Cloaking Intent

Sep 16th

After recently writing that people should write about politics on their blogs I saw that Jim gave it a try only to have it backfire. Rand also noted

Aaron - Last night I thought my opinion on this was fairly solid, but reading your piece and recalling some of your excellent posts that dealt with the subject (sometimes slyly, through links), I'm beginning to think that maybe you're in the right.

I don't think I am real good at being sneaky, but I have come to realize that I really only know a small portion of the world and that even if I care about some things there are people who know far more about them than I. I think that is part of the reason why I try to let links speak my opinion sometimes, but another good reason to link out to other things that represent your opinion is that you will go bonkers if you speak your mind about every issue that is on your mind. You have to pick and chose your battles.

Werty recently reminded me of a Paul Graham article titled What You Can't Say which stated:

If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.

...

Obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

....

I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

So, as Paul Graham was saying, frequently exercising the freedom of thought was far more important than frequently exercising the freedom of speech (especially because if you do the latter too much then nutters will eat up all your time and do their best to reduce you to their level).

Many artists and writers tend to cloak their intent such that only some people get their intent. I think that on business sites a combination of rarely posting political stuff combined with some form of cloaking intent such that only some people would care to comment is probably the best route to go if you want to express political beliefs on your work blog.

Published: September 16, 2006

Comments

September 17, 2006 - 10:58am

I think that a blog, like any publication that I can think of, needs to build expectations from the beginning as to what type of things people will find there. It is kind of a compact with the audience/readership. The more radically the recipe changes, the more chaos that ensues.

Adding political or religious points of view -- whatever they are -- is like throwing in a big handful of spices into the casserole -- some will love it, but it isn't for everyone.

I actually think that the SEO community is big enough, for example, for a full-blown "Hippie SEO blog" to start up that mixes in peace, love and protest photos with their SEO tips.

The key is that if you don't start with that formula as part of your publication's identity in the beginning than you are going to probably lose a lot of audience and goodwill as you transition to it. If I had a blog that was all buttoned up and then I busted out the rainbows and the anti-war messages on a regular basis, it would probably lead to an audience revolt. This is because an audience member is a participant in a blog, and it would be natural for many of them to feel "cheated" or "deceived" by devoting their attention to something that ended up being different from what they thought it was.

The same goes, I think to a lesser extent, with less controversial personal content that is unrelated to the "business" of the blog. For example, if I had an SEO blog and started to post chess puzzles every so often because chess is a big part of my life, I might lose some people that just get flat out bored scrolling past them. If on the other hand, I started that out as part of my identity, then my blog might build a bit slower but eventually I'd have a bunch of great chess playing SEOs hanging out on my pages.

September 17, 2006 - 5:05pm

Great insight Mark :)

September 20, 2006 - 5:18pm

Great blog Aaron! :)

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