Technology and the advent of the internet has greatly helped with accessibility to philatelic information, but ultimately I think that it takes significant amounts of time and effort for a hobbyist to learn and become proficient with identifying and valuing stamps. But it seems to me that the belief that 'instant' access to information, much of it freely available in our digital enabled world, has become the 'norm'
Some folks today, certainly some of the inexperienced people who have joined this community over the years that I have been here, seem to think that they can spend a few weeks of their time, do some online research, and become very philatelic proficient. I do not think that philately lends itself to being learned 'instantly'. I am reminded of the old Dragnet episode "The Big Departure Speech" made famous for its 'Joe Friday' (jack Webb) moralizing speech where he rails on about the 'instant' world of 1968. I find this video interesting on several levels and is certainly nostalgic for me since I was on the receiving end of a number of these kinds of speeches back in the 1960s.
Instant learning misconceptions aside, our hobby contains many more challenges which result in an investment of much more time and money. The first 'stage' is simply coming up to speed with the existing resources of the area of interest. This 'stage' can easily require man years of time and spending more money than many earn in a year. With so many short-run reference books that are out-of-print commanding significant prices, ownership is out of reach for many collectors.
But once a collector has completed the first stage, the investment in time and money has just started. The next typical step is to go into buying mode of the actual material of interest. Building a strong reference collection allows a collector to move beyond existing knowledge and into 'new' knowledge. Even if the area of research is relatively inexpensive, building a comprehensive reference collection can take many years.
I think it is the incredibly large scope that makes our hobby so challenging to learn and so intriguing for anyone who enjoys learning. I still get distressed over the amount of 'brain drain' that occurs in our hobby through annual attrition and passing of experience hobbyists. The world around us continues to be about making information readily available and 'instant' learning but this leaves one of two choices for the upcoming generations of collectors; either develop new knowledge through great investment of time and money as has been previously done or make significant efforts to gather and preserve the efforts of the existing generation of the others that came before them. Don
I agree, but it's most likely a personal trait (or flaw some might say) that causes random person to believe they are something far from reality.
Another problem with the internet is that sometimes the source of the knowledge itself is far from expert origin, everyone can freely blog if they feel like it.
But the internet also helps preserve the work of these great minds.
The internet and the decline of collectors has one huge benefit though, almost everyone can access material, and afford to become a specialized collector and amongst those, a new great mind has a chance to emerge.
I don't know anything about great minds of the world, but all the Danish had big titles that supreme judge, chief of the royal hunts, apothecary and so on.... there were never any carpenters or similar - they simply couldn't afford it.
I am not going to deny you observed this. I, however, wonder how much the "today" is different from yesterday.
The internet, certainly, makes information more accessible to everyone. At the same time, the internet also allows the "folks today" to be heard. Before the internet, there were philatelic magazines. Unlike the internet, those "folks today" had no media to convey their 'knowledge.'
The numbers maybe something of "today." I wonder whether the phenomenon is.
Interesting observations. It made me think of my journey in collecting Russia. It became progressively more difficult as I checked off the "easy" material and took the natural path of delving into the more complex material. Information resources became the biggest hurdle.
One thing that became readily apparent is that although the internet has made the amount of information available exponentially greater, that information was scattered far and wide and there was often a language barrier with the "good stuff" written in Russian. None of it was translated although there were English works that pulled things from the Russian works. The problem was you never really knew how much was distilled and what was missing. The Zagorsky catalogs are gold mines of info but there are no English versions, and I was constantly interpolating what was being presented. The Rossica Society is the APS of Collecting Russia but their website is a travesty and a lot of their reference info and old Post Rider (Rossica's defunct monthly publication) issues are now on JSTOR and are VERY hard to mine for what you are looking for.
The thing that was missing, and it is not restricted to Russian philately, was a well done, easily accessible centralized depository of information. The info is there for the taking IF you can find it and finding it takes far more time than actually studying it. That is an unacceptable situation.
I always come back to the APS having the entire APRL fully digitized and everything easily accessible online to members. For that I would pay multiples of the current dues. Probably isn't going to happen though since it hasn't thus far.
This issue is includes much more than stamps. Every patient now consults Dr. Google before their own MD. Knowledge is important and useful, but too much, too fast can hurt. I think of the Karate Kid movie where the kid had to do all those stupid chores, that were far from stupid in the long run.
Most of my stamp knowledge was given to me by my Father, OBM, his friends, and experts at stamp shows who were generous with their time. Nothing will replace that, not now, not ever (sorry AI people).
Also will add that there is not necessarily a 'right' way to chart a path in the hobby. There are vast interests and reasons why someone gets started.
One does not necessarily have to dig into the reasons why or how stamps were made. The history is interesting and will eventually be something that some will delve into. Some are quite content to simply collect stamps with trains or flowers. Becoming a 'student' of philately is something not everyone is cut out to do or even interested in doing.
Quote: … I, however, wonder how much the "today" is different from yesterday…
I think that humans stayed pretty much the same over time (other than physically) in terms of emotions, intelligence, greed, compassion, etc. But in my opinion what has changed greatly is the world around us.
I have always been enamored with technology; made a career in it and embrace it in my leisure life too. I think one the most fascinating area of study is how tech has compressed time across the centuries. Time keeping evolution reflects just how time has become greatly compressed (hence I why I posted about 'instant' learning and the video above).
Pocket watches and other personal time keeping devices is a relatively new technology (for the non-elite, common person). Before having a clock in the house or a pocket watch on your person, the only time keeping device was the clock in town at the railroad station. Telling a person that you would come over 'after lunch' could mean anywhere between 11AM through 4PM. In today's world if you tell someone that you will be there at noon, by 12:05 they consider you late.
Life in the 'old days' was slower paced and I believe that technology played a big role in this. It is this kind of time compression that I was referring to in my original post with instant learning and expecting to be philatelic learned in a short period of time. Don
Younger people think that waiting for a rotary phone is nuts.
Instant or not, it takes time to learn enough in a new subject area for one to understand how little one knows. This first period, unconscious incompetence, is the most dangerous personally as well as to others around you. This is best described as when we have no idea how little we know while thinking we know something.
Folks read some google returns and then off they go....
However, one cannot successfully live life nor understand a subject by relying on the first page of Google returns.
It is the modern child for whom that idea must be explained. The most difficult part being convincing the child they must learn enough to be able to personally evaluate the accuracy of the content they are reading. The current education system in the USA is not helping specifically for example teach cursive reading and writing is no longer done, printing is taught but not cursive handwriting. No big deal it is said.
So here is a game I play, I ask a teen do you enjoy the rights you have? They answer yes. I ask, are you sure you have those rights and how do you know what rights you have?..... Do you think knowing cursive is important? The answers tend to fall all around "No" after at times having to define the word. Well then you don't care about your rights, do you? What? The fact is your rights, our rights are written out in cursive writing and if you can't read cursive how do you know what others are telling you are your rights is correct unless you read the original documents with your rights written in cursive? This shakes up the kids, but the biggest shocked expressions I get are from parents who just made the realization the kids are being shut out.
We can criticise the present generation, but we, once, were that generation. The telephone dial, at some time replaced the telephone exchange. How would someone from the beginning of the twentieth century have been looking at the people that now complain about young generations, in the 1960s?
There has always been someone who considered themselves to be instant experts. Yesterday's barber and beauty shops were the social media of the day (egos, opinionated people, and lots of misinformation) but just on a smaller scale. They have always been around but less seen or heard.
My generation was generalized as lazy, know it alls, impatient, did not respect elders, authority, etc. I do not think much has changed.
The one thing that can be predicted about the future with 100% accuracy is change. As we learned in the Eagles' song Hotel California, "you can check out anytime, but you can never leave" the reality around you today.
When I was a kid my family owned two sets of encyclopedias. One, I think, was a "Golden Book Encyclopedia" aimed at young children with lots of pictures. The other was a "Funk and Wagnalls" which I think was acquired as a supermarket promotional with a new volume available for a dollar or two with a minimum purchase every few weeks. I treasured both. Today, an internet connection obviates the need for a general reference book(s) and provides instant access to a near infinite amount of information.
I have read that there is more written material about philately than any other hobby. Unfortunately, much of that scholarship is available only in obscure books or monographs issued in tiny press runs. It is extremely difficult and expensive to access some of this material, in its original physical form. But today vast amounts are accessible at the touch of a button. Forums such as this one provide dozens, if not hundreds, of people willing to share their knowledge and expertise immediately. We have all seen obscure stamps posted here. Within a very short time period many will provide identification and answers which in the recent past would have taken months to discover, if ever an answer were found.
I appreciate the "instant" access to a pool of thoughtful and experienced people who offer their expertise on this site every day. Be it philately itself, or discussion of technology as it applies to collecting, back stories of old covers, etc. there are far more opportunities to learn without leaving your chair than ever available before. Many of the posts may relate to areas that I will never seriously collect. I try to read every post and am frequently in awe of the depth of knowledge of the posters.
Access to information does not make instant experts. But it is easier to educate oneself today than ever before in human history.