering hasn’t led them to the destination they sought, or worse (IMHO), the destination they thought they were seeking, that need help with direction, motivation, and finding success. Without defining what success is, you can’t get there; without purpose, motivation evaporates (believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve got the t-shirt!).

Generalist bloggers also live without the limitations that a specialist blogger works under, because nothing is off-topic. They can practice the craft of writing without limit.

That said, the super-specialist expert route can provide focus needed to keep the well from running dry. Too many choices can lead to paralysis.

The super-specialist expert route is also a good way for capturing niche-market eyeballs…

Jim Adcock is a SharePoint Administrator, and blogs about SharePoint at his main blog, Working It Out. He is also Vice President of Launch Pad Job Club, an organization in Austin, Texas, whose mission is help people who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need to land their next job, and to help them cope with the interim between jobs. Consequently, Jim also blogs about career management. He also serves as Secretary on the Austin Software Process Improvement Network Board of Directors. He also wants to know why everyone keeps asking him about sleep…

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