I respectfully disagree

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).

And 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

11 Responses to “I respectfully disagree”

  1. Steve Lawson says:

    Hey, as long as you don’t call me a dumbass, I’m cool.

    Oh, and PRINTING OUT BLOG POSTS IZ 4 LAMERZ!!1!! GET OVER IT!!!! (Geez, this resolution is harder to keep that I thought it would be…)

    All that aside, nice post. Nothing to disagree with here.

  2. walt says:

    Wow. A rare three-banger. You left out l33t or whatever the heck it’s called. You may have noticed that I didn’t really make a resolution; I pretty much stopped doing that.

  3. I’m trying very hard to avoid first-naming except when I’m joshing someone–no, Neff, that wasn’t aimed at you

    What? WHAT? Why I oughtta…

    Actually, I do subscribe to the comments of blogs I like (when the blogging software does allow easy comment subscription), because one of the main things I love about blogs (and you know this well, Walt) is the conversational aspects. Also because I am a l33t librarian blogger!

    At any rate, I would say I dislike rudeness and admire candor. If people are going to comment on my blog, they better show me some respect, because…well, it’s my blog and I hold all of the winning cards.

    But I do think that chiding women for using the word “sucks” (which is what set off this round of impolite blogging) is way too Victorian for my tastes.

  4. Ryan says:

    Bah. If I’m going to be mean, it might as well be physical. My recent tirades in Hockey have prevented me from being anything but nice in the biblioblogosphere.

    But if you notice people getting bodychecked at a library conference, you’ll know I’ve arrived. 🙂

    In all honesty (and I can’t say I always live by this code), I prefer to say only those things that I would say to someone’s face in a bar. I also like to pretend that the person is bigger than I am for good measure. As in: would you be willing to take a black eye to get that rude point across?

  5. jessamyn says:

    I’m almost always politer in comments than I would be on my own blog (and use nicer language too) because I feel that I’m in someone else’s living room. As someone who has a job of moderating comments for a giant forum I’ve learned a bit about how to still get your point across without going over the top and how to tell someone you don’t agree with them without them feeling like you’ve personally insulted them. I generally feel like it’s possible to disagree without offending, but I’ve worked for people — in the library world and outside it — who see any disagreement or complaint as rude, no matter what the tone or the content and I’m never sure what to do with people like that.

  6. walt says:

    I feel the need to say, pretty much, “I agree with all of you, and isn’t this turning out to be an interesting conversation?” I certainly agree with Joshua (hey, in comments I can first-name) that there was a bit of raised-pinky about the original complaint.

    One could even say that the particular complaint sucks . But then, I’ve never accepted the idea that “sucks” is anything other than acceptable strong language, and since I failed to have it drummed into me as a child that women are a separate and inferior species, I’ve never thought that women should somehow be constrained about speaking their minds as they choose.

    I dunno. Maybe I should subscribe to a few comment feeds, but that feels like it would expand the number of posts a little too much for comfort. But it’s an idea.

  7. Steve Lawson says:

    Walt, one of the reasons I come back to comment here multiple times is because I subscribe to your comment feed. I only realized that WordPress has comment feeds enabled by default when I switched myself recently.

    I just picked up the comment feeds for librarian.net, goblin in the library and the Other Librarian, so we’ll see how that goes. I remember I subscribe to the comments feed for Librarian in Black, but had to stop because she had one post about kids lit that kept getting all these annoying comments every day.

  8. rochelle says:

    Steve–glad you said that about comments. The same thing happened on my blog. I posted about a teen fantasy book, and the fans have taken over that thread as their own personal message board. I’m sure there are near 1000 comments on the thread, even though the story is 16 months old! And there are at least a couple comments a day, and sometimes up to ten. I’m not sure how Typepad subs work, though. I don’t think people can subscribe to just my comments.

  9. walt says:

    Rochelle, That’s interesting. I just checked two prolific kid’s-lit blogs; one gets almost no comments, the other gets a fair number, but rarely more than 10 or 11 per post. I wonder if it’s because you were writing about a teen book–and because you usually *don’t* write about kid’s lit. Curious.

  10. rochelle says:

    Everyone once in awhile I will insert a comment, just to say hi, or to remind them to be nice if they get a little flamey, but they are squatters and could care less about me! I get a big kick out of it, though.

  11. Steve Lawson says:

    Yeah, I think it is cool on LiB, too. Calling them annoying was unfair of me–it just makes the comments feed very noisy!