Do you find the best blogs are populated with like-minded people, or are the best blogs those that are more a cacophony of dissent against the Blogmaster and other commenters?

40 Comments

  1. My favourite blogs definitely vary between each other. Multiple blogs about a person’s pets or which regurgitate content from the Technorati Top 100 blogs are just mediocre and worse, but unique blogs with original content are the ones which catch and hold my attention.
    Of course, I’m having a bit of trouble trying to understand what you mean by ‘like-minded’ (as in, bloggers who write on different subjects, or on the same subject from different viewpoints?) So apologies if this reply sounds completely off-topic!

  2. Hi Yvonne —
    Thanks for your comment! Here’s the Oxford definition of “like-minded” to help me make it clear about what I’ wondering today —

    like-minded
    adjective
    having similar tastes or opinions : a small group of like-minded friends.
    DERIVATIVES
    like-mindedness noun

    Are the best blogs filled with people who share the same thoughts and feelings or are the best blogs those where people always disagree with each other?

  3. Ha ha, doh 😛
    I’d have to go with the latter David. Who the heck enjoys anything where everyone agrees that so-and-so is amazing and wonderful? Disagreement, controversy and (maybe) even flaming is so much more entertaining and engaging. Debate is healthy. Debate is good. 🙂

  4. Hi Yvonne —
    Thanks for your interesting take on this issue.
    I’m not much for flame wars. My feeling is not much good comes out of it.
    Is a blog intended to argue or create interesting thought? I don’t think one blog can do both well.

  5. OK, yes, flame wars are essentially useless. But sometimes they can allow new perspectives on a topic to be opened up. And I think arguments can stimulate intelligent thinking and ultimately, intelligent debate.
    For example, if everyone agreed with a blogger’s review that said, oh say, the latest range of Macbooks were incredible and nothing needed to be done to improve them, then no-one would think about questioning how good Macbooks were. But then if someone left a comment which criticised the review, provoking an argument with those who had agreed with it, then the dissenter just might change a few peoples’ minds, which in turn could lead to an interesting debate about how to improve Macbooks which would never have occurred if that one person hadn’t started the argument in the first place.
    (If that made sense!)

  6. There are three types of ‘flame tinder’ commentators, in my opinion David:
    1. Those which obviously don’t want to discuss the post at hand, or address it very briefly and twist it’s meaning entirely out of context, and who simply want to argue with everyone and receive attention they can’t get from their own pathetic lives …. – ahem, yes, those definitely aren’t worthy of a response. Though, except in extreme cases, I wouldn’t go so far as to delete their opinion out of existence.
    2. Those who really do believe that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. A while back, I received a few racist comments on my site – I tried to argue with the person, to prove they were ‘wrong’, but it was obvious they wouldn’t be swayed. In the end, I realised it was useless. Also – not worth holding conversations with.
    3. Those who are critical of the majority opinion. BUT they’re willing to have a two-way conversation – not only trying to convince others their conflicting opinion on a subject should be taken into consideration, but genuinely listening to other opinions and having a ‘healthy debate’. Even though these types can provoke flame wars, they’re worth it, as both sides are listening to each other, and are open to having their opinions and convictions be swayed.
    Gosh, I do tend to rant when I comment here. I look forward to hearing everyone else’s opinions tomorrow morning 🙂

  7. Thanks for the extended comment, Yvonne!
    I am all for dissent — but not in the form of flaming — I think the most effective “dissenting” comments come in the form of cool reason where no heat is ignited, no names are called and no cursing is involved.
    I do think that dissent and conflicting ideas can have merit on a blog, but in my experience that dissent is most effectively expressed between like-minded people who share the same core values and beliefs.
    I find the least effective blogs are those where dissenters flame just to flame and to fight just to fight and they’re not there to learn or reason or provide rational insight into their views.

  8. I’d rather read blogs populated with like-minded people who appreciate each other’s viewpoints and interact with respect.
    That’s not to say that reasoned disagreements should be squelched — I’d rather be told I was headed in the wrong direction with a thought than be allowed to continue on an incorrect thought course.
    Gentle correction can and should be done with the goal of improving the common knowledge and condition of humanity or it can be done with malice.
    If you want me to become deeply entrenched in my way of thinking, attack me. If you want to persuade me, try to win me over and take your time because I might not “get it” until I hear the argument many times.
    Even then, I might never “get it” and just agree to disagree about the matter.
    But, I will respect your viewpoint more if you don’t use attacks and flames as means of attempting to persuade.
    Attacks and flames are always destined to fail.
    Convert me with love, friendship or common areas of agreement, instead of threatening me with the sword reserved for infidels.
    I’d rather not step into a place that is filled with flames and venom where people fight the blogmaster just to fight. Verbal and literary violence is just another blood sport that detracts from civilized debate.
    Who wants to be around an atmosphere like that?

  9. Hi David!
    Excellent question!
    I don’t read any other blog except this one and I don’t have much idea about it but I think it is the healthy discussion that doesn’t tend to belittle others makes a blog worth reading.
    You may not understand/support/gauge grasp my point of view or my interpretation of your comment but as long as people maintain the sporting spirit and don’t voice their disapproval just for the sake of it – it is fascinating.
    It always leads to some interesting discovery that I never imagined before.

  10. Open dissent is unpleasant but what is the purpose of a blog written to a bunch of “yes” men/women? I think it is more important to have people of similar intellect (who are open-minded / mature enough to communicate what they understand or believe without resorting to personal attacks or name calling) than to be of one accord on all or most matters. Differing views and new ideas are what help us to grow, are they not?

  11. Beautifully said, Chris!
    It’s always exciting here when someone joins the discussion with a new point of view that we can all understand and appreciate even though we may not agree with the conclusions.
    There are other times, however, when people post comments that I do not comprehend or that I absolutely know I have nothing to add to what that particular comment is addressing and so I have learned to just let those comments speak without any further intervention from me.

  12. Hi Katha!
    I thank you for reading this blog! I know it takes time and effort on your part and I thank you for your attention!
    There are some blogs out there when the person who writes the post never comments. Then others just leap in and curse at each other in comments without really addressing the core argument of the post.
    I always appreciate it when you share your specific views based on what you know and learned in India even though you may not feel the same way about those experiences now. You really help give us a world cultural view here and for that, I thank you!

  13. A S —
    I think it depends on how the dissent is expressed. I know a lot of really smart and intellectual people who can really be foul-mouthed and viciously angry when discussing something. I don’t find that kind of “brute intellect” very interesting or convincing and not much of that kind of vitriol ever gets published here.
    I believe “like-minded” people can agree to disagree and to be different from each other without being disagreeable.
    I don’t think “like-minded” and yes-men and yes-women are synonymous.

  14. After reading the above commentary I guess I am pretty like-minded after all.
    I guess the fact that I wanted to point out the other day that the plural of cul-de-sac is culs-de-sac and not cul-de-sacs doesn’t make me a non-likeminded person. Hmm.
    I suppose a good analogy could be a tea blog wherein the best comments come from other tea drinkers but there is the possibility of good comments coming from coffee drinkers who drink a similar but not quite the same beverage.

  15. Oh, and Gordon?
    Not to be pedantic or overly corrective, but Oxford says:

    cul-de-sac |ˈkəl di ˌsak| noun ( pl. cul-de-sacs or culs-de-sac )
    a street or passage closed at one end.
    • figurative a route or course leading nowhere : the pro-democracy forces found themselves in a political cul-de-sac.
    • Anatomy a vessel, tube, or sac, e.g., the cecum, open at only one end.
    ORIGIN mid 18th cent.(originally in anatomy): French, literally ‘bottom of a sack.’

    While Merriam-Webster says:

    Inflected Form(s): plural culs-de-sac; also cul-de-sacs
    Etymology: French, literally, bottom of the bag

    So according to both Oxford and Webster, “Cul-de-sacs” is just fine!

  16. If they are smart enough to realize that they are behaving cruelly but are so self important that they do not care or that the purposefully denigrate others, then perhaps our measure of intellect needs to be modified.
    I had likened “like-minded” to yes-men/women because it was contrasted with “dissent”. Although qualified with “cacophony” and “against the Blogmaster and other commenters” seems like it could be interpreted a number of ways. I suppose that’s one of the problems of language.

  17. I would say on the whole I prefer the “like minded” community but I think this viewpoint has been forced on me by the number of people on blogs/forums/whatever that are only out to p*ss other people off.
    I’m sure you know the sort 😉
    I enjoy a reasoned argument as much as (if not more than) the next person. What I don’t enjoy is being insulted, trashed, talked down to by somebody because either:
    a. They don’t understand the argument, much less their own position.
    or
    b. They’re just mean-spirited
    To quote Monty Python …
    “Is this the right room for an argument?”
    “I told you once”
    [Comment edited by David W. Boles]

  18. A S —
    Yes, that’s why I provided the dictionary definition for “like-minded” in my discussion with Yvonne to clarify the word.
    I think a lot of the cruelty comes from being anonymous. If they were forced to post under their real name with a real email address and a trackable IP address they would be much more polite in deference to others.

  19. Hi David,
    I wonder why some intelligent people think they have to use “brute force” to get their ideas across? Maybe it is a sign that they are lacking social intelligence when they feel they have to dominate and “win” instead of pursuading.
    I personally can’t stand to have to do anything with someone who feels the need to be obnoxious.
    It seems silly, but smart people need to be told how to behave in a civilized society. There’s a case somewhere about an attorney throwing a Coke can at someone during a deposition and how that’s not allowed in our legal system. It would seem that a smart person who know better, but some don’t.
    I can be completely opposed to what your client’s position is and still be civil and friendly. I’m going to see you again and again and again. It doesn’t do me any good to fight for the next 50 years of my life, when I don’t necessarily always need to fight.
    Being mean and obnoxious is often counterproductive because it decreases the likelihood of amicable resolution of matters. Being mean and obnoxious can cost clients money and time when compromises aren’t made.
    Look at messy divorce cases where everyone loses because of the lack of will to compromise and joy at inflicting agony on the other side.
    Here’s part of a speech by Connecticut’s Justice Peter Zarella at this year’s Bar Admission Ceremony that sums up the point about civility:

    But, increasingly, those of us with considerable years in the practice have become concerned about the evaporating sense of legal community and the gradual disappearance of civility. Whether in argument, negotiation, or simple interaction, we have been overtaken by an increase in antagonism that all members of the bar recognize. For you, the newest of our attorneys, one of the most disappointing aspects of the erosion of civility is that you will not have known a difference. You may believe that this is the way that the practice of law should be. It is not.
    Civility is not a study in manners, nor does its absence necessarily implicate unethical conduct. It is instead the atmosphere of courtesy that comes from a mutual respect for the position of attorney that each of us holds.
    I do not mean to suggest that the issue of legal civility is a problem peculiar to Connecticut. It has been the subject of a nationwide plethora of articles with titles such as “professional attitude”, “civil reaction”, “fostering civility”, and “the uncivil lawyer”. One such article documented a law journal survey disclosing that 50 percent of the attorneys questioned used the word “obnoxious” to describe their colleagues.
    The escalating lack of civility everywhere has also spilled over, to an upsetting extent, to include disrespect between the bar and bench. When that has happened, when disappointment in a legal ruling has overtaken good judgment, and unfortunate public statements against the ability of the court, or worse, have been made, all of us in the legal system lose.

  20. I had read your definition of like-minded in your discussion with Yvonne prior to posting today.
    People who have “similar tastes or opinions” and “who share the same thoughts and feelings” juxtaposed with dissent “to differ in sentiment or opinion” http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=dissent
    appeared to me as yes people. I suppose my interpretive skills are off after a long weekend.
    I can understand how anonymity can make people less inhibited with their comments, but to be outright and intentionally cruel particularly when there is a buffer of typing it out and re-reading before you hit send seems rather inexcusable.

  21. David,
    Credit goes to you!
    It is you who started this blog and I just chip in whenever I feel I have something significant to contribute.
    Moreover, this opportunity sharpens my writing skill, Helps me learn various aspects of the society I am living in, offers me a platform to put my thoughts in pen and paper, I can express myself freely though I know I belong to a different background and finally, encourages my future plan to take journalism as a fulltime career. (Some day!)
    Everyone here is open and well informed and each and every column of yours provides an opportunity of critical thinking that I enjoy the most!
    I don’t remember putting down something half-read (tried reading Jackie Collins once…couldn’t continue after first 10 pages – that was my record), the yardstick of how much I liked something is to find out how many times I read it.
    Sometimes I go back and find some old column of yours and read it along with the comments and the interesting part is every time I discover something new.

  22. Hi Chris —
    I think the uncivil behavior of those on the web is caused by greater and greater separation of acts resulting in direct negative punishments.
    We are all used to the stereotypical small town mentality where everyone is friendly by requirement — we also know the ugly underbelly of that kind of close association — but having a small community where you are being watched and evaluated and gossiped about brings a closer responsibility to the self and to others. You can’t be intentionally cruel when so many people you depend on for your banking, shoes, food and entertainment are all your friends.
    The “Big City” stereotype is one of bluntness and speed and where aggression carries the day. People can tend to be “less careful” about the self-expression of feelings and behaviors because the pool of people is bigger and your chance of being rude is more likely to hit a person you will never see again.
    For some, the Big City attitude can start to feel refreshing as you “speak your mind without a filter” and that is where this kind of cruelty begins to wash beyond the city structure and onto The Internets where no one is anyone and everybody can be someone.
    On the web you are able to take a conversation down to its root emotions just because you can and because you never have to stand for anything and you never have to account for any of your behavior: Change your username, change your email address, change your ISP and you’re reborn to cruel again.

  23. Well, Katha, I wish you would chip in even when you have something INsignificant to say because… well… you’re always unique and interesting!
    😀
    You’re smart to use this forum as a way of testing your writing and thought skills! You can try out new ideas here and new ways of thinking in the form of immediate feedback!
    You could even use your articles to post thoughts and ideas for articles or papers to see what most interests those around the world who happen to read this blog.
    I didn’t know you had future plans to be a journalist. Neat! Are you not planning on becoming a professional educator?
    Thanks for letting me know you find pleasure in the old articles here! That makes the hard work worthwhile!

  24. Hi David,
    It’s interesting to note that even in the “Big City” people usually inhabit and do business in a relatively few small portions of the city. The same thing is true on the internet.
    City dwellers are known on their blocks where they work, live and play. People sometimes forget that big cities are really networks of small towns.
    Both places might be wide open and filled with people one may never see again. But, if you go back to a certain “neighborhood” enough times — whether in the city or on the ‘net — people will start to recognize you.
    People forget that people remember bad behavior, no matter if it’s in the electronic or “real” world.
    You can change your hat or clothes in the real world or your ISP in the virtual, but people will still remember the grating quality of an obnoxious visitor.

  25. Chris —
    Right! On your Brooklyn “Big City” block you behave, but up the block in Queens — where you are a stranger — you go by Wild Web Rules where you can be as obnoxious as your CHOOSE to be and, unfortunately, too many people make that choice!

  26. “Yes, I agree there are people who “get off” on “going off” on others. They’re probably quite nice if you’d meet them in person.
    Oh, and please don’t curse on this blog. ”
    Sorry for the offense. Actually, in that context, I’m not sure I’d agree that was cursing – but that’s perhaps a discussion for another post 😉
    Some of them probably are quite nice when you meet them but, as has already been mentioned, it’s about the anonymity. If somebody’s nasty when they think they can get away with it and nice when meeting people face to face then what does that say about their true character?
    For quite a while now I’ve been commenting to people about the seeming lack of personal responsibility that seems evident in everyday life. This thread has made me think a bit – perhaps it’s been caused (in part at least) by the ability to “hide” while online, thereby never taking any consequences.
    Hmm, that was a bit of a ramble. Sorry about that …

  27. Hi Mike —
    Well — it’s just easier to allow none of it than some of it — first the “p” word then the “c” and “s” words and then the “f” word and then we’re tumbling down the rabbit hole of blue language. In extreme and necessary cases I’ve allowed some usage but not much and definitely not as an encouraged rule.
    I like it when you ramble!
    I think there is safety in anonymity and in that safety people exploit the worst of what they are and taunt the worst in others.
    If I had a way to require a “Real ID” registration process here for comments – I’ve talked about requiring all Bloggers to have a license before they can blog, but that’s another story — that would solidly identify each person as they are in “real life” and not “internet life” I would do it because you will get much more reasonable responses and the insights and disagreements would be more honorable and respectful.

  28. David,
    I wanted to be a wildlife photographer/travel journalist in the first place. Quite daring if you think of my background!
    The yearning is still there.
    Though I am absolutely clueless how I am going to do it – but I know I will do it. If not today…there is always a tomorrow!
    Thanks for everything!

  29. Do you find the best blogs are populated with like-minded people, or are the best blogs those that are more a cacophony of dissent against the Blogmaster and other commenters?
    Neither.
    The best blogs to me are the ones that make me think. Sometimes this can be one line, sometimes a quote I have not seen before – or an essay or picture – or one that invites discussion – such as this.
    Blogs with flamewars are not to my taste and neither are those that attempt to “ram” things down your throat.

  30. David, I missed a part of your question.
    I am going to be a professional educator in my near future. but the desire of being a journalist/wildlife photographer is there…I can free lance, right?
    That can be my pastime!