Non-Technical Sensitivity Issue

This blog is always about audio gear, but this one was inspired by a ‘Sensitivity Issue’ as it pertains to how we treat each other, especially on these here InterWebs. There’s no shortage of passion and excitement in this biz, but it also has a way of putting all of us – regardless of experience – in our place.

One REALLY BIG LIFE LESSON that I have learned is that many of us Audio Geeks have personality / social ‘challenges’ that are as much an asset as a liability. I include myself in this group! ‘Audio’ calls to us because there is room and a need for our obsession. That said, you must have a thick skin and be sensitive – which may seem contradictory…

There have always been pissing contests. Those who need proof of competency will judge you ‘only as good as your last project.’ We move in circles that sometimes make us the big fish in a small pond while at other times, we are one of the little fish. We must learn to negotiate that transition. There will always someone out there who is ‘better’ in some way or another, socially or technically. Learn from them!

Many of us have a need to share a recent accomplishment, a light-bulb moment. By putting yourself out there you are inviting comment. My first official EQ column in 1994 included a 2.2dB error that I got reamed for in a ‘Letter to the Editor’ by a very knowledgeable person (who eventually became a client). It was embarrassing, but it taught me a lesson: “Know the material inside and out before sharing with 30,000 people!”

I have alot of experience as both engineer and technician, much of which is more subtle than readers expect. I have had close encounters with the famous, but my accomplishments are measured by what I have learned, not the least of which is that in this one discipline alone, there is a never ending list of things to learn.

For every time that I have tried to help someone (in an e-mail, for example), there is a pretty good chance that the seeker has also asked someone else (in a public forum). Options are great for the seeker, but in a public forum there is the potential to put the mentor in the position of being the ‘mentee.’ The key to making this work is patience and sensitivity – for ALL involved parties – be prepared to not be the authority and not take it personally. And, when it’s YOUR turn to be the authority, be kind and patient. Also, when ‘seekers’ are sorting through all of the opinions, try to frame questions in a way that is not pitting one ‘genius’ against another.

Seekers should understand that ‘the simple answer’ is an easy way to accept a basic concept but should be prepared to re-examine the subject in more depth. There is often too much info to absorb all at once – patience grasshopper – OR seemingly ‘too much work’ to get the job done (a sweat-equity investment is often required). Be ready for the unexpected – an explanation that is contrary to the accepted ‘belief.’ In short, we must all be aware of our shortcomings and be eager to learn from anyone with the patience to share. Conversely, those with the wisdom should exercise a similar amount of patience.

All of us may think we are using the Occam’s Razor approach – the simplest, most effective and fastest tool for the job – but one look down the aisle of ‘available razors’ reveals that there is a blade for everyone!

As a result of Audio-Eccentric web sites, many audio obsessives are feverishly ‘tasting’ all available gear to see if one person’s passion and taste translates to their own (or aids in their sonic quest). With all the resulting ebaying, craigslisting and shipping, however, I am not sure that the ‘samples’ are given the time to be fully appreciated – OR – are representative of the supposed ‘gold standard.’

Whether new or vintage, complex gear has a learning curve and vintage gear may require maintenance. Either way, not investing the time is one reason some gear is misunderstood, (broken?) or under-appreciated. This results in gear that changes hands, without finding a permanent home until it finds a patient user.

I do not worship gear, though I confess to being curious-to-a-fault. The upside of being a technician is that I get to know what’s under the lid – how it works – so I can best exploit it. Some tools have more magic than others, true enough, but I believe the tool itself is secondary to my ability to learn and use all that tool has to offer. Some gear is hype in a sexy package.

PS: In public forums, I often write on a netbook, where the combo of small keys and screen, ‘eyesight’ and lack of patience often contribute to embarrassing typos…

PS: This article was inspired by someone I know who had been treated badly. It was tempered by my own personal experience.

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