The real secret to a successful blog/book/business…

The real secret to a successful blog/book/business…

For the last three years, Bert and I have tried to explain the "secret" to the success of the Head First books. We've tried to explain the "secret" to how a little non-news, non-scandal blog could land in the Technorati Top 100. We've tried to explain the "secret" to why Javaranch is one of the largest, most active, and well-loved developer communities on the internet. One big clue: we're not that talented. There is a secret, yet, but it's mostly a if-WE-can-do-it-ANYONE-can-do-it thing.




I've revealed the Big Secret before, but perhaps the bigger secret is that almost nobody takes it seriously. It seems too simple. Business books make it complicated. Consultants make it complicated. Those who don't want to try make it complicated. But it's not. Hard work? Yes. But the hardest part is simply taking it seriously. After that, it's implementation details. The details matter, but it's what drives the implementation that matters most.

So, on this Valentine's Day, I thought it was time for a reminder to myself and my co-authors:

Success no longer has to be a meritocracy (or advertocracy), today it's just as much a loveocracy.

The secret is simply this: you have a much better chance for success when your business model makes what's good for the users match what's good for the business, and vice-versa. Our books are best-sellers not because we're better authors or teachers (a meritocracy), but because they were literally labors of love. We wrote them with one very clear goal:

* The only way the books will be successful is if people actually learn from them.
* The only people will actually learn from them is if they actually read them.
* We must do everything we can to get people to read more than most people read in a tech book, and in such a way that they learn–and realize how much they've actually learned.

What's good for the readers is what's good for the books. Where I think so many potentially better books go wrong is that they're really good books (meritocracy), but they're written with a focus on Being A Really Good Book. (Which is often completely at odds with a book that's good for the reader.)

And why do you read this blog? I always ask myself, "how can I help my readers in some way?" Whether it's a tip or trick, a post you can use to help make your case to your boss, a new way of looking at something, a potential source for an idea, a pointer to something useful…I try to make 90% of the posts here for you. And you in turn respond with the most amazing, insightful, inspirational, and often entertaining comments.

What's good for you is what's good for the blog. And for me.

This is not to say you still can't succeed with a business model where what's good for the business is bad for the user and vice-versa, but next time you're in a product design meeting or a business development meeting or you're planning a book or a blog or… ask the question we keep bringing up here, "What will this help the user do?" Not, "How can we make a great product?" Nobody cares about your company, and nobody cares about your product. Not really. They care about themselves in relation to your product. What it means to them. What it does for them. What it says about them that they use your product or believe in your company. You're still just the delivery guy, and your package helps the user kick ass at something. However, when you DO have a product that truly helps the user, they might just love you for it. : )



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