This is somewhat of a followup post on the very popular post by our technical editor, Tom, who wrote a little while back on attitude adjustments which was very well-received. If you haven’t read this one then you probably should as it provides some foundational context to what I’m about to share here.
Since that post I’ve thought through much of what we do here at WP Daily and how we can be the very best source of information possible for our many (and growing) readers.
I say “information” because at the very foundation that is what we provide. Some may call it “news” while others may call it “gossip” while others may call it “noise.” It almost doesn’t matter that much to me anymore as I feel like we’ve figured out our “place” among the other great WordPress-centric resources and are getting a bit into our stride of sorts.
I feel oh-so “indy” especially on this 4th of July which is why I finally have gotten around to publishing something about all of these thoughts that have been swirling around in my head since we started just a short 7 months ago.
Like any great piece of blogging these days you need “expert” opinions on the matter and I’m going to borrow from three sources to help sum up my feeling about criticism, online douchebaggery, and general heckling within our type of sector and sphere.
The first and perhaps most important comes from Gawker, a “stand-up” blog that has gone through many iterations since it’s inception. In it’s recent iteration John Cook shared these thoughts via Hamilton Nolan who’s been a long-time staffer at the blog:
The thing I like most about Gawker is that we are able to dispense with all of the politesse bullshit that surrounds so much establishment journalism and just speak the truth (as we see it, at least). We’re not required to hem and haw and couch what we want to say in euphemisms. If something is bullshit, we can say “this is bullshit.”
I think that this is ultimately Gawker’s most important role in the media. Amid all the funny things and time-wasting things and ridiculous things we publish, we tell the truth, in far more direct way than readers can find in most other places. And I sincerely believe this is noble, even if we sometimes surround it in a bunch of cat videos. One of the old proposed but not adopted slogans for the site was, “Honesty is our only virtue.” I like that.
In many ways I find myself (and WP Daily) at the same place. No way are we as large as Gawker as we are light-years behind what they have done but I can positively say that I hold the same attitude. That WP Daily is and should ever-remain as an independent source of news around the WordPress ecosystem sometimes providing “cat videos” and mindless entertainment and sometimes providing key pieces of information, insight, and perspective that gives us an important place in the media.
If I can borrow unapologetically from Nolan (and I will) I would reiterate what I believe to be core: Honesty is our only virtue. Perhaps it’s our only virtue that some have come to observe.
The second point of thought comes from Tom Francis, an indy game developer and contributor to PC Gamer. He recently wrote a great piece titled affectionately, Not Being an Asshole in an Argument. The point is well-taken and he brings a fine solution that I have tried to instill here at our outlet.
You’ll always form opinions, but they need to be flexible. They need to reflect the data, and the data available to us is always changing.
Perspectives are the data. What you’ve experienced, what you’ve felt. By sharing the data itself, rather than your conclusions from it, you give other people more data on which to base their opinions.
It seems meek. But perspectives can be incredibly powerful in changing people’s minds. I’ve never had an “Oh shit, I was wrong” revelation from someone calling me an idiot – every one I can remember came from hearing a different perspective.
I don’t want to be an asshole – at least not more than anyone else wants to be, right? I just want to do a good job of doing a good job at some of the simple things that we do – covering news, reporting on people that are making news, and having a helluva time doing it without much grief.
Which leads me to my third point of thought which comes from Brian Warren recently on his thoughts regarding criticism:
I am completely fine with people being critical of the things they see on the web. As long as they know that they’re doing it from a position of safety and ignorance. You haven’t spent the hours/days/weeks/months that the designers spent working on that project. You don’t have the same stakeholders they have, and you certainly don’t have the timeline pressures that they dealt with getting this project shipped.
No, these designers and developers stuck their neck out for this project and they shipped it. Unless you, in your endless wisdom, are able to take a single glance at the new iPhone/Flickr/etc. and say, “Yes, I know, in ten seconds or less, better than all these people do, and I can say they all made terrible decisions. And now I really need to tell the world about how impressive I am in 140 characters or less.”, if you have that capacity go for it.
His context is obviously design but the point can be easily extended into any “art” form, even writing for a news blog. My team is tireless in our work and our coverage. We shift entire schedules to bring relevant information to a growing audience of passionate consumers of our content.
Even as I sit here on my vacation I find myself drawn back to my writing canvas compelled to cover the news for our awesome community. Our company is obsessed with online publishing – it’s why we started a company together and it’s a passion that we’ve had for years, decades actually.
And I hate it when I, we, all of us are unfairly criticized for the work that we do – more than that, just as Warren laments, the amount of time and investment we’ve made to make this thing possible. Critics and pundits alike do what they do from a place of literal safety, which is fine, but as long as they realize their position then I can take it.
We’ve put an incredible amount of energy into making “this” (whatever “this” is) a reality. It’s kind of turned into a monster at times and far exceeding what we had originally planned, scoped, or even had hoped for. We had an idea of the potential but we had no idea how many resources it would literally suck out of our current global operations. Making this happen has cost us, dearly.
So, at times, even the smallest of jabs, especially those out of absolute ignorance, offends me like nothing else. Sensitive? Sure. We all are over our own “babies,” aren’t we? But I must remember (always) that we’re all still very much human. We all make mistakes. Let’s just make honest ones, if we can, so that we save ourselves from being complete assholes.
Have a great 4th of July everyone. Stay indy, stay awesome.