Some people have other people they follow in one manner or another. Some of the most commonly followed people in an industry are the "rockstars" of that industry. However, there are some people who refuse to follow others as they feel it might hinder their ability to think uniquely; think different. Although, if you don't follow anyone then you are turning yourself into a loner; an island. What's the best direction to take? Should you be a loner who works and thinks independently, or should you follow others and potentially risk this independence?
Over the course of my own career building software I have seen many people who follow other members of the community differently. I have also seen the community change greatly many time over the course of the last 15 years. There have even been many different tactics I've tried with this in my own adventure to learn, grow and share in being a member of the greater community in this great industry I am in. Below are some of these tactics that I've used or seen others use including some of the benefits of each.
Following the "Rockstars"
Who are the "Rockstars" in the industry? These are the most "popular" people. These people likely speak with more volume, or more adamantly. Most of these people present at conferences or user groups, or have a high number of followers on their blog, twitter, facebook or other medium. These "Rockstars" are looked at as being the experts who know everything on a particular topic. Often the people who follow them will follow them blindly, taking what they say as the absolute best path to take without the need to question them.
It is important to remember that even though they may have a high amount of experience and past success to back them up, they are still people who are doing their best with what they have.
Following the "Unknown"
Who are the "Unknown" in the industry? These are the people who don't have very many followers. They may not speak at conferences or user groups. They may not shout their ideas as loudly, but they still have valid ideas. Often these people don't get followed by others. If they do get followed they will often be ignored, especially if their ideas contradict something stated by a "Rockstar." While not all of these "Unknown" have great ideas; some do and may be rising "Rockstars."
There can still be huge value in following them regardless of who the "Unknown" is or what their future status in the community may become. These "Unknown" will help you see things from a different angle than what the current "Rockstars" are focusing on. These are the people who think differently either due to ignorance or a refusal to just follow along.
Following the Variety
What is "Variety?" This is following both "Rockstars" and "Unknown" members of the community. This can allow you to view things from many different angles that may not all agree at all times.
"Variety is the spice of life." - Tony Horton
We all have our own preferences of how to handle this "who to follow?" question, and it really has nothing to do with Independence. I'm willing to bet that most people fall in the "Variety" category of who they follow, as we all tend to follow those we like, agree with or feel will enlighten us.
I now ask you to do the following, as you may be surprised of their result:
- Ask yourself, "Who do I follow and Why?"
- Start following 1 or more people you wouldn't normally follow.
- Repeat these first 2 steps every few weeks, months or once per year.
These are things that I've started doing on a regular basis myself within the last couple years. Social media can make this rather easy, but regardless of the medium it's still plenty worth doing. You may surprise yourself and start learning things you may never have if you didn't try adding a little more variety.
Lastly, I do have one more thing that I always recommend to people that I talk to: Start Tweeting, Blogging, ANYTHING more! Just start sharing your ideas, failure and triumphs. You will learn more by teaching those to others and they will learn from you.
One more thing... I believe I fall in the "Unknown" category. I'm just another person in my industry doing my best with what I have. I learn from you as much as you learn from me.