Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Authority or Community?

In a recent exchange at an online forum, I was criticized about this blog because I would comment on other blog entries and hyperlink to the relevant entry. The other person felt that "Improving incrementally on someone else's idea garners you less attention and respect than breaking new ground."

I'm sure that is very important if your goal is to garner more respect and attention than anyone else. I would prefer to view the Internet as a breeding ground for an open and free exchange of ideas where the goal is collaboration and mutual respect rather than a battlefield where you are supposed to beat everyone else in the game of gaining mind share. I suspect that the original inventor of the World Wide Web had something similar in mind when he proposed hyper linking as the fundamental feature of this new technology.

I don't believe that competition is always bad. If you are trying to build a web publishing business and you want to attract venture capital, then you are going to have to focus on beating your competition to become the most attractive business. That means garnering more mind share than your competitors. That means improving SEO so that searches list your site above those of your competitors. According to Google's own documentation, that means you don't link to your competitors.

Too much of anything isn't good, however. I believe that there is room in this world for cooperation too. It is dysfunctional if your competition button is always stuck in the on position and your cooperation button rusts away from disuse.

Are you somehow inferior for discussing with your friends what happened on a TV show last night? Shouldn't you be inventing your own shows instead of commenting on others? There is nothing wrong with inventing your own shows, of course; however, I believe that there is also nothing wrong with sharing your views on news, events, culture, commentary, society, sports with others in a dialog of free speech. How else can we discover our differences and find commonality? How else can we learn to relate to each other?

That is why you will always find links in my blog postings to other sources. I will not simply rehash what was said elsewhere but use that originating post as a starting point to tell my own story.

What do you believe? Is authority more important than community or vice versa?


Fred said...

The "other person" here. Hopefully you understand that I meant my comments as constructive criticism. Also, I think you're still focusing too much on hyperlinks. I don't really have a problem with linking to a story or post that inspired you to write one of your one. That's only giving credit where credit is due.

Where I tried to explain is that if you aspire to be a leader, then the only way you can do that is by stepping out in front of everyone else. You have to be the one driving the conversation rather than merely participating in it.

It's certainly a lot easier to write a quick blog post about something you read somewhere else. It takes a lot of effort and insight to develop a completely original yet compelling idea. That's why the people who can do that are held in higher regard. To a certain extent, the person talking about last night's TV show over the water cooler is inferior to the writers, directors, and actors who spent several weeks to produce what you watched in an hour.

However, that doesn't mean talking about your favorite TV show with your friends is a worthless exercise. It has value to the audience you've chosen and that's not to be ignored. You choose your goals for yourself and I hope you accomplish them.

Brian said...

Jacob Nielsen's article starts out: "To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings." I think your blog is fine, unless you feel the need to become famous for your world-class expertise, in which case his advice is probably sound.

Brian said...

On the other hand, if you're looking to start conversations on your blog, your technique of ending each post with a question is a good one. Maybe this is a different way to having a successful blog.

Plone Glenn said...

Although the blog postings that I post here are quickly written, I would not go so far as to say that they are shallow. Usually, they express an opinion that I have formed from decades of experience. I also write more in-depth articles but I post those at a different site.