What Have We Learned?

Posted: February 23, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One glaring issue with the Internet is the complete and total lack of quality control. It’s a true double edged sword: we’re allowed to express ourselves in almost any way we see fit, connect with any and everyone about infinite potential topics. That being said, that also leaves infinite potential for the toxic. The boundless range of the Internet is how we get trolls, keyboard critics, and spammers.

So how do we combat this? How do we keep the riff-raff out of our newly built networks?

Turns out, there are a few ways.

Scott McLeod Photo CC – by Scott McLeod

Step by Step

It’s a multi-step process. You’ve got to explore, search, follow, fine-tune, and feed.

When building your own network, post-exploration, there’s going to be a big sudden influx of information taken in. It’ll get overwhelming, and it’s going to need some filtering.

A common method of finding people to add to a PLN (personal learning network) is a Google search, but that’s definitely narrowing one’s scope. Certain classmates (*cough* tristen *cough*)  had the genius / obvious idea I overlooked of searching for particular hashtags on Twitter, finding posters that were interesting, and checking to see if they would be the right fit for their PLN. I did not do that thing.

I did, however, network off of followers I did find. I followed a lot of suggestion lists after following new people, leading me to discover a lot of my new followers also follow each other. This network is already established, and I’m the new blood in it. This is where one of my biggest issues is with maintaining my PLN: feeding.

I’m a sponge. Sedentary by nature, and always intaking. I take in what those around me have to say – I absorb, and I gather. I collect my thoughts in a vault in my brain and lock them away in case I may need them one day. When I’m in the ring with successful publishers, literary agents, and authors, my brain goes “pfffffft, these people don’t need my input!” I feel as though my input will go unappreciated, my questions will go scoffed at (or ignored altogether!), and there is no feeding done. That’s an issue, because what you get out of a network is what you put into it.

Andy Morffew Photo CC-by Andy Morffew, also feeding

Quality Control

This is why fine tuning is an extremely crucial step in the PLN process. Let me put it this way: as I said, I followed tons of writers, agents, editors, publishers, etc. and attracted the attention of a few writing pages.

One page I followed claimed to be for writers, but upon inspection, contained only shallow, empty quotes like “Today’s writing isn’t going to do itself” once every few days. No articles from experts were shared, no publishers listed, nothing. Just these weak inspirational posts and some fans raving about how good the page was.

The page messaged me offering me a job as a writer. Sketchy, eh? I did some digging and found out it was one of those “get paid by companies for your opinion” scams. Yikes.

How can you ensure that your questions go answered and your opinions go considered? Evaluate your network. What types of people are you following? Certain classmates accidentally followed a few Erotica authors in their attempts to build a writing network. It’s easy to plow through and mash the “follow” button, expecting vast riches of information. Doing that is an easy way to get vast amounts of absolute crap.

Make sure those in your network share your interests, or at the very least, your passion. Make sure they’re educated on what they’re interested in, or at the very least, eager to learn. A self-proclaimed “expert” can have merit – but if they’re toe to toe with a professional in a field, it’d probably be safer to bet on the professional. This is not a sports movie, the underdog here is not the winning bet.

As I’ve always said, don’t narrow your scope. Try to explore all facets of your network. I chose writing, therefore I sought out those in the industry, those in the indie scene, and all levels of possible professions. And I still didn’t even begin to cover all that I could.

Sherl Edwards Photo CC-by Sherl Edwards – and also my doctrine 

In and Out

Of course, none of this means a damn thing if you don’t put the effort in. Here’s another big problem with my personal motivations: making time. As much as I can try and deny it, senioritis is creeping into my bones.

A network isn’t a one-way street. It’s a constant flow of feedback from all components, and if you aren’t one of the sources of feedback, you’re deadening the network. Taking in with no giving out is called leeching. With proper quality control of your sources and your information, it ensures that when you do decide to feed your PLN, you will have something worth sharing.

The bottom line of PLN maintenance is effort, and knowledge. If you educate yourself and fight ignorance in your field of study, you’ll have questions worth asking and points worth making. If you put the effort in to share these things with others, you will become a focal point in the network. Don’t wait for time, make the time. Clearly, I need work in this department.


  1. tristyfishy says:

    I’m totally with you there, especially in the last option. I’m proud of myself because I actually did take the time earlier in the week to do a little bit of posting and retweeting from those that I followed on my great PLN search. I found those that I didn’t want and found several that I did. I found that the daily writing tips sites definitely helped. The tweeters that were tweeting about certain blogs were particularly helpful, and helped build my pln of blogs.

  2. angietemple says:

    I love how you said we are a sponge….I think that is so important!

    • jamcfarland says:

      We are all shaped by our surroundings! The people, places, things we do – all of it makes up who we are. We like to think we’re super independent from others and our surroundings, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

  3. angietemple says:

    I love what you said about being a sponge…I think that is essential to building our PLN networks.
    Thanks !

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