Reading the Leaders

One of the companies that I have been consulting for a few months has hired a new team member with no experience in the WordPress field. I have been helping him to get started and get acquainted with the community.

I sent him a list of sites and bloggers I follow and read regularly and suddenly I found out that I made a huge mistake.

I didn’t warn him that what I recommend does not necessarily provide the clear picture.

Earlier today he sent us a link to a review from one of the sites, and later today he asked me:

Should we trust the author X?

No.

And not because he/she is lying, or because there are technical or factological issues with the content. If there were, I wouldn’t be following them for months/years. It all comes to subjectivity.

History

I live in Bulgaria and we had been enslaved by the Turkish army for about 500 years. It’s the same with all countries around us, you can see maps from XIV – XIX century and see how it went.  Our history books have been representing this fact differently, depending on the time we live in at a given moment or the current political situation at a given time. So far I have seen the following statements, roughly translated:

  • We were enslaved by the Turkish army
  • We co-habited the same country
  • We had “Osmanic presence” in Bulgaria

and so forth.

Even if history is supposed to be factological, facts are up for interpretation and the way they are presented across the book would influence a lot the reader, without his prior experience and understanding of the subject. It is quite hard to judge history too, after all you can’t go back in time and see how it went. I for one was really surprised to see how welcoming the Turkish people were to Bulgarians the few times I visited the country.

WordPress

The WordPress community is fairly small, even though it’s bigger than most of the blogging/CMS systems out there. Most people know each other, developers and designers have worked with other parties from the community, you get the idea. Some people have signed contracts for partnership with other fellows, to promote each other and grow their businesses together.

Therefore it’s not always obvious what the real deal is. We have these discussions for the plugin/theme reviews as to if a 1-star or 5-star rating is relevant and punctual? Also, given the thousand possible options to host a product, a “it’s totally broken” could not be valid for 99.999% of the people, but it could affect a lot. Same goes for medical studies from tobacco companies.

If you search for reviews of cars, development languages, products you could find studies and benchmarks of a given item on the top or the bottom of different lists. Because people are capable of inventing reviews that outline a given item in it’s best or worst possible manner.

A tip

Just as with any other story, product, industry – the more you learn, the better picture you could build. Reading your favorite blogger or site doesn’t mean that everything is true and you should obey and repeat. Follow various sources, take notes over time, don’t cloud your own judgement. Try yourself whenever possible, compare, ask, contact authors and employees, take a look at the competitors. It’s the best way to form a less subjective opinion.

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