Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And You Are NOT Shutting Up

I was thinking. I know, that’s a frightening idea, but it does happen from time to time. I try to do most of that sort of thing on Tuesdays, and free up the rest of the week for more important things like laundry, creating new designs for t-shirts, and eating cheetos.

However, Tuesday is over so I'm a day behind.

My kids have this funny thing they do when they're little. Everyone's kids do this, so this will seem quite familiar to you. When they're little, they say things that they think are correct, or even clever, that are either quite hilarious or make no sense whatsoever. My almost 4 yr old Ruth used to say, when she was extremely frustrated with one of her older siblings:

"You are a BABY and you are SHUTTING UP!"

I can only assume in her little brain she thought calling someone a baby was the worst thing you could say to someone, and telling them they are shutting up, was as mean as you could get. In our family, because we're so full of baloney this way, sayings like that become a family thing, and you'll hear the adults saying it too, just for fun.

So I wonder, as it pertains to keeping your thoughts to yourself, about a question that seems to come up quite often in blogging.

At what point do you NOT say “this was really bad, I didn’t like it, and here’s why”? Now, you might be talking about a book, a movie, a blog post, a sermon or any number of other things that someone else might read, see, hear, purchase, etc. But the question is, is there ever really a time that you shouldn’t express your opinion of the ‘thing’, and just keep your opinion to yourself?

In the blog world, part of what makes the various blogging communities so interesting and at times so very helpful, is the free exchange of ideas and opinions. If enough people really like or really dislike something and post positive or negative reviews on it, that blogfluence (new word, I just made it up, you like?) determines whether that “thing” flies or dies. It’s just the way it is. That kind of influence to shape what the general public thinks about a thing, is no longer solely in the hands of mainstream media or brilliant marketing minds. In 2007, bloggers have a large voice in that arena as well. Pretty fascinating thought, no? (And quite scary too, if you consider what a responsibility that really is to blog well).

It seems though that among some Christian bloggers, there is a tendency for some folks to not want to see anything negative. For example (and this is ficticious) let’s say Joe Blogger writes a book on the fine art of fresh guava carving for profit. Huge market for that, I know. Let’s also say for example that in reality it’s the DUMBEST book in the history of all dumb books, but because Joe Blogger is popular, charming and clever, the dumb guava book flies off the shelves, to the dismay of many.

Now, along come some honest bloggers and say essentially “Joe might be a great guy, but this was a really dumb book, don’t waste your money”. Well, Joe Blogger's faithful fans get a bee in their collective bonnet and can’t handle the idea that someone critiqued ole Joe and his tropical fruit carving skills.

Joe's fans & friends defend him and his honor and his critics defend their right to find the entire subject ridiculous, and their right to dislike guava carving books.

The next big blog war breaks out and it’s another chapter in Christian blogging history. It's all over in a week or two, but everyone remembers the "guava war" and who said what, and to whom, and the 90 billion comments that resulted.

So I wonder, in cases LIKE this, when – if ever – it’s better to keep your opinions to yourselves, and/or if it’s more beneficial and helpful to say the things that ought to be said, regardless of the perceived tone, or the potential fallout. (In this case the critique ought to have been offered, lest people waste their hard earned money on a dumb book when they could have bought a James White book instead).

While my “for example” was meant to be humorous, there are plenty of real life Christian blogging community examples that I’m sure you can think of that might fit into this scenario. I don’t want to single one of those out, because my question is a general one for consideration and discussion on the topic.

I look forward to your thoughts on this. This is the part where you comment and either vent about this topic, or share your wisdom and give the rest of us something to think about.

Ready.... GO!