I was chatting to Julian Summerhayes yesterday and noting how many blog posts out there talk down to you. I don’t know if you agree, but let my quickly paint the picture I have of it:

  1. They write as if they are teaching you, and you need them to say everything for you to understand, rather than appreciating the wisdom of their readers.
  2. They write very much as if what they say is the authority, without drawing from the authority of their readers.
  3. They tell you what to do, rather than ask what their readers think could be done.
  4. They broadcast out ideas, rather socially discuss ideas.
  5. They tag on the social cop out, “what do you think?“, rather than really drawing out from you, “what do you think?”

I used to write very much like this. In fact the peice on Innovation Over Tradition had the same prose feel that I think goes along with the above. Normally here, we’re talking things through.

The trick to much of this is what I learnt from Robin Dickinson – “under bake the issue.” In fact, we had a great discussion about this a while ago.

What I Don’t Know

The thing is, Monday’s post was an interesting read that got quite a few retweets (as I get so few), and certainly, there is a place for explaining things and being an active authority. But I think that can still be done without talking down to someone. I’m not sure.

Your Leading Thoughts

  1. Do you notice different tones of blogging? Can we categorise them a bit?
  2. Which writing do you respond to? Are there some blogs that you notice this “talking down to” in?
  3. Are there, conversely, some bloggers who you can’t respect because they don’t speak with enough authority.

Archived Comments

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Thank you, Scott.

    I respond to people first, what they write second. My attitude is very much, ‘there are no blogs, only people expressing their thoughts and ideas’. No matter what the ‘tone’ of the blog post, my approach is to honour people and add value to what they write – if I feel I *can* add value.

    Again, the context of this comment is the unfolding of a Value strategy rather than a Volume strategy i.e. diamond focused on a small group of ‘likeminds’, helping them succeed.

    My experience is that people like Scott Gould simple don’t talk down to anyone. :)

    Best, Robin

  • http://twitter.com/98rosjon Jonny Rose

    No Scott you don’t talk down to your readership and for that I applaud you!

    I find the best voices of authority let their ideas do the talking rather than themselves.
    Seth Godin’s blog for example, does not overtly shout ‘authority’. If you didn’t know who he was, you wouldn’t know that he was *the man* yet the quality of his blogging output reflect well back on him.

    Stylistically, notice how Seth almost NEVER uses ‘I’ or ‘Me’ or ‘My’. All these words centre the debate around himself as the authority, rather than the ideas he his espousing.

    A neat technique of his is also to have no comments section at all. I’d be interested to know where Seth follows up conversations about his brand. However, I like the fact that he *trusts* the community to bring it back to him in someway on another platform, rather than keeping the discussions boxed in at the bottom of the blog.

    Informality in ‘authoritative’ blogs I find can go either way.

    A bad example of this is Shoemoney’s blog (the SEO guru).
    He is a phenomenal commentator on SEO with a proven track record and successful salesman who I initially bookmarked however I didn’t stick around because I found it to be too egotistical and ‘colourful’ – neither of which have to be a criticism as they have served him well!

    A good example of informality that I respond to (in my head) is Erika Napoletano’s blog which is quite profane but I respond to the ‘frankness’ of it. An example of a good post of hers: http://ht.ly/2hnfT
    At first it seems incredibly gauche, but her ‘realness’ seems to be something her readers respond to. Hence although she is not saying anything new at all (i.e. we must value people, their custom), her ‘voice’ makes it stimulating.

  • NC Smith


    I love how you’re so consistently about engagement and conversation, rather than just broadcasting. Also, I believe your interest in spurring dialogue on your blog is based on a genuine interest in learning in your own right, and not just a gratuitous attempt to expand on the very “what do you think” trend you criticize. I guess these are what drive me to respond, so my answer to your question #2 part 1 is answered.

    The only bloggers I don’t respect are those political bloggers that are viciously partisan.

    But to take the spirit of “set it free” that social media embodies a step further, in a manner of speaking, the broadcast bloggers are the most altruistic of all – they _don’t_ invite conversation, therefore they _don’t_ learn by blogging – but they _do_ set these little birds free, in the form of their thoughts, to live and die in the conversations they start based solely on their own merits.

    It does take a bit of arrogance, perhaps, to do this, but arrogance, confidence, and the perception of condescension are separated by only the thinnest of margins. Regardless, I think there’s some merit to letting the ideas go and take root (or not) in conversations everywhere.

    As for under-baking the issue, for every intelligent and thoughtful person you appeal to by following that practice, there’s someone less familiar with the issue that is likely to miss the point. Then you get to Robin’s choice: value or volume.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Robin.

    Good point – responding to people *first*. The trick there of course is to know the person! LIke you say, ‘there are no blogs, only people expressing their thoughts and ideas’.

    And you’re right – this is about not talking down to anyone – and valuing the person in front of you!


  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Jonny

    Shoemoney was one of the first blogs I checked, but I couldn’t stand the hard sell for long. The reality is, yeah, Shoemoney makes money selling crap to people with no brains. He does a lot of it. But he doesn’t build an organisation that actually adds value to people and changes our world.

    Seth is very good at being inclusive, and I like that he is open about why he doesn’t allow comment stoo.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Bro.

    Thanks for the kind words- I’m glad you appreciate the engagement!

    There is a balance here isn’t there. You mention arrogance, or confidence rather. There is this mix between being humble, and also knowing your stuff. I’m still learning what this is!

    As for underbaking – yes, the issue is that some people miss it altogether. My tactic is then to review discussions after two or three days, and post the thoughts that everyone has together.


  • http://twitter.com/superblue Sarah Blue

    I love authoritative blogging when the tone is, “I’m really smart at this and I want you to love it as much as I do” When I read blogs on topics I know nothing about, I trust people who can write at a very high level, but also walk me through the basics. A great example of this is Steven Strogatz’s 15 part series on math in The New York times: http://ow.ly/2hTKn

    When I *do* know quite a bit about something, I like reading blogs where the tone is very much, “I’m pretty good with this stuff, but am constantly trying to be better, let’s work through these ideas and problems I have together.” Things that make me think – even if neither the blogger, nor I have the answers.

    I love going for coffee with friends and debating things. I like when blogs provide the same experience as that, only online. I think you do a good job of this!

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Sarah

    Agreed – there is that high level from someone who is undoubtadely an expert and their passion exudes from them.

    The second level, also, is one of passion, but it appreciates the wisdom of the crowd.

    I see this blog like a discussion in a coffee shop – everyone can contribute and help others!