Thursday, August 15, 2013

Offer Your Opinion

"Opinions are like assholes. Everybody's got one and everyone thinks everyone else's stinks."

I've just returned from That Conference, a polyglot technical conference held up in the Wisconsin Dells every August.  It's an awesome place where collaboration happens, and everyone learns a lot.  Ideas collide, and people partner.  It's truly an eye-opening experience that inspires by design.

Many of the folks who come out have strong opinions.  Some very strongly held.  What makes That Conference special is the lack of fear people have while sharing their opinions.  They share opinions openly and without fear of judgment, because, as Clark Sell affirmed as he kicked off the week, "None of us is as smart as all of us."

So that got me thinking about opinions.  Closely held opinions, or ideas, are worthless until they are shared.  Sure, they inform private decisions, and even public actions, but in terms of contributing to a public discourse, opinions are much more powerful when shared.

This works exceptionally well if the opinion is well founded in logical thought, and the opinion holder is open-minded enough to change that opinion in the face of evidence-based reason.

This also applies, strangely enough, in the area of customer surveys.  I'm sure we've all been annoyed by the survey pop-ups on various web sites we use.  "I see you're on the website!  Can you spare a minute to answer a couple questions for us?"

I almost always take these surveys.

Why?  Because if I'm on a site, it's almost always because I chose to go there.  And if I did, it means that I value their product or information.  And if it's worth it to me as is, wouldn't it be worth more if I had a little input about what was good and what could be improved?

This all comes back around to community, raising your voice, and having an impact in improving all those things you find good in the world.  As you all know, community conferences changed my life.  This year Doc Norton talked in his keynote about how many connections we have to other people, and how we can subtly influence their lives without thinking about it.  Imagine what would happen if we choose to offer our opinions to positively influence the things around us.

Imagine what we could do.

Imagine what you could do.

Now go do it.

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