Monday, February 02, 2015

Sharing information: two views

“Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know.”
— Timeless wisdom from the East, attributed to Lao-Tzu.

“All the pros I know freely share their prime locations, techniques and business practices.”
— Photographer Ken Rockwell, who has a website

I said two views, but they are not mutually exclusive, actually. I don't want to put words in Lao-Tzu's mouth, but he was not talking about how to erect a pup tent, or about the correct procedure for operating a table saw safely. He was talking about enlightenment; ultimate understanding in the cosmic sense, but his line is sometimes abused by people who want to undercut someone else's authority to speak on a subject, without engaging them on the specifics. Rockwell is really talking about sharing merely all the things that can be shared. Which is not the same as everything, period. His point is that sharable information is not enough to make a person a successful artist and professional.

More after the break:

I've known one or two teachers who jealously guard their information, and who only give it up in exchange for money. I went to school with some of their students, who had taken on that philosophy; they would be hesitant to share a page of patterns with me, because they had paid for it, and I guess I was supposed to, too. To me that's a very hackish practice— a very low form of teaching.

My feelings are that:

  • Information I give is an advertisement that I have something to teach. 
  • Most people aren't going to follow my information to the letter, or will not know enough to be able to do so, or to draw what I think are the right conclusions from it. They still need a teacher. 
  • The person who benefits the most from sharing is me. I get to learn to be clear about my ideas, and polish them into a presentable form, and put them up on the web, and into books. And learn to write in a clear and entertaining way. And of course I have to play my own exercises, and make the transcriptions. 

There is a certain amount of personal risk (I guess you can call it that) to putting yourself out there in this way, which brings me to mind of two more quotes: 

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”— Abraham Lincoln 
“No man can hide forever.”
Charles Bukowski 

I try to strike a balance, there. You can't screw up by shutting up, and that's usually the best policy; but are we really going to live our whole lives in fear of being found out? Like, are we going to do something, or not? That does entail a certain small risk. I'll do my due diligence to make sure I'm not putting out bad information, but if I still reveal myself to not know what I'm doing, in someone's eyes, oh well, that's my tough luck.

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