Time to Raise the Decorum Levels


Rober Scoble jumped into the latest dustup between Dave Winer and Roger Cadenhead that has the blogospehere abuzz. I posted some of the below post as a comment to his piece entitled “The new A list” but wanted to repost it here since it is so important to me.

What can we do about trying to keep people focused on discussing the issues rather than letting the conversation deteriorate into a childish name calling battle? We can lead by example. To a lesser degree, this issue came up with Tara’s response to a post in which she was referenced by another blogger with derogatory remarks. I almost hate linking to it, but the issue of rising above the name calling and moving to respect and dialogue is coming out a lot lately.

We need to set examples for how to deal with this so that the community standards shift from that of name calling and demeaning each other back to reasonable discourse focused on the issues (when they are important at least). I don’t know if it will ever happen fully, because, as I have said before, “there are always going to be assholes out there somewhere shitting on other people – online and off”. It is really unfortunate that this is the way some people get their feelings of self importance – by putting other people down instead of lifting them up. it is that never ending cycle of abuse that was the key driver in many individual’s socialization while growing up in ‘broken’ households. The good news, is that people can rise above that – they just need a little help in finding their way sometimes.

As Scoble and Mike Arrington said, I don’t know about the facts of the matter here, but this is exactly the sort of issue which is a perfect case study on decorum in the blogosphere and the nature of public disputes. Because the blog/comment system enables it so easily, we are able to see the long tail of low value commentary much more easily – I dont necessarily think this is an attack mob, though I could see how it would FEEL like one. I just think that all the people who have felt wronged by Dave in some way are expressing their emotions and frustrations thinking this is the opportunity they have been waiting for. Cadenhead even admits to being an ardent supporter of Dave previously, most likely behaving in a similar manner on Dave’s behalf instead of against him, but I don’t know those facts – just pointing out the possibility that this is subjective and shifting.

Of course, that just muddies the waters of the point I am trying to convey.

The bottom line is that people like Scoble and Arrington have the power to influence a lot of others to refocus the dialogue on the issues rather than resort to name calling. But its hard, so most people will take the easy way out. Instead of laying out an argument as to why somebody said or did something they believe to be wrong, or behaved in a way that is pereceived to be inappropriate, they just call the other party names which is really just like putting some Crisco on that slippery slope…

I have been trying to make this point for the last several years, but am often dismissed by those who believe in the free form chaos of the Web – by those who say “F___ off – its our Web and we will say what we want”. By the people who think it is ok to call Bullshit, or call someone an asshole rather than laying out why they think differently than them. It is a tough but delicate line to manage here, because to a degree they are right – free speech means people can and should be able to say what they want – but when the speech is of a derogatory nature that it prevents the dialogue from moving forward and puts everyone 2 steps back, I think there are reasons for some of us to step into the ad-hoc mediator role and refocus those around us away from the name calling and back to the truth telling.

We should all learn to be more respectful of each other and to focus our energy on tearing down ideas we believe are incorrect, not tearing down the people who believe differently then we do. Robert, I hope you are able to move this idea forward better than I have been able to…

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