On Internet Discourse

Some observations on discussion that has been happening elsewhere. Please note that I’m not trying to preach here. Goddess only knows I’ve said enough stupid things online myself before now. But hopefully I have learned a few things too.

1. Your blog is not “personal space”. If you say bad things about people on it, there’s a good chance they will find out and come calling. If you want your thoughts to stay private, use a privacy feature such as “friend-locking”.

2. Using sarcasm and irony after you have got people angry with you is generally not a good idea, because angry people don’t have much of a sense of humor.

3. Sometimes the best thing to do with someone who disagrees with you is to let them have the last word. Accusing someone of bullying you because they can’t see your point of view doesn’t help, especially if you appear to be using that accusation as a means of preventing them from responding to your points.

4. If you complain about someone’s behavior to your friends on your blog, don’t be surprised if your friends then go and crap all over said person’s blog in a much more unpleasant way than you would have done. You might not have intended to spark a mob, but these things can happen.

5. If you call someone a “Nazi” then people will think that you are unpleasant and an idiot.

6. If people do crap on your blog, don’t delete their posts. Being rude makes people look bad. Deleting posts makes you look bad.

6 thoughts on “On Internet Discourse

  1. “1. Your blog is not “personal space”. If you say bad things about people on it, there’s a good chance they will find out and come calling. If you want your thoughts to stay private, use a privacy feature such as “friend-locking”.”

    I’d go one step further – if you want them private, don’t put them in a blog at all.

  2. 5. If you call someone a “Nazi” then people will think that you are unpleasant and an idiot.

    So there’s this guy who shall remain nameless, we’ll call him “Monogram.” He’s a bit of a dork, and spewed his dorkitude on a list, crying victimhood rather than taking ownership of his problems. He blamed someone else to misdirect people away from his problems.

    So, needless to say, the word got around. A friend was rather offended by his allegations, and thinking “Pace Picante Sauce” ads, responded in a comment with “Get a Rope!”

    Of course, she had no idea that Monogram is black. Not the best choice of words, for obvious reasons.

    Tossing “Nazi” around is kind of like that, only without the plausible deniability.

  3. I’d love to know the individuals/events which prompted this post. (None of my business, of course–just the gossip hound in me wondering).

    Otherwise–sound advice, all.

  4. Hi Cheryl,

    I agree with much of what you say here. I hope you don’t mind if I add my thoughts.

    I would like to point out that even someone like me, who does not actually, literally view her blog as a personal, private space might very easily be startled and even dismayed when strangers with heated opinions come calling where they have NEVER come calling before. It’s a little like sitting in a small restaurant where you always meet your friends and suddenly having several strangers come in. You know the restaurant isn’t private but . . .where did these people come from? Nobody ever comes here! It can be jarring.

    As for deleting posts on one’s blog, I am honestly never sure how I feel about that. I think you are right about leaving people’s words standing. But sometimes you just want the crap to go away. Especially if you think the crap is just going to go on generating more and more of the same. For me it is a hard call, sometimes.

    Also, I must admit, I have sometimes made whole strings of comments go away temporarily by pushing the wrong LJ buttons. LOL. Oops. At least that is a mistake one can undo.

    I think one of the unfortunate things about the internet is that we don’t have tone of voice, facial expressions or any other non-verbal clues to help us understand each other. I often think that people who might well like each other in person end up fighting on the internet because they lack the clues they need to know things are escalating in a way neither of them actually wishes the discussion to go.

    And, so quickly, just like that, hurtful things are said.

  5. Hi Muneraven – delighted to hear from you, and I’m pleased to see you sounding more relaxed. Believe me, I know what it feels like to have a pile of people dump on your blog. Unfortunately blogs are public discourse, and they are actually very easy to find if you happen to be looking for something in particular. If you put enough stuff out there, eventually some stranger will come calling.

    Then, of course, you have to deal with it, and there’s a skill to that. It is a skill I am still learning, and so is everyone else. Even experienced and popular bloggers such as John Scalzi and Jay Lake have occasionally complained about someone in a moment of frustration only to see a bunch of their fans go piling in on the person that they complained about. Often the best thing to do is just ignore it. If people don’t get a response they go away. If you do feel you have to respond, try to be gracious and reasonable.

    You are dead right about the lack of visual and aural clues. In particular it can be hard to see if someone is upset or tired. I suspect that a large percentage of Internet fights are caused because one or other of the people involved is very tired.

    The unfortunate thing about this particular blow-up is that to a large extent you were right. Worldcon supporting memberships are too expensive, and the price of them has been going up as the cost of servicing has come down. Kevin and I both want to see the cost go down, and we’ll continue fighting that fight. It may take a while, because there are people who really want to keep Hugo voting an exclusive perk, but thanks to Kevin’s persistence some good things happened yesterday and we may see a small amount of action on this front at Denvention 3.

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