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One of the most exciting things about the internet is that anybody can write about anything and people will listen.  Freedom of speech is a powerful amendment right that we should all exercise freely and with pride.  But, what if we have no idea what we are talking about before writing something?

Worse yet, what if we have somewhat of a presence online that people listen to?  If we don’t know what we are talking about, do we not set ourselves up for trouble down the road?  Part of my value proposition on Financial Samurai is that I will only write what I know about to make things more meaningful.  If I’m interested in a subject, but don’t know anything about it, I will simply ask someone in the know to share and explain.  Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong.

In this post, I’d like to delve into both camps:

1) Yes, we can write and say whatever we want, even if we don’t know much.

2) No, we should write and say only about what we know, and highlight when we don’t know what we are writing or talking about.

There are no rules on the internet, so nobody should feel that one way is the “must do” way.

“YES, WE CAN WRITE WHATEVER WE WANT, BABY!”

The internet is not a push culture, it’s a pull culture.  We choose to go to the sites.  Nobody kidnaps our pet bunny and says, “You must visit Yakezie.com everyday and share your thoughts in the comments section, sign up for our e-mail feed, or else!”  Well, maybe some of the most faithful fans are like that, but hopefully not!

If you stumble across a site that contains content that makes no sense, has no personality, has no opinion, and provides no insights, then you’ll probably stop visiting altogether.  There are a bagillion sites out there and it’s so easy to jump ship.  Given everything is rational, people do what’s in their best interest over the long term.  The site owner will either give up because s/he doesn’t gain any progressive traffic, or works to improve his/her content to gain more traffic.  Feedback through visits is as clear as day.

From a site owner’s perspective, his site might very well be his own pontifications on life.  He doesn’t claim to be an expert in anything as written in his disclaimer.  He wants to write about whatever he damn well pleases because it’s his site!  He pays the server and domain costs, and he’s not forcing anybody to come visit.  If readers don’t like what’s being written, they can very well leave for all he cares.

Here are some great examples:

* A renter who has never owned who writes about the benefits of homeownership.

* A single person who teaches others how to find true happiness in marriage.

* A college graduate with nothing to his name who teaches you how to be rich.

* A person who tells others to pay more taxes when they don’t know what it’s like to pay such taxes, and won’t have to pay more themselves.

* A person who only speaks one language and crows about how much better the world would be if we were all bi-lingual and traveling the globe.

* A person who abhors debt, but writes about the benefits of credit cards on a credit card site.

* A person who is still in debt, and making a living teaching others how to get out of debt.

* Dr. Phil writing and marketing a weight-loss/fitness book, and he’s super wealthy!

* A spouse who preaches early retirement, yet who has a spouse working to take care of both of them. 

* A person who shoots a 140 in golf telling us who shoot in the 80′s how to play (happened to me this week).

* Someone who blogs about blogging who doesn’t have a very good blog.

“NO, WE SHOULD ONLY WRITE AND SAY ONLY WHAT WE KNOW, MORON!”

On the flip slide, there’s another camp who believes we should write about only what we know, because to do otherwise would be misleading and pointless.  There are so many authors who are relative experts in their respective fields, for someone to write about things one doesn’t know about is a sure fire way to blowing themselves up.

If we write what we know, we write with more conviction.  We’re able to provide examples of our knowledge and experiences, thereby buttressing our credibility, authority, and presence on the web.  We are in the inside looking out, not on the outside looking in, pontificating on what might be.

When I launch my consulting business, I plan to consult on things that I know intimately, rather than things I have superficial knowledge over.

Some straightforward examples:

* A retiree at 50 writing about how to retire by 50.

* A millionaire writing about how she made her first million, and teaching others how to do the same.

* An entrepreneur who failed five times and finally hit the big one who writes about creating your own company.

* A travel blogger who speaks three languages fluently and has travelled to over 50 different countries.

* A landlord who writes about how to maximize rent, find the best tenants, and discover undervalued rental properties to buy.

* A person who has worked in the investment industry for 20 years and writes a newsletter on macroeconomics, policy, and sectors to invest in.

* A mom of three who writes about the difficulties of parenthood.

* An NBA all-star in the 80′s who is now an NBA commentator for ESPN.

* A lifestyle blogger who does not require assistance from family and relatives and makes all her money from her online endeavors on her own. 

TO SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE OR TO SPEAK FROM HYPOTHESIS

The internet is beautiful because anybody, with even half a creative mind can market themselves as a guru in some field.  Perhaps your strength is pontification, even if you have no experience?  You could very well be one of the greatest pontificators despite the lack of experience.

The ability to gain credibility and make money from not knowing what you’re talking about is exciting.  I am very bullish about the economy and for the blogosphere as a whole because of this phenomenon.  For example, have you ever met anybody who has lost money online in the stock market?  Even during the worst financial crisis, everybody I know says they just hung in there or bought more, and now have bigger stock portfolios than ever before.

Nobody with a web presence should ever feel like they don’t know enough to be able to write about anything.  People are doing so every single day, gaining traffic, increasing their followers, and profiting.

The one thing that seems consistence is the belief in oneself, whether you know what you are talking about or not.  So long as you believe in your own statements, others will believe in you as well.

Discussion points:

Do you think it’s better to speak from experience or from hypothesis?  

Do you mind that people write about stuff where they don’t know what they are talking about?  

Does it really matter since a lot of times, writing is just for entertainment value only? 

If someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, what are the attributes they have to get others to follow?  Please share your tips!

Regards,

Sam