Which Came First, the Expert or the Blog?

15 Jan

Do you have to be an expert in order to blog about a topic or do you become an expert because of the blog? This a question that Charlie Gerancher and my friend Kim have asked me in various forms in the last week. It’s a great question that I’ve heard a lot over the years and one that is often framed in the context of “how did you do it?”

You are an expert.

Whether you recognize it or not, you’re probably already an expert on something in the eyes of someone else. My high school students viewed me as an expert on U.S. History and I occasionally had some of them try to cite me as a source in their research papers. I quickly pointed out to them that I was considered an expert because an expert that they could legitimately cite would have “Dr.” before his or her name. Continuing that same train of thought, in my eyes my friend Steve is an expert in aquatic entomology because he knows far more and can convey more knowledge about the lifecycles of mayflies and caddisflies than I’ll ever know. (Steve is also a master at tying mayfly and caddisfly imitations).

You are an expert to some group of people. The question is who is in that group? You’ll have found a target audience once you identify your expertise and the group of people who recognize you as an expert. That group could be people who need help using their iPads, or people who want to learn how to draw, or people who just want to know that there is someone else going through the same struggles that they have (Man vs. Debt was that blog for me for a while). Write for that group, answer their questions, and in doing so you’ll find that your expertise grows.

Blogging your way expertise.

Two neat things happen when you really get rolling with a blog. First, you’ll find that you want to write a lot. Second, in your quest to continue posting you’ll find that you want to learn more about your chosen topic in order to share more about that topic. That’s exactly what happened to me. When I started Free Technology for Teachers I got hooked on trying lots of new things because every new thing that I learned became an experience that I could share. My expertise has also grown because readers of Free Technology for Teachers have sent me questions that I couldn’t answer off the top of my head so I went and did a little research before replying to them.

A more current example of blogging my way to expertise can be found in this blog. Yes, I have a bunch of lessons already queued up, but I’m growing my knowledge and ideas by answering questions like these from Charlie and Kim. I’m also using this new blog to experiment with things I’ve wanted to try but didn’t have the right forum for until now.

Let others give you the Expert label.

Perhaps it’s my Calvinist upbringing shining through, but I always cringe when I see a Twitter profile or blog profile in which a person has labeled himself or herself an “expert” or “leader.” Unless your official job title actually states “leader” or “expert” then leave it to others to give you those labels and say thank you when they do.

But there are so many others blogging about this.

I hear that a lot from people who are having trouble getting their blogs going. My response is usually, “so what?”  Put your own spin on things. Use your own voice. There have been more books published about the U.S. Civil War than there were days during the Civil War. Yet, new books about it come out all the time. Go write your perspective on that topic that “everyone has written about.”

What are you going share your perspective on in your blog? Share your blog with us in the comments.

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  • Carol Nelson

    I am really appreciating and using each post to “tune up” my blog. This one really hits on my stumbling block of “but there are so many others blogging about this”. It is about our own spin and using our voice! I am putting my own voice to technology use and evaluation.

  • Alaa Sadik

    Congratulations Richard, your experience as a tech blogger will encourage too many students and teachers around the world to learn about blogging and start posting.

  • Kurt Söser

    I am a teacher and blogging since 5 years now and I have to say, that my “expertise” have grown since. I am really happy about every single reader of my blog and hope that I can inspire others with my stories and blogging. Visit http://www.kurtsoeser.at if you want to see my blog