Blog Courage: What it takes to publish a public opinion, despite.
This post over at Coding Horror highlights the silencing of Kathy Sierra, the Creating Passionate Users author, as one example of how blog success leads to blog shutdown. Kathy was a big success, and death threats and negative attention somehow caused her to stop writing a year ago. Another is Microsoft’s Dare Obasanjo, who quit writing due to the hassles of dealing with feedback, despite blog popularity (70,000 subscribers?).
I find it interesting that many artists are under-appreciated, abused, manipulated, or otherwise scorned while they are alive, yet celebrated after they are dead. A good deal of the worst of human nature is responsible, including fear and loathing and aggression, and… did I mention fear? But artists have learned to recognize the gift that is courage, as an artist. Many artists are able to do their thing for the sake of the art or themselves and not even say that much about it. Unfortunately, that approach involves a lot of poverty, a hefty dose of drug and alcohol abuse, and a kind of misfit syndrome that leads to .. again.. those manifestations of the worst of human nature (scorn and derision hurled towards those whom we see as “different”).
Did you ever discover a poem or short story or chapter of a book that was first published hundreds of years ago yet touches you deeply, makes you go “wow” and reminds you of just how vastly capable the human brain really is? So much has been written, we can’t know of it all, yet we also can’t search for it or catalog it. If we are lucky we get exposed to it via some passionate educator, and then we follow the stream to more. Otherwise, it sits quietly on a shelf somewhere waiting to be rediscovered by yet another previously unenlightened individual. Touching one person at a time. That’s good enough. But blogs reach a much wider audience in a viral way, and blogged ideas persist. It takes courage to post a public statement on a blog for all to see, now and later.
I’ve witnessed the hindrances to blog courage myself. Some not-very-good writer with a huge following will attack a blog post as if to counter the point, sway the readers, change the focus, or otherwise influence the audience. That person may have built up hir own following, but if your audience and hir audience overlap, you become the target of “effort”. Meh. Despite what that person or hir followers may think, I don’t write on my blog to provoke a response from those out there working hard to move the masses.
Blog courage is writing what you are moved to write. If you think that should come with responsibility to respond to responders, or counter the counter points, or otherwise deal with the hassles of the rest of the world, I suggest you may be part of that group personifying the lesser traits of human nature. Is the blogger an artist? If you witness an artist’s painting or sculpture you don’t like, do you expend effort to attack that artist? To what end? To stop the artist from making more art? Think about that… could we be reacting to the increased exposure of art in our world, reacting to the increased power the Internet has given to those gifted to move us emotionally, by harassing them and shutting them down? Is the collective “we” allowing that to happen?
You may prefer to compare the blogger to a journalist, wanting to hold the blogger to a set of standards for fact checking, source tracking, and etiquette. In that case, you need to re-define blogger, because the current population of bloggers includes many artists, not just journalists. All writers are not of one nature, on any medium.
I don’t mean to over simplify blogging. Business blogging, where the author deploys expository writing to educate and inform, is not the same as Creating Passionate Users or Helping Shed Some Light or Making People Think or Expressing My Perspectives. However, it seems those latter types of blogs are the ones people love, not the former. I believe that all writers are artists, but not all artists are writers. We need them all, but let’s keep in mind that the creative, opinionated editorial blog is not the Community Newspaper. It doesn’t belong to the community. It hasn’t been granted a license, and it doesn’t owe you anything. On the contrary, society may in fact be in debt to those creative risk takers, even if we don’t acknowledge it until after they are gone.