Every day, I get at least one email that looks more or less like this:
I hope this note finds you well and thanks for your time in advance. My name is X and I am studying/working at Y. I’m writing something exploring the general transit topic of Z, and after browsing your blog I know you would be a great person to talk to. Is this something that you would be open to chatting about ?
I am a friendly but busy person who gets lots of these emails. I enjoy talking about interesting issues with interesting people, and will spend some unpaid time doing that.
However, if you want a bit of that unpaid time, you need to offer me one of three things:
- Marketing. You might be interested in having us do a study or a paid event. Talking with you is part of my marketing budget, and I’m happy to do that.
- Influence. You’re a journalist for a recognizable publication, or you want me involved in a major conference. In that case, I’m trading my time for some influence in the larger conversation, which I’m usually happy to do.
- Intellectual Fun. You can’t offer marketing or influence, but you want to have a conversation that’s interesting — to me and not just to you. This can be fun and educational for both of us.
If you ask me a general question that requires me to explain things that I’ve explained in writing, and that I’ve said 1000 times in presentations, well, it’s interesting for you but not so much for me. I repeat myself all the time on the job, and I’m happy to do it, but it’s not how I spend my time off.
- Explore about what I’ve already said on your topic. (Search the blog, or peruse the Basics posts. or watch some videos you can watch, or read my book, whose introduction is here.)
- Form interesting thoughts about that. Reasoned disagreements are especially welcome.
- Start a conversation with those thoughts.
That’s what I did when I was in your shoes, as a transit geek and advocate with no relevant connections, job, or influence. It worked.
So if I didn’t respond to your email, this is probably why. (Though sometimes, I admit, I’m just too busy.)