Net2NO had the honor of hosting Shawn P. Williams this Tuesday. Mr. Williams is the founder of Dallas South News, a nonprofit news site tailored to underserved communities, and the author of Blogging While Black, the story of his blog’s rise to national recognition. His presentation “Things I Want You To Know… That You Already Know… But I’m Going to Tell You Anyway” provided thoughtful advice for anyone on how to conduct oneself on the internet and in life generally.
Mr. Williams introduced seven guiding principles. His first principle was to “indulge intellectually”. Given the quantity of media and news available, it is easy to become immersed in only one perspective that confirms the way you already look at the world. He encouraged attendees to consult perspectives outside of there own. However, he also recommended distinguishing between genuine positions and “news entertainment”, providing Fox News as the example of the latter.
His second principle was to “go to where the action is” to create opportunities. In support of this idea, Mr. Williams told the story of deciding to register for the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the very last minute. In making the decision to go where the action was, he ended up serving as an official blogger for the convention. Just being there gave him a chance to get up close to people of diverse political values, and he so happened to chat with potential Vice President candidate Chet Edwards over breakfast.
The third principle was “lets get together”. He implored people to get outside of their established groups and meet-up with new people. Mr. Williams offered an anecdote of opening up the Dallas South News office for the public to see their computer and house plant. People were happy to have the opportunity to connect with what they are doing even though the “tour” was by all accounts unremarkable.
The fourth principle was a reminder that “C.R.E.A.M. – cash rules everything around me”. This principle is about the need to understand those who are more strongly motivated by money than mission. Potential partners may want to see data and metrics, and it may be necessary and advantageous to accommodate their concerns.
The fifth principle was not a principle so much as an observation that “tech has race issues too”. Although we think of the recent burst in consumer technology as a powerful equalizing force, technology’s benefits have not been distributed equally. The event that epitomized this truth for Mr. Williams was Tech Crunch founder Michael Arrington saying that he did not know any black entrepreneurs. Mr. Williams also lamented the lack of scrutiny on the tech industry for its shortcoming in diversity, both in terms of race and gender.
The sixth principle was the maxim “haters gonna hate”. Commenters, tweeters, and Facebook friends are going to “hate”. Mr. Williams warned against the haters’ red herrings. He spoke briefly on Trayvon Martin with this principle. He said that the only issue is whether a man was following someone he was told not to, and the media’s coverage of Trayvon Martin as a person is irrelevant.
The final principle was to “build bridges” between communities. Mr. Williams presented a picture of the first bridge ever built over the Mississippi as a metaphor. This small foot bridge near the river’s source reminds us that bridges we build may be small to start, but as time passes and the river keeps rolling along, we were able to build more and bigger bridges.