Monday, July 16, 2007

Catching up

I spent last week at a non-work-related conference, so I was somewhat out of the loop. I did check my aggregator every day, admittedly in skim mode, but I marked a few posts for later, more leisurely digestion.

I spent a little time today catching up on those. I also caught up with conversations to which I had previously contributed - I don't like to fire and forget my comments, since sometimes people come back with valid points I hadn't thought of.

In the process of this, I came across a thread I had all but forgotten in one of the communities to which I belong. The community is for training professionals, mainly in the corporate environment, and it includes fairly active discussion boards. The thread which jumped out at meagain today was started by someone who seemed a little miffed by the fact that some people in the community were asking questions without ever contributing answers to others'. Taking without giving, was how she saw it.

This generated a fairly interesting and slightly heated discussion which included a call to name and shame the culprits. I was quite surprised. I often contribute my 2p worth to the discussion threads, although I have yet to pose a question. But I had never noticed this. I have noticed familiar names cropping up repeatedly with suggestions in the threads to which I contribute. One new young trainer even expressed guilt that he was one of the takers and wondered whether he should leave the forum!

I can't claim to have been the only voice of (what I like to think of as) reason, but my contribution to the conversation was:

As a trainer, I was born to teach, to enable, to empower - I don't look on it as a debt that needs to be repaid, but simply as a function of who I am. I don't mean to sound holier than thou, but in my experience, it is only wise to keep score in competitions. This is not one of those.

Whoever it was ([name deleted], maybe?) who asked whether he should stop using the site because he had never contributed... you stick around, mate - there's room enough for all shapes and sizes here!
It occurs to me, that some of the people whose blogs I read regularly might see me in the role of [name deleted]. None of them have ever expressed any resentment. So are they just being polite, or do their views align with those I expressed in my response quoted above? Since I have no reason to believe these people read my blog as avidly as I do theirs, I am listing and linking to some of the key players below to attract their notice (note: I read many more blogs than this, but these are the ones from whom I seem to take without giving in return). If you're on the list, I'd love to hear your views. If you're not, I'd still like to know how you feel in respect of your own readers...

So, in alphabetical order of feedname:
David Warlick
Chris Sessums
Dave Snowden
George Siemens
Jay Cross
Stephen Downes


Anonymous said...

I am quite honored that you take the time to visit my weblog and are interested in my 2p.

I consider myself an active lurker. I read all types of sites, like yourself, wherein I chime in on occassion when I feel I have something meaningful to contribute.

I tend to go with my passion--if a writer really nails it, in my opinion, then I like to let them know I appreciate their voice/actions. If I feel like a writer might benefit from constructive criticism, then I might chime in as well.

Sometimes I'm too busy to comment so while I might agree/disagree, I don't have enough time to provide thoughtful feedback.

I feel that I benefit greatly when others take the time to provide feedback. However, if I get none, no worries. I figure either I've made no sense whatsoever or I'm preaching to the choir and thus nobody is quite up to commenting. Or, as mentioned earlier, I figure readers simply don't have enough time/energy to respond meaningfully, so they take what they need and quietly move on.

I keep this online journal-thing to capture my thinking at the moment. My latest post talks about my feelings as they relate to providing "a voice of reason." I often wonder if my voice is reasonable or worth sharing at all. Yet I persist, hoping that one day that I'll communicate something that others will find useful.

In the end, I think you captured my feelings best when you said, "stick around, mate - there's room enough for all shapes and sizes here!"

I couldn't have said better!

Stephen Downes said...

I personally think the comment was a little petulant.

If the person feels that way, they shouldn't answer any questions, rather than try to impose some ridiculous obligation on people.

I have always answered questions without any expectation of anything in return, and have been happy to do so.

I am sure that everyone else in your list will respond in a similar manner.

George Siemens said...


Personally, I have no expectation of contribution from readers of my blogs. I value feedback and resources via email/blogs. The numbers that subscribe to my newsletters or to blog feeds are far greater than those who respond. Which is fine by me. I blog to capture resources, clarify thoughts, etc. If others find value in that, great. If not, well, I guess they won't follow the sites :).

I think it's inappropriate to expect visitors to contribute. The whole point of network-views of learning is that by exposing ourselves to the network, we relinquish control over how others can interact with us and our ideas. Someone who still expects feedback from readers doesn't appear to have relinquished the desire to control the activity of others. With that said, I do get a bit irritated when I see concepts I've posted about used without reference. To read and not acknowledge or contribute is great. To take the work of others with out referencing is antagonistic to the spirit of openness and sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments, folks. As I suspected, none of you is precious about what you know.

For anyone reading these comments, please note that these three peope did not get to see each other's comments, all three of them went through moderation at the same time - so each one was commenting blind. Yet notice how the term "no expectation" comes up explicitly in two of the comments and tacitly in the third.

As Stephen suggests, perhaps the remark on which my post was based was a little petulant. Alternatively, perhaps the person needed the affirmation of being one with lots of answers to give.

One way or the other, I feel vindicated that other learning providers feel much the way I do, even though they have much more to give. I also feel reassured that I am not seen as a pest, even when I am at my most parasitic in my learning habits!