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Contradictions: Why We Read Blogs?

August 15, 2008
by Joe Bormel
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Paradoxes are the basis for all deep truths. This is one of the 33 paradoxes from Richard Farson in his leadership book, “Management of the Absurd.”

Recognizing apparent contradictions makes us feel good and become smarter. To elaborate, I’ll present some paradoxical examples, which I believe are self-evidently related to healthcare informatics and why you, who are already an expert, are reading this.

The core paradox, from Farson is, “the opposite of a profound truth is also true.” Some other Farson favorites that you can judge from your own experience are:

• effective managers are not in control

• the better things are, the worse they feel

we learn not from our failures but from our successes – and the failures of others

Before my first posting, I asked friends for their insights to and opinions of blogs and bloggers. I was genuinely asking for guidance, but only after I made the decision to blog, paradoxically not before. I heard two fairly common themes:

1. Nothing to say

Several friends said that they couldn’t write one (or publish a comment) because they weren’t sufficiently expert or had nothing to say. That’s the “because I don’t have everything to say, that’s exactly why I don’t say nothing” contradiction.

In reality, every single person who said they had nothing to say actually had delightful expertise. That’s part of why I hang out with them. So, the truth apparently contradicted their response.

A Farson paradox here is, “to be a professional, one must be an amateur.” Framed slightly differently, none of us is an expert, yet most of us have distinctive expertise.

I blog to share what I’m learning, or at least observing, and through the resulting comments and associated research, will fill in part of the 25 percent I don’t know.

2. Nobody reads blogs

Well, yes and no. Do you see where this is going? To a great extent, we live to learn , and now we need (or try) to learn with very short attention spans around specific topics.

These are often not topics we’ve chosen. Instead, we’ve been lured in by the potential to learn something important. So the whole structure of blogs is different from wikis or knols, or other packaging and delivery methods.

We knowledge workers read and benefit from blogs because they are the opposite of profound truth. Got that?



As a reader of several blogs, I find too many of them gravitate to merely electronic postings by malcontents. This one looks like it just might work! I hope so, because thus far I've garnered some valuable information from it.

thanks Jack - any suggestions you've got to help us improve are always welcome.

Joe, as you know, I read the book you're talking about (because you sent it to me). What I tell the HCI staff is that the key to blogging is simply being observant and being able to "connect the dots" between personal observation, trends and analysis. I plan on writing something about EDs because 1, I spent some time there recently, 2, I just saw an interesting piece of news about it and 3, the whole trend of making the ED more pleasant meshes with where I think healthcare is going.

I think the dominant trait for successful bloggers is to be observant and analytical, rather than expert.

If you're interested, this discussion continues with an analogy to American Idol performance, here.

Dr. B,
So, to discover how the opposite of something profoundly true, can also be true, I guess I'll have to read the book. Have it on my list anyway. But... matter, by virtue of its' mass, attracts other matter. Is the opposite also profoundly true? I'm a simple man, but I like to listen to reasonable people.
I make the point consistently that the person in control of a conversation is the one doing the majority of the listening. Asking a few key questions to lead where my knowledge is weak puts me in control.
This type of format is perfect for me, a panel of experts willing to share experiences. I would ask any other readers like me, that swim in the shallower waters of the knowledge pool, please ask a key question or two and here we go.
Thanks again all,

David, Thanks for your comment.

Much, much better
than reading Richard Farson's book is listening to it. Let me know how that goes.

(audio cassette: )

Yes, the opposite is profoundly true as well. That's partly why humility and conversation are so critically important.

Got it, Joe!