Why blog? Why maintain Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. accounts? Obvious answers to these questions would be, “To express myself”, “To keep in touch with friends and family”, “To find interesting people in the world and see what they’re doing” and probably dozens more. One that may not come immediately to mind is, “To build an awesome feedback machine!” From Fred Wilson’s excellent AVC blog:
But blogging is another helpful tool in reminding yourself that you are not all that. Marc Andreessen said as much in his excellent NY Magazine interview which was published yesterday. I loved the whole interview but I particularly loved this bit:
So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?
Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.
Do they ever convince you?
They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.
The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.
Keeping someone on his or her toes, making them rethink their beliefs, making them argue them, is as Marc says “fairly helpful.” That’s an understatement. It is very very helpful.
That’s the thing I love about the comments here at AVC. I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and Larry are common naysayers. They may come across as argumentative, but arguing is, as Marc points out, useful.
It’s easy to focus on the toxic elements of online commenting, but Wilson’s approach is far more useful. Sure some comments are so imbecilic that you simply have to ignore them, but for the most part if you pay attention to what people are sharing with you on your various social media platforms you’ll get a pretty good picture of how you’re being perceived.
As the married father of three young adults I don’t lack for sources of honest feedback, but when I stop to think about it I’ve learned a LOT from folks who comment on Facebook or reply to something I’ve written here on the blog or shared on Twitter. You can rest assured that if I have a moment of stupidity, and I often do, that I’ll be called out on it and that’s most helpful. In fact it often prevents me from doing it at home which spares me plenty of grief.