After reading the posts and comments about my speech and the controversial Q&A that followed, I've questioned whether it was worth writing a post defending my onstage actions. After much thought, I realized that it's not about the personalities involved (neither Ben Metcalfe or I are completely right or wrong) but rather the next steps in making blogging better.
There are really two points I want to emphasize.
- It's not about being nice—it's about accountability.
- Ultimately, we need to get more people blogging.
The point I was trying to make in my speech is that it's about taking as much responsibility for what we write online -- whether that's on a blog, in an email message, or on IRC -- as we would in a face-to-face, private conversation. What we say might not always be nice and that's okay. Certainly neither Ben M. saying "this is bullshit" or my calling him an "asshole" would qualify as "nice" -- the important point is taking accountability for what we say.
I think accountability and responsibility is about holding off seemingly anonymous attacks, giving people the benefit of the doubt and understanding that what you say online not only affects others but is part of a permanent record -- a record that, right now, is scary to some watching from afar.
The majority of people in the world aren't blogging yet, and a lot of them could truly benefit from this form of communication. We want them to be a part of our world, not only because we make blogging tools, but because every day we're reminded of people whose lives blogging has enriched or just made more enjoyable.
That's absolutely something we want to share with a wider audience.
And in fact, Ben M. and I had a private dialog later in the day, where we were able to spend time talking through these issues in a really productive conversation -- including us both apologizing for using such strong words. At the end of our talk, we both agreed to disagree about the types of discussion and tones appropriate for online conversation. My goal wasn't to change his mind but for him to realize the motivations that brought me to that place onstage.
We both came to a good question that could, in theory, sum up my entire speech:
Is it possible to have the sort of productive face-to-face connection or conversation that Ben M. and I had offline in an online world? And what can we, as bloggers, do to facilitate that?
I believe in blogging and I am willing to personally make mistakes in order to advance it to a new level. I was wrong for using the words I did onstage, but I do believe I was right for posing these questions. I wonder if these are questions that bloggers can ultimately answer?