Ahh… Can you hear me? or Acknowledging Ignorance
I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately. I have three Marketing Research textbooks on my desk along with piles of case studies and a few booklets about various software packages. I started a new job two weeks ago (hence my prolonged silence.)
The scariest part about starting this job (or I suppose any new job) is dealing with and acknowledging how much I don’t know. Not only do I have to learn a bunch of statistical methods I haven’t used before, I’m learning new jargon, new faces and names and a whole new business model. My technique for learning this stuff is basically what I use when confronted with most new things.
1. Shut Up
3. Read everything that I come across
4. Continue steps 1-3 until I have something new to add to what is going on.
I think this strategy is especially important in blogging and activist communities. I would never walk into a meeting with a bunch of professional graphic designers and hold forth on my thoughts about the color blue. Similarly I wouldn’t walk into any other community and start spouting my opinions without first really having a good understanding of what that community is about, what they stand for.
How could I think that I have something to add to that community, if I don’t even have an understanding of where they are at?
The land of Blog has a relatively low barrier to entry (compared to say, a career in journalism. People come to your site, they read what you say, they comment, some people tell you how great you are. (Seriously, you’re all welcome to tell me how great I am any time you want 😉 ) It is easy to believe that with just the right turn of phrase you too could be the next Queen of Blog.
But you can’t.
Some blogs in the fatosphere (also the feminist blogging community) have earned their place at the top of the hierarchy because they have been discussing and fighting and sharing and providing revolutionary and insightful commentary for years. They have defined key terms, brought more public awareness and just generally spent years talking about fat acceptance and feminism. Their insight, research, and excellent writing are what built this community.
You don’t just get to come in three years down the line and expect the same level of respect and acceptance. You don’t get to be an authoritative voice on a topic just because you showed up.
If it seems like the barriers to entry are high and your contributions aren’t appreciated it is because the barriers to entry ARE high, and your contributions aren’t exactly new. There has been a lot of material covered in the fatosphere over the years. There has also been a lot of going back, explaining, getting more contributions, losing voices, gaining new ones.
I guess the question every blogger has to ask themselves is “What am I adding to the conversation?” But how can you know what you are adding to the conversation if you weren’t even listening to the first half.
I don’t want to discourage people who are new to the community from blogging. Everyone has something to add be it your personal experiences or your unique take on social issues. But I would encourage you to read as much as you can first to make sure that this is really a community you want to be part of, and that you have something to bring to the buffet. (mmmmm buffet)