Netiquette

I’ve been thinking recently about the different ways that bloggers respond to ideas they disagree with. What’s prompted the cogitation is two experiences with fellow bloggers over the past month.

  • In late-August, after I posted on conflicts of interest, Andrew Norton politely disagreed in comments, and then wrote on his blog “this week I questioned Andrew Leigh’s suggestion that Westpac CEO Gail Kelly had a conflict of interest when she was reported suggesting that the RBA would not increase interest rates again this year”. He then went on to say why he thought I was wrong… something he’s probably done a dozen times over the past couple of years.
  • This week, after I praised US newspapers, Paul Frijters commented “there are some pretty extreme viewpoints in this blog… this from a guy that I believe can only speak one language, has never spent a significant amount of time in a non-Anglo country and has hence only experienced the top newspapers in less than 20% of the speaking world” (a friend emailed me about an hour later: “did you run over Frijters’ dog recently?”). Paul followed up with a posting on his blog. No link, and the patronising lead “A befriended blogger made a careless comment recently” (you might criticise my views on the US press for many reasons, but given that I first wrote on this in 1999, “careless” is about the least accurate term one could use).

Reflecting on my own reaction to these episodes, what’s interesting to me is that because these two blokes are friends, it wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that Norton privately thought I was being sloppy, and Frijters thought I was making an interesting point. But what they wrote mattered. And as a result, I was happy to continue the discussion with Norton, and had no interest in debating on with Frijters. It’s funny how style affects substance.

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7 Responses to Netiquette

  1. invig says:

    How about the case where a someone makes a really funny comment? (not naming any names) Bet that must have quite an effect. You know, triggering two responses at the same time. Yep, whoever did that would be quite effective I would say (not naming any names).

  2. Patrick says:

    I think you were largely right re Fritjers and wrong re Norton, too. Maybe that was what prompted your respective levels of interest – the inner lefty in you still causes you to occasionally think that there is no cause like a lost one…
    :)

  3. Kevin Cox says:

    To me the comments are quite different. Fritjers is personal. Norton’s is about the ideas. There is no point in getting into a further discussion with Fritjer as it has gone outside the issue but there is with Norton.

    The same thing applies with other issues. When someone criticises the ideas or what you have done it is OK until they then add “only an idiot or incompetent could have such an idea”. That is the comment is now about you not the idea.

    For illustration but not for real Andrew:) If in this comment I said “Andrew is thin skinned to even worry about this” then Andrew will justifiably be aggrieved. He would now not even be able to comment back because he would be showing he was thin skinned. It is why personal attacks are often so effective when the person rises to the bait.

  4. Verdurous says:

    Had a laugh when I saw that Paul Fritjers had claimed there was some pretty extreme viewpoints on your blog Andrew. There’s surely a bit of pot calling the kettle black.

    After all, here are some gems from Paul Fritjers (New Matilda 2005):

    “…Australia can reasonably expect to benefit from the greenhouse effect and should thus be compensated for efforts to reduce its effect.”

    “…This in turn implies that countries that expect to lose much from rising sea levels should offer Australia, who would expect to lose little, compensation for the costs it would incur to avert rising sea levels.”

    “…A deep environmentalist should thus rejoice at net gains in total biomass and burn as much fossil fuel as possible in order to release the trapped CO2 in fossils for current plants to increase their photosynthesis. ”

    But, these this is of course beside the point. Andrew, one of the things I admire about you is your calm manner and ability to dismiss personal attacks without lowering the tone of debate. I’m much more easily goaded. You deserve a lot of credit for providing a space for “civilised” discussion. Keep it up.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    V., I appreciate your kind words, but I should defend Paul’s intellect. He’s truly one of the smartest economists around.

  6. christine says:

    Sometimes it’s easier not to mention more fun for bloggers/commenters to play the man not the ball, and often it’s difficult to figure out the tone of comments that are in written/blog form, both of which mean it’s quite easy to let small differences of opinion blow up. I agree with Verdurous that Andrew (and I think the commenters here too) do a good job of managing that.

    Also: what’s the point of having a blog (or an oped type space more generally) if you can’t try out extreme opinions from time to time?

  7. Jacques Chester says:

    Experiences from my own family and from various opensource projects suggest to me that language and culture differences can impact what is considered “rude” quite substantially. Personally I’d give Paul the benefit of the doubt.

    (Though if he said anything bad about me, I’d pretend I was French and go nuts) ;)

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