Recently I analyzed the relative payoff from different types of work I’ve done in my career to date. Some of the work has paid off reasonably well. But one particular bit of it stands out as a counter-example to common wisdom:
Between 1997 and 2000, I spent countless hours on the BDE Alternatives Guide, a section of this web site devoted to listing and analyzing the dozens of third-party database access libraries available for Delphi in that era. Delphi shipped with the BDE a not-great mechanism for database access. BDE was Borland’s answer to Microsoft’s ODBC, but unlike the latter, BDE didn’t get industry-wide support.
Working on the BDE Alternatives Guide had many positive payoffs:
- It created a much-needed resource, greatly appreciated by thousands of developers.
- I learned enormously in the process.
- It put me in touch with dozens of library vendors, and many hundreds of developers.
- It generated many incoming links and much traffic, around a million page views over a 5-year period.
- Banner advertisements brought in a few hundred dollars, before I scrapped them to avoid the appearance of bias.
- It made me reasonably well-known in the Delphi world, which was growing rapidly at that time. (Our team at Oasis Digital still does some Delphi work, by the way.)
You might think, though, that establishing expertise as a Delphi database integration expert, would result in lots of consulting leads, new business, and job offers. Let’s look at the stats:
- Total number of leads generated: 0
- Total consulting work generated: $0
- Total job inquiries and offers: 0
Yes, that’s right. Not a single firm ever contacted me to inquire about consulting, development, etc., as a result of the BAG. I’m still glad I did the work, for all the reasons above. But it is a counter-example to the notion of showing expertise and building a technical following, as a way to generate business interest. Sometimes the work pays off in new business, and sometimes it doesn’t.
The situation is not as dire as it sounds though; concurrently with that technical reputation, I was building a development-results reputation, and the latter was vital to launching Oasis Digital in 2001.