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ONJava Reader Survey

by Daniel H. Steinberg

There's this period of time between when an article is proposed and when it appears on ONJava. During that time, we have looked at our submissions queue, made a decision to accept or not, and spent some amount of time working back and forth with one or more authors on the piece. We try to keep the content varied, but once in a while we look up and see JSP article after JSP article.

What Can You Do?

Chris Adamson and I have been looking at the list of articles we have run over the past year and we've been looking ahead at the topics we would like to see covered. We can use your help. There are many ways you can help us: you could suggest an article that you would like to write for us. You could suggest an article that you would like to see written. If there's an author that you would like to see cover a topic for ONJava you could suggest both the topic and the author.

You could also set aside about ten minutes to take this year's ONJava survey to let us know what you would like to see on the site. There are generic questions about you and what you do, and also some technology-specific questions that help us focus the content on your needs. Some questions are answered using radio buttons or checkboxes and others provide text fields for more detailed, less directed answers. Chris and I will read all of these and come to a shared understanding of our needs for content over the next year.

Why Should You Do It?

Why should you spend ten minutes on this survey? Well, there is the bribe. If you include your email address in the survey, you will be automatically entered to be one of five randomly selected entrants to win three O'Reilly books of your choosing.

There is a second bribe that may be worth more or less than the potential to win three books. We'll summarize the results of the survey and publish them here on ONJava.com. This has been an appreciated bonus by the readers of our other O'Reilly Network sites that have collected data from such surveys.

And as Derrick Story points out in his preview of the MacDevCenter survey, there are three more reasons for filling out the survey. The first has to do with money -- our goal is to keep ONJava cost-free to you. As you look around, you may have noticed that some of the traditionally strong Java sites have disappeared. It is tough to maintain a free site. One thing that helps is to be able to show potential sponsors the demographic and reader-interest information derived from the survey. We will be able to show sponsors aggregates that reveal patterns they may be interested in.

The second reason is -- as I mentioned earlier -- that the editorial team gets a good idea of what you are looking for. For example, we can identify the open source projects you would like us to help document and the APIs you'd like to learn more about. Sometimes putting out ONJava each week means that we spend too much time on the trees and not enough time understanding the forest. We've recently increased the number of articles we publish each week, and so we should be able to cover a broader range of topics.

I'm conflicted on the third item. For U.S. readers, it's like a bad spirit-week flashback. In urging MacDevCenter readers to take the survey, Derrick writes, "We're going to be running a similar survey on ONJava.com. Last year, we blew their doors off by gathering more than twice as many surveys as they did in less than a week. No other O'Reilly site even came close to the participation on Mac DevCenter. So we've had bragging rights for the entire year. I'd really like to extend the bragging for another 12 months."

This gave me pause. As much as I'd like to hear what you want for ONJava's future and as much as I think it is important to provide useful feedback to sponsors and readers, it seems as if Derrick has a lot invested here. It meant so much for him last year to have more respondents than we did that I would hate to take that away from him. On the other hand, if beating him soundly would mean dashing his hopes and aspirations for a year, I could learn to live with that. So go ahead, get right to the survey and fill it out.

Why Should We Do This Survey?

Why should we spend the time and energy on this survey? Just as with an agile methodology, we can better serve a client (you, our reader) when the client is included early and often in the feedback loop. We want to make sure we don't end up like those developers who have been away from their end users for too long. They say things like "well, the customer wants ..." without ever talking to their customers.

For us, ONJava is bit like an agile process. We design a little, then we test a little. We don't have a single designated customer to act as a member of the team, so we use the survey as a proxy for one. As Derrick points out, when you take this survey you will 1) help shape our online editorial direction, 2) help influence the various book titles that we pursue, and 3) help to describe our audience to our sponsors. (This does not mean passing your personal information on to sponsors.)


OK, after some initial waffling about this competing with Mac DevCenter issue, I'm OK with ONJava readers dominating the survey and out-responding Mac DevCenter surveys, say, two or three to one. I don't want you to vote more than once, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if you encouraged other ONJava readers to participate in this year's ONJava survey.

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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