Saturday, November 15, 2008
The Right and Wrong Way to Debate
I think I may have posted something similar to this when I first hit the blogosphere. Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday, I somehow ended up at Church Secretaries blog. Anybody familiar with him? Anyway, Church had posted about something I was interested in, and I inadvertently misunderstood the premise of the argument and replied with what was essentially a classic "straw man". This was responded to with a thorough verbal thrashing about what a straw man was, as well as a detailed synopsis of my ineptness in general. Some condescending things were said, and I had a brief period of disillusionment where I wondered if blogging was really for me.
As you may have noticed, I am not that easily discouraged, and overall I really enjoy blogging as it helps me to express my thoughts and it gives me a chance to explore my own views on (mostly) strategic issues in comparison with those of my fellow bloggers.
Obviously, there are no official rules of blogging in terms of etiquette or what can be discussed, aside from those who make their own blog-specific rules. I personally am pretty loose and don't regulate unless it is SPAM or someone gets too personal. The ONE person I was forced to ban since starting this blog can testify to that.
I even welcome discussion on pretty much anything as I find the process of sharing information to be interesting and a good part of the time edifying as well.
The things that are a bit of a turn-off for me, and that I try to avoid, although not always successfully thanks to my penchant for making a point and having the last word (yes, I am aware, and trying to be better):
1. Keep emotion out of it as much as possible.
Yes, emotions are valid, but my experience has shown me that being overly emotional while making a point about say, legislation, doesn't add much to the exchange; except that it inhibits folks ability to think clearly and gives someone a moment to vent. I am not a mindless drone, and can get pretty wrapped up in issues that are close to my heart, but ultimately, how I "feel" about a particular issue is less valuable than how I came to my conclusions logically.
2. Don't be condescending.
For me, this is a "conversation killer" and is a sure-fire way to get rid of me (make a note). It is a mistake to arrive at someone's blog, read the title or their brief "About Me" blurb, and assume you know everything about them. If you want clarification, just ask, I do it all the time and sometimes people oblige me.
3. Be respectful, as if the person you are addressing is across from you.
I think the anonymity provided by the internet is good in that it gives people more courage to be honest who may otherwise be bashful about expression themselves. At the same time, people are also more likely to be vicious or curse someone out because they can do it with little consequence. Keep the venom-filled, hateful vitriol out of it and take a self-defense class or something.
4. The web is virtual, people are not.
The web is a great way to explore, and it is convenient, but the down side is you can forget you are talking to a real person, and full expression is impossible because there is NO body language. Being clear and making no few assumptions outside of what has been stated explicitly is a good rule of thumb.
Other than that, have fun, try to learn and don't let the blogosphere be the extent of your involvement in important issue. Even for the busy, or just lazy person, the web provides alot of tools for you to be actively involved in issues that merit it.