Discussion, Debate and Blogging Etiquette

One of the most amazing things about joining the blogging world is the opportunity to learn from other people. I don’t always read something I agree with, and I’m sure that many people don’t always agree with me. But, by reading other people’s ideas and perspectives on life, I clarify my own stance and often even understand issues from a different perspective.

I love the exchange of ideas.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t make many comments. I was afraid that commenting on other people’s posts was somehow intruding and that nobody really cared what I had to say. But, eventually I came to realize that a post without comments might as well be a post into a private journal. If that is the case, and if you are not going to interact with fellow bloggers, then why blog in the first place?

There is a danger, however, in commenting and responding to comments. It lies in the fact that we are communicating only through technology. Without face to face contact (and sometimes even with it) meanings can be misunderstood and interpreted incorrectly. Perhaps someone makes a sarcastic comment in good fun, but if you are only friends via this virtual tool, sometimes that sarcasm can be misunderstood.

Yet, as I get to know my fellow bloggers, I feel like I’ve established a relationship based on trust and a mutual respect for each other. We may not agree on everything, and life would be boring if we did, but we respect each other’s right to their beliefs and their right to write about those beliefs.  If I completely disagree with a person, I either do not respond, or try to respond with a question to promote discussion.

While I doubt my stance on things like religion, politics, women’s rights, war, education, etc. will ever do a complete 180, I am always open to a new way of looking at things. I don’t believe that any issues is completely black or white, but that every issue and situation needs to be judged from a variety of perspectives.

In other words, there is no ONE truth, but multi-faceted truths that lie somewhere between two sides.

I now find myself unintentionally embroiled in a debate of two truths. I’m not going to go into specifics, although most of my readers will know what I am talking about. Basically, the problem comes down to two people who don’t agree and one person who won’t let go. It also boils down to the issue of blogging etiquette.

What is blogging etiquette?

This complicated world of blogging introduces so many challenges in communication, that once in a while it is good to stop and think about how we interact with others. Here are some of the questions that have popped into my head at one time or another, followed by my (uninformed) opinion on the answer. Feel free to add more ideas below:

  • When is it good to respond to a post? I think commenting on posts is valuable at all times, but only if you have actually read the post and have something to say. I admit to sometimes skimming people’s posts when I am in a hurry, so for those ones I either hit the like button, comment briefly, or don’t comment at all.
  • What kind of comments are acceptable on posts? Comments that respond to the actual post are acceptable. Perhaps you don’t have much to say about the content, but want the writer to know that you’ve read, understand, or support what he/she is saying. Then it might be okay to write a very short supportive comment. Otherwise, I think comments should be substantial (ie contributing to the conversation) without being long. If you find yourself writing a long comment on a topic, perhaps you should write a post about it instead.
  • When should comments be blocked or deleted from posts? This one can be tricky, because if you want honest discussion it is important to include all sides, even the things you disagree with. However, if the comment attacks the writer or the readers of the blog in a disrespectful way, it doesn’t need to be kept. If the comment has absolutely nothing to do with the post, why keep it?
  • When is it okay to not respond to a comment? I try my best to respond to comments on my posts, but sometimes it is impossible. As most of my readers know, I have been dealing with a lot in the past month, including moving, no internet and other craziness. So, while I wanted to respond to comments, I had to prioritize, which meant I let a lot of responses slide. I made sure to explain that in posts. I tried to respond to any new readers, because I believe you can only build a relationship through commenting and visiting each other’s blogs. Ultimately, though, I don’t think you have to reply if the comment is something simple like “That’s great!” or “Thanks.”  You should, however, respond when someone has taken the time to submit a well thought out part of the discussion.
  • When is it best to simply remain on the sidelines and observe the conversation? You know the mantra “If you have nothing nice to say . . . “? Well, that might be a good guideline. If you have an opposing perspective that you can phrase respectfully, go ahead and join that conversation. But if your response is going to be simply to rant and rage, without any openness to discussion, perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself.
  •  When should you make contact with someone outside of the blog, either through e-mail or through actual in person meetings? I have had contact with several bloggers outside of the blog, through Facebook, one phone call, e-mail, and once in person. Sometimes I’ve initiated the contact, sometimes the other person did. When I’ve initiated contact, it was because I felt like I had something to share with that person that was best shared privately, rather than in the public forum that is a blog. I try not to be too aggressive about contacting bloggers in other ways, but I always feel honored when someone reaches out to me.
  • Should you include links to your blog or other sources when commenting? It’s possible to find many debates and discussions on this topic, as including links can seem like simply trying to promote your own blog. I have, however, included links when I have a post that furthers the discussion or adds a different perspective. I also, occasionally, will add a link to some web page that provides information to the writer. However, I have it set up that all comments with links must be approved. Why? Because I don’t want to be linking to sites that make me uncomfortable. I often allow those posts, but if the links seem to lead to disrespectful stuff, bye-bye comment. Comments with excessive links often get sent straight to spam, which means they sometimes disappear quickly.
  •  When is it acceptable to use all caps? This relates to the challenges of communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. Capital letters have come to stand for YELLING! Nobody likes be yelled at. In addition, capital letters are harder to read. So, I suggest using them sparingly, to emphasize or show excitement. I don’t like reading posts that have lots of caps, and I would guess many readers agree.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and it is only my opinion. I’d love to hear more of your suggestions or ideas (even if they disagree with mine) in the comments below.

Update About Related Posts: This post has sparked a lot of interesting discussion, both below in the comments and in other people’s posts. Please go check out the following for more interesting perspectives:

If you’ve come across any I have missed that should be added to the list, let me know.


I Get It! The Healthy Side of WordPress

I’m sure many of you have noticed the trend over the past few days of bloggers reaching the breaking point–that point where we realize that blogging has consumed our lives in unhealthy ways and we must reconsider the role it plays in our lives. Just today the fabulous Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon made a commitment to the Post A Day Challenge (which she has really been doing all along) but questioned that commitment she “didn’t want pressure to post daily if [she] had nothing meaningful to say on a given day.” And in the response section, in a discussion with Life in the Boomer Lane, Boomer wrote “I need a Blogging 12 Step Program.”

Isn’t that what we all need?

Just this morning I gave myself permission not to create a real post today. I even was thinking about posting an appropriate Mental Health Day sign if I could find one. I didn’t.

I fully intended avoiding my traditional morning habits, but I couldn’t as I decided I had to read and respond to a few of the posts, as well as comments from people who somehow stumbled onto my blog. So, there went my morning.

But I didn’t post, which is usually the very first thing I do in the morning.

Notice how successful I am at avoiding it all day. EPIC FAIL!

Why?  Yesterday, I had one of those less than thrilling days in the classroom that seem to happen more often than not this semester. One student decided another group was ignoring him (when they weren’t) and chose to be completely disrespectful. When I called him out on it, I believe he decided I was racist. But no, I said to myself, asses are asses no matter what color they are.

This morning, staying home with a “sick” child, I spent time grading papers for my on-line Comp I class in anticipation of receiving another pile of papers today from the in person class. Now, I have to point out that the on-line class is (much to my surprise) by far the better course, with more commitment and participation from most of the students enrolled (except for a few slackers who have disappeared). The live class seems to think that drafting is optional and don’t have any desire to workshop for improvement.

As I worked my way through these papers I inevitably stumbled upon the few who chose to ignore my comments on their first draft and continue on the path of imperfection that they were on. Most of the papers were actually pretty good, but I always become frustrated when I see little change. I don’t expect perfection but I do expect effort.

That’s when it hit me, my epiphany! I come to WordPress regularly because it is a community of people who actually care about something–or many things. They care about writing! They care about ideas! They care about learning! They care about improving themselves as writers, or artists, or photographers or simply as people.  I come here, because it is full of people who care!

Does that change anything about the stress level of participating? Well, in a way it does, because I find solace in reading the blogs I love so it aids my mental health. I do need to find a balance between writing and creating and responding and reading. I do need to find a slightly better way of functioning with WordPress throughout the day. But, I also have to allow myself time with this community–because it is a community filled with love.

So this is for you (to go along with Calvin and Hobbes from yesterday)

 

Update, I was just sent this wonderful little gift from Aligeata’s Blog, and I thought I should share with all of you:

 

Keeping Up Disappearances

I admit, sometimes I choose to disappear. I stop writing; I avoid Facebook (or at least I avoid public appearances on Facebook); I only respond to necessary e-mails; and I censor my calls. I usually do that when I am feeling most out of control with my own emotions. I don’t want to dump those emotions on other people, and I don’t really know how to reach out for help. So I hole up in my inner self and disappear.

BUT, there is a big difference between choosing to disappear to regroup, and being made to disappear. Currently I am facing the latter, and it is making me angry. In a way, though, anger is good because it has made me choose to reappear. I refuse to be made to feel inferior anymore. I know that I am talented. I know that I know my stuff. I know that I have a lot to share. If I’m not welcome, then so be it. I’m going to find my own path. I still don’t know what that path is, but I’m sick of this. So, hello world. I refuse to disappear anymore!!! I’m here to stay.

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