Dark Matter The False Dichotomy

A twitter conversation is as good a reason for a blog post. One of the very interesting conversations we’ve had recently has been around reach.

I made the following statement:

Looking back at my content, the fact that I never blogged about any of the topics I presented on in the last few years screams of cognitive dissonance.

The ever insightful Christos Matskas, which I’ve had the privilege of spending a bit of time with in Tel Aviv and London, tweeted something very interesting to me, probably in between two planes.

Reach is key when sharing ideas, both because you want ideas you believe are good to spread, and because you want to challenge your view of the world with the cumulated experience of a peer review.

To maximize the engagement with people I can reach, I decided that each of my post would be advertised on all my social media properties: facebook, linkedin, twitter and conference attendees.

Each of those mediums have different audiences. I usually hover around 80 people in my talks, and they are influential to their communities, as they are attending conferences. They don’t represent all the other people that I engage with. Twitter is a larger such circle, full of people I admire and respect. All the same, it can sometimes be an echo chamber. Facebook is my closer friends and people I’ve actually met, and linkedin is whatever community bothers wanting to follow me.

Combining all those communities on subjects I talk bout ensures the maximum reach for the ideas I try to communicate to people.

Dan Barua, which I’ve also been blessed with meeting a few times in London, replied about dark matter developers.

For those that maybe were not born back then, Dark Matter developers is a term probably introduced in our communities by Scott Hanselman.

I do have a fundamental issue with the naming. It assumes that there is the visible and the invisible, the wimp and the enlightened, with a clear distinction between them and us.

Ian Cooper told me many times, and I may be paraphrasing wrongly, that you are not always aware of the impact you have on people. It’s both a humbling and an empowering experience, but one that takes time to accept, integrate and leverage.

See, developers are not one kind or another. Everyone lives on a spectrum of engagement and knowledge, and that changes over time. You may not transform a business you work with, but you may re-motivate one person, or a team, or another team you’re not actually part of. Each of these people may bring your ideas and motivation to other groups. You have people that attend conferences and still consider Funcs and Linq to be too complicated for their business.

And yet, a simple idea that you mentioned in passing can have enormous effect on people, transforming, liberating, and empowering those around you. Frustration with not getting the change you want fast enough can sometimes blind you to the influence you may have by the exercising of your capacity to chat about stuff.

I think dark matter is a false dichotomy between them and us, and I believe that engagement is key to reaching as many people as you can with content you care about. If anything, diversity is always preferable to status quo, and reaching more people keeps you honest and challenges you, making you a better developer, a better teacher and a better communicator.

But with great power comes great responsibilities, and on that there is much to write.