Given how testy I’ve been in a recent comment thread, I thought I’d mention this in an entry of its own:
Everyone is welcome here, even the people who think I’m full of crap.
One of the things I have been deeply happy about here at the Whatever is that the “crowd” here — the people who comment and participate in discussion — includes people with all sorts of points of view, political, social, economic and so on. Having all these points of view here makes me feel good because it means I’ve created a place where all sorts of people feel comfortable visiting. I really love that.
Often times these folks have points of view wildly different from mine, and often times when I write something they’ll be happy to tell me in the comment threads that I’m full of crap. My thought on this: Good. I don’t like being told I am full of crap, but you know what? It doesn’t matter if I like it. Sometimes I am full of crap (please note the disclaimer, point #2), and therefore someone pointing that fact out is not outside the bounds. If you’ve got facts and figures to go along with the assertion, so much the better.
If you suggest that I am full of crap, I will most likely get annoyed; that will probably be evident in my response. But! My being annoyed does not mean you have either shut up or leave. If I think you’ve overstepped some bound (as noted in my comment thread rules), I’ll either reel you in with a follow-up comment, or (if you’re truly obnoxious enough) I’ll delete the message. I have yet to delete a message from a person who was genuinely participating in a discussion (I’ve deleted some flyby dickishness, but even that is rare), so make of that what you will. Short of me saying something to you in a very explicit fashion (i.e., “Dude, you’ve gone beyond the bounds, and here’s why, and if you don’t stop I’ll delete you”) you are golden and may continue to poke and prod.
I prefer you treat other commenters with respect and confront their ideas and not them. However, you need not be terribly gentle with me. I mean, I prefer you attack my ideas and not me, too. However, I know myself well enough to know that personal attacks don’t bother me in a long-term fashion. By the same token, be aware I am not always gentle when I think something you’ve said is full of crap, and from time to time I might go over a personal bound with you. If you think I’ve gone too far into the personal realm when we’re going around, let me know in a comment or e-mail. I’ll recalibrate.
No, seriously. I do try to be sensitive to people’s comfort zones; some people can take more of this sort of thing than others. Because I can take a lot of crap and because I’ve spent over a decade talking various sorts of crap on the ‘net, by default I assume other people can take a similar amounts of crap and brush it off. If I am wrong in your case I want to know, as soon as you feel uncomfortable. I want this place to be challenging and sometimes confrontational — I don’t want people to feel like they’re being abused, particularly by me.
In a general sense, I do try to follow the Inverse Golden Rule in comment threads, which means I do onto others as they have done to me. I’m confrontational to people who are confrontational, mellow with people who are mellow, substantive with people who are substantive, nasty to people who are nasty. That’s what I try for anyway. I am human. I don’t always succeed. I do hope you’ll forgive me if (when!) I go off the rails.
This next thing is important: When I start a new entry, I hit the reset button. Whatever arguments, confrontations or disputes are in an earlier comment thread get left there. You and I might argue in one thread and agree in another. Each comment thread is its own event. I treat them that way and I suggest you do too. Life is too short to carry grudges based on comment threads.
The reason I can hit the reset button with each new comment thread is simple: At the end of the day I believe people who come and comment here are good people whom I would be happy to know in real life. I assume that no matter how heated an argument can get in a comment thread, at any point in time we could stop and one of us would say “I’m getting this round.” This is in part rooted in my real-life experience with friends; my best friend from high school and I, for example, can get into arguments that to an outside observer looks like we’re about to stab each other to death, and then after we’re done we’ll go get something to eat at the nearest family restaurant. I assume that people who like each other can and do argue passionately and even politically incorrectly and still like each other when the argument is done.
If I’m arguing with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or wouldn’t like you if we were to meet. Believe me, if I don’t like you, you’ll know, because I’ll tell you. There’s no point in being coy about it. Unless I tell you that, however, please do assume that as a human, I think you’re all right. Because, really, aren’t you? Exactly.
In sum: Whoever you are, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you’ll stick around. And I hope you’ll feel free to tell me when you think I’m full of crap. It happens, you know. It’s okay to point it out.