I recently completed my first 5k run. It was a real achievement for me and me although I didn't do as well as I hoped, I came in quite well in a field of 365 people. Obviously that extra training to run that 5K, and the event itself, meant a lot of hard work and I developed some considerable pain a few days later.
The good news is that I have a local physiotherapist just two or three streets away who I have been using for a couple of years for various aches and pains. When you get to over 50, if you get up in the morning and don't have some kind of pain you're more likely to be dead than well. Suffice it to say you get used to those kinds of things. He examined my feet and identified it was actually an issue with the shoes I'd been wearing and poor support for the type of foot I have. He advised a different kind of shoe to wear if I was going to continue to run regularly. Then he spent an hour dealing with the pain and fixing the muscle spasms with various techniques. At the end of the session, he showed me some stretching exercises to ensure the pain doesn't return.
This reminded me of something vital; in a world where everybody seems to think they have the answer to everything, we still need professionals. We still need people who have the experience, the training and the knowledge to give us advice that makes sense. The only people that don't think professionals matter, in my opinion, are amateurs. Google has led us to believe we are omniscient and social media has led us all to believe that all opinions are equal, that's frankly not true.
Imagine you were sitting in a room with a doctor, a pilot and a firefighter. You've had some chest pains and you are not sure what they are; indigestion, a heart attack or something else? Who would you ask? Of course the answer is the doctor, who may not be infallible, but the balance of probability would suggest they have the best chance of giving you the right answer. The pilot and the firefighter are also both professionals and may have an opinion, but in this case neither are likely to be very helpful. When it comes to facts it's not opinions that matter, but finding someone with the training and experience to give you the correct answer.
Many Facebook groups and forums are nothing more than the blind leading the blind. There's a saying 'there's no such thing as a stupid question.' Spend a few minutes in some of these unmoderated Facebook groups and you'll realise that's not true. I think it's partly a desire of those who start the groups to give everyone access and also a desire to think that a huge Facebook group is somehow a sign of success. But we've ended up with these unmoderated communities where anyone can answer a question or post something, however untested.
I want to explain a little of the background of how this blog works, and I imagine how publications like Sound and Sound, Resolution, Tape Op and others do too. Each week the team have a meeting. The first thing that takes place is to evaluate content that has been published and discuss any issues arising. Then each member of the team brings their ideas for new content. During this time, the ideas are presented, and then a discussion takes place to discuss each article, the facts being presented, the arguments they contain. The team will talk about the research that needs to take place, any expert opinions that need to be obtained, and of course the editorial merit of the piece. Often it can be as simple as 'is this article any good?' Some ideas presented don't get past this initial discussion, some do and are then written, re-written or scrapped. We call this part of the process 'Red team, Blue team' which means one part of the team has to convince the others that the article has a factual basis and editorial merit, or is at least entertaining if nothing else! It can be painful but is essential in the quest for continuous improvement.
Once an article has made it past this stage and is ready to publish, then it goes through at least three editorial checks. Sometimes at that point, it is sent back to the author again. By the time you read an article, it's likely to have been through a serious amount of editorial checks and balances. Even then we sometimes get things wrong and have to put those things right after the event. If you look hard enough, you may find errors in this article.
What I'm trying to say is that even with so many checks and balances, we are still fallible.
What social media and forums have created is the ability for anyone to give an answer, without any of those checks and balances, especially in unmoderated groups. So we find anything from the plain wrong to the downright bizarre being stated as fact, even worse it's believed by those hungry for knowledge. This discourse doesn't make us collectively smarter, but dumber!
In closing, I recall an evening a few years ago at NAMM and was sharing dinner with Cliff Maag of Maag Audio, Michael Carnes of Exponential Audio and Bobby Owsinski. I knew the smart thing to do when surrounded by such a brain trust was to shut up and listen, the best contribution I could have made was some fart jokes. Sometimes we are not all equal and the sooner we learn that, the quicker we learn from those further down the road than us.
With such easy access to information, much of it bogus, there's never been a more critical time for us to seek out those with proven training, education and experience. Then like me at that NAMM dinner, we shut up and let them speak.
Trusting BIGMIXER53 or ROCKMAN88 (names I just pulled out the air, I hope!) without knowing if they are a Grammy-winning producer with thirty years experience or someone who has just been using Garageband for a week, is unwise and yet so many of us do it. We are not the only industry, I see the same thing with people asking about their pets (ring a vet!) or their baby (ring a F*CKING doctor) don't waste time asking complete strangers!
This industry is filled with so many smart people, who between us have the answers. I commend to you Sound On Sound, Resolution and Tape Op, to name three. As well as the many other excellent resources who have smart people and editorial checks and balances in place.
It's time we wised up.