FOSS Blogging Has its Perils

Oh yeah.  This post is going to be biggie.  Not as in a big deal, but as in the size of said post.  I will not be talking of blogging alone, but blogging FOSS.  FOSS blogging can be quite fun.  Sharing the excitement of having tested another distribution of *nix (or sharing disappointment of wasting said time… depends on the experience) or sharing an opinion on the happenings of FOSS today can be an interesting experience to say the least.  However, blogging is not always without peril.

In the past, I stated how I would not promote my own writings on LXer due to being ripped to pieces over an entry that I eventually wound up deleting.  So why did I come out of my exile of sorts with a blog post that made the front page of that news site?  It was inspiration of sorts, which I will go into first.  The second part of this post will take into account Bruce Byfield’s follow up entry to his prior writing on his blog.  Shall we begin?

Flushing Fear Down the Toilet

I will be the first to admit that I do not like being told when I am wrong in any way shape or form.  Who does?  When I spewed a few choice words out of my keyboard concerning James Burgett and the trouble he was having with a state organization, even he criticized me in his own blog over my entry, and rightly so.  Not only that, but I was slammed pretty hard by another reader on LXer.  Then I read the comments concerning Justin Briethaupt’s follow-up on the situation with Newegg…

Before I go on any further, you may want to read this first.  It explains how this blog has multiple authors.  Each author will of course have a different style.  As of right now, there are two active authors: Justin and myself.

I read the comments concerning his newegg.com consumer report, and my mind began to race.  Then I read this entry from Bruce Byefield that I wholeheartedly disagreed with, which resulted in my previous entry.  I began to think to myself, “You know…. it takes courage to endure all those comments against what was posted.”  It was those two moments combined that caused me to realize what an intellectual coward I have been.  Scott Ruecker of LXer said it best concerning Justin’s newegg.com follow-up…

“In order to think critically about something and stand a chance of coming to a accurate decision or stance on an issue or issues you have to be presented with and have access to information that you agree and disagree with.”

I could not have said it better myself.  After all, Justin was trying to do something that I myself was only willing to dream up and talk about for eternity and getting reamed over and over again by the same people, and yet I was too scared to expose myself to criticism from a few readers who can have a different mood at different times?  Intellectual cowardice indeed….

So yes, I am coming out of exile of sorts concerning LXer.  I am limiting myself if I choose not to do so at this point.  The time to hide from everybody’s criticism is over.  Even if I only posted on this blog, it is one thing I will not be able to escape, because unlike other bloggers out there, I don’t axe legitimate comments (ones that are spam however are treated appropriately).   So next up is my response to Byfield’s follow-up post in response to the feedback that others have provided to his writing concerning conspiracy theorists in FOSS.  Prepare to be surprised.

Open Hand to Bruce Byfield

 “With all the people baying for my blood – some of whom, frankly, sound disingenuous in their demands for proof – the entry could easily take over my life, so in the last couple of days, I’ve withdrawn from active discussion of it.”

Bruce,  I certainly hope that you did not perceive me as wanting your hide or anything of that nature.  I was confused when you were making the broad statements in your previous blog entry.  To me, it was like lighting a barn on fire and walking away from it, thus forcing everyone else to deal with said fire.  Perhaps my humor was misplaced or of the wrong variety when I asked those two very sarcastic questions of mine earlier.  Perhaps it was nothing more than an insult.  Either way, my apologies.

Now let us take a look at another tidbit of what Byfield wrote.

“To start with, I notice that Brian Profitt’s suggestion that I was lashing out at some negative criticism I received has been seized on by some commenters as a reason to dismiss what I said.”

Hopefully, I was not one of those individuals who was perceived as having said that.  Also, in my opinion, to suggest that Profitt of linuxtoday.com was suggesting that you were lashing out goes a bit far.  Here is a sample from what Profitt wrote:

“Byfield, who I think is an excellent writer, by the way, may be projecting a little bit of his own defensiveness in this entry. I know he’s been on the receiving end of some harsh criticisms in the past, and I know from personal experience it’s pretty disheartening.”

I know the feeling to a degree myself.  I believe there is a difference between lashing out and being defensive, since lashing out implies (to me) that one is on the offensive.

That’s not to say that I don’t find people’s reactions fascinating – and more than a little intellectually distressing, since I’m an ex-university instructor who once spend his days trying to help people develop their abilities to argue coherently.

Here is another tidbit of opinion from me on the subject of debate and arguing.  There are traditional academic methods and methods that are considered unorthodox and unacceptable.  It reminds me of the beginnings of the Revolutionary War in America, in which the standard rules of war was not followed by the Minutemen who would pick off soldiers from the British army one by one while hiding behind rocks and trees.  During that time, it was considered inappropriate and uncivilized to fight in such a manner.  Suffice it to say that declaring that a position of prestige was once held is not going to sway me very much.  Read on further to understand why.

“But I think my favorite response was from a commenter who assumed the responsibility of giving me elementary advice about how to write. I’m always willing to learn, but, considering that last year I sold roughly a quarter million words about free software, now I know the spirit in which Lauren Bacall responded a few years ago on hearing that she had been voted one of the sexiest elderly women in film. ‘That will certainly pep up my career,’ she said (or something to that effect). ‘I can’t wait to tell my agent.'”

Look man, I could care less if you were on the New York Times best seller list.  When it comes to blogging about anything, including FOSS and discussion of technology in general, all the titles of prestige, all the accomplishments of the past, no matter how great, are stripped away.  At that point, the only thing left is people talking to one another (and in some cases, at another).

“No more working out of ideas publicly for me – from now on, I need to make sure that I state my assumptions clearly, and address opposing views in more detail, and not publish on certain subjects until my ideas are fully developed.”

On the other half, it would help.  However, not working out an idea publicly is something I disagree with to a degree.  While Justin Breithaupt’s consistent stream of criticism was the ignition switch for my mind, it was your situation that cranked my mind over, thus causing me to realize that I should not be so afraid of criticism from others.  Listen.  There is a way to work out ideas publicly.  In the title or at the beginning of a blog entry, indicate that it is a rough draft of sorts (or a brainstorming session).  I believe that WordPress also allows the creation of categories, so things can be tagged under something such as “brain storms” or “sand box.”  Whatever tag labels you want are up to you.   Of course what I am saying are merely suggestions as well.

I disagree with closing things down in a sense.  Why not open up a bit more instead?  To me, that is an excellent way of learning from each other, and if there is that constant nagging person who constantly annoys the dickens out of you, then you always have the option to ignore them at that point.

Overall, I would like to thank you for acknowledging a lesson that I am still learning today.  When it comes to blogging, you are never going to be without feedback, even if it comes in the form of a spam-bot or an individual who vehemently  disagrees with you.  I know that I do not know enough about you, but I still want to share my views with you.  So please, keep sharing yours with me and everyone else.

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