Blogging can be a really weird hobby especially in the development space. Obviously, the majority of what I personally write is geared towards developers – at least on some level.

Some articles are straight up “How To’s” (such as get a post ID by its meta value) that are meant for anyone. Others are meant for people who may be experienced in software development, but not necessarily WordPress, and others are geared towards open conversation in which anyone that works as (or for!) a developer can have an opinion.

But there’s a problem with this: Whenever you – or I – opt to write an op-ed piece about why someone should avoid using a certain plugin or practice, or we share how certain things are Doing It Wrong rather than Doing It Right, or anything of like, we run the risk of cultivating an environment that fools us into thinking our perspective is of much more significance or is much more “correct” than it really is.

Herd Mentality and Facebook

Here’s one example that should resonate with many of us, because I think we’ve all seen this happen on Facebook:

  • John Doe shares his opinion on some political, religious, economic, or other controversial issue
  • John receives a number of ‘likes’ and comments that support his statement. At this point, it’s safe to assume a portion of his audience ignores it, or those who disagree remain silent.
  • This results in John receiving a reinforcement that the majority of people that he knows and interacts with support his view.

The problem is that on networks like Facebook, Twitter, and other online communities – including blogs – we’ve crafted an audience that generally share many of our own thoughts.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, either.

We rarely share our controversial opinions with people who we know will disagree. Instead, we share with those who we know will support us.

But I think this can breed herd mentality.

Herd Mentality and Blogging

The same thing happens on blogs because although we aren’t necessary creating our own following or friends list, we do attract people interested in our content or that share the same mindset.

In short:

  • We write an opinion-based on article
  • We tweet it out or those who subscribe to our blog (who are obviously interested in our content) read it
  • The audience then shares their opinion the majority of whom agree

And the same problem exists: We’re given the idea that our opinion is more or less correct because the majority of the people who have talked with us have agreed.

Sometimes, I think that this is a good thing; other times, I believe that we’re writing to an audience that we’ll never actually reach because they simply don’t follow our blogs. Thus, we’re left with the same people who share the majority of our opinions.

It’s as if we try to write these definitive posts on a topic only to have it go out to people with the same beliefs rather than those to whom it could truly educate.

Herd Mentality and WordPress

At this point, let’s consider WordPress. Go to any local meetup – especially one’s geared towards beginners and/or power users – and you’ll find that there are people who are starving for knowledge. Sure, some of their questions may be a bit simpler than what you’d expect, but that’s not a bad thing.

But my guess is that many of us would not chat with them in the same way that we share our opinions and thoughts on our blogs and on Twitter because it’d be deemed disrespectful.

So why do we do it online?

Regardless, I’d rather be the kind of blogger and/or developer who spends more time educating people (as well as learning from others) on why things should be done a certain way, what things should be avoided, how to achieve this, that, or the other, and do so all the while without coming off as being frustrated, snarky, or simply arrogant.

Unfortunately, I feel as if I see the opposite happen all too often. It’s a shame, because the people who are on the fringe of wanting to jump in can be intimidated by other people who are more experienced voicing their thoughts and opinions in such a way that keeps them at bay.

Migrate From The Herd

Finally, I’m not saying I’m exempt from this. This is something that I think everyone can do a better job at doing. The problem is figuring out how to do it. Honestly, I don’t know how to do it for anyone else.

What I do know is that I’m responsible for this particular area of the Internet so I can focus on making it as positive as I can, and everyone else can focus on their respective area.

I’d hate to lose out on a potentially good designer, developer, blogger, commenter, or someone who is eager to get into the space simply because those who are more experienced are contributing to herd mentality.

So as I aim to write how to’s, opinion pieces, and other articles, I want to make sure that I’m envisioning an audience that’s representative of both those who are curious and those who are experienced.