Not with the posts I’m about to link to–but maybe, in the future, a little more clearly in some other cases.
The posts: Rochelle Hartman says “Politeness? Overrated” at Tinfoil + Raccoon.
There’s a companion post by Heidi Delamore at Quiddle (or “quiddle”–the site uses the latter, but the HTML title is apparently the former).
wisesmartass Steve Lawson posted “Drama vs. criticism” at See also…. (Sorry, Steve, but you really did ask for that one.)
They’re not all saying the same thing, but the Venn diagram has a large degree of overlap, especially between the first two posts. I won’t attempt to summarize or interpret them: They’re not long, all three write clearly, and it’s a civil discussion–oddly, encouraging slightly less civil discussions at times.
Lawson’s take (I’m trying very hard to avoid first-naming except when I’m joshing someone–no, Neff, that wasn’t aimed at you) is an interesting one. I’ve certainly seen (and endured) cases where people are much more emphatic and even mean-spirited in comments on other posts than they would be on their own blog. Very few bloggers YELL WHEN THEY’RE POSTING, for example. But there’s something else about arguments and criticisms made only in comments (and I do this as much as anyone):
Comments may not have the impact of posts, for two reasons:
- Lots of us (I suspect) don’t automatically click through from our aggregators for each post that we find interesting–especially if it’s on (for example) a blog that uses white text on a black background or that we know won’t print out a long post cleanly. I, for one, am more inclined to read the post entirely within Bloglines–and, in the latter case, to email it to myself from Bloglines, since the email’s always printable. So, we don’t necessarily see the comments.
- Very few of us sign up for comment feeds, even if blogs offer them. Unless a particular post is just incredibly compelling, we’re unlikely to go back a day, a week, a month later and go through the comment-conversation that’s ensued.
I think this is a shame, actually–but I also don’t see myself revisiting dozens of posts to take advantage of the comments. Increasingly, if I’m writing about a post, I will visit it to save retyping, and may encounter some fascinating comments that I didn’t see the first time around–but the number of people who revisit substantive posts a month or two later in order to write post-hoc commentaries can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Answer? I don’t have one. I love the semi-conversational aspect of (some) blogs–you may note that I still haven’t activated full-time moderation, and hope I never need to, and I’m probably prouder of the >3 comments-per-post average at W.a.r. than I am of the growing number of daily visits (where are all these people or machines coming from?) But I agree that substantive criticisms and extensions will probably have more impact if they’re in a post with links, rather than or in addition to a comment.
I also agree that it’s possible to neuter ourselves through excess politeness or dislike of heated discussions or being piled on. And that we need to be willing to state criticisms and different ideas–ideally, by criticizing the statement rather than the person making the statement. And that, once in a while, we may need to be less polite about the whole thing.
There is, on the other hand, a difference between candor and rudeness. It’s possible to sharply disagree with someone without calling them names or telling them to shut up or get over it. It’s also desirable, if you ever expect them to respond rationally. (I don’t remember ever finding these three to be rude.)
No resolution here, but I appreciated the nicely-stated candor in this trio of posts, and thought I should fourth it.
Does that mean I won’t state arguments in comments that I don’t state directly in posts? Nope. Does it mean I’ll always say exactly what I think and damn the consequences? Nope. I’m as human as anyone, and probably as inconsistent as anyone. It does mean that I understand and generally agree with what’s being said here, even if I don’t always put it into practice.
If you disagree, feel free to say so.