I read blogs and listen to podcasts because want to hear the thinking of people who are better than me or who can lead me to new ideas. Why am I writing this blog then? Well, I already knew I had a good face for radio, and then I learned I had a great voice for mime. So I stuck to writing articles. I once wrote a series of articles for a motorcycle monthly about living with an old bike. I ran it under a pseudonym (Nescio, for the classically curious) for about a year. Then one day someone I worked with came up to me in the car park and said “you write that column, don’t you?”. Who’da thunk it?
I have learned a little from my mistakes and now try to steer away from explaining – you may have seen the XKCD cartoon where the guy can’t come to bed because someone on the internet is wrong. Just don’t get me started on how countersteering works on a bike. Let’s just say that, if it was really due to gyroscopic procession, your steering would depend on the weight of the front wheel. Quick nurse, the pills, and get him off that soapbox!
Anyway, back to the words. I do love a good blog, plus I’m a fairly recent convert to podcasts. Like I said, I best love the stuff that leads me to new ideas or new things. I really don’t care that some new camera has been announced that has a million autofocus points or is sensitive to mood. I care very much that I picked up ideas for doing diptychs on half frame and for making a chain-reaction series of double exposures. I also followed-up on an article about reducing noise in digital exposures to learn that I could use a feature on my camera that I had always thought was a wasted menu option. My camera is old by digital standards, so the image quality starts falling apart above 400ISO. But it lets you combine multiple underexposed images into a single one that has much less noise. Again, who’da thunk it? Thank you, blogmeisters.
I do tend to avoid social media, though. For a start, who has the time? I also dislike anything that clamours for my continual attention: I can read a blog or listen to a podcast when I want to, not when Faceberk wants to stick more advertising in my eyes. I don’t suppose anyone now remembers the wild west of Usenet? If ever there was a forum (fora, I suppose) hell-bent on correcting every opinion that was wrong, that was the one. The only way to stop some discussion threads was to mention Hitler (Godwin’s Law: I’m anti-Nazi).
So blogs are good. They are generally run by one or a few people with an interest in their subject and no axe to grind (unless you want to talk about contersteering). You get less of the past tyranny of a few Internet deities predating on innocent newcomers like Lovecraftian face-eating horrors rising from the vasty deeps (resentful, moi? I suppose that’s what percussive learning is all about though). Sure, people occasionally go off on one, but there is less of it on a classic lens forum. There are way too many pictures of tiny single flowers so that people can show off their bokeh, though. But at least it’s not Nazi bokeh and avoids outright death threats to the poster.
But I would like to raise a serious and possibly contentious point: not all opinions are equally valid. A second point is that critical thinking is typically neither. On the second point, you have only to see the sort of things that Snopes tries to debunk. On the first point, I believe you can have a valid opinion if you put the work in, and that means not just having an opinion but being able to explain how you go there as well as what it would take to change it. It’s like some of the things a relative of mine expresses as fact. When challenged this becomes “what I think”, but never goes deeper than that. If you don’t know why you think what you think, you haven’t thunk. So rather than the current fad of distrusting experts or invoking relativism in place of expertise, I would like to hear what the good people think as well as understanding what makes them good.
So let me put this blog into context. Treat me as an unreliable narrator. I have a little knowledge gained by reflecting on my mistakes and a large body of experience of making those mistakes. My set of currently-unexamined mistakes dwarfs the few I have learned from. If ever I feel clever I try to remember Dunning and Kruger. So having revealed that I’m an eejit, I shall endeavour to be at least readable. And don’t take this to be some form of false modety – I truly have a lot to be modest about.
But back to the good people. What a joy it is to read or listen to people who know whereof they speak, or who can express an interesting idea. Or even raise whatever the photographic equivalent of countersteering is so that I can shout in my car and frighten other motorists at the traffic lights.
I could now provide my curated list of the finest blogs and poddles, but what makes me the expert of your taste? There are loads of things to read and listen to out there, plus loads of references to them. Try them. Live with them and see what sticks. You can expect your tastes to change as your knowledge develops or you reflect on the style and content. And besides, you need to put the work in to have an opinion.