Why You Can’t Click “Publish”

My last blog post started with this sentence:

“Here’s the lastest videos educator’s are jacked about”

Two clear spelling errors. I had already published it and while it’s not uncommon for me to fix and edit these after I’ve posted it, I missed these two. I received a DM on twitter letting me know about this. That’s not the first time I’ve had people DM me and I appreciate it every time someone does. This time the person added that the reason they caught it was because they had forwarded my blog to a non-educator who refused to read the post because of the spelling mistakes.

That’s why many of you won’t blog or click publish. Not necessarily because you might make a spelling error but because you’re worried about what someone might think. Believe me, I do too and feel badly that this person felt so strongly about my spelling that they assumed my content and idea wasn’t worthy to be explored. The problem is many people, including some of you reading this have a old mindset when it comes to publishing.

Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done. Clay Shirky

For many of you, the word “publish” remains going through some type of vetting process that when completed presumes and grants some level of authority or credibility. Not just anyone could publish, now anyone with a web connection can. Even someone who often or occasionally misspells words. Publishing also suggests that even before others might view it, that you proofread, rewrite, revise and edit until you’ve reached a polished and compositionally perfect piece of writing. After all, you’re a teacher.

Of course we all realize this has some wonderful benefits as it democratizes ideas more than before but of course it also comes with many problems. Clearly we know have to do the work of that the “cadre of professionals” used to do. Having to determine if someone’s ideas are valid requires much more of us than it used to and so we develop filters, some of which are questionable. In the case of the person who wouldn’t read my blog, the filter they use is spelling. If a person misspells a word, to them, they become irrelevant. For others it might be a sarcastic tone, an inappropriate post on twitter or an unpleasant exchange of comments. Any one of these things and many more can quickly make your best ideas moot to some.

We need to understand that this space is different, that this medium breaks down the requirements and allows for much quicker and primarily more conversations to take place means we can’t still think about publishing in the same way. I’m not suggested spelling and revision isn’t important but THIS SPACE IS A CONVERSATION, not a monologue. In this space, I have no intention of writing and ending an idea or conversation.

Books are designed to contain all the information required to stop inquiries within the book’s topic. But now that our medium can handle far more ideas and information, and now that it is a connective medium (ideas to ideas, people to ideas, people to people), our strategy is changing. And that is changing the very shape of knowledge. Dave Weinberger Too Big To Know

Many still aren’t understanding this shape of knowledge. You see your blog as some sort of fixed container instead of the new shape that invites, enables and should expect conversation.

The advice I’ve given to a few people I’ve had face to face conversations with lately, is to be clear with people that your intent is to learn and converse. Make sure they know you don’t know everything and are more than willing to be proven wrong or asked for clarification or other insights you may not have considered. I believe that’s the essence of social learning.

I talked earlier about filters. One of mine is authenticity and humility. I look for people who don’t know everything and ask people to poke holes in their ideas. I also don’t mind and actually appreciate the odd spelling or grammatical error because in real conversations we all misspeak. We ‘umm” and “ahh” and occasionally fumble over our words. Of course the beauty of a blog or any type of written work is the power to edit and revise. I do take advantage of that and actually proofread and edit most of my posts including this one. I make enough mistakes it’s hard to catch them all. That said, I don’t let a few unfinished thoughts get in the way of a potential conversation. I hope that after almost 1,000 posts in the past 9 years that I’ve learned to be a decent writer but I also know others are much more brilliant that I and yet that has no bearing on whether or not I click publish. My goal is to share something I’m interested in and invite others to make it better or more clear or simply take it and use it however they like.

Like you, I see and hear things that spark my interest. Sometimes, like in this case, it’s a few conversations I have face to face that I think might be of value to others. Other times, it’s things that bug me. Sometimes it’s other people’s work that I want to share. Occasionally it’s a question I have. I shouldn’t have to tell you that you have something to share. Twitter is a little less intimidating although I have talked to teachers who are fearful clicking send on a tweet. The blog is much more about you and your ideas. I hear people are so fearful to click publish they literally sweat. I think one of the reasons I don’t sweat is because 9 years ago, I began to understand that the word publish didn’t mean what it used to mean. I didn’t fully get that but understand it more and more. It’s unfortunate that still many people don’t get it and have developed very odd filters to determine value. I should do a better job of proofreading but I won’t obsess about it and the risk of not sharing. It’s not worth it.

cross-posted at http://ideasandthoughts.org/

Dean Shareski is a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, specializing in the use of technology in the classroom. He lectures for the University of Regina and is the Community Manager of the Canadian DEN or Discovery Educators Network.