Jim, Aaron, and Rand aren’t the only people pondering the question of blog subject limitations. I’ve been wrestling with it for a long time, not only in relation to my blog, but for the forums I’m an administrator for.
Did I dare, for example, write about September 11 to an International readership? Not all of them care. Truly, I debated with writing for a few hours, posted on my forums, and waited again, because I was worried about writing here. I ignored my doubts, posted here and still think it was a mush-brain move.
At Cre8asiteforums, we have an After Hours, members only forum. Several times a year a political discussion will erupt there. They can get heated, but rarely ugly. We debated, as moderators faced with managing it, forbidding politcal discussions altogether. However, we felt it wrong to remove this ability to share feelings and opinions. People NEED to talk to each other. We hoped to provide a way to do that, and do it with respect.
Why would politics be a topic in a forums where the usual subjects are usability, web site development and search engine marketing? Is there a risk?
The ability to open up and share more about one’s beliefs, online, helps paint a clearer picture of who a person really is. We don’t have physical meetings. We don’t have beer and pretzels. We don’t have a TV or radio nearby, in which to make off-hand comments on. We don’t have lunch breaks with the office gang or idle talk around a water cooler. Online, we make different choices about when and where we are able, and willing, to expose more of ourselves. A forums permits some freedom to do so, in a community you may choose to join.
The risk is that someone may express a view and learn they are in the minority. They may conclude the environment is not a good fit after all, and they may leave. I’ve witnessed this happen several times at our forums.
The question then becomes, not whether we CAN express our true political views, but whether or not readers can read them with grace, respect and acceptance despite disagreement.
Blog owners have more to consider. A corporate blog is likely not going to touch political topics, unless the blog itself is on politics. A character blog may get away with it, if the created character has a specific persona to uphold. In this case, readers know what to expect. Barry Schwartz (Rustybrick) wanted to create his own cartoon version of himself, for a new blog. I suspected it was so he could be true to his own personality – different than the reporter for SERoundtable.
I think Rand Fishkin, for his blog, has more than himself to be accountable to. He has a company. Several members of his family work in that company. He has his staff, some of whom write for his company blog. He drives potential business to his company with his blog. Sharing political views is traditionally not mixed with business. However, one can detect how a blogger thinks and feels anyway, based on what they do write and how they manage their business. I think politics is something demonstratable.
Aaron Wall is famous for speaking his mind. I’ve found that when he thinks, he lets his mind really explore an issue. He bends it around like a Gumby playtoy and when he presents it to you, he usually leaves room for you to make your own decisions. That’s good writing. If he speaks out against something you strongly believe in, as a reader, you have the right to choose how to respond. If you respond. It’s an opportunity to react with class and dignity, or not.
Jim Boykin is a social person. In public, he’s everywhere. He genuinely loves meeting people and wants to meet more. He may have established enough trust in his industry to start talking about his views. I think his fan-base will love hearing him share more of himself, but can he afford to miff someone who hasn’t met him? Written words can be misunderstood. His situation reminds me of mine. How much can we push the envelope?
I haven’t decided how far to go with this blog, but its not that I’m worried about expressing my political views and chasing away potential clients. My work relationships are with professionals. They know I can help them, and I believe this is what’s most important to them.
What scares me is Blogger Law and the Blog Police. These are the folks who decided what a blog is and what it is not. These are the folks who go off the deep end when someone goes off-topic. But, I have to tell you, going off topic is great search analytics fodder. My recent entires on Daryn Kagan and Blogs Being Like Sex sent traffic through the roof!
If you wish to bare your soul, here are some considerations. Write your political (or religious, or off-topic ramble) with:
respect for the topic, respect for readers
concern (compassion) for feelings
responsibility to the facts, resources, links, names, topic, other writers
competence; know your limits. If writing is not your best skill, your opinions may not be expressed as you might hope.
Will Kim Do It in Her Blog?
Not likely. Maybe. There are some topics I’d like to throw more support towards, like “green thinking” and peace education. When I decide to run for President, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Related discussion: Some Views on Blogs and Talking Politics