Lately I haven’t been able to shake this feeling — that the voices that matter in the tech writing sphere are too few; that the meaningful debate is confined to a sort of elite circle of pundits who don’t look particularly interested in seeking the point of view of other people who don’t belong to their circle or are outside the reach of their RSS readers.
Today everybody can easily publish their opinions for everyone to read, and the Web has become an immense space where it’s very difficult to be noticed and gain a significant audience. In a certain way, it’s like looking at a pyramid scheme, where the only ones who really ‘earn’ something are those at the top of it — the aforementioned elite circle of pundits. What they earn is credibility, authority, and also money. Now, I’m not really questioning how and why they got where they are. (I personally believe that some of them deserve it, others less so. But that’s another story.)
No, what’s beginning to make me feel restless is the scenario that’s been consolidating so far. These ‘top pundits’ now hold a seemingly unchallengeable position. If you’re a lesser-known writer and criticise the quality of what they’ve been publishing on their sites, or what they’ve been broadcasting on their podcasts, you’re the jealous loser who just writes out of frustration, while they remain untouchable because they’re the good guys. Maybe you do have a point in your criticism, but it will rarely get through. If you’re a lesser-known writer and try to add your opinion to the mix, you can do so, of course (the Web’s democracy, remember?), but it will rarely matter — in other words, it will rarely get the same exposure and attention as the opinion of the ‘top pundits.’
The infuriating thing is that some analysts or tech journalists who write atrocious, ill-informed, intellectually dishonest, or just flat-out dumb pieces are likely to get more attention than certain brilliant voices that struggle to reach a wider audience simply because they’re not on the radar of anyone in a significant position to amplify them.
I think that those ‘top pundits’ should really make an effort to expand their horizons and their readings to include other people deserving of attention, instead of keeping on quoting big tech news sites and their friends 90% of the time. They don’t have a real incentive to do so — perhaps some of them are afraid of losing some people in their audience — but I think it’s the most responsible attitude for people in their position.
But it’s also something we should do from the bottom, so to speak. We can expand the debate in the tech sphere by openly recommending our findings — websites with great content, with intelligent contributions, from insightful people focussed on quality over quantity; people who deliver constantly, offering opinions and perspectives deserving of a greater number of listeners. We keep suggesting great new apps and gadgets on social networks. We retweet, repost and reblog the stupidest things and the silliest memes. It’s time we all started to suggest great sources and writers worth following — and possibly more than once, with more than a passing mention. I’ve previously dedicated a couple of pieces to people and resources I discovered and added to my daily reads in 2012 (this article) and 2013 (this article), but I plan to write more often about the new voices I stumble upon every now and then. It’s a good, responsible practice I’d like to see happen more often.