Three Types of Readers

While this is from an old classic work and refers to politics - it's equally applicable to readers of the software engineering literature.

Those who believe everything they read

The first group who believes everything they read is the largest and strongest because they are composed of the broad masses of the population. These great masses of the people represent the most simple-minded part of the nation. It cannot however, be divided by occupation, only by general degrees of intelligence. This group includes those who have not have been born with the gift of, or trained for independent thinking and who believe anything which is printed in black and white. This is partly because of inability and partly through incompetence. This group also encompasses a class of lazy people who could think for themselves, but who gratefully accept anything someone else has already put any thinking-effort into on the humble assumption that he worked hard for his opinion so it must be right. All these groups represent the great mass of the people and the influence of the press on them will be enormous. Since they are unable or unwilling to weigh what is offered to them and evaluate it for themselves, their approach to every daily problem is totally determined by how they are influenced by others. This may be an advantage if their understanding is fed by serious and truth-loving persons, but it will be disastrous if they are led by scoundrels and liars.

Those who no longer believe anything they read

In number, the second group who does not believe anything they read is considerably smaller. It is partially made up of those who once belonged to the first group of total-believers. Then, after continued disappointments, they have switched to the opposite extreme and now believe nothing in print. They hate all newspapers and either do not read them at all, or fly into a rage over the contents which they believe to be nothing but lies and deceptions. These people will be very hard to deal with because they will always be suspicious, even of the truth. They are useless when it comes to accomplishing any positive work.

Those minds which critically examine what they read and then form their own judgments about the accuracy of the information

The third group who reads and evaluates for themselves is by far the smallest. It consists of those really fine minds, which have been educated and through training or maybe are naturally capable of independent thinking. They try to form their own judgments on everything and they subject everything they read to a repeated thorough scrutiny and further develop the implications and meanings for themselves. They never look at a newspaper without mentally taking part in the writing. To members of this third group, the nonsense which a newspaper may choose to scribble is not dangerous or even significant. They usually become accustomed in the course of a lifetime to regard every journalist as a rogue who happens to sometimes tell the truth. Unfortunately, the importance of these splendid figures is only in their intelligence and not in their number. There are too few of them to have any significant impact.


More on reading

My definition of "reading" may be different from the average person's definition. I know people who "read" all the time - book after book, word for word - but I would not call them well read. They do have a mass of knowledge, but their brain does not know how to divide it up and catalog the material they have read. ... Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. In the first place, it should help fulfill and individual's personal framework... In the second, reading should give a man a general picture of the world. In either case, what is read shouldn't simply be stored in memory like a list of facts and figures. The facts, like bits of a mosaic tile, should come together as a general image of the world, helping to shape this world image in the reader's head. ...