Maunderings On Value

How do you tell if information is valuable?

You can tell it’s valuable if people want to hear it. If they ask you for it, if they ask questions about it, if they interact with it. You can tell it’s valuable if, even when you deliver it in spurts rather than all at once, they come back for it repeatedly.

You can find its value in what it can be used for. The clever find almost all information valuable; there is a use for almost everything. Those who are not will likely find less. But if information has value, someone will do something with it. That is the nature of information.

Spread of information can tell you about its value, if not quite as reliably. Perhaps it is only the perception of value that causes it, but the information that is seen as valuable spreads beyond the first person it is told. You tell a few, they each tell a few, and next thing you know, it’s all over the place, because people felt it was important enough that their friends should have it.

You can tell information is valuable in what people are willing to do for it. If someone’s willing to jump through hoops to learn it, or even just to qualify for a chance at learning it, it’s likely worth something. If they listen to it, smile, and nod, or if they lose interest the moment it would require even the slightest inconvenience, clearly it’s not valuable to them.

But how do you tell the difference between a few people with a lack of taste and the overall opinions of society? You can’t, really. You just sit, and hope, and research, and then try to spread your knowledge and your ideas, and hope it falls on fertile ground. Sometimes it does, and sprouts immediately, and you know your time isn’t wasted. Sometimes it does, but something delays it, and then you might get discouraged. Shouldn’t it have given fruit by now?

And when too many people show no signs of interest, or show only the kind of fake interest that even the desperate for recognition can tell is only there to give themselves a leg up, it’s easy to think that what you have has no value. It’s the same whether you’re writing or blogging or running games; whether the thing of value is a technique, an observation, a clever little plot, a group of characters—maybe the truly confident can avoid it, but for those of us who are more human, it’s easy to interpret a lack of response as a sign of disinterest or even dislike. At least hatred requires investment; apathy takes nothing.

How can one tell value? What is value? Sometimes it can be very hard to tell.

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