“There’s something that’s really bothering me that I want to tell you about… but I can’t…”
“There’s someone I think is an egotistical jerk. I’m sure you all know who I’m talking about.”
“I want to write about a certain blogger who did ____, but I don’t want to stir the pot.”
“Certain bloggers have been writing really bad things about ____, and it makes me mad… But I shouldn’t say more”
I read the excellent comments on my last post and they really gave me some food for thought. I was beating myself up about making assumptions, not thinking about the fact that the creation of meaning is a two-way street. Yes, I made assumptions and wrote something immature in response, but Stephen Abram wrote something that was so vague and open to misunderstanding that a number of people took his comments to be offensive. Mark made the very important point that the writer cannot control how people will interpret things, and therefore, it is important that we bloggers make an effort to be clear in our meaning. You can’t expect people to e-mail you to ask you what you meant. We can’t read your mind. I’m not a big believer in the notion that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, but I do believe that if you can’t be specific about what you want to discuss on your blog, don’t write it. If you have to explain what you wrote after the fact, then you should have been more specific in the first place.
Vague posts are probably the thing that annoys and frustrates me most in the blogosphere. People often complain about other bloggers or about their job, but in such unspecific ways that it just annoys most of their readers. If it’s a post complaining about someone, but is so unspecific that only two or three people know who you’re actually referring to, it’s confusing to your readers and open to misinterpretation. What if one of your faithful readers thinks that you are writing about them? If it’s a post complaining about things going on in the blogosphere that bother you with no specifics, you could end up offending a lot of people whom you were not referring to at all. Steven Cohen’s “diatribe” from December is a great example of a post that offers no specifics, probably annoyed a lot of people, and confused a good number of his readers. When I read a post like that, I honestly feel like unsubscribing to the blog, because I’m obviously not enough of an insider to know who and what the blogger’s talking about.
Yes, I often write things that are opinionated and controversial, but I’m not afraid to take a 100% stand on things. And if I can’t “name names” or be specific, I won’t write about it at all. There are lots of things I have wanted to write about but I haven’t, either because I didn’t want to confront people, hurt people’s feelings, or I just wasn’t able to discuss it fully. This is not aimed at anyone in particular, since I don’t want to be misunderstood, but it is kind of cowardly to make vague, angry comments and then hide behind them. Are we writing library blogs or Page Six? “A certain blogger celebrity IM’ed me the other day to tell me that this other blogger was…” If you can’t be more specific, don’t write it at all.
A few weeks ago, Michael Casey was offended by a comment I wrote on my blog. I totally didn’t mean to offend him; it truly was the last thing from my mind. I happen to think he’s a swell guy and I like his blog. But I apologized. I accepted some of the blame for not being clear enough, even though he totally misinterpreted what I wrote since I didn’t have any malice on my mind. So yes, I’m sorry that I wrote what I wrote about what Stephen Abram wrote, but I still did think what he wrote didn’t seem very nice and was extremely vague.
So I’ll try and see everything y’all write in the best light possible, but y’all need to try and avoid being intentionally vague for the purpose of ranting about something that bothers you.