I don't want this blog to become a set of opinion pieces, and have avoided writing such posts in the past, but several somewhat overlapping discussions over the last few weeks on the APG members mailing list and several blogs have me wondering about that decision. The discussions may be occurring elsewhere too: I don't use Facebook, Google+ or Twitter much, if at all, for genealogy, although I've tried. While this blog isn't designed to be opinion oriented, I reserve the right to state my opinion in the occasional post, and this is one of them.
Differences of opinion and differences of perspective on certain topics do not mean people are angry or mad or upset at each other, or that there is "high drama," "frothing at the mouth," "hostility," "turmoil," or "ruffled feathers." It is normal and natural for people to have differences of opinion. It would be a horribly boring, backward, and stagnant world if we did not. Even firmly held and firmly stated opinions aren't a bad thing. Heck, some of us with firmly held opinions have been known to change our minds, or at least come to understand (after considerable discussion) why others see the issue differently. Once people understand the different perspectives, they can work together to cooperate on solving problems and reaching mutually agreed upon goals (well, except in the current United States Congress, but I digress).
Some of us even enjoy listening to, learning from, and discussing opposing opinions. It is from such discussions that new ideas, eventual consensus (or at least majority opinion), change and progress comes, although it can be tedious and difficult at times. Almost nobody actually likes change.
Clearly (and perhaps even repeatedly) stating an opinion does not mean the person stating that opinion is a snob, trying to dominate the discussion, putting down people who have a different opinion, or trying to force someone else to change.
I think the issues I've seen discussed lately are important, if not critical, topics, at least indirectly, for everyone involved in genealogy, whether a newbie hobbyist, an oldbie hobbyist, a society volunteer, or a professional genealogist. Among them, in no particular order are:
*the mission, goals, objectives, and membership policies of the Association of Professional Genealogists
*the continued existence of genealogy societies in general
*the responsibility, if any, for genealogy bloggers who report research results to cite their sources
*the responsibility of all of us to contribute to the field, not just "take"
*how best to communicate with each other in a rapidly changing techno-world
*how to improve the status of genealogy in the academic world
*how best to engage those who do not speak up on blogs, listservs, or other online media
and one that I've not seen specifically discussed, but that I think may be an elephant in the room:
*generational and cultural differences in how we perceive and approach everything from technology to communication to differences of opinion.
If you don't have an interest in one or more of these topics, fine. That's your right. But please don't assume that those of us who are interested, or who enjoy a good debate, are somehow taking the fun out of genealogy. As my friend Harold Henderson commented, please just "avert your eyes."
This post was not inspired by any particular person, post, comment, topic, or event. For a variety of opinions on these and related subjects, I would point readers to the following recent blog posts (and the accompanying comments), all by people I admire and consider to be representatives of the future of genealogy. While I do not always agree with them, and they do not always agree with each other, I'm confident the future of genealogy is bright because of (not in spite of) their firmly held and firmly stated opinions:
Christy Fillerup, "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" Living Ancestors blog, posted 29 Dec 2011 (http://livingancestors.blogspot.com ).
Michael Hait, CG, “My last word on GeneaBlogging and the Paradigm Shift,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 6 January 2012 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com ).
Marian Pierre-Louis, "All This Nonsense About Blogging," Marian's Roots and Rambles blog, posted 5 January 2012 (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com ).
Kerry Scott, "In Which I Sentence A Whole Bunch of Genealogists to a Game of Angry Birds," Clue Wagon blog, posted 4 January 2012 (http://www.cluewagon.com ).