Courting Controversy in comic form!

Posted on May 14, 2011


courting controversy dancing with the devil

courting controversy dancing with the devil

Noise to Signal Cartoon

Intrepid social media cartooniste extraordinaire Rob Cottingham (seriously, that toothpaste guy isn’t in it) attended the Courting Controversy: Dancing with the Devil panel at the Northern Voice blogging conference, and what you see above is the result. Pretty spiffy note-taking if you axe me. The panel was moderated by Rebecca Coleman and consisted of little old me and Kazia Mullin of Kitchen Table Marketing.

Here’s the audio recorded and generously shared by Ronald Lee:


Here’s the result once you run the comic above through your secret decoder ring? What, you didn’t get a secret decoder ring? Well, I didn’t get a t-shirt either, so cry me a river:

  • don’t be controversial just because. say things you know to be true or feel strongly about, because you WILL be called to account for your posts sooner or later and if you can’t eat it and say “Sorry, I was wrong there” you aren’t ready for the internet.
  • nobody has the right to tell you that you can’t say something. If it’s your story, you have the right to tell it and ain’t nobody else’s job to do it. I’ve had people try to intimidate me into shutting up (particularly on my Willy Pickton story) and they haven’t got a leg to stand on, because I adhere to the above.
  • if they can’t handle it, fuck ’em.
  • it’s not the troll who’s really judging you; it’s everyone else who’s watching and wondering how you’re going to handle him. So make sure you handle him in a way you’re proud of. Mary Pickford said, “The failure is not in falling down; the failure is in staying down.” We’re all going to screw up, and nowadays there’s a transcript/twitpic of every failure. It’s how you recover from it that you will be judged on. You can’t prevent failure, you can just learn to cope with it in a graceful way. Make apologies when you owe them, make them publicly, and make them swiftly (I don’t think I made that point very well in the actual talk, but BURN IT INTO YOUR BRAIN).
  • Kazia posted that SEO wasn’t hard and anyone could do it. Now, like social media training, SEO is a field with an oversupply of snake oil salespersons, and she got major flames. She got them by email, because those people wouldn’t say publicly what they’d say behind closed doors. Nor did they dare come to the defense of their field in public. That’s a tell, frankly. When someone won’t say something in public, basically they are unconsciously telling you there’s something shifty going on. Shrug them off, because in this case they’ve missed the opportunity to contradict you in public and as far as the public is concerned, you’re obviously right because they can see no evidence anyone disagrees with you. This is a #trollingfail.
  • We discussed NerdyAppleBottom’s post about her son wearing a Daphne costume for Halloween. I’m sorry, but the Mommyblogosphere is touchy as all hell, and touchy about their touchyness (at this point someone in the audience said they preferred to be called “parenting blogs” and could we do that, please? Well, we could, but I’m not going to, in part because having been a part of it, I know that MOST of them don’t prefer to be called parenting blogs, and in part because it marginalizes self-identified daddy blogs AND mommy blogs). Anyway, you think Jezebel is touchy? Try mommyblogging.
  • That post got over 100 million hits in two days. If it had been independently hosted, it would have gone down, unquestionably. It was hosted on (like this blog) so it was digg-proof. Is YOUR site ready for that kind of influx?
  • Traffic like that exacts a psychic toll, like walking down the street minding your own business and suddenly you’re lit up by eight million spotlights. You become self-conscious, you question your decisions, your clothes, everything. Again, this is why it’s important to blog with intentionality and authenticity, because at any time you may be called upon to back what you’ve said up in front of millions of strangers.
  • Why’d I choose the name “raincoaster?” Because back when I picked an internet name, you didn’t want anything to identify your gender or you’d get inundated with pervs asking “a/s/l” or “what are you wearing?”
  • Because of the way I express myself (never “I was thinking…X” more like “X. Deal with it.”) people of all types assume I’m male, which is fascinating to me. I don’t try to trick people into thinking I’m male, but I DO ask them why they assume I’m one gender or another, because the subject is so interesting. GenderAnalyzer says is 55% likely to be written by a male, and is 50/50.
  • There are three classic reactions to finding out I’m female: women tend to say “Really? YOU ARE SO FREAKING AWESOME!” and live vicariously through me, because they generally don’t dare express themselves the way I do, though they would love to. Men tend in general to assume they’ve offended me by assuming I’m male (related to “Your son is so handsome. OMIGOD I’M SORRY YOUR DAUGHTER IS PRETTY. And really feminine, no REALLY!” I think) so they apologize and then say how awesome I am for not being all apologetic about having opinions. There’s a third reaction, a small but persistent percentage of men over 40 who are deeply, deeply offended when they find out I’m female. They generally attack me with accusations like, “YOU TRICKED ME! What kind of game are you playing?” and then block me on Twitter. As I explained, I don’t try to trick anyone, and in this case I assume what they feel cheated of is the extra respect they gave me when they thought I was a man and thus “equal.” I’m totally aware this sounds like a sexist argument, but I’ve yet to get this reaction from a female. Hell, a Russian mail order bride spammer actually laughed and said, “well, I feel stupid. Still, was fun chatting with you!”
  • Aspire to a higher quality of troll than just some drive-by “you suck.” You haven’t really gotten anyone’s hackles up if that’s all you get. Good contentious content will get really engaged “Your argument sucks and here is why in detailed bullet points backed up with references.” That kind of controversy is what you want; it’s what we’re online for. Almost as bad as “you suck” is an endless stream of “Yes, exactly. Yes, exactly. Yes, exactly” comments. As Oscar Wilde said, art is not a mirror; art is a hammer. Build or destroy, don’t simply reflect “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” Alexander Pope was a dope.
  • What you post online endures, even if you try to delete it. If you think about it, this means you can no longer be taken out of context. And the greatest thing is when you go to bed, controversy erupts on your blog, and your pre-existing, engaged commenters defend you while you sleep. Commenters like that are a treasure. I use the Mummified Fairy thread as an example.
  • Rebecca points out that you can write what you think is an awesome, engaging post and it’ll get one big MEH from the universe. Conversely, you can write something you consider totally non-controversial like Kazia’s SEO post, and the world goes crazy over it.
  • Kazia says that she sees a bigger response when she blogs under pressure. She can’t self-edit then, and it comes out rawer and purer. The Internal Editor squashes things that might be controversial. Incidentally, I find the opposite, but then I tend to spend hours finding links to back things up. My Steve Jobs = Cthulhu post has something like 36 links in it.
  • and that’s all, folks! Apparently there’s audio out there; I’d be grateful if someone would let me know who has it and if I could use it, thanks!