Diversity Weblogging

Life isn’t an oven, you can’t control the temperature

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It would be the ultimate irony if of the individual posts related to BlogHer, the one or ones linked the most were either by guys who attended the conference, or those who didn’t. Having said that, I am linking to one, Jay Rosen’s.

Of his overall impression of the conference, Rosen wrote:

It seemed to me (and I told the conference this part) that these were reflections on a kind of terror that is by now deeply associated with the Internet, especially the strangers who are on it. At a conference of bloggers that was 80 percent men and 20 percent women (the usual ratio) this would barely be heard. I don’t recall many expressions of dread from bloggers at the three BloggersCons I attended.

Here it was routine, which is not to say bloghercon was dominated by expressions of terror (because it wasn’t, at all…) but rather in a conference that is 80 percent women—and where 100 percent of the tone was set by women—there were no disincentives to speaking about raw fears connected intimately to the act of blogging.

From what I’ve read in other posts and heard in the chat room, I agree with Elisa in that I don’t think the conference focused unduly on ‘terror’ or fears of this or that exposure. There was the one session on Naked Blogging, but that discussed the ramifications of being too personal in one’s blogging and having to be careful. I don’t necessarily equate this with terror. Same as I don’t equate flaming or criticism with terror.

How to explain the differing interpretations? I think that Jay’s journalism background played a major part in how he framed the discussion and he naturally did as a journalist would: he opted for the catchy phrase. Let’s face it, “terror” is a grabber. This isn’t, necessarily, to imply a criticism of what Jay wrote, or the terminology he used. In fact, there is something to be learned from Jay’s post-BlogHer wrapup, as his writing has generated discussion in other weblogs, as well as references ( i.e. links) back to his post. This writing is, in a way, a ‘take away’ for the participants, as much or more than the cool Google bag.

(Speaking of which: can I have one of those?)

Does this mean, then, that you have to use catchy phrases or other journalistic mechanisms when you write in your weblog? Of course not! But if you want the flash and sizzle, you got to be able to start the fire, and the terminology you use is part of the stick (ahem) rubbing process.

But I don’t want to just write about Jay — even if I do adore irony. So on to the ladies, and something else that caught my eye.

There were two global sessions at BlogHer in addition to the start up and wrap up: the A-listing and links session (led by Halley SuittLisa Stone, and Charlene Li); and, during lunch, a discussion on Flame, Shame, and Blame (Ellen SpertusLiza SabatarAlisa Valdes (who responded to the conference by quitting her weblog and telling other webloggers “To get a life. I am”), and Mobile Jones) .

Reading the liveblogging and other notes from the sessions, supposedly, one gathers, some want more of the one–more visibility, more links– without the other–shaming, blaming, and flaming. This seemed to me to be both confusing and a contradiction; it’s the same as saying you want to take a strong stand on an issue, but you don’t want to defend it.

Halley wrote an interesting note today on the conference, addressed, I assume, to some of those who have been critical of the conference and the sessions:

Feel free to disagree, as long as you attended BlogHer and can attest to the facts I state. If you haven’t attended a conference recently with an 80% female audience and 100% female speaker roster, save your comments until you attend one — like the next BlogHer, okay? Seems only fair. It’s like writing a movie review of a movie you haven’t seen — go see the movie first.

(Oddly enough, of those who have been particularly critical of BlogHer, most are men, and most have only linked to other men, even as they reference what other women wrote or said–a refreshingly honest and direct and rather fascinating attempt to reassert the dominate paradigm of male centered communication. Social scientists take note. Please feel free to use my Linkers tool to investigate this yourself.)

Halley writes that we should withold our (seemingly ‘critical’) opinions, but then also focuses on asking for links, and herein lies the confusion. By all means eschew popularity and the attendant difficulties, but note that the two–popularity and hassles–go hand in hand, as any of the popular sites demonstrate: most highly linked webloggers write controversial text, and take strong stands, or have strong opinions; as a consequence, they get their share of strong, and even vitriolic debate. Even those who write primarily on their personal lives can attest that their writing does not float along on a stream of kind good will.

Life doesn’t assess that you are a gentle being and then respond accordingly. Weblogging doesn’t see that you shrink from confrontation, and route damaging opinions around you. With the links you ask for, you will receive the following:

People will react. Sometimes people will react personally. Sometimes people will be mean. Sometimes they will seek to hurt.

The anonymous troller. The anonymous troller is a fact of life. Ignore them, delete their comments, laugh at them, whatever. Feed them if it’s fun, or don’t if it isn’t. But you control how much energy you give them by your actions. If you take what anonymous trollers say to heart, you are giving them power. Ultimately if you can’t handle this environment because they have too much power, then consider changing the environment: eliminate comments and password protect your space. Or as Alisa did: quit.

The passive-aggressives. I don’t know about anyone else, but I dislike passive-aggressive behavior with a passion. Either say what you mean, directly, honestly, and without games and take the lumps; or shut the fuck up and sulk. One or the other. Still, the passive-aggressive live and breath and exist in our society. And the P-As suck onto links, like a slug to flesh. All we can do is watch out for their sincere insincerity and keep our backs to the wall.

Anger. But anger can be useful.


Feel free to disagree, as long as you attended BlogHer…. The weblogger’s motto is Feel free to disagree and that’s followed by a period. We don’t take kindly to caveats; we eat provisos for breakfast.

If you ask for links, you will most likely get contention. Even if you don’t go specifically for links, if you make a strong or controversial statement in your weblog, you are going to get a response and it isn’t always going to be pleasant. There will be those who make take what you write personally and respond in kind. There will be those who disagree strongly, and respond in kind. You have to take responsibility for your actions, and that includes writing. If you make a strong statement and people respond, you can’t suddenly change the protocol in mid-debate and demand people play ‘nice’.

A long time ago, I was feeling hurt about the comments I was receiving in a post and went to a friend, a good friend, for commiseration. Rather than commiserate with me, he basically said I was responsible for how the people were reacting to me. I would make strong statements and then when people responded in kind, I would act all hurt, which was frustrating to the other people, leading them to become even more personal in their responses.

His words were like a cold splash of water in the face. They hurt, made me cringe, really pissed me off, and then hurt, cringe, and piss off all over again. It’s only been over time that I’ve come to realize that he was right. Oh, not completely–there were other factors involved, not the least of which is the tendency of men to add an emotional context to women’s writing, which can be equally frustrating. But for the most part, he was right.

I was not accepting the responsibility for my actions and responding in kind. I would be critical of others and then get all hurt when they were critical in kind. I was, literally, setting the other participants up, and pulling a “po’me” on them just when they started to build up steam. Ouch! Bam! Right in the bullseye, too. Suddenly I’m ten again, riding in the back seat of the family car with my brother and yelling out, “Mo-o-o-m! He’s picking on me!”

Since then, I’ve tried to be aware of this in myself and curb the tendency, though not always successfully. It’s natural to want to point out the errors of others, and to deny others the same courtesy in regards ourselves. However, it’s also natural for us to just squat anywhere when we need to pee. Sometimes for the good of the society in which we inhabit we have to rise about what’s natural.

But what if isn’t ourselves that are responding to the negative commentary. What if our friends do so , to protect us? Well, your friends are not helping you.

In my post To Google, Pregnancy is Evil a couple of people disagreed with some of my statements. John thought one of my statements was over the top, and that Google shouldn’t necessarily be held responsible for this one person’s actions; another, Quantum Jim from Slashdot wrote that some of my posts seemed to have a bitter tone in them, lately.

Dave Rogers and Yule Heibel responded to both John and Jim, passionately and eloquently and in disagreement, but they didn’t do so to ‘protect me’. If their only interest in responding is to protect me, Yule and Dave would be responding in all of my threads where I’ve made strong statements and had disagreement. My sidebar would be litered with “Yule” and “Dave”. People would be saying to themselves: geez, don’t piss on Shelley or that Yule or Dave will whack you but good.

Now, Jim may be feeling that way a bit right now, but that’s just because he walked into it. Uhm, repeatedly. And here’s a smiley to go with that 😉

(Speaking of this discussion, and this is a digression from the main topic: do guys apologize to other guys for ‘hurting’ them in these debates? Just curious.)

Now if I said something either Dave or Yule disagreed with, and if it triggered the same interest to respond, they would write as eloquently in disagreement as in agreement. That’s the way this all works. Or, that’s the way this all should work.

Yet how many threads have we been in where disagreement with the writing is equated with disagreement with the person, and have had people respond accordingly? More, how many times has a weblogger’s friend gone into the comments of a post where another weblogger has been critical and again, moved to ‘protect and defend’?

If you as a weblogger encourage this, after a while no one is going to want to link to you, debate you, or even acknowledge you because they don’t want to have to deal with your friends. Can you see, then, how this can adversely impact on your being linked? Or even treated with respect?

For those of you who discuss ‘safe’ places, is this, then, what you want? That we don’t even talk about you? That we don’t link to you? That we don’t make comments in your posts? You can’t pick and choose — only the ‘positive’ or ‘constructive’ criticism is welcome; only ‘helpful’ comments are welcome. Or in Halley’s case, only those who attended the conference can speak on it.

As for those unkind, the world is an unkind place at times. People cut in front of you in traffic, your kids get in fights at school, you work with someone you can’t stand — it is life. If you want your weblog to be ‘safe’ from this, then you have to make it safe from life. Is that what you want?

If you don’t want the links, and you don’t want the world to know about you, then by all means, build a safe place. Make sure that people understand that only friends are welcome, and that any form of criticism is not. Don’t read the posts of those who link to you. Stop Google and other webbots from indexing your page, to keep Others out. And don’t leave your weblog URL when you leave a comment elsewhere. Better yet: don’t comment elsewhere. Well, unless it’s in a friend’s weblog, where nary a harsh word is exchanged.

Over time, you will have a safe place. It will be a very quiet place, but a safe one.

Asking for links without the possibility of heat. Might as well try to roast marshmallows over your computer.

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