A rambler on flaming in the blogosphere

Talking with Scoble today we agreed that the blogosphere has gained many of the negative traits of mail lists or Usenet. There are certain topics that, if approached, will result in a flameout. So you don’t go there.

Imho there’s no point blogging if you accept those constraints. There aren’t many people who do the flaming, but they do control discourse, because they control things like who gets to speak at conferences. Since I don’t get to speak at the conferences anyway, perhaps I should start to go through these barriers, accept the flaming, and go ahead and say what I think.

I even get flamed from the podium at conferences where I’m not allowed to speak. It’s practically institutional by now, everyone knows its done, it’s even openly discussed at the conferences that it works this way. I hear about it, in email from people who are there, and don’t like it. That’s new and positive. It shows that perhaps our community is overcoming this limit.

Since coming back to the Bay Area, I’ve been seeking out local speaking opportunities and smaller events, or new places like Mike Arrington’s BBQ (where I gave the keynote, proving that Mike’s sense of humor is intact). There’s a new generation of software entrepreneurs who have only heard the nasty stuff about me, which sets expectations low, and that’s actually pretty good. They seem surprised that I can carry on a conversation like a relatively normal person, and I don’t spit when I talk. Last night I explained it this way. I’m a celebrity. And what matters to people is what they think of me, not who I really am. But, by going out and talking to people, that negates the negative buzz, and I hope raises some questions when people say the nasty stuff. It’s hard to overcome the tar-and-feathering that has been done to my reputation, but I’m trying. I think my contribution is solid, and not in question, and after that it’s just a matter of taste.

Yesterday I wrote, in my BDG to RSS 2.0:

“Some people will say I’m stupid, or corrupt, or incorrigible, even toxic, or any number of negative personal things. What they’re really saying is they don’t like me. That’s okay, no one is liked by everyone. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, and you shouldn’t worry about it, because I don’t.”

There’s more to say about that. When someone says that kind of personal stuff, you can turn it back and ask them why they are making it so personal, and how do they know so much about Dave. My bet they don’t know me at all and they have a reason to want you not to listen to me. I won’t show you that kind of disrespect, I want you to get all the opinions you feel you need, and then make the right choice, for you. You should never base your opinion of some idea on what someone else thinks of the person who is advocating the idea. That is a perfect example of disrespect, of you.

11 responses to this post.

  1. […] Essay: A rambler on flaming in the blogosphere.  […]


  2. Dave, good post. I met you at a geek dinner, and can attest that you are normal. Though we were all talking tech and watching some cool demos, you and I ended up talking about death, actually, and not in a morbid way. Normal stuff.

    Also, I remember you writing a while ago, that if someone wants to blog, it’s really important to ignore the flamers. That is profound advice.

    –Larry, the PR guy


  3. Posted by Peggy on March 9, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Interesting post. I was recently in a group where a few folks were discussing feeds and RSS in general. One individual threw out a Dave W slam which was unrelated to the discussion. I asked:
    Q: oh, do you know Dave?
    A: ah, well no

    Q: have you ever met him?
    A: ah, no

    Q ever attended a function where he spoke?
    A: no

    Q: why would you say something like that then? what is it based on?
    A: I don’t know, I just well, I don’t like him from what I’ve read.

    End of conversation.

    Yes, you should keep your conversations going to offset totally unwarranted negative buzz like that.


  4. Hey, I had breakfast with you in Nashville and it was fun. My only regret was that you didn’t talk shop enough for me to steal any good ideas.

    (Still, maybe I could get a patent on an outlining mark-up xml thinger… I bet nobody’s patented that yet.)

    This is all by way of trying to be funny about the Apple RSS patents, but I have a warped sensayuma.


  5. Posted by Jackson M on March 10, 2006 at 12:21 am


    U don’t have to meet Dave in person to know his personality. Just read what he wrote about others. Terrible, terrible things… And he has the habit of removing the nasty parts after people wrote about it.


  6. Posted by Ian Betteridge on March 10, 2006 at 12:26 am

    Dave, I have no idea whether you’re a vicious evil thing or a fluffy teddy bear in person. But I do know that you practice what you’re preaching against here: you’re more than happy to flame those whose ideas or comments don’t agree with you on one of your pet subjects.

    Seriously, if you want to complain about people getting personal with you, it might be time to stop your own personal attacks.


  7. I get my share of what I call “nasty notes,” as I’m fairly well-known in my own field of men’s issues. Feminists tend to be a particularly vicious bunch, and I’ve learned over time to simply ignore them. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, because sometimes I’d love to just cloud up and rain all over some idiot.

    But I do not engage. They’ve been controlling the conversation long enough, and so I just keep on saying what I’m saying in hopes that eventually logic and good sense will win out.

    Keep on opining, Dave! You do a lot of genuine good in the world.


  8. […] Dave Winer: “…the blogosphere has gained many of the negative traits of mail lists or Usenet. There are certain topics that, if approached, will result in a flameout. … Imho there’s no point blogging if you accept those constraints. There aren’t many people who do the flaming, but they do control discourse…” Obwohl Winer hier insbesondere seine persönlichen Erfahrungen verarbeitet (als prominenter, in letzter Zeit umstrittener Experte), trifft er natürlich den allgemein interessierenden Punkt, denn die Sache liegt klar zutage (sinnvolle Kommunikation ist ja keine Neuerfindung des Internetzeitalters): die sozialen Mechanismen des Eiferns und Spottens, der Grüppchenbildung und mentalen Abschottung, sind alte Bekannte und funktionieren in öffentlichen Medien des Internetzeitalters nicht wesentlich anders als auf dem Schulhof, im Sportverein oder in der Politik. Und natürlich gibt es anerkannte Meinungsführer auch in der Blogosphäre, in einer relativ kleinen wie der deutschen vielleicht sogar besonders, deren Meinungen und Empfehlungen Viele folgen. Das ist normal, und manchmal auch eine Bereicherung. Oft ist es aber störend, indem es die offene Entwicklung hemmt. Es liegt natürlich an den Bloggern selbst, welcher Stil, welcher Umgang miteinander und welche Offenheit für Verschiedenes sich durchsetzt. Offenheit und Respekt sind jedenfalls die Voraussetzung dafür, dass viel von dem angeboten wird, was man braucht, um sich eine vollständige Meinung zu bilden. […]


  9. Jackson, Ian:

    Since you didn’t point to any post or comment, no one can quibble with your bald assertions. However, it seems entirely possible that you are conflating many types of comments under the banner “flame.” Attacking someone’s ideas because you disagree with those ideas is not a flame.


  10. […] (part 1 is here) First, let’s address why we need communities smaller than the blogosphere istelf. As the number of use cases that can be made for blogs continues to grow with initiatives like structured blogging, microformats, SSE and the recent web clipboard, will this necessitate a change with the way we interact with the blogosphere. In other words, will it become more common for blog readers to only want a subset of a particluar blog’s feed? If blog use becomes what startups like Edgeio seem to be implying, then the answer is probably yes. Consider an example where a particular blog routinely posts about tech, family, cooking recipes and also sells hand made products. You may only be interested in the tech post and not the recipes. Tags help, but are both ambiguous and impractical. Collective intelligence in tagging and bookmarking can help. We often need a tighter loop with less noise and more signal. This notion is prompted by Scoble and Winer saying the blogosphere is adopting some of the negative usenet and mail list traits. By it’s virtue of being so open, it will necessarily grow in noise, much of which could be createde by good citizens using the system for structured blogging. We can’t expect everyone to maintain a blog for every topic they wish to contribute to, so we either need to filter in a very sophisticated manner, or evolve into complex, segmented metacommunities. It seems to me that reading lists can play a big role in creating metacommunities, acting like a topic-based buddy list. In this way, we can direct some posts toward actual communities, even if they are still available to the greater system. And once we have an open standard on explicitly replying to a post, rather than implicitly assuming such from a link, tightly bound, threaded conversations can co-exist with the general posts that are common-place today. (end part 2) Mar 10 2006 11:58 am | RSS and SSE and Tags and winer and davewiner and OPML and microsoft and Glists and scoble and blogging and eirepreneur and jamescorbett | […]


  11. Posted by JJ on March 10, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve met you three times, tried to talk to you, and it’s as if I weren’t even there, and you weren’t even polite about it. Some people are actually polite about saying “sorry, you’re not interesting enough for me to talk to” and that, while not great for the recipient, is at least clear and doesn’t lead to dislike .. more likely leads to respect for being clear.

    Each time you didn’t even bother with letting me know I wasn’t interesting enough for you, and i’m sure you wouldn’t remember who I am if you heard my name.


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