Human heat sinks

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Kathy Sierra has a post complimenting Robert Scoble on his decision to stay away from the negatives. One paragraph is:

The notion of “Happy People” was tossed around in the Robert-Lost-His-Mind posts as something ridiculous at best, dangerous at worst. One blogger equated “happy people” with “vacuous”. The idea seems to be that “happy people” implies those who are oblivious to the realities of life, in a fantasy of their own creation, and without the ability to think critically. The science, however, suggests just the opposite.

She then goes into a discussion on the neuroscience of happy versus not people and myths of happiness and happy people and so on. We have to assume that her use of the term ‘vacuous’ is in reference to my post–it’s not a common word. I gather she believes my post must not be ‘happy’ enough in order to link–which, indirectly, makes a statement about my ‘value’ to the discussion. For all the mention of the Dali Lama and the power of positive thinking, this is an antagonistic action.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with much of this discussion: the words don’t necessarily match the actions. A person can use a great number of high sounding, very positive words, all the while committing a negative act. Conversely, a person can use any number of negative words, or what can be perceived to be a negative tone, in the hopes of accomplishing a positive event.

We’re basing all of this on ‘words’, not intents. Doing this penalizes those who speak bluntly, while the less blunt, or less direct, end up being shiny all over. Where are the plain speakers? Where is the writing that unabashedly accepts the consequences for the intent behind the words?

Robert Scoble may talk about wanting to filter out those critical of him, and that don’t add to the ‘value’ to the conversation. What is value? When you spend time reading a person’s writing, you’ve already given them ‘value’ because you’ve given them your time. Anything negative you say in response to the writing has to be balanced against the fact that you gave of your time. I value time–it would have to be almighty negative for it to tip the scales against.

Robert and Kathy mention ‘happy’. What is happy? Is it a state of mind, or a coy turn of phrase? I have seen a person walk into a room and eviscerate another, leaving them with no dignity, no respect, all the while smiling and using the sweetest of terms. Is the perpetrator then a ‘happy’ person? They have all the markings of one.

Forget the neuroscience and new age blather: what is happy? If both Kathy and Robert are going to define how people must behave to be part of their circle and have value, then I think we’re entitled to ask them to define, in their own terms, ‘happy’. This way, we can then use this measurement with the only people that matter: Robert and Kathy.

You know what a truly happy person is to me? In the context of this environment, and discussion? It’s a person where you could say anything in their comments, and it just flows off their back, like water off a duck. The Dali Lama that Kathy mentions. They may not like the words, they may be saddened, especially if the person saying the words is a friend–they may even moderate the comment; but their happiness could not be impacted by such an ephemeral event. Fortunately, most of us just aren’t the Dalia Lama–aren’t that happy. It’s a good thing, too, because the Dali Lama’s strength isn’t in his own lack of anger, but his ability to generate outraged anger in others.

But this isn’t about anger, and this isn’t comment moderation. If this was about comment moderation, this discussion wouldn’t be happening. Comment moderation is an old topic–do what you want, end of story. This is about defining whether another person is contributing value, and basing this value on some artificial criteria labeled euphemistically ‘happy’. And what is happy? What is happy behavior in weblogging? Is it the words, or the intent of the words that determines ‘happy’?

I’d rather someone who speaks frequently, bluntly, intent plain to see in their phrases–face to face with those who they would criticize. The words may be negative, but the intent is not to slyly undermine or slay with innuendo–no whispers hidden in honeyed words. No, the intent matches the words. One can then engage, or not; but at a minimum, one is given that option.

The person who speaks softly, all bright yellows and sunshine glee, all the while they look out at you from the corners of their eyes–to all appearances, they are happy. Oh, look at them! They are so happy! Yet they can take your energy more quickly than the harshest critic, leaving you frustrated, and discouraged.

They are human heat sinks.

Both Kathy and Robert have a habit of indirectly referencing what others write without directly letting their readers know the source. To all intents and purposes, they’re moderating the discussion, not just their comments. More importantly, they use ‘good’ words, but it has a negative intent. They may say they do this because they don’t want to engage the negative people. If this is so, then why do they continue to engage the negative people?

Enough time and energy spent on this discussion. More than enough.

Jeneane who is rather blunt in her writing had this to say in comments at Kathy’s:

So, let’s get real: Moderate for spam, anonymous, and annoying commenters, and take the heat for whom you delete.

Puffing it up as some grand step toward a better life is just a little bit unbelievable.

Okay, I’m off to meditate.

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