Last year, when vLaunchPad kicked off the voting for the 2011 Top 25 VMware Blogs, it was a goldmine for me.  As someone who had recently moved from the customer side of the game to a vendor, it was a great way to get exposure to all of the incredible content being generated by some of the smartest people in the business.  Now that the voting for 2012 has begun, it’s another chance for me to check in on some of the new people involved in the industry, while acknowledging the people who have provided me the most value in the past year.

There are a bunch of new posts going up this week, with people encouraging voters, listing out their top blog posts of the year, and (of course) suggesting politely that a vote for them would be appreciated.  I’d imagine that the traffic bump seen by inclusion on the list is pretty significant, and Eric Siebert has done a great job of making this kind of community feedback process valuable.

don_t_vote_for_me_button-p145354238599880854z745k_400That being said, I don’t want your vote.  More importantly, I don’t think I’ve earned your vote.  Yet.

2011 was easily the most interesting year of my professional career.  The move to VCE has been outstanding in almost every way.  I’ve met more customers, gotten more perspective, seen more technology, been closer to the leading edge and had more opportunities open up than I ever would have had in my previous job.

I’ve also struggled to stay focused on my blogging efforts.  I don’t think I did poorly, but based on the number of blog posts that I currently have in some state of completion (11) I could have done better.  I need to go back to setting aside time for research, reading and all of the other parts of the process, if I’m going to continue to improve.  I really do the act of creation, and I think I’m doing better finding my voice and my personality on the blog, I just need to put in the hours needed.  Like anything, repetition is the key to improvement, and I need more reps.

So rather than listing out my most popular post or pitching you on why you should vote for me, here’s a quick recap of the blogs that got my votes, and why.

First, I think the blogs that you gravitate towards are a personal thing.  Not everyone has the same likes and dislikes, and especially when it comes to content consumption, everyone has their own taste.  It’s not unlike preference in music when you think about it.  Everyone hears things slightly different, and that’s what makes it beautiful.  These are my preferences and opinions, but that certainly doesn’t mean yours aren’t valid!

I also made some basic rules for my voting.  Quantity and quality are not necessarily related, for sure, but I believe that if you are going to stand out from the enormous pack of content creators you need to have both.  If you go three months at a time without posting, even if every post you put up is brilliant, I probably didn’t vote for you.  I also think that it’s important to have at least a few posts over the course of the year that really stand out.  No one is going to hit a homerun every time, but you need to have cleared the fence a couple times.

My next preference is sure to make me few friends, but I’m also partial to people who work for the companies who make the technology that serves as the basis of our community.  Partially that’s because I don’t always understand this niche that exists where people can live in the margins between companies, and partly because I don’t think I understand the concept of “independent” very well.  It may mean “unaffiliated with a vendor” but it certainly can’t mean “unbiased”, and if the bias is going to be there without the 1st-hand knowledge of the technology and the roadmap, I think you may run into context issues.  The other possibility is that “independent” means “looking out for yourself first” in which case your bias runs towards the people, vendors and projects that pay you, which is the worst possible interpretation of the word, in my mind.  Also, I know how hard it is to be objective and provide good content within the structure of NDAs, roadmaps and partner relationships, and I respect those who can do it well.  There are lots of people who just end up being shills for their respective companies, but those people seem to get marginalized pretty quickly.

In my opinion, the design of the blog itself matters too.  Is it easy to read?  Does it have a decent mobile version?  Is it easy to comment on posts?  Is it searchable?  Is there an archive where I can look back by date and topic?  I’m sure there are plenty of people out there supplementing their income with ad revenue from their sites, but having your side covered with the same ads from the same companies as everyone else doesn’t do anything for your readers, does it?

Like with music, you need to play the instrument well.  Sentences have beginnings, middles, and endings.  Punctuation and spelling matter.  The voice you use to present your content should be consistent.  The content itself needs to be accurate and well researched.  It needs to be topical.  These are the basics, but they really do matter.

Finally, the only rule is that there are no rules, and some of the people who I respect the most definitely don’t always fit inside my rules. :-)

So without further blathering from me, here’s my Top 10.

#10 – Nick Weaver (http://nickapedia.com/) – A person I wish had more time to blog. Nick isn’t the most prolific, but he’s definitely worth waiting on. He’s all over the board technology-wise, which I can relate to, and from .NET front-ends for customer labs to node.js deployments to UBER tools to Kinect magic to evolutionary modeling of VMs, Nick has written about it all. One day I’ll get him to post the best techniques for opening bottles with rental car door handles, and the his blog will be perfect.

#9 – Chris Colotti (http://www.chriscolotti.us/) – Chris has quickly become one of my go-to resources for anything regarding vCloud technologies. From design to performance to gotchas to implementation, this blog has it all. He also drives Mopar vehicles with large engines, and gets bonus points for that. Chris has really started to find his writing voice, and I’m interested to see how he does in 2012.

#8 – Kendrick Coleman (http://www.kendrickcoleman.com/) – While I’m not the biggest fan of the design, Kendrick’s content more than makes up for it.  The free vSphere tools is a long-time favorite, but his VMware-related postings in general over the course of 2011 were top-notch.  His posts about vSphere network design and vCloud director were among the best of the year.

#7 – Scott Lowe (http://blog.scottlowe.org/) – My biggest complaint with Scott’s blog is that he doesn’t have more time to stay down in the weeds. When Scott gets rolling on a topic, like he did with FCOE and VxLAN, it’s must-read content for everyone involved in those technologies. The Short Takes are a great collection of links, but Scott’s commentary is equally valuable. The well-written content meshes nicely with the clean design, making this one of my favorites. If we can only find a way to make him write less about Macs… :-)

#6 – Andre Leibovici (http://myvirtualcloud.net/) – I think Andre has progressed more in his blogging in 2011 than anyone else I follow regularly.  His content around VDI is well researched, well explained, not afraid to buck convention and as authoritative as anyone out there.  In addition, his calculators (View, XenDesktop, Protocol) are must-have references for anyone who deals with VDI technology on a regular basis.  I’m very interested to see where some of his less….supported….View projects are going to take him in 2012.

#5 – Christofer Hoff (http://www.rationalsurvivability.com/blog/) – It’s hard to think of this as a “virtualization” blog, because the topics are so wide-ranging. I think of it more as a “shit smart people think about” blog, and that helps me put it in context. In addition to the high-quality of the content, it’s the sense of humor that really makes this blog stand out. Being serious and respectful to the content without being overbearing is no small feat, and really, how can you not like someone who decides that facing off (literally) with Vint Cerf is a good idea?

#4 – Cody Bunch (http://professionalvmware.com/) – The Brownbags are genius.  I mean that.  Of all the podcast/videocasts/whatever-casts that are out there, none is as practical, applies to as many people or as well executed (even if he does use GoToMeeting) as Cody’s.  It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the non-Brownbag content is solid as well, and it really establishes Cody as one of the few “independents” that I read regularly.

#3 – Simon Seagrave – (http://www.techhead.co.uk/) – It’s possible, although unlikely, that Simon’s creation of vBeers would have gotten him on my list regardless.  Of course, there’s way more than that.  Way, way more.  Simon’s blog has so much content, that the lack of a good archive page is almost a benefit: it keeps you from spending too much time browsing.  One of the first people in the home vSphere lab discussion, Simon is also a great resource for that topic as well, and one of the people I leaned on most where building out my own lab.

#2 – Eric Sloof (http://www.ntpro.nl/blog/) – It seems like almost every time I need to do a Google search for something regarding virtualization, Eric’s blog comes up.  With some of the best videos and walkthroughs in the business, this is another site that you can spend way too much time on.  It’s obvious that Eric has deep knowledge of the VMware space, but he also does an excellent job of communicating that knowledge to people.

#1 – Chad Sakac (http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/) – It was hard getting my top 10 selected, it was not hard to figure out where Chad needed to be on the list.  I don’t know where he finds the time to write, nor how he finds the time to stay in the weeds of the technology up to his elbows, but he consistently drops posts that are unique, timely and incredibly valuable.  If you are interested in the storage and virtualization technology ecosystems at all, Chad is the place where you hear about the direction the biggest players are headed first.  His excitement for his job and the tech comes through loud and clear, and I can’t wait to see what he comes out with in 2012.

Honorable Mentions:

Duncan Epping (http://www.yellow-bricks.com/)

William Lam (http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/)

Tommy Trogden (http://vtexan.com/)

Josh Atwell (http://www.vtesseract.com/)

Clint Kitson (http://velemental.com/)

Matt Brender (http://itechthereforeiam.com/)

Jay Cuthrell (http://fudge.org/)

There are so many (SO MANY) smart, talented, community-minded people out there, I’m sure I forgot someone.  If so, and if you are that person I forgot, please accept my humblest apologies, and I promise to pick up the tab next time we are in the same place.  The thought that there are people out there who look at me the same way I look at the people I’ve listed above, and the realization that I WANT people to look to me that way, are what drives me to be more, and try harder.  Thank you all, and go vote!

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