Friday, July 23, 2010

How do you know I'm not Milli (or Vanilli)?

Yesterday I read a really fantabulous post by Stanford Smith (aka @pushingsocial on Twitter). Go ahead and read his post about why smart people like dumb bloggers. Then come back!

See, I told you it was an extremely thought-provoking article. That's why I'm a little surprised that a day later, what came to my mind in response to this amazing post was...Milli Vanilli.

I Need A Bridge

Okay, so let me explain how I got there. A lot of Stanford's post is about the fact that smart people tend to be a little...didactic. Maybe sardonic. In short, smart people have the capacity, nay the tendency, to do kind of stuffy posts. And everyone, smart people and dumb people (so called), find those posts to be pretty boring. My question is this, though. Given the wacky world of Social Media, how do we really know that the person we are reading is really that way? How do we even know if the person we are reading really wrote that post? How do we know who our readers really are?

We don't.

And that brings me to Milli Vanilli. For longer than 15 minutes, a lot of people thought Milli Vanilli was the best thing next to maybe MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. You know that if you were able, you danced a little to "Blame it on the rain." It was amazing that non-native English speakers could speak English so well. It was amazing that 2 guys could look that good and also sound that good. It was almost too good to be true. And then it turned out it WAS too good to be true. Nobody remembers the name Frank Farian today, but he was the actual mastermind behind those pretty faces.

A similar thing happened with that dance-a-licious C&C Music Factory video, "Gonna Make You Sweat" (Everybody Dance Now). Zelma Davis, a gorgeous, thin woman, appeared instead of the actual singer, Martha Wash. Blues Traveler ended up parodying this in their video for "Run Around."

Who is singing for me, Argentina?

So I was thinking about Stanford's comments about smart bloggers and then the mysterious regions beyond our computer screen where all of these contacts of ours live out their day-to-day lives, something we probably have no idea about. And I realized that ultimately, we really have no way of knowing if blogs are emanating from a person's regular way of talking or if people slave over these things for months at a time, plucking words and phrases from various sources. We have no way of knowing if blog posts are being plagiarized, in fact. We have no way of knowing if we are looking at the writings of a Frank Farian or a Fab Morvan.

As you read this, you really don't know much about who I am as a person. You know the things I have posted to this blog. Maybe you follow me on Twitter, so you might know that I have at least a couple of interests that expand beyond the world of marketing. You have no way of knowing if I am really smart or not. Maybe someone else takes a pool of thoughts I verbalize and they make it sound good. Or maybe I am a ghost writer for someone else. And who are you, my readers? The only way I know is if you leave comments, and even then, that is just a snippet of who you really are.

If all you can judge a person by is his or her writing on blogs and other social networking sites, you are also at a great disadvantage. Some of the brightest people I have met in my life are terrible spellers. Some of the best ideas I have seen have come from people who, despite their best efforts, mix up there, their, and they're. Some of the seemingly least intelligent people I know actually are rivers that flow deep. They might not be able to string two words together in person, but in writing they reveal a brain full of knowledge that is beyond most people.

I agree, but everyone has a big but

In short, I agree with the crux of Stanford's post, as I'm sure most people would. If you are smart, it's easy to get preachy or "high and mighty." If you choose not to write with a particularly intellectual bent, it's easy to get disregarded by some and adored by others for your accessibility. But I just want to throw a word of caution out there.

It's possible that some of your "smart" readers are also "dumb" bloggers. It's possible that some of those "dumb' or easily accessible bloggers are some of the most critical and well-read commenters out there. All we have at our disposal, for the purposes of judging, is some written words on a flashing screen, written in a particular style, with particular choices of words that may or may not reveal the real person behind them. We can't even depend on definite identification since may people have many different usernames at their disposal. Social Media is a thick curtain, and all of us could be Wizards of Oz. On the other hand, we could all just be Toto too. Don't be too eager to assign people to one category or the other. It's not a smart thing to do.

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