Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Contributing to Group Knowledge

     One of the most striking ways in which the internet has changed our lives is the way in which we can engage in conversation with "strangers" from literally anywhere in the world.  While some conversations, of course, can be inappropriate or even dangerous, I'm referring here to the way in which we're able to share information and build collective knowledge.  If you've ever read posts in a "help forum" or even commented on a blog, you know what I mean.  As just one small example of this, last year I was frustrated trying to solve a setup problem with a Sony Blu-Ray player.  The Sony website provided minimal technical support, but it did have a help forum where users posted their own questions and other users responded with their experiences and solutions.  I found many people who had the exact same problem that I had, and I found several great ways to solve it.
     This type of community sharing requires a certain kind of mindset where people are freely willing to give and take for no other reason than it benefits us all.  As I thought about this recently, it occurred to me that I have only been a "taker" in this exchange, and have never been a "giver."  Today I decided to change that.
     I thought about a particular topic with which I had some personal experience and even some expertise. When I googled this topic I saw lots of articles and blogposts related to it, and so I picked out a few of the most relevant ones to read.  Paying particular attention to the comment threads that followed the articles, I joined in the conversations and contributed my own thoughts and experiences.  Hopefully, some who read my comments will be able to benefit from what I had to say.
     A teacher of mine says that the internet has changed from being the "information superhighway" to being more of a place where people "engage" with each other.  While some of that engagement is little more than social conversation, much of it involves the building and spreading of group knowledge.  I want to be a better "digital citizen" in the future by contributing knowledge and not just taking it.

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