Blog Posts and Comments
In my last blog post, I made mention of a blog post elsewhere and the comments accompanying it. As of a little bit earlier today, people are still going at it there.
Years ago, I was the administrator for several email lists. For the uninitiated, email lists are kinda like blogs, except all the comments and responses are individual emails, and they all appear in your in box, not on a blog web site. If you work in a large company, you probably have something like this, except that there’s probably a lot less arguing involved.
On my email lists, as with blogs, there were sometimes arguments which would flair up and die. We had rules on the lists about what was acceptable content and how far you could take your arguments, etc. Since I was the administrator, I had to read every email response to every other email on the list, on every subject. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know who to discipline, if I ever needed to do that (and I did from time to time). What I noticed from the outset was that, in the case of arguments, there was usually a lot of beating dead horses. People would make the same point over and over, waiting for the other respondents to agree, which often never happened. Over the years, it worked out that list members would usually “discipline” the bad guys before I had a chance to warn them about their conduct on the lists.
Out of this, I developed a philosophy about my list emails. My idea was to make my point and then shut up. I would let my original words stand and not argue with others. In order to make that work, I had to be as clear and succinct as possible, and not worry about whether others agreed or not. I would leave it up to the recipients of the emails to make up their own minds, based on the logic I and others used, and their knowledge of the subject matter.
Email lists still exist today, outside the corporate context, and I’m a member of a few of them. I still use this philosophy and it has stood me in good stead all these years. And I also generally use it when it comes to blog posts and comments. I make my point as clearly as I can and then let it ride. That includes when people viciously attack me for what I’ve said. I don’t censor their comments on my blog. I let them make their points. The reader then gets to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. In general, the readers agree with me. The rude and intemperate repliers to my posts and comments mostly show themselves up as mean-spirited, small-minded, troubled individuals. Their posts and comments say far more about them than they do about me. I also make it a habit not to personally attack respondents. I deal, as much as I can, exclusively with the issue at hand. And then, if they attack me personally, they’re the ones who make themselves look bad and unsympathetic.
In other words, I speak my peace and give respondents plenty of rope to hang themselves. Which they often do.
I would encourage others to adopt this philosophy as well. If everyone did, there wouldn’t be a lot of these “threads” which go back and forth forever and include a lot of venom.