I agree with everyone at some level about this. But being that I discovered NANFA 4, maybe 5 years ago...and now I have a Bachelor's degree in biology with an intent to go into fishery science...I've come a long way in a short time, most of it is thanks to NANFA. And now that I've learned how to ID fish, kept many more species in captivity, learned about the habits and habitats, I too REALLY appreciate the wealth of detailed, scientific discussion that goes on around here. And I also hate to see it sometimes watered down by people who don't know what they are talking about chiming in. Maybe that makes me an elitist too. But I'm generally pretty patient.
I feel my work in the retail fish/pet industry has also had an impact on my attitude. I started out at an independent, fairly high-end store whose business base was mainly in saltwater. I didn't know much of anything. I probably annoyed my coworkers because I would constantly shadow them, listen to them talk to customers, pester them with questions. But in a year and a half, I came to know more about saltwater fish tanks than most of our customers, many of which had been in the hobby for over a decade. I had been a sponge for information, and I learned far more in a day at work than I did in a day of class. It was an intense, immersive experience, and one that I will not soon forget.
Now I work at a large chain retail pet shop. I am continuously bombarded with "stupid" questions like "Why can't I put Nemo in a goldfish bowl?" and other similar questions, ridiculous to someone with my knowledge. And I try to be patient. And sometimes I get fed up with people.
But some of these people, who begin as ignorant about fish as the day they were born, take a real interest. They ask me questions. They come to my workshops. They LEARN.
And sometimes I start talking to someone I've never met before, and am always THRILLED to find someone who knows what they are talking about. I often spend long periods of time with these individuals, sharing ideas and experiences. But mostly I am a teacher.
Is that not THE MOST IMPORTANT SERVICE WE CAN PROVIDE? With curiosity comes knowledge, and with knowledge and appreciation comes passion. And knowledge, appreciation, and passion are the most important things to attain the goals and missions of this organization, and I challenge any of you to refute that. (Yes, money is good too, and I DO agree with the restriction of the trading dock as a fund raising tool.)
Why is there not more tolerance here? I learned of NANFA before this forum was officially created. Drew and I became friends when we began talking on the native fish forum of AquaticPredators.com. During the evolution of this forum it has certainly had ups and downs. But I have been somewhat appalled at the general attitude as of late. We have turned away people that may have been ignorant of many things that some of us take for granted. We have turned away people that have at times annoyed us with simple, elementary questions. But these people CAME TO US. These people has enough of an interest in native fish to find us, and to try and make a voice for themselves here. I find it pretty sad that we have wasted that interest and replaced it with distaste for us as a community and an organization.
If I required people to pass a test before entering my store, how many people would I meet? How many people could I teach? How many friendly faces would I turn away that would shake their heads saying "F*** this!"?
I have seen many people lately act as if they are TOO GOOD to answer simple questions. I don't care if you have a Ph.D. If you actually care about the future of the organization, the hobby, and the fish themselves, you can find it within yourself to step down off your high horse and answer a simple question. It could be the beginning of someone elses interest in our aquatic gems.
I have been on many trips that included collecting, during the weekend, and riverside parks. We frequently have families, children, and assorted people say "Wow, what's that fish?" or "I didn't know those lived in here!"
According to the general attitude I've seen on this forum, it seems like many people here would respond to those questions/remarks with something similar to "Well go read a book, you moron!" Of course it is much easier to be unpleasant and rude over electronic media, and I have never seen any NANFA member act this way in person. But no one seems to realize that this is happening on the forum nearly every day.
Considering that our main goal is to "to increase and disseminate knowledge about North America's native fishes," I would say that in many regards we are failing miserably. So back to my pet store analogy:
Do I get irritated with customers that come to me with dead fish because they put them in chlorinated tap water? Of course I do. Do I occasionally see someone walk into the store and dread talking to them because they just don't seem to get it? Yeah, it happens. Am I rude? No. Do I tell them to leave the store? No. Do I teach them? Yes. Do some of them develop a passion and intense interest in the hobby or the science of what's inside their fish tank? Yes.
And that right there...makes everything else immaterial. That is the key. That is the continued life of our organization and our goal.
To put it in a nutshell, considering this forum an educational tool, I will liken it to a school. What have I seen happening? Uppity seniors and juniors picking on the freshmen and sophomores. We need to grow up and have a little tolerance here. Everyone wants to learn from this place and from other people here, whether they are geniuses or not. If we are going to eventually become a public service tool for education and conservation (as I'd like to see us become), we will one day interact on a regular basis with the public, and especially the public of the rural south, where many of these fish live, and many of these people are not college or even high school graduates. How do you guys think THAT is going to go over with the attitude we have now? That's all I'm saying...
Edited by Kanus, 05 July 2010 - 10:13 AM.