We are all becoming editors – really?

Liz Danzico at Interactions Magazine says we are all becoming editors.

As the Information Age barrels forward, a new role has emerged. While new platforms-from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr-have turned consumers into creators, they’ve given way to more writers, more content, and (as we painfully know) more choices. But there’s something else. Content creators are not passing content through traditional editorial channels, nor should they be. The cost of filtering content has passed from the pocket of the publisher way downstream to the pocket of the consumer. As a result, we as consumers are left in the position of having to decide what is worth our time. Whom should we pay attention to? Whom should we ignore? Who decides which content is exceptional and what to tune out?

Whether we like it or not, we’ve been given a new role. This promotion came about without warning, without training, without org charts or manuals. In addition to our current positions, let’s face it, now we’re all “editors.”

I have always thought information overload is making us harsher critics because we are constantly exposed to the best in any area of expertise, which explains why we do not feel any better about ourselves by knowing more. Even when we think of something totally mundane like making a gun using redundant rubber bands, a quick search on Youtube reveals something like this:

I agree with the idea of ourselves taking the editor’s role, if it means “screening others.” Filtering out redundant information, or picking up the essential part, is the first thing we do when we meet a new source of information. That is why almost everybody encourages writing “scannable” resumé and using tags for web pages to make sure a piece of information stands out.

But are we getting any better at editing in a broader context, which is editing ourselves? Or to rephrase it, becoming a better critic of our own work? Penelope Trunk (again) lists the reason why she works with an editor for whatever she writes in public:

  • Start strong – cut boring introduction
  • Be short – and be brave
  • Have a genuine connection – write stuff that matters to the readers
  • Be passionate – write stuff that matters to you
  • Have one good piece of research – back your idea up

They have one thing in common: difficult to do on our own. Even the “be passionate” advice tend to be ignored under the pressure to write something, or mistaking blog as a substitute of diary. I do not think the onslaught of information helps; it teaches us to be hard on others but it doesn’t force ourselves to be more disciplined. I might even think that we are getting sloppy at editing ourselves because everything is becoming easier. For example, I do believe we will be more careful and disciplined if we are forced to write on a typewriter.

Therefore my take on the editing issue is that we all need editors, or editing skills, more than ever. Getting better at judging others doesn’t mean we know more about ourselves.