The Case of the Fake Guru?

Call­ing your­self a guru while giv­ing noth­ing but com­mon knowl­edge advice on your blog irri­tates me. I don’t vis­it your site to learn some­thing I already know – that every­one already knows.” ~ Stacey Roberts on ProBlog­ger

When I announced, sev­er­al years ago, that I was going to cre­ate a blog, my friends and for­mer col­leagues applaud­ed me for doing do. One stat­ing “you should after all you are THE GURU on that sub­ject”. Well it’s good to feel appre­ci­at­ed but I have nev­er con­sid­ered myself a guru on any sub­ject, even those I con­sid­er I have an expert lev­el knowl­edge of. The chal­lenge being there is always some­one who knows some­thing you don’t. Then I also had anoth­er chal­lenge, at a chance meet­ing the words:

When you write you should be author­i­ta­tive on that sub­ject and always offer a unique per­spec­tive.” ~ Harold Ekstein.


Pleasing all Perspectives?

Perspective - Stairs by AlexVan CC0 Public Domain from PixabayThere is the pri­ma­ry chal­lenge, pleas­ing all your reader’s view­points at the same time. Try­ing to fake a skill, or try­ing to show your­self as some­thing you’re not can nev­er be a good idea. There are sev­er­al types of arti­cle that any writer can cre­ate, including:

  1. A foun­da­tion­al piece (con­tain­ing basic infor­ma­tion peo­ple need to know about for this subject).
  2. Where to get the infor­ma­tion you need (sum­maris­ing sites where good infor­ma­tion is available).
  3. How-to’ posts.
  4. N” things you should know about…
  5. A discus­sion piece (which sum­maris­es the avail­able think­ing on the subject)
  6. A detailed post which explores options and makes rec­om­men­da­tions about best course of action for a giv­en situation.
  7. A crit­i­cal piece (which dis­sects the views or writ­ing of anoth­er per­son or concept).

A foun­da­tion­al post will sim­ply con­tain basic infor­ma­tion peo­ple need to know about the sub­ject at hand. It pro­vides a basic lev­el of edu­ca­tion to those that know noth­ing about the sub­ject mat­ter. These pots can be edu­ca­tion­al for cer­tain read­ers. But con­sid­er Stacey Roberts view “I don’t vis­it your site to learn some­thing I already know”. You have to start out with a slight­ly dif­fer­ent approach to what every­one else is writ­ing oth­er­wise your read­ers will not stay. The where to get infor­ma­tion post is essen­tial­ly one that helps your read­ers gain more knowl­edge. Such posts should explain what they are like­ly to gain from each site. “N” things to know about… is sim­i­lar method used to sum­marise knowl­edge about a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject, read­ers love this type of post because it reminds them of things they should be doing but aren’t.


The “how to” arti­cle is a spe­cif­ic type of detailed post that will tell the read­er how to do some­thing. One exam­ple is how to use a spe­cif­ic smart phone. Anoth­er, the advan­tages of reg­is­ter­ing with a par­tic­u­lar web­site. They help the user under­stand the choic­es avail­able, but prob­a­bly not why cer­tain options are or are not provided.

The dis­cus­sion post will look at par­tic­u­lar aspects of the sub­ject and will pro­vide a sum­ma­ry of all knowl­edge. These will not nor­mal­ly going into detail in any spe­cif­ic area. Yet they can pro­vide an intro­duc­tion to sev­er­al posts that go into spe­cif­ic details or cri­tique cer­tain the­o­ries. A detailed post will dis­sect one aspect and go into the details about what is pos­si­ble, per­haps going beyond the sim­pli­fied instruc­tion of the how-to post, look­ing at why things hap­pen. It may dis­cuss why they don’t. Per­haps it will look at some of the the­o­ry behind the detail.

The crit­i­cal piece will dis­sect the work of anoth­er writer (or group of writ­ers), it allows you the abil­i­ty out­line your own the­o­ries in rela­tion to oth­er works pub­lished on the sub­ject. It may show why spe­cif­ic meth­ods may be con­sid­ered weak or prob­lem­at­ic, you can high­light those ele­ments oth­er writ­ers have missed and high­light why they are of impor­tance to solv­ing the problem.

Each type of post brings a dif­fer­ent type of read­er to your site and this must be con­sid­ered when your cre­ate each post. Some­times you have to con­sid­er the prospect or read­er that you are focus­ing on.


The Fake Guru

Puzzled lookThe prob­lem of the “Fake” Guru is one that is com­mon across the web today it is a case of peo­ple writ­ing about sub­jects they have lit­tle or no prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence of, they are sim­ply regur­gi­tat­ing what they have read on anoth­er site, using dif­fer­ent words. This rais­es the ques­tion of what is the dif­fer­ence between that and research­ing a sub­ject thoroughly?

In ques­tion­ing this I become very self con­scious that I do a lot of research about the things I write about. At times am con­scious of the fact that I push the bound­aries of my per­son­al knowl­edge. I am also aware that there is a dif­fer­ence between knowl­edge and opin­ion. Truth is every­one has an opin­ion, even on sub­jects they know noth­ing about. It is com­plex at times to dis­tin­guish between opin­ion (espe­cial­ly well informed opin­ion) and prac­ti­cal knowledge.

It is true that with the aid of the Inter­net it is pos­si­ble for any per­son to research any sub­ject to a high lev­el of detail and become knowl­edge­able of that sub­ject, but there is a dif­fer­ence between how an expert talks and the per­son scrap­ing the bot­tom of web to for­mu­late their new post. The expert has a life­time of expe­ri­ence to draw upon, they know the answer to the point in ques­tion and that will come to the point effec­tive­ly and explain how it works or show it’s importance.

Ulti­mate­ly it is easy to iden­ti­fy the fake guru, they are sim­ply not con­vinc­ing. They keep their writ­ing vague and high lev­el. Fur­ther­more they are, as Stacey Roberts is con­cerned, pro­vid­ing noth­ing but com­mon knowl­edge. Being excep­tion­al is always a chal­lenge. All writ­ers suf­fer moments when their work is sub stan­dard. The fake guru is always sub­stan­dard, they copy the work of oth­ers, add noth­ing orig­i­nal and fail to please.


Place for the Novice Writer?

New BeginingsIs there a place for the non-expert in writ­ing or blog­ging? This is a com­plex ques­tion as it is my belief that every­one has some exper­tise, they sim­ply need to to a lit­tle soul search­ing to find out what that is. Every­one has some exper­tise, even if that is where to find the best shop­ping bar­gains or crack­ing a joke about items in the news. New writ­ers have to find their niche (which may as yet be undefined).

The oth­er chal­lenge for new writ­ers is about devel­op­ing their writ­ing style. When I first start­ed blog­ging it was after a life­time of writ­ing cor­po­rate reports, so I knew how to write (or thought I did). Lit­tle did I realise that blog writ­ing required a dif­fer­ent set of skills, such as sto­ry telling, hyper­link­ing, style and pre­sen­ta­tion. In addi­tion writ­ers must pro­vide visu­al images to enhance the writ­ing, expand their vocab­u­lary, adopt dif­fer­ent writ­ing styles. Last, but cer­tain­ly not least they must be pro­fi­ciant using Social Media for publicity.

The new writer must show they they are learn­ing and improv­ing as a writer. An impor­tant part of this is about research­ing your sub­ject, stay­ing up to date with mar­ket knowl­edge. Even-though they are a novice writer, their exper­tise on their spe­cial­ist sub­ject should still be evi­dent through the words they use. The pre­pared­ness to grow as a writer is essen­tial as none of us can be per­fect first time around, writ­ers know that first drafts are nev­er pub­lished, edit­ing is a skill the novice writer must acquire, they must be pre­pared to harsh­ly cri­tique their own work and get out the red pen and make all those nec­es­sary corrections.



Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee as a thank you for his thoughts of the prob­lem of the fake guru. All images used here are either cre­at­ed or owned by Peter Giblett or have been sourced from a pub­lic domain loca­tion, such as Pixabay.




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3 Replies to “The Case of the Fake Guru?”

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