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Finding the balance

19 January 2009

It struck me today that it’s quite difficult to find a happy balance between the consumption of information — from blogs, newspapers, periodicals, etc — and contributing to the public sphere. I have a voracious appetite for knowledge, including conscious revision of prior Did you know…? “facts” that often turn out to be erroneous or unproved, but the trick seems to be working out an acceptable ratio of input (reading and watching) to output (writing and blogging). As someone with a reasonable level of research skill and a high level of  Internet experience, it’s extremely easy to spend all my time consuming what the world has to offer.

Even with a good RSS reader like Bloglines or GReader, consumption of information can take all of my time if I’m not careful, particularly as I’ve always felt that one should have more than just a passing familiarity with a topic before opining on it. After all, as we’re so often told these days, once you hit the Publish button on your blog, you are a published author… in the eyes of litigators, at least. And I have quite a few personal and professional interests.

I suppose I’m like most people: there are a number of topics on which I am an expert, some on which I am a keen hobbyist or competent lay-person, and a limitless amount for which I haven’t a hope of being able to bluff my way through. The trick is where to draw the line and to recognise that, although one might not know a particular topic in any depth, the application of critical thinking and logic should provide enough to enable a fair appraisal of it, even if it’s not feasible to become an authority on it.

Of course, a shortfall with this approach is that faulty thinking, idealogy, emotions or subjectivity can allow for conclusions that are not based in reality. I’m sure every person already holds numerous such “facts”, but having them in our heads doesn’t make them real. It now depends on whether you’re prepared to re-evaluate them or not.

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