That phrase, ‘The Information Super-Highway’ and Clive James’s descriptions of getting lost in the side roads and back alleys of the internet, are often in my mind as I hunt down some small piece of information and find myself, hours later, none the wiser but having read up on all sorts of other interesting but irrelevant subjects!
Who needs books when you can get what you want from the internet? To be sure, there’s a vast amount of information out there on the web – so much that it’s a rare thing for me to buy a non-fiction book these days! Why pay good money for a book that I may only refer to a couple of times a year when I can just look up what I need to know on the internet? Wonderful!
A few years ago I even taught myself to teach reading using Synthetic Phonics entirely through reading articles on the internet and participating in the relevant discussion forums. And in the past year or so, I’ve learnt a huge amount about greeting card design, illustration, marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, blogging... I should think there must be thousands, possibly millions, of articles, hubpages, lenses and blogs giving advice about blogging alone!
But I’ve discovered that we need to be very careful. Some of what passes for‘information’ would be better categorised as ‘opinion’. Sometimes, if the article or blog is written with enough authority, it’s easy to forget that it’s just the author’s opinion and not necessarily based on hard evidence. Anyone with a smattering of information can, by adopting a tone of authority, pass themselves off as an ‘expert’, especially if they make liberal use of bullet points!
When we are hungry for advice or information, it’s very easy to swallow what we read, hook line and sinker. A new and enthusiastic learner will soak up ‘information’ like a sponge, without filtering out the ‘opinion’. It was when I noticed the contradictions in some of the ‘information’ and advice about blogging that I realised that I needed to be more selective about what I take on board and what I reject.
Contradictory advice is the clue
On the subject of blogging alone, some advise us to post everyday, others advise several times a day, while yet others strongly suggest we should not post too often! Respond to all comments, respond to just some comments...turn your comments off! Let your personality come through – don’t get too personal, nobody’s interested in you...and so it goes on!
In the end we have to decide for ourselves what is sound, useful advice and what is someone just churning out yet another blog post. Sometimes it’s hard for the novice to know what to believe and what not to, in which case, the only way is to ‘suck it and see’.
There will always be people with different ideas about the best way forward – that’s the way of the world. But when we’re just starting out on our learning curve, one of the first things we need to learn to do is to distinguish between solid, tried and tested, information and mere opinion masquerading as information. It’s important if we are to avoid wandering down roads to nowhere.......