I was lucky enough to go to an all day lecture by Edward Tufte today in Los Angeles. I wish that had been mandatory for anyone I work with or anyone who creates content that I consume. So full of gems. One of his reoccurring themes was that you should respect your users, not treat them like idiots. Chip Kidd makes this same point in his TED talk from last year. I love this, as it’s something I’ve run head to head with more than one boss about over the years. I figure, if someone is smart enough to make it to your site/talk/whatever then you should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t idiots. Upper management hasn’t always agreed with me on that, which is in part why I no longer put myself in a position of answering to upper management.
The whole idea of making assumptions about your audience is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. When I started blogging (though it wasn’t yet called blogging) back in the 90’s I took a frequent position that I knew more about something than the people who were reading it. I positioned myself as an authority. I wasn’t an authority on anything by the way, but I was in my 20’s and we all know how that works. Over the years I became less confident in my know-it-all-ness and more and more often assumed that everyone out there already knew about whatever I was thinking of writing about so why should I bother writing about it. It was a pretty good excuse to use to justify not putting myself out there. When ever I did get inspired to write I paid extra careful attention to how I positioned myself when I did write, and that I made it clear I was just writing about my own take on something. Again, that was my excuse and it worked really well as you can tell by the frequent lack of writing here over the last few years.
I thought about this a lot in 2012 and kind of had a big talk with myself towards the end of the year. I basically told myself that crappy excuses like this won’t hold up anymore. I trust that the people who read my site are not idiots because saying idiots read my site would say more about me than them, but also that people aren’t reading my site to learn some exclusive bit of information that I’m expected to deliver expertly – they are reading it because they want to read my take on something. Or my opinion about something. Or just see what I happen to be thinking. And that’s good. That’s enough. That’s why I want to write in the first place, because maybe something I have to say will be interesting to someone. Not that I’m the ultimate authority or the speediest news wire, just be somewhat interesting.
So that’s part of what is behind this resurgence. I’m trying to ignore the little “you aren’t good enough, no one cares” voices and accept that even when I don’t hear them, the little “that’s interesting, glad you wrote it down to share with me” voices are out there too.