Slouching Toward a Civil Discourse

The blogospheric (I’m not sure that’s a word, but I like the sound of it) introspection that emerged from Mike Arrington’s post yesterday’s post is undoubtedly a good thing. The much-valued “conversation” of social media has become downright anti-social and if the civility of discourse continues on its decline, we bloggers will destroy the art form.

As Carla pointed out in her post, Robert Scoble’s mini-manifesto this morning called for a civil community to reclaim the values of early blogging. It’s high time. Buried deep in the post was this hidden gem:

Building a new thing is more noble than tearing something down.

Now some might misinterpret the message in all this conversation to be a return to the admonition of Moms everywhere: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. I think to take that up as a banner would be as artificial as the manufactured mud slinging that too often happens on blogs now. Instead, heed my crusty grandfather’s advice: Keep a civil tongue in your head (words usually followed by a swift blow to the back of it).

But even that misses a larger point. I was delighted to find this post this morning (thanks, Carla) and not just because all the pretty pictures made it a quick read. Chartreuse reminds us that the reason we write at all is to have an impact, and that we can have that impact by the words we choose and the attitudes we take. But none of it matters unless we find and attract an audience.

Funny how easy it is to say one thing and do another. Monday morning, I had the opportunity to speak to employees at Dolby Labs as they were about to embark on their “IdeaQuest.” I recapped a bit of that talk in my column Monday afternoon. The point I was making is that we can say that we’re best and brightest, smartest, coolest, or most innovative (what ever that really means) all we want. But until an audience says it on our behalf, it’s only so much posturing.

The technology bloggers have done plenty posturing, and there’s no doubt that the down-and-dirty dialog has attracted an audience. If we’re ever to break out of the echo chamber, though, we’re going to have to do better.

And, after the discussion of the last couple days, I think we will.


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