Friday, July 24, 2009

A little omphaloskepsis

I was the recipient (neither beneficiary nor victim seems quite accurate) of an Instalanche on Wednesday. It seemed like such a nice idea at 1am: email Instapundit politely pointing out that I thought the link he’d posted about HR3200 requiring end of life counseling was incorrectly interpreting the bill. I appreciate Instapundit believing my argument was worth passing along but I have to say I was unprepared for the consequences.

My first reaction was manic excitement: finally I’d been discovered and my incredibly brilliant insights would be recognized far and wide. My second was more realistic: I myself had read a few unknown bloggers as a result of an Instalanche and I’m not sure I ever went back to any of those blogs again. Even if I did, I’m pretty much certain that none of them made it onto my regular reading list. (Note to self: Do blogroll at some point.)

It was fun and exciting and interesting to have people with whom I could discuss my ideas and many of the commenters were quite positive about what I’d written. I have sometimes read a blog and not posted a comment because all I could think of to say was, “Good post. Thanks for the work. I particularly appreciated your whatever.” After realizing how much of a warm glow comments of that very type gave me I’ll be less reluctant to post something like that in the future.

Every silver lining has a cloud, of course, and I think I had a troll. Or at least a commenter who was either unwilling or unable to believe what I said. I was surprised at how upsetting that was. After all, I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. Why should I care? Even more important, why should one voice insisting I was someone I was not override the voices that had expressed appreciation? I have no idea but it seems kind of dumb so I’ve decided to eschew upsetness in the future.

Then there were the commenters who were reasonably polite but thought I was mistaken, naive, foolish, or - I love this one - awfully young. Although deep in my heart of hearts I would of course prefer that everyone who comments on my blog acknowledge my indisputable wisdom, I did find it surprisingly enjoyable to have my ideas challenged. I don’t think any of us changed any minds but it was a nice mental workout.

So why am I writing this? A while back I read Althouse on why there are relatively few female law bloggers:

The internet is not going to coddle and comfort you. In fact, the internet wants you out of here. If you're going to be the sort of person who doesn't want to insist on her place when she can see that other people want her out of here, you're not going to get very far blogging.

When I read this, I scoffed at the idea that a female blogger might expect to be coddled and comforted or that a female blogger would just give up on blogging because she took a little grief. But yesterday when I realized I had commenters who actually expected me to defend myself and even more when I realized I had a troll, guess what I wanted to do? Yup, for one minute I thought, “Oh, boo-hoo. This is too hard.” I got over that very fast but what came next was even worse.

I was wandering through my “Posts in Progress” folder and my “Stuff to blog on” folder, trying to decide what to write about next, and I actually found myself thinking about how some of the commenters I’d had on my “Cry wolf” post might react to what I would say about a topic. Ugh! And also no way.

If I’m going to do that, there’s really no point in my blogging anymore. And if I give up blogging then I’m back to ranting and raving to friends and family. So this post is my way of reassuring all my loved ones who are quaking in fear at the thought of once again being on the receiving end of my enthusiasms that I will continue to blog and that means I will continue to write what I want, how I want, and about what I want. (There are way too many “w”s at the end of that sentence.)

What did I learn from my Instalanche?

- I learned Instapundit works like a dog. I emailed him at 1am and by 5:22am I had my first comment. (Thank you, Instapundit.)

- I learned having commenters is mostly fun.

- I learned people have opinions about what I should be writing on. That surprised me. When I read a blog post, I accept the scope of discussion as defined by the writer. I figure if Blogger Lepidopteraphile wants to write about how the migration patterns of the Monarch butterfly predict United States economic cycles, I’ll either skip right over that post or plunge right in and explain why I think Painted Lady migrations are a better predictor. It would never occur to me to suggest that he might do better to discuss government fiscal policy. I figure that if he wanted to talk about that, he would have.

- I learned I enjoy Cassandra at least as much when she comments on my blog as when I comment on hers.

- I learned there is a very gracious lady out there who didn’t comment on my blog but emailed me to provide morale support. (No, that is not a misspelling of “moral”.)

- I learned trolls are no big deal and can even be amusing.

- I learned that I control the horizontal, I control the vertical, I control the Delete button. (Learning that is part of learning that trolls are no big deal.)

- I learned that having people criticize what I’ve written makes me think about it more and will make me a better blogger.

- I learned that positive comments are absolutely crucial. They are the only way I can know I’ve made the point I wanted to make and made it clearly.

All in all, an enjoyable and interesting experience. Thanks to all the commenters who made it such and I hope I’ll see some of you again.

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