Ctrl + X and Scissors: Share, even if you think everybody knows it already

19 03 2009

Working with Bernie Michalik for a few years now, we changed our behaviour when sharing knowledge – and also other trivial things that don’t deserve to be called “knowledge”, more like gossip or useless tidbits of information. At the beginning, we would not share some tips about interesting Web 2.0 sites or piece of news because we just assumed that the other party would have heard about it already, as we both are avid consumers of new geeky stuff.

Over time, we noticed that more often than not our assumption was wrong. Even though we share quite a bit of a network and sources of information, we still find that a good deal of what one of us know is not as universally known as we expected. Coming to think of it, the most popular YouTube video of all time as of this writing is Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”, with 117 million views – it just passed the long time favourite “Evolution of Dance”. Even if you consider that each view was by a different person – very unlikely by the way – that music video would have failed to reach the remaining 883,000,000 people with Internet access. I know, people could have seen it in Vimeo or Metacafe, but you catch my drift. No matter how many people know about anything, there are always more people who don’t know about it.

That’s one of the beauties of blogging or tweeting – or re-tweeting, for that matter. You share without actually knowing if people care of not, a “To Whom It May Concern” note to the world. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss. Sometimes it’s a miss that becomes a hit a few months from now, as that shared knowledge becomes digitalized and searchable.

One silly example. In the early nineties, somebody told me a handy logic behind having Ctrl + X and Ctrl + V as shortcuts for “cut” and “paste”, respectively. The letter “X” resembles an open scissor – thus “cut”, and the letter “V” is like that handwritten markup most of us use to signal an insertion point in the middle of a text – thus “paste”. Even 15 years later, there are still a fair number of people who never heard about the mnemonic aspect of those shortcuts.

The bottom line? Don’t be afraid to share what you learn. You’ll quickly find you are almost always the “second last to learn”.