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A friend and I have been engaged in an ongoing sometimes heated but always interesting debate about saying, No, in our professional lives and in our personal lives. The topic had become so engaging that I wrote a post about it on this blog. It mentioned our ongoing debate but did not touch upon it deeply. However, it did generate two comments. One from my friend and one from Penelope Trunk, whose post inspired our debate.

I was genuinely flattered that Penelope took time to comment. I wrote her and thanked her.

My friend has recently published a post on his blog that reveals more about the debate we have been having. He presents his side of the debate well, prompting me to begin writing a response to his post on this blog. Then it hit me – What’s the etiquette in this situation? When does it end? How many more posts will it take before we tire ourselves of the debate?

My initial reaction was Who Cares? They’re our blogs respectively and we can write about/ react to whatever we want. We have also known each other for over 20 years. If the debate gets heated, no one’s ego will be the worse for wear.

But does it excuse a breach of etiquette?
(If one even exists in this situation).

I searched Google and Yahoo! but did not find a definitive Emily Post-type guide to what was proper and what was not with regard to commenting on blog posts. However, most of the suggestions from other bloggers were similar:

  1. Don’t be hateful – there is a big difference between a critical debate and being just mean spirited.
  2. Don’t self promote – comments should be related to the post and not “spam” or a promotional opportunity for the commenter’s Web site.
  3. Link or Trackback to others you refer to – give credit where credit is due.
    (I just learned about trackbacks myself. Up until now I have been linking but I guess trackbacks are more “polite.” Happily, Live Writer’s Trackback tool is compatible with WordPress.)

Since most of the blogs I referenced say the same thing, I’m going to use Ward Jenkins’ blog, The Ward-O-Matic, as my sole point of reference. I chose his blog because his post on “comment etiquette” referenced other blogs with helpful etiquette lists and I felt his was the most well written.

He began by saying “blog etiquette is subjective” and dependent on the nature of the author. This is probably the biggest section of gray about commenting on other people’s posts, especially if you are sarcastic or particularly skeptical by nature. It’s hard enough in person but electronically with only the text of the comment to convey your message it is virtually impossible (the pun is intended).

I also want to mention Lorelle on WordPress. She has a post on how not to comment on a post. She says simply be thoughtful in drafting a comment. She actually uses the word “intelligent,” but I see it less a matter of intelligence and more of a matter of thoughtlessness and carelessness. Just like the early critics of email warned that it would denigrate the art of letter writing, I think sometimes people are overly cavalier and casual with their comments because it is done virtually. For one reason or another writing virtually is treated less formally than composing a letter in Word and printing it out.

Unfortunately, as informative as they were, neither Ward’s and Lorelle’s posts helped me resolve my dilemma. Do I spend time on a post that responds to my friend’s post? Do I try to squeeze my counter arguments into a comment? Should I just let it go and carry on our debate employing other means like IM or email? Maybe I should just call him?

One response

  1. Ward

    I appreciate your interest in blogging etiquette here, especially when it concerns a back and forth banter with a fellow blogger. Having an open dialogue between you and your friend is the important thing here, but is the blogosphere (geez, how I hate that term) the right arena for it? My feeling is that you should, indeed, call your friend and talk about this matter. Talk it out, talk it through, with each of you trying to see the other’s viewpoint.

    And THEN post about your revelations, if any.

    I’m not a mediator, but my feelings about all this is this: is your debate worth your efforts on your prospective blogs? Does it enhance or hinder the experience for your readers? Are you learning/growing/maturing through all this, or are you each proverbially running in place? It’s a fine line between blogging and personal diary entries, so I would just be aware of that. With each entry I write on my blog, I usually have some strong impetus for writing — something that might interest me and I therefore interests my readers, or something that I’m trying to find out, etc. Basically, a reason for being. I want my readers to come back to see what else I’m writing about.

    Hope this helps.

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