It’s important to reach novice marine aquarists with good information early in their hobby experienceA few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking at the first annual Buckeye Reef Marine Expo down in Bowling Green, Ohio (which, by the way, was a tremendous success, thanks to the tireless efforts of Jesse Lambdin, Joe Perkins, and all the other folks at Buckeye Reef, who clearly went all out to make this a stellar debut event!). In the presentation, I discussed the role of information in promoting success in our hobby, particularly with respect to beginners. Among the various topics touched upon was “Challenges to Effective Information Sharing.” Today, I’d like to share these challenges with you and invite your input on others that might belong on the list as well as what you think we could do to overcome them—not just here at Saltwater Smarts, but throughout the hobby.Anyhow, here are some of the reasons we think we’re collectively “missing the boat” when it comes to reaching novice hobbyists with good information in a timely manner. But we’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so if you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to share it in the comment section afterward. 1. The Echo-Chamber Effect In this all-too-familiar scenario, hobby information—or misinformation—gets picked up and repeated ad nauseam across the internet (e.g., garlic cures Cryptocaryon irritans). It can be very difficult for the novice hobbyist to distinguish between fact and fiction, and the repetitive nature of the information lends it an air of authority that may or may not be justified.
Virtually since the advent of the internet, there’s been a tendency in our hobby to rate the reliability and trustworthiness of online content beneath that of print-format materials—books, magazines, and so forth. But is this assessment really fair?The general premises behind this viewpoint are: Anyone with a computer and internet connection can post anything they want online, whether or not he or she has the requisite expertise to expound on the subject. Online articles and posts are seldom given professional editorial treatment and/or subjected to peer review, so you can’t trust that they’ve been vetted properly for accuracy. There tends to be an “echo-chamber effect” online, so inaccurate or outright fallacious information appearing on one site can be picked up immediately by others and repeated ad nauseam, creating the false impression of consensus on the information/viewpoint. Now, there’s truth to each of these arguments, but as someone who’s made his living as a writer/editor for nearly 20 years (primarily in print format) and once served on an editorial committee that reviewed book submissions for a major retail pet chain, I can say with some confidence that print materials have their limitations as reference sources, too. Among them: Just as with online materials, print books and magazines are no more reliable or accurate than the writers and editors who produce them. You can’t assume that just because someone went to the effort to produce something in hardcopy, the information it contains was properly vetted.