June 20, 2004

Just Thoughts...

It has been a strange few days. It feels like a few weeks, but days. Only days.

Anyone who has been to this place before, and everyone new, knows I stepped into a fray by speaking out soon after the weblogs.com fiasco began. I wouldn't change a word of what I said. Not a word. Yes, I struggled for a bit with "Psychosis," since this seemed to be a sticking point around the whole "ad hominem attack" debate. I toyed with posting an apology saying that I should have used the word "Neurosis." In the end, though, after all was said and done, I felt okay with "Psychosis."

I had a talk with a blogger friend today on some interesting issues around getting personal, being real, and resonance. These same issues have been giving me pause lately about blogging. As blogging beats the door of the mainstream, with more bloggers covering more mainstream events/issues/topics, and fewer bloggers getting personal, I see a dilution of voice--the kind of genuine voice that kicked blogging into gear in 2001/2002--and a spike in the boredom level of blog reading and writing. Until this past week, FOX News was more exciting to watch than surfing the top blogs on Technorati.

Part of it is that. Driven by the evolution of tools that categorize us--whether we want them to or not--by mainstream standards. Technorati now makes it so easy to search on discussions around current news and current hot topics, even current books. But what about current loss, current dreams, current cancer, current love affairs, and current babies being born. Show me the top images recently posted across blogs, like Shelley's flowers and Halley's new tan. This is the place where I don't want to care about what I'm told I'm supposed to care about. This is the place where I want to care about you--and me.

In that phone conversation today, we also wound around the blogworld's notions of flamers and trolls. I don't know when the use of these terms became standard license for shutting people up, but that's what has happened. What is a flamer and what is a flame war? It's like obscenity; I know it when I see it. But these words, you see, they are tricky.

They can be so easily used by others who would prefer you remain silent. Stake your claim, get personal, say, "You're full of shit," and you're a flamer. Stick around somebody's site and call them on inconsistencies, or alert them that they've wandered too far from home, and "you're a troll."

No no no.

It's okay,
Spark to flame,


If you do remember, you'll also remember that the use of the word "Flamer/Flame War" and "Troll" were once rare here. I think maybe non-existent. Go back through your archives and comments from 2001/2002, or go through mine. You won't find folks in blogspace who disagreed with one another, and got personal about it, called "flamers." You won't find the folks who showed up in your comments to keep you honest called "trolls." Just didn't happen that way. And there's a reason for that.

It goes back to that mainstream thing--standards and protocols not of technology, but of behavior and voice. Copy-catting the status quo. Taking the easy way out.

Now, more bloggers measure what they say, try to provide "balance" and "fairness." Both sides. Equal time. Please, no profanity and keep it at the 3,000 foot level.

To me, that sounds like old-school journalism. Reporting, not blogging. Methodology, not creativity.

Nothing to see here. Go on home.

THIS is the place that asked us to get biased. To have an opinion. To matter, to count, to speak--To speak in a genuine voice, not like contrived, carved-mouthed ventriloquist dummies. At the same time, of course, there was a familiarity--stronger threads and a smaller web--because the communities were smaller and tighter. As a result, we cared.

A lot.

I don't mind so much that this place has become large enough where we can't target our care and concern like a laser beam anymore. I DO care, as a student of voice, about the dilution of what feels real, the seeping of mainstream expectations and policies into this world.

To bring it back around to the last few days, I will say that I hit upon something today that absolutely floored me. It's about the rush. The rush I feel when I read someone who is writing from the gut, from that raw place that feels so good to scratch, the place we used to scratch a lot more often. In writing, being real doesn't have to mean being nice. Being real can mean writing from the brink, you're walking the beam between here and there between madness and the mayhem, trying to decide the best way to keep your footing, or how to tuck a shoulder in during the free fall.

If I can say nothing else, I can say that Dave Winer was himself in this. In his written voice and audio posts, Through all of it. Through the twisted explanations of what happened and why, through the threats and accusations that came after, to the call for the posse. And there's something about that, God forgive me, that resonated with me beyond what was being said. Even about me. There was something that felt just a tiny bit right.

Maybe it was the raw spontaneous outrage -- his and ours -- emitted with taste and smell and sound surround. Damn the consequences--this is who I am and what I think, and don't get in my way.

I'm not suggesting that what are now called flame wars should become the new or revised golden standard of blogging; I'm CERTAINLY not suggesting that what Dave did or said was right. In fact, I'd argue it was 90-percent wrong, and 5-percent nearly criminal.

But there was something, in the in-between space.

A twinge, an energy. We were lifted right before we fell. From that single point, there was more resonance than echo, and I recognized it just before we were plunged into the valley of the horrible.

It was before the flames. It was the crackle of kindling, when the smoke carves its first impression in the night sky.

And it reminded me.


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