I’m not a big fan of Meta posts, blogs and podcasts. That is to say, I’m not a fan of content that is about creating said content. Every now and then something snaps inside me and I just have to get it out. Thankfully this doesn’t happen often. I’ve decided to preamble such posts with “BEGIN META” and “END META” to assist those that wish to skip the Meta-meta preamble and get to the meat of it. Feel free to do that: I don’t mind.
Anyone involved with journalism will immediately understand what follows as choosing your sources carefully is critical to success when reporting news. I’m not a journalist but as I’ve put myself out there more and more in recent years it has helped me to get my head around this. I’m still learning and there’s a long way to go so bear with me for a moment. What follows isn’t directed at anyone specifically and nothing really specific set this off - it’s just been bubbling away in the back of my head for a few years and it’s finally boiled over.
BEGIN ACTUAL POST
There are two key components (IMHO) that go into creating engrossing content:
Personality is somewhat intangible. Verbal and physical quirks, opinions and confidence will appeal to different demographics of people. Add multiple people into the mix and sometimes you get chemistry and other times not. In short: it’s hard to nail down and it’s not an exact science. At best one can tweak their qwerks or try and keep them in check but beyond that there’s little else to be done. We are who we are. That applies equally to writing as it does to speaking, but if you’re podcasting then choose your co-host(s) wisely. Chemistry matters and what brings fireworks with one co-host will completely bomb with another. The other thing about personality is it tends to grow on people over time. Then other times it just makes others hate you more over time…
The far more easily examined is authority and hence I want to focus on that for the moment. Excluding personality for whatever topic you want to talk about, for other people to find it interesting, engrossing and valuable there needs to be some level of authority. So many people have opinions about so many things but so few of them actually come with any kind of authority on the subject in question. It’s irritated me for years and occasionally there’s debate about what people should/shouldn’t talk/blog about given their relative authority on the subject under discussion.
I’m not saying that people can’t talk about whatever they want: go right ahead since it’s a free world (sort of, in some spots), just don’t expect to be taken very seriously. If you don’t care about whether or not you’re taken seriously, then “jog on” and enjoy yourself and none of this matters. If you do care however, then please consider.
To best explain what Authority means to me I’ve decided to roughly rank key elements of experience to illustrate. What follows I’d like to call Chidgey’s Heirarchy of Blogger Authority (CHOBA) which lists how much Authority I think you have to talk about any given subject from most to least:
- You have poured a significant amount of time into building, modifying, repairing this product/device/system in recent months/years.
- You have poured a significant amount of time into building, modifying, repairing this product/device/system years ago but not recently.
- You have poured a significant amount of time into using this product/device/system in recent months/years.
- You have poured a significant amount of time into using this product/device/system years ago but not recently.
- You have obtained formal qualifications regarding this product/device/system in recent months/years.
- You have obtained formal qualifications regarding this product/device/system years ago but not recently.
- You have used this product/device/system in recent weeks/months.
- You have used this product/device/system months/years ago but not recently.
- Someone wrote about this product/device/system in recent weeks/months and you have an opinion about what they said.
- You’ve never touched/used this product/device/system but someone you know said something and you have an opinion about their opinion.
As I’ve said previously I don’t believe that opinions about opinions are worth reading or writing, so let’s extend that to talking about opinions about opinions as well. Note the position of formal qualification in the list and also note that whilst some tech-bloggers that review products might be offended the truth is that the role of the reviewer is to guide users which way to go with products and services and this requires a wide-spread knowledge of many products and services. Specific authoritative knowledge takes time and needs depth that few reviewers can actually provide by virtue of the fact they must test so many different things in order to effectively review any specific one of them well.
Since there’s only so much time in the day it’s not possible therefore to be an expert and authortative about everything. I’ve had so many requests to talk about subjects and with specific guests on Pragmatic in the last few months and many of them I simply won’t tackle because I don’t feel like I’m any kind of authority on those subjects. (That said there have been a lot of great suggestions I’ve added to the list too!) If I don’t ever talk about your suggested subject please don’t be offended! It’s probably just not a good fit.
If you’re going to live in the bottom of the heirarchy (which is fine both for and to a lot of people) please understand that unless you bring personality to the table you’re never going to be taken seriously. I’m pretty harsh about my own personality: I have verbal ticks and expressions that I get feedback about and understand that my personality alone isn’t that interesting, so I’m sticking with the content I cover and focussing on what I can talk more authoritatively about. Sometimes I’ve gone off topic but so far I think I’m doing okay despite the occasional miss.
Ultimately this approach will limit the total potential life of Pragmatic and even this blog. But I would rather that than just ramble on about random stuff I have no stake in, have spent no real time trying to understand and filling the internet with yet more dribble.