Monday, July 6, 2009

‘Expertising’ and critical thinking skills

Everyone who has caught a fish on a flyrod is an expert. That is what one would think when visiting online fly-fishing forums. A topic often begins when somebody new to the sport or someone pushing into a new angle of the sport asks a question such as “What line should I use with this new rod?”, or ”Which running line would work best for me?”

The forum then fills with all kind of answers, both good, bad, and ugly. Some ‘experts’ often fail to place themselves in the shoes of the questioner or ask probing questions before bestowing their ‘sage’ advice.
The forums become a sort of ‘catch 22.” On one hand, somewhere in all the answers is probably some sound advice, but on the other hand, how is one to tell the difference?

Critical thinking skills can help here.

First, if you place a question on a forum, in order not to receive inaccurate or superfluous information one must frame the question properly. Give the question structure and do not leave it open-ended. Instead of asking “What X thing should go with my Y thing?”, tell a little about yourself, where you are coming from, and why the question is being asked in the first place. Give some history as to what spurred the question. Detail the tackle you are using and where the applied solution is to take place: which river, lake, etc.

Then comes the fun part, picking your way through the answers. Ask yourself these questions:

One: Who is answering the question and why? Do they have a hidden agenda? Do they represent a tackle company? Are they a guide or on a ‘key employee’ program and get the gear they recommend for free?

Two: How much precedent does the person have? If you ask for opinions on running lines and someone tells you “I use ‘X’ and it works for me.”, has the person used any other line? In other words, gage the depth of knowledge and the width of knowledge of the person answering the question.

Three: Does the person ask follow-up questions in order to clarify the question? Most solid answers and sound advice comes with follow-up questions.

This will help to sort through all the answers from the ‘experts.’ It surprising how much both good and bad information is out there. When I ran a fly shop, it was common for somebody to come to me with some sort of prejudice due to asking a ‘buddy’ or consulting a forum. Sometimes it was too late to dissuade the customer from an inappropriate decision.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing…

1 comment:

sa said...
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