Commenting, debating, and the value of peace and time

So yesterday’s debacle got me to thinking…

Recap. I got into a debate over one aspect of someone’s comment on another site. The debate was going nowhere, so I gave my last word over there. I came here, to my personal blog, and wrote a post about whether or not discussion in comments have value, not realizing that WordPress was set to automatically send trackbacks to the other blog since I linked to it. Because the trackback appeared in the comments over there, the person I was debating with came here and continued the debate. In all honesty, this was warranted because I had mentioned some of his data on the other blog was flawed. We went back and forth, pointlessly, for a while, then I asked that we put an end to the debate. He posted again, continuing the debate. So I deleted the whole exchange, and edited the original post to remove references to his arguments.

Over on his blog, he continued the discussion I’d started, and made sport of the fact that I’d deleted the thread here.

So finally, my thoughts.

First of all, this is my personal bog. Not a news site. Not a place of journalism. It’s an extension of my home, in a way. A personal space that I invite friends and others into so that I can let them know where my head is at (only my friends care about that) or share things that I think are interesting (and the wider world might find some of this of use). It’s been around since 2002 and I’m rather protective of it. Usually everything is fine, but once in a while a stranger comes in and s/he and I don’t see eye to eye and there’s a tussle. A lamp gets broken, a glass of wine gets knocked over and stains the carpet. Stuff happens. When that person leaves, I clean up the mess. I see no reason why I should leave broken glass, spilled wine, or off-topic comments, laying around in my home. It’s just my way.

Second point. Some people enjoy debating. (And please note that the word “argument” is not in and of itself negative. One of the points Openedge1 seemed to grab onto is that I used ‘argument’ and he thought we were having a debate. The two words are synonyms. And the writer in me tires of writing debate over and over again.) Anyway, some people enjoy debating. I do not. If I post a dissenting opinion on something, it’s out of a feeling of social responsibility. I’ve seen something written that I disagree with and feel its worth voicing my opinion just so third parties can see that there are, in fact, dissenting opinions out there.

The debate lover will seize on this as an opportunity to engage in a lively and pleasurable debate (see what I mean about using only the word ‘debate’?). He will continue the debate…I guess indefinitely. I’ve never experienced a person like this leaving off. I think this type feels that if they have the last word, they ‘win’ the debate and so are determined to wear down their opponent? This is complete guess work; this mind-set is foreign to me. In the same way that I can’t understand people who enjoy cutting themselves, I can’t understand people who actually enjoy the practice of debating. Er, that’s a bad analogy because there’s nothing good about cutting yourself and there can be some good that comes from a debate; I’m just trying to convey that the idea of enjoying the process of a debate is very alien to me.

All of this comes back to the comments On/Off question. I hate the idea of turning them off just because they can be useful… people can add valuable information to the post. If I say “Here a great link for getting a good deal on car insurance.” someone can come along and post a comment that says “I used them once, they ripped me off.” That’s very valuable information and I hate to shut the door on that.

At the same time, I don’t want to spent hours in a given day debating something that in end isn’t exactly life threatening. Nor do I want opinions that I think are totally wrong left in my virtual home without some rebut from me. But if I’m up against a debate-lover, I’m going to have to spend way too much of my time going back and forth as the debate spirals farther and farther out of control, and in the end go to bed frustrated and feeling like I’ve wasted my day on a stupid pursuit with a person I now hold a lot of negative feelings towards (even though that person might be a very nice guy/girl).

And I know reaction that this post will get from any debate lovers out there, because I’ve encountered these people many times. Bringing up the topic will be seen as evidence that I have no right to have a blog, or will be seen as an opportunity to debate me on why all my reasoning is flawed.

But I still haven’t answered the question of whether or not to turn off comments. I do know that from now on my commenting on other blogs will be limited to adding demonstrable facts, or just showing appreciation to the person hosting the blog for sharing his or her thoughts and inviting me into a corner of their personal home.

5 thoughts on “Commenting, debating, and the value of peace and time

  1. My two cents…

    It’s your home, as you said. When it comes to comments in my home, I choose which to post and which to ignore, and most of the time I ignore. I deem the comment doesn’t add value or isn’t even interesting and I choose not to open up my life to debate.

    Point being, instead of approving the dissenters comments for public display, thereby feeling the need to also defend your point of view in a comment as well, why not just ignore it? I don’t think leaving a comment entitles the commenter to approval just by default of not being a spammer. No one but you and the commenter ever know what happened, and if your sensibilities just won’t allow a flat out denial, engage in the discussion privately. But ultimately it is your choice whether or not to engage on your turf, and you shouldn’t feel bad about choosing the “no” option.

    Hon, in all the years I’ve known you, this has been one of the brick walls that calls to your head… JUST SAY NO! Try it, you’ll like it! I promise we won’t think less of you. πŸ™‚

  2. My name is Ysh, and I am a argumentatator. πŸ˜‰ Not to score points, not to “win” and usually not even to change your mind — there really can be more to it than that, though after the last couple of days I can understand that you might not believe it.

    Consider evenings with friends where you bat something back and forth for a couple of hours over beers and dinner; you *can* have an argument (and yes, I know the definition too!) just for the sake of having fun. I’m sure one could argue that all human interactions have some deeper, Freudian or other agenda — fair enough. I just like to sit around and see the world from someone else’s point of view, or try to.

    Finding out what other people think and feel about stuff is enormous fun for me (mostly). Good non-face debates (blogs, forums, even on the old email lists) can capture that sense of “Ooo, I hadn’t thought of that! By the way….”

    Sure, not all debates are good, and many many people argue simply because they are right and you are not and ultimately they have to convince you of that. But not *all* people and arguments are like that. Or maybe I’m just really optimistic and gullible, both of which I now readily admit to since the damned shoe has my name stamped on the sole.

    Oh ya – and finally, some debates can be fun just because we get to use big words and play around with language, and write. Moi, an intellectual snob? Surely not!

  3. Gwyn:

    “I don’t think leaving a comment entitles the commenter to approval just by default of not being a spammer. ”

    Y’know, you’re exactly right, and I don’t know why I never stopped to think about that. I do indeed hit “Approve” on any comment that isn’t spam, without really considering whether or not I feel like it belongs here. Now granted, the number of times I would’ve wanted to not approve a ‘legit’ comment could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but it sure would save me from a lot of stress. Thanks!

    Ysharros, thank you so much for the glimpse of “the other side” :). I can admit I can see the appeal of sitting around a dinner table knocking ideas around, but I think what’s different there to me is that 1) it usually isn’t 1 on 1, so you get a variety of ideas, rather than basically Black vs White, and 2) you pick up on non-verbal cues and, assuming you’re not a total arse, will back off before you really start irritating your friends. When their eyes start to glow red, you’re probably going to change the subject, and in general there’s a kind of ‘crowd moderation’ of the discussion, and 3) they are probably people you know and enjoy being around, and finally 4) there’s a time limit on the discussion, even if it boils down to last call coming around and you getting thrown out of the bar. πŸ™‚

    I guess I’ve not often been exposed to online debates where the participants are genuinely interested in hearing each other’s views. Most of the time, everyone is just pushing their agenda, and reading the other side just enough to pluck out points that they can dispute. People (and I include myself here) tend to dig their heels in almost immediately, and then won’t budge.

    But I’m really glad your experiences have been different. It gives me hope for this whole internet fad. πŸ™‚ I’ll try harder to keep an open mind and to look at arguments dispassionately and try to see if the other participants are in the discussion to learn, or just to push an agenda.

    Thanks very much for the comments!!

  4. Well… most of the time people ARE mostly interested in hearing themselves speak (ie pushing their agenda) but sadly that holds true for humanity at large outside the internet.

    I’m just an incurable optimist, tend to forget the nasty bits of most things, and only very, very rarely hold grudges. Yuck, I’m sickening! πŸ˜€

  5. I haven’t had to outright censor anything on my own blog yet, and I hope not to. I’ve had many disagree with my personal view or opinions on various topics, and that’s ok. Openedge1 in particular likes to debate or argue about some things, but we have a lot of other things in common. Neither of us have ever been nasty in our debates, and I make an effort to keep the debate to the topic or philosophy being discussed and not make ad hominem attacks on the person. Openedge1 likes what he likes, I like what I like. Sometimes they’re the same thing, sometimes not. That’s the great thing about having some freedom of speech and being unique as individuals. Who knows, we could probably have a blast gaming together, but he refused my friend request on XBL. πŸ˜› LOL

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