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Some Views on Blogs and Talking Politics


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 02:25 PM

Sometimes there's clues that a question is on many minds at once :o

Why I Keep Politics Out of A Professional Blog

Is It Safe to Mix Blogs, Forums and Politics?

Why You Should Post About Politics

After reading, I came to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong approach. It depends on your blog mission.

I do think that it would be a non-issue if people knew how to communicate peacefully, without forcing their beliefs on others. There's a strong inability to listen or read with detachment. This is not something people are taught how to do.

If you own a blog, do you wish to go off-topic? Why are you holding back (if you do?)

#2 SEOigloo

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:33 PM

Greetings Kim,
What an interesting thread! Our blog is brand new, so I haven't really come to this, but I know I read something very like this over on Jim Boykin's blog recently. He asked his readers if they would be interested in him blogging on his personal political views and almost everyone said no.

Actually, I thought some of the comments were a bit rude to him. He spends all that time writing all his great posts and asks if people would interested in something off-topic, and they all kind of frowned at him and basically said, "No, keep giving us your information on business matters." I can't imagine speaking to someone like that in person, i.e. "No, just tell me what you know; I don't care what else you think about."

I guess the danger in doing something like this would be alienating some of your readers, especially if the issue being discussed was one folks have heated views on. Nevertheless, I generally prefer reading the writing of people who have strong, settled opinions rather than wishy washy ones...or worse yet, no opinions!

I did actually write one blog post recently that might fall into this category. I live near the Pt. Reyes National Seashore and the parks service is about to exterminate these beautiful deer because they are non-native. I am so upset about this, I had to blog about it. It's an issue that has created tremendous controversy in the local area and my conscience wouldn't let me be silent when I feel so strongly about saving the fallow and axis deer that share the land with us...and I have a blog at my disposal which makes it so easy to speak my piece.

Good thread, Kim. Thank you for posting this.

#3 cre8pc

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 05:40 PM

"No, just tell me what you know; I don't care what else you think about."


:applause:

This is so perceptive!

In Randfish's blog, he has 6 prospective employees submit blog entries to his blog membership, to get feedback on what members think of style, substance, etc.

I felt that I was in the minority in my feedback there because I wanted to know what these people thought and cared about.

#4 Ruud

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 06:22 PM

One has to be an outstanding communicator to make use of words, each with their own thought-association on a per reader basis, in such a way that you get across what you think and not what the reader thinks you think.

This can be very difficult already in regular, person-to-person oral communication, let alone in written form.

The contra is that in writing there is no (initial) discussion. No, "so you really think that...?!"

The pro is that at times this give you the chance, the time, the space, to get your point across, to make your point, without being interrupted and taken off track.

I do think that it would be a non-issue if people knew how to communicate peacefully, without forcing their beliefs on others.


I think that that is admirable up to a certain point. Draw the premise ex absurdo and you can see the point where you might get upset -- the same point others with "less" tolerance cross.

If you own a blog, do you wish to go off-topic? Why are you holding back (if you do?)


I have a number of sites and a number of blogs. I prefer to guide everything into its own stream.

Finally it depends also on the blog you run. A professional's professional blog should consider, more or less, the rules of social interaction. When you've "just" met someone you don't start talking about politics: you get to know eachother.

#5 SEOigloo

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 07:08 PM

Thank you, Kim! :unsure: I'm excited about receiving my first applause on Cre8asite! I feel happy.

Seriously, though, those blog submissions on SEOmoz made me almost sick to my stomach with nervousness for the candidates. I was reading all of them feeling as though I had written them myself and anxiously waiting to see what people would say. Test anxiety!!! It was a really neat idea of Mr. Fishkin's, but I just felt so edgy thinking of the 6 people who had had to write the posts hoping, no doubt, so fervently to be chosen to work for that great company. My heart went out to all of them. Do you know what I mean?

Sorry to take your post off-topic, but you mentioning those blog entries made me feel nervous all over again. Haha.
Miriam

#6 DCrx

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 08:28 PM

In most cases information design is about ....something ...or other. My take on the subject sheds light on the very dynamics driving the news and politics. Specifically the cognitive science of bias.

The results say a lot about partisan behavior in general -- why Republicans and Democrats love to hate each other, for example, or why Coke and Pepsi fans clash. Sadly, the results also say a lot about the newest conflicts between Israel and its enemies in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and why news organizations are being besieged with angry complaints from both sides.
-- Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases


These groups reach different conclusions because they have different contexts. But the interesting thing is they don't care as much about the other side as they do about neutrals. "Ross and Perloff both found that what partisans worry about the most is the impact of the news on neutral observers." The motivator is persuasion of the undecided.

Perhaps it is a unusual dimension of the topic, but it makes the dynamic understandable. Information design would not seem to have anything to do with politics at first. But if information is understanding, then you've got your angle. It's the same dynamic if you're talking mac/pc or linux/windows.

Edited by DCrx, 13 September 2006 - 08:36 PM.


#7 joedolson

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 08:51 PM

Seriously, though, those blog submissions on SEOmoz made me almost sick to my stomach with nervousness for the candidates.


Me too...particularly since, after I voted, I saw that one person had not yet received a single vote! They were all very good entries, but we only got 1 vote - so I couldn't pick a second favorite.

I actually voted for the one which I felt conveyed the most personality, as it happens. Like you, what I want from a blog post is the viewpoint of a single person - I want to get a sense for what they think about a subject. This is the critical difference, in my mind, between a blog post and an article - I read an article for information. It may or may not contain personal information; I don't really care. But I do consider a blog to be more personal.

The question of politics is excruciatingly complicated...ultimately, the decision rests on a lot of issues. Rand was right - he has an obligation to his company to avoid these issues, because he can't just make that decision for everybody. Aaron can - SEObook is his company pure and simple. But, regardless of whether you CAN make the decision - writing about politics or any other highly controversial subject can be very difficult.

Personally, I don't write about politics (except in a general sense) on my business blogs. This is inexact, because technically speaking, accessibility has distinct political aspects - and can certainly be very controversial.

However, I reserve my stronger political opinions (in theory, at any rate) for my environmentalism site - that's where I think they're more appropriate.

The fact is, my opinions are out there and available for perusal - and if somebody is concerned enough to connect the dots, then they can form a relatively complete picture of who I am. I figure that anybody who's going to go to that much work either 1) agrees with me and is curious to learn more -or- 2) disagrees with me and wants more evidence to lambast me with. However, most people are only concerned with how what I say relates to them, I imagine. So, for those people, I tend to keep my blogs within a fairly narrow scope.

#8 SEOigloo

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 10:44 PM

Joe! I never saw your environmental site before. That is awesome!

I will spend some more time visiting there, for sure.

Oddly enough, I came back here to this thread though I'd already posted, because I've been thinking about this issue all day, and it ties in a bit with what you are saying, Joe.

My husband and I are vegans with VERY strong views on the subject. However, when we go to the homes of others or invite people into our home, we would not dream of shouting our views at them. The only time I have ever spoken to others about my own beliefs is when I have been asked. I have met other vegans who are extremely rude and caustic (and unkind to human animals) because of differing value systems. Teaching by example has always seemed the wisest and best route when it comes to showing others who you are, and why you live the way you do. I have a feeling at least 2 of my nieces will grow up to be vegans simply because I am in their lives.

Your blog is a bit like your home, isn't it? How do you wish to welcome guests to this space? With soapbox shouting or a message of acceptance and inclusiveness. Far beyond the world of PC, linkbait, etc., don't manners dictate that we should avoid making people uncomfortable, and should make a judgement call about which subjects are appropriate in which environments? Because, on the Internet, we cannot physically show people are lives through a blog, perhaps there are ways to communicate what we care about in a friendly manner.

For myself, I would fear developing a Napoleon complex if my blog ever attained the wide readership that those of the big players in this discussion have. These folks have attained their present position because of their expertise in search. They are used to having people take them very seriously whenever they talk. There would be opportunities in this situation to mistake this loyalty revolving around business expertise for a loyalty in all things, and I can certainly appreciate Rand Fishkin's decision not to overstep his bounds, particularly as his employees are counting on him to continue to maintain a professional atmosphere.

So, I guess I'm concluding at this point that while I do support the idea of people sharing their worldviews, the presentation of those views ought to be respectful, and dare I say....humble?

#9 joedolson

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 12:18 AM

Your blog is a bit like your home, isn't it? How do you wish to welcome guests to this space? With soapbox shouting or a message of acceptance and inclusiveness.


Or, perhaps, like a home office - part home, part work - but I always want it to be welcoming.

Joe! I never saw your environmental site before. That is awesome!


Thanks! If there's anything in your area you'd like to make me aware of, please do! I'm always looking for additional green businesses to add to my listings.

So, I guess I'm concluding at this point that while I do support the idea of people sharing their worldviews, the presentation of those views ought to be respectful, and dare I say....humble?


I can get behind that!

Best,
Joe

#10 postreach

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 09:13 PM

I agree with the thread. A blog is a persistent personal representation or a representation of a company. The question is what you want represented (and if you are allowed to if it is corporate) and the consequences/benefits of the new persona.

The idea of humble, context-neutral, well-articulated, well structured thinking blogs is great. If only all people could communicate (bi-directionally) in that fashion. However, it seems that controversy gets more mindshare. Blogwars, trash/talk-radio, etc. Will humble blogs end up in an echochamber?

I personally do not blog about poltiics. I only mention politics when people blame technology for problems when the true underlying issues are people/politics.

#11 A.N.Onym

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 09:25 PM

The thing is that while your audience agrees in receiving quality content in the industry for free, they may have different political views.

And those, who would agree with your politic views, most likely won't be interested in your industry blog.

So I guess the decision lies in where you want your blog to go: your field or politics.

Of course, a widely known blogger can influence his readers on political views and still keep the audience, but startup and not well known bloggers should rather spend time on creating quality content.

I too feel strongly about some political situations (as well as environmental problems - I am a strict vegan (no, not just a vegetarian) too, btw), but I think that I'll lose my target audience if they disagree with me and I won't get any target audience to my industry blog with an unrelated blog post.

But anyway, you can get controversial in your own industry (not necessarily politics, where it's very easy) and still get stay on topic. To get controversial you need to get noticed, though, and present some innovative point of view, of course, but that's another story.

#12 bragadocchio

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 10:01 PM

I write on a few blogs that are tied to businesses, and attempt to avoid political issues in all of them as much as possible.

But, if I do write about a topic that might be political in nature, I try to do so from an objective perspective, expressing arguments and counter-arguments on both sides (or from more than two sides).

The audiences of those blogs haven't come to the blogs to see a specific political agenda expressed, but rather to learn about legal issues or business issues or search-related issues (depending upon the blogs). I'm writing to them, and for them. I want them to learn about what is going on in the Delaware legal field, or help them with their businesses, or learn something about search engines.

But anyway, you can get controversial in your own industry (not necessarily politics, where it's very easy) and still get stay on topic. To get controversial you need to get noticed, though, and present some innovative point of view, of course, but that's another story.


Absolutely. For example, instead of writing about how the "current administration" is adversely affecting the growth and development of small business, it's more important for me to write specifically about how some of the present laws might have negative impacts upon small businesses, and offer some potential solutions to those problems - without attacking any political party or person.

Likewise, instead of attacking Google or Yahoo! or MSN for the way that they read and interpret robots.txt files, it's better to describe how each of them many handle robots.txt and provide a way of writing a robots.txt file that explains how to make sure that pages and directories that are supposed to be disallowed are, and crawl delays that are supposed to be honored in different ways will be.

#13 A.N.Onym

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 07:06 AM

I'd even suspect that if you write some truly innovative and *useful* solution, you may get noticed in the administration (even in your small town) and the respect of your industry peers. That's more valuable than some quick links with the 'there he goes again' anchor text, imho.

#14 earlpearl

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 09:04 AM

Nice objective discussion, Kim:

With a relatively new and small seo forum, seorefugee has essentially banned political discussions for the time being. Our objective was to limit controversial topics that can erupt into personal attacks, while trying to grow the forum in a relatively peaceful environment.

Not only do I watch, but I participate in the political/religeon section at DP. I enjoy at times engaging in the debates. Various threads within that section have been closed as the venom hit levels beyond those that were tolerable. There have been bannings from personal attacks within that part of the forum--and probably because they expand to other parts of the forum (though I can't be sure)

It certainly can get rough. Yet at the same time I've pm'd back and forth w/at least one member of that forum on purely seo (and a separate non-political topic). And this has occurred while we are probably on opposite sides of the political spectrum 90% of the time.

It doesn't slow down DP though. It is certainly one of the busiest and most popular seo forums....and frankly attendance in the political section is minimal relative to the large number of people visiting and commenting within that forum.

In fact it would be interesting to invite Shawn (Mr. DP himself ;-) ) to participate here with regard to this issue.

I don't think there is a right way or wrong way...merely different opinions and directions.

#15 cre8pc

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 10:01 AM

In fact it would be interesting to invite Shawn (Mr. DP himself ;-) ) to participate here with regard to this issue.


By all means! We'd welcome that, of course :)

I sometimes wonder if forums are a teaching aid, where people get training in how to communicate with each other, despite differences in culture, opinions, religious values, etc.

Creating peace has to start somewhere :banana:

#16 earlpearl

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 10:05 AM

I sometimes wonder if forums are a teaching aid, where people get training in how to communicate with each other, despite differences in culture, opinions, religious values, etc.

Creating peace has to start somewhere


LOL: I'll pm shawn at dp and see if he wishes to add comments here. He certainly has a lot of experience on dealing with the issue.

#17 Brad

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 12:00 PM

It depends on the purpose of the blog. If it is a business blog about a particular subject, then I tend to avoid talking about religion and politics. Likewise, I avoid those subjects when I post on SEO forums such as Cre8.

But my main blog is really my personal blog in which I also talk about search engines and SEO as one topic amongst many. One reason for the blog is as a place for me to rant :) about those topics which I feel I must refrain from talking about in the forums - especially where I moderate and have a captive audience.

#18 digitalpoint

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 01:16 PM

It's most definitely a grey area, and the success/failure of such an area within a forum largely depends on a forum's moderation style...

As a general rule, we never tell people what they can/can't talk about in our forum.  I believe a forum starts to loose value as an avenue for discussion as soon as admins or mods start telling people what is okay/no okay to talk about.  It's tough sometimes because there are often threads that we (admins/mods) strongly disagree with, but for a forum to be truly "open" we have to consider ourselves not any better and not any more right than any other user.  We just have to remind ourselves that all users aren't going to agree with our viewpoints either, and it's not fair for us to only allow discussion about what we (personally) like.  At that point, we might as well just have discussion with only ourselves.   :)

With Digital Point, it started simply as a way to separate the Politics/Religion threads from General Chat, but at the same time not tell people what they can/can't talk about.  It was a compromise that allowed the topics to exist, but not force everyone to read them.

As far as keeping everyone "in line" (in any part of the forum), we take a pretty black and white stance on things if anyone does anything that violates any rules.  We have gotten to the size (6,500+ posts/day) where having personal conversations with users asking them to please stop doing something that clearly is wrong to begin with.  We use an infraction system where one-click logs the type of infraction, the date, the post, notifies the user, etc.  Too many infractions in a small timeframe will lead to an automatic ban for awhile.

We don't have time to babysit users, but if anyone reports any post that is an attack against an individual or a group of people (like a religion), they will get infracted.  If they continue, their infractions will lead to a ban.

For us it (mostly) worked out because of our combination of allowing any topic/discussion along with our no-nonsense moderation/infraction system.

#19 earlpearl

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Posted 17 October 2006 - 02:54 PM

thanks for the comments Shawn.

Its certainly grey. I like the fact that its there in dp. It probably wouldn't be as successful in some other seo forums.

dp is so big that a relatively few people can rail away on controversial non seo stuff and it has no impact on overall forum activity.

Meanwhile it does cross lines at times...and I suppose each forum/blog would set its own rules.

hmmmm.....after working a bit more I may need to get back over there soon and teach some of those scoundrals that have the wrong perspectives about how correct my political views are :rofl:

#20 earlpearl

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 07:38 PM

I've been over at dp ranting away.

It's really neat that there is that outlet. On the other hand, I try and stay rigidly non-political at seorefugee.

I doubt if refugee has the size and traffic to cope with the vehemence that takes place at dp.

Those two experiences mirror what I've tried to practice in the world. In most of my work life I never discuss politics or controversial issues.

Yet I love going over this stuff and enjoy both agreeing with like minded people and engaging in debate.

Its a totally grey area, in my experience that can work at some places and not at others.

#21 earlpearl

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 10:30 AM

Having now received an infraction and some direct responses which were the kind of attacking language that would result in a fight if it was said directly, my experience is that I would keep politics and controversial topics out of seo and website forums and blogs. They bring up a level of anger and confrontation that has nothing to do with seo/technical web discussions.

Having been on the mod side and the infractured side...and seen the reactions of others who have been penalized for creating non seo/website controversy within forums/blogs I'd suggest strongly that the forums/blogs work to avoid those controversies.

There are a million other places where this stuff can be discussed in an open environment.

#22 earlpearl

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 09:36 AM

A little update on this thread, Kim.

Shawn, at Digital Point recently inserted the following thread; http://forums.digita...ad.php?t=512033 with regard to the Politics and Religion (P&R) section of Digital Point. Additionally, a sticky has been inserted at the top of the P&R section; Enclosed is the substance of the sticky;

Personal attacks will not be tolerated at DP and offenders will be banned IMMEDIATELY AND PERMANENTLY!

THIS IS YOUR WARNING!

No infractions will be given. You will be banned and your post(s) deleted.

Personal attacks include any attacks on someone's personal life, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, ETHNICITY, or personal habits.

I would request that any personal attacks in this forum be brought to our attention via the "Report Post" function.

Do you think this is CHILDISH? We agree...it's pretty sad!



Thanks!


I believe things got out of hand there. Although, I'm not sure, I think DP got hacked from servers located in Turkey and went down twice recently. There may have been references to this occurring in the P&R section, though I'm not sure. I'm definitely not aware of the specifics but caught references to this after it happened and after the new warnings were established by Shawn and the mods at DP.

As one who has posted in that section, there is no doubt that the level of attacks were loud, consistent, venomous, hateful, and possibly dominated the section. It had gotten out of hand. I worked hard not to post in that style, but I know some of my posts reflected that type of interaction versus an effort to simply state opinions or present facts.

The attacks really have gotten out of hand.

I think a real life example is an excellent instructor versus all the theories about what to do and how to proceed. Shawn referenced in his post above how he added this section some time ago simply to move all the political comments that permeated throughout the forum. As either the largest or 2nd largest SEO forum there were sure to be political comments. I mod at refugee, and that far smaller forum has its share of political and/or controversial topics. Our response has been to watch very closely and try and eliminate any of these issues before they ever get out of hand or erupt into controversy and attacks.

Frankly, we learned from DP's example.

(an edit and little update)-> since posting this I went into a thread at the P&R section in which I had posted earlier, but not since this ban. The mods, had been out-> giving penalties for inappropriate comentary. All of the subsequent posts were about the "new rules-or enforcement of old rules". Mod comments suggested if one wanted to be in good standing at dp....don't post in the P&R section. How interesting. DP may cut down on the bad language and horrendous attacks by enforcing rules about decent behavior.

Just thought you might be interested in an update. As for my $0.02: I'd keep politics and other controversial topics out of a forum that is focused on SEO, usability or any such topic.

Dave

Edited by earlpearl, 16 October 2007 - 11:04 AM.


#23 SEOigloo

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Posted 16 October 2007 - 05:29 PM

Gosh, Dave, wow...that's pretty alarming stuff. The post referenced by the Muslim fellow in that thread was particularly ugly. Unfortunately, bigotry, racism and all kinds of unacceptable mindsets appear to me to be very much alive in the world. This was one of the things that put me off of Reddit...seeing comments like this that turn my stomach.

I think, in the US, in particular, there is a veneer that racism has disappeared thanks to the civil rights movement. I think the era of political correctness has given another thin veneer that all faiths are respected, because we don't talk about them. Prior to investigating Social Media, my life experiences had made me believe that our country had become more loving and tolerant of differences. Perhaps it has, in some ways., but Social Media has taught me that our country is full of very racist, very bigoted people and, frankly, they scare the heck out of me. I don't know people in 'real life' who talk like this. But the Internet and SM has given me a new picture of my country that I am very worried by.

At the very least, it seems completely inappropriate to have speech like this happening on a tech forum. But, in general, it is the fact of speech like this happening anywhere at all that is so distressing. Oh, my, why can't people just get along? Our planet is so tiny.

Miriam

#24 earlpearl

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 10:35 AM

I was interested in Kim's original post here and her original blog post, which identified what some others were doing and thinking at the time.

DP is simply one example of a forum that acted on the question and allowed for political discussion. Frankly, it got terribly ugly. It got ugly from all sorts of people with all sorts of political opinions, not just the one you noted, Mirriam.

While I enjoyed posting my opinions, I didn't enjoy the ugliness. I can't say I didn't respond at times in an ugly manner, though I made an effort not to do so. I dropped out of certain threads simply because the original premise of the post or ideas became a series of personal attacks from all sides and the substance got lost in the attacks.

Lesson learned for me was that from a professional or technical blog or forum I'd stay very clear from allowing any controversial topics that have nothing to do with the topic of the forum or blog.

#25 cre8pc

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Posted 17 October 2007 - 02:59 PM

Thanks for the update. Forums go through many things and this is one of them :)



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