61 Guitar Pedals uploaded to Flickr by TerekhovaI’ve been accused of being a gear-head; a person who collects cool gadgets because, well, they’re cool and they’re hooked in to my interests. That means a musician collects several instruments, bigger and better amplifiers, more effects than they need, some really cool accessories and the latest and greatest home studio software to record and mix their own… um… CD. The gear may look and sound amazing, and yet it’s shear quantity becomes crippling. The collector never has a chance to master anything.

The best musicians have their favourite instrument and complementing amp and effects to create a unique sound or voice. They master additional instruments as needed and know when, why and how to use them. The amateurs switch guitars between each song at a live show because “it looks cool”, not because it makes the music better.

Social media is not so different, really. Many people have accounts (sometimes even multiple accounts) on multiple social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, Delicious, Diigo, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, ad infinitum. With so many places to interact it becomes easy to interact badly. And when the next shiny tool comes along, interact badly in more places. The risk is spreading yourself too thin and it can only lead to nothing making sense to you or your community. To use another music analogy, it would be like being in an unlimited number of bands and not being sure what you do, how and for whom at each practice and gig — though having a lot of options.

Stop collecting and start doing. Become adept at a small number of tools. Use them to develop a technique and engage people. Then, when you’ve made an impact with the tools you have, start introducing new tools to augment what you’re already doing. Use the tools to achieve your goals, not define them.

Photo: 61 Guitar Pedals uploaded to Flickr by Terekhova.