Every once in a while, I like to see who is clicking through to my blog. It helps me figure out what’s important to write about and who reads things. I found a recent comment that made me think about what I’m doing from a different perspective.
The Con Game
I get occasional inbound traffic from Reddit. The comments on Reddit are a huge reason to follow threads on the site. In one particular thread on /r/networking linked back to my blog as a source of networking news and discussion. But a comment gave me pause:
And I quote:
Cons : they almost all know each other and tend to promote each other content.
This was a bit fascinating to me. Of the people in that particular comment, I’ve only ever met one in person. I do know quite a few people in the networking space as part of my career, both related to Tech Field Day and just through writing.
It is true that I share quite a bit of content from other writers. My day job notwithstanding, I feel it is my duty to identify great pieces of writing or thought-provoking ideas and share it with the rest of the community. Ideas don’t live unless they can be shared. Without calling attention to important things and giving them a wider audience, we can’t hope to affect change and increase knowledge and learning.
People that write in a vacuum never become better writers. They never learn to express their ideas and defend them from questions and criticism. It’s not only important to share ideas with those that would agree with them, but also to share them with people that would disagree. Learning how to defend your thoughts and understand different viewpoints is a crucial step to becoming a better writer.
If you’re a writer or blogger or speaker that follows other people, make sure to share what they write with your audience. Even if the two groups are 95% similar, there’s still that 5% that doesn’t overlap. Make sure you share their ideas with an extra thought of your own. Do you agree? Or, more importantly, do you disagree? Be cautious on that last part. You want to disagree professionally and raise objections, not tear someone down and attack the messenger. And yes, I realize that I started out that way in my career. But I’m feeling much better now.
Don’t hesitate to share something from someone you don’t know, either. I’ve made quite a few new friends by reaching out to someone writing great things and telling the world about it in my own way. People appreciate seeing their thoughts being disseminated to new audiences. Someone that sees you sharing and discussing ideas is more willing to approach you and start a dialog about new ideas as well.
And lastly, don’t let someone else tell you that sharing other people’s ideas is a bad thing. If you’re doing it for all the right reasons then it’s a great thing to want to show the community what people are doing. It’s not blatant promotion if there is substance behind what you’re sharing. If you’re shining a spotlight to enrich the knowledge base of the greater whole, then you should feel obligated to call attention to something good.
The world is a better place when we reinforce each other and do our best to make everyone better and smarter. Sometimes that comes in the form of sharing content and giving ideas. Other times it comes from helping friends by challenging what they say and assisting them in the completion of thoughts. In the end, we should feel honored to be able to take part in this great learning experiment that is the community. We can all come out winners by making everyone better than the were at the beginning.
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for quite a few years, keep up the good work. For me, I discovered you through networking with people at Cisco Live, and via Twitter, which have been two of the best platforms for this community. Thanks again for your tireless contributions to the IT world!
I’m somewhat sensitive to this…is it a complaint? Not sure. Anyway, I remember when I first joined Twitter, I’d watch regular dialogues between people I didn’t know with a few thousand followers apiece and think it was interesting but wonder how these apparent golden circles came to be. (The more negative slant would be a sour-grapey “who made them gods?”, like your commenter expressed.)
I’m not exactly shy with my ideas, so sometimes I’d interject with a question. Or comment on something that someone I did know said in a larger conversation. I definitely found that some social circles were more naturally open to including random unknown participants in a conversation than others. This is why I make a point to respond when I people I don’t know chime in to dialogues I’m engaged in.
I also had a natural platform of my own when I started, in that I was marketing a really hot product that touched many different IT spheres, so that gave me reasons to interact with a lot of people. Were I a more diffident person, and/or lacking such a platform, I suspect I’d still be sitting in the audience. Which is a shame. I want more voices, not just the naturally brash, opinionated and self-promoting people, but also the thoughtful and nuanced.
To be sure, you have to be willing to put yourself out there, and not everyone is (in which case you can’t really complain about not being noticed), but I do think it’s incumbent on people with wider circles to be actively inclusive beyond their most immediate ones.