On Knowledge Sharing and Being Frank

For the past few months, I’ve been following the “Advanced WordPress” group on Facebook. I joined the group thinking I would be exposed to advanced questions around WordPress development work.

What is it that they say about assumptions, again? 🙂

Through observation, it is apparent that the group is more focussed around advanced uses of WordPress for client websites, rather than development topics. I figured I’d keep following the group in any event and see what comes up.

The spark

After a week or two, I noticed a few questions coming up which I’d had to answer several times before. “Which theme is best for doctors?”, “Which page builder do you use?”. While both of these questions seem pretty harmless, it is difficult not to develop strong opinions on these topics when working in the WordPress software space (ie: not doing only client work).

“No, Matthew”, I’d say. “Keep your opinions to yourself. No-one wants to hear a negative Nancy.”

The tipping point

While reading through the recent questions one evening, I saw a post which can be summarised as; “My team and I have determined that WordPress is the best software for a recent project, yet our client wants to use Drupal. We’ve been asked to convince them of why we should use WordPress. Can anyone provide links to some great enterprise-level websites running on WordPress?”

While the correct action would have been to post a few helpful links, I felt I could perhaps share my opinion on the topic (without any links, per the request) and would be adding value to the discussion while still sharing my view point.

If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No”.

Time to take a chance. To get out of this mental back and forth. Post it. If no-one agrees, consider removing it or just chalking it up and learning.

I posted a comment on the question, in the vein of; ”In my opinion, it is up to you to determine the software you wish to use to get the task done. Your client is coming to you as a professional to perform a task to assist them at a price upon which you both agree. We don’t demand that our doctor or dentist make use of a specific utensil when we go for our check-up. The same should apply to website development.”

I received over 10 likes (and counting) and no backlash. For this group, 10 likes is pretty good (for a comment)!

Observations on sharing an opinion

I’ve thought about this quite a bit over the past few days, tried several other comments (yep, one of them was on page builder plugins) and received similar responses. What I’ve found is:

Remember that it’s your opinion

If you state something as fact or law, it better darn be fact or law. Otherwise, it’s your opinion. Keep that at the forefront of your mind.

Be open to discussion

If someone engages with your comment, remember that it’s their opinion as well. Discussion is healthy. You never know… you may just learn something.

Be on point

I love metaphors and comparisons and all kinds of literary tools along those lines. There is a time and a place. A short comment on Facebook is not the time. The longer your comment, the less clarity your message holds. Keep it short. Keep it on point.

Be frank

Sometimes, it pays to just be frank. When someone comments in a group of this type and is asking a question, they’re not doing it as some kind of epic test to gauge the knowledge and superiority of the group’s members. They’re asking because they don’t know the answer!

The best way to provide an answer is to provide an answer. Don’t switch between several opinions in your comment. Be on point, stick to your opinion and explain why you feel the way you do.

Concluding thoughts on knowledge sharing

Having been working with WordPress professionally since 2007, I feel as if I’ve heard every question under the sun. From theme choices to page builder plugins and WordPress white screens, I’ve seen and answered them all, several times over.

When being in a position of having a deep and intimate knowledge of a topic, it is very easy to become arrogant and full of hot air. None of this aids anyone in learning, growing and developing their knowledge on the topic.

Stick to your opinion, and try to remember that you too were there once, starting out, learning the ropes of why themes should be lean and mean, and why plugin code security is important. 🙂

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