I write an independent newsletter on technology - The Pragmatic Engineer. Independence goes beyond just not having an employer. This is what it means for me:
tl;dr: I don't take any form of payment to write about a company or product. I avoid conflicts of interest as best I can, and always disclose if I have one.
Things that I do not do:
- I do not accept payments in any form to write about a company or a product. I don't do sponsorships, advertisements, or hidden advertisements in my newsletter, blog, or other properties - e.g. videos, Twitter, and so on.
- I do not use affiliate links in anything I recommend. Affiliate links are a way to get a "kickback" when someone buys products recommended. Note that I removed all former affiliate links on this blog and my YouTube channel. Read more about how much I made and why I removed affiliate links on the blog that made $15K/year and third-party ads.
- I do not hold individual stocks about any publicly traded company I write about or mention, or any of their publicly traded competitors. In fact, I do not hold stocks in any publicly traded company, to ensure I have no financial pull to have bias towards or against companies.
Potential conflicts of interests, and how I go about these:
- I am an advisor in three companies where I receive equity in return for advising and an investor in several others. My typical investments are in the $5,000-15,000 range. My main goal with investing is to stay in the loop with interesting, exciting, and forward-looking companies and startups, and use these connections to get a pulse of things happening at startups. I disclose my affiliation, should I mention any of these companies in my writing, and aim to not bias in overly favoring these companies. Note that I have stopped investing in companies as of June 2022. I'm not sure if I'll do further investments, given investing also creates bias which I want to minimize.
- I run a talent collective and jobs board where companies can post jobs or purchase a membership. Whether a company is or was a customer here does not influence if I write about them or not. I run my job board independent of my newsletter and don't keep tabs on specific customers.
- Some companies might make group purchases of my newsletter or books. Like the above, I don't keep tabs on such purchases - most of these come as self-service.
- I have worked in the past at Uber, Microsoft, Skyscanner and JP Morgan: companies I sometimes mention in my writing. These experiences shaped my professional outlook but don't otherwise impact my opinions. I hold no stock in either of these companies.
My revenue sources:
- The majority of my revenue comes directly from newsletter subscribers. This aligns my interests with the interests of readers.
- I sell books, which is another large revenue source.
- The Pragmatic Engineer Job Board and Talent Collective is also a revenue source.
- My YouTube channel makes a small amount of advertising revenue (below $5,000/year). I keep ads on because even if I turn them off, YouTube still overrides this and shows them. I have no control or knowledge what ads are served for my videos.
- Outside the YouTube ads mentioned above, I no longer have any revenue sources from sponsorships, affiliates, or third-party ads.
My analysis and opinions will not always hold up. While I always aim to deliver analysis, details and opinions that correctly predict where the industry is headed. There have been times when I shared observations and trends half a year or months or weeks before publications like The New York Times, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media sources reported on the same trends.
However, not all my forward-looking predicitions or opinions will stand the test of time. When this happens, I acknowledge that I was wrong, like I did with Meta's history layoffs in November 2022.