Isn’t it obvious?
I’ve recently started blogging about accessibility, based on my own experiences making Khan Academy more accessible. The intent was to be more open about my work, but more importantly share some of my findings to those who might be thinking about making their website more accessible.
So far the things I’m writing about are very straight-forward, hit-or-miss type things. It’s about picking the low-hanging fruit of accessibility violations which make a difference, but are incredibly simple. Things you can spend 10 minutes fixing.
As such, many people who have come across my blog posts already know the problems and solutions. They won’t learn anything. For instance, did you know that :hover selectors should always have an accompanying :focus? You didn’t? Oh, cool! Lots of others didn’t, and learned something new reading that post.
But, of course, some did, and that’s great. Hopefully they’re putting it into practice.
The vast majority of the “I already knew this” group probably glanced over the post, didn’t see anything new, and moved on with their lives. Maybe they stuck around for the visualizations, or for my specific commentary. Maybe not — that’s cool too.
But a select few couldn’t just move on.
“Isn’t this obvious?”
“Why isn’t the Internet comprised solely of things I don’t already know?” they may ask themselves. “Someone needs to stop this! I’ll let them know of this grave injustice.”
It makes sense. After all, how dare I attempt to educate those with a less-than-or-equal amount of familiarity with this subject. Why should I be able to share my experiences when they already went through it and made it out alive without writing a blog post about it?
I’ll tell you why, because I didn’t write the post for you, self-proclaimed prodigy whose knowledge covers all. I wrote it for me, on my blog, with my words and my stylesheets. I also wrote it for, as my esteemed colleague John put so eloquently, the countless others who are either going through the same things I just went through, or haven’t reached that point in their journey yet.
This whole notion of pointing out that ideas put forth in blog posts are “obvious” or “trivial” is complete nonsense. It’s a blog post, not a research paper, and the fact that you already know it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.
What exactly is the end game here? Are you hoping that I realize my blog post is so basic that I delete it?
My beef with this train of thought is that it has the potential to scare off potential writers. Someone happy to share their ideas may suddenly think twice — “what if they think my ideas are obvious!”
They’ll start making excuses. “It’s too simple,” or “I don’t know enough about this.” They’ll find ways to avoid the potential embarrassment of being wrong or sounding dumb. Writing about things you’re learning is a beautiful thing, and if there’s something in the pipeline blocking any amount of that, it needs to be fixed.
I was in this position very recently, and the only way I was able to get out of it was talking through it with several friends and coworkers. All I had to do was keep in mind the reason I was writing — to share my experiences with others going through the same thing I was. And after a few quick blog posts with lots of great feedback, I’m happy to report that it really, really works.
Look, you are a wonderful person with a lot to contribute to any conversation. Lots of people know little to nothing about what you’re writing, no matter what it is, and they’re really excited to learn more about it.
I know I am.