Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tone

When it is running at its peak, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing gets over 30,000 hits per day.

This traffic means nothing to me personally. I don't care about fame for fame's sake. I don't care about what people think of me. I'm as immune to detractors as I am to those who offer praise, and I get plenty of both. It's nice to be thought of, but that's not what lights my fire.

This traffic means nothing to me financially. The majority of those who read this blog are writers, not fans. Readers don't care about the publishing industry. While I have, on occasion, used this platform to promote a book, it is almost always linked to a point I'm trying to make, an argument I'm trying to present. I don't have paid ads on this blog, or my website. A Newbie's Guide doesn't generate any direct income for me, and any indirect income is unverifiable.

This traffic means nothing to me altruistically. While I know this blog has helped many writers by informing, persuading, and inspiring, it is impossible to be directly connected to that many people. I get dozens of "thank yous" a week. It's flattering, but I stopped taking it personally a long time ago. I don't write this blog to help people, or make the world a better place.

But I do care about traffic. I want as many people to visit this blog as possible. Not for my ego or my bank account. Not for any cause celebre or romantic notions of fighting the system.

This blog exists as a tool to help me learn.

There is a certain amount to be personally gained from writing persuasive essays, from presenting arguments using logic and facts, from sharing information. Doing so helps me improve my debating skills and hone my position and distill my thoughts.

But everything I write is already in my brain. That's not the way to learn. Knowledge comes from seeking outside sources of information, from looking at other points of view, from being forced to defend an argument or position from an attack that hadn't been considered, from changing viewpoints as new information or better logic presents itself.

I go looking for that information. But there's also another way to obtain it. Namely, to host a forum, and let the information come to me in the form of comments.

This blog would not exist without the commentors. And if you're a regular visitor, you know how long these comment threads can go on. How many blogs get 600 comments in a single thread? How many people leave a message saying "I learned just as much from the comments as the post"?

I read every comment. I hardly ever reply to praise, or thanks. But I do reply to those who disagree, who try to disprove whatever point I attempted to make in the blog post. I also respond to whiny, anonymous pinheads.

We'll get back to the pinheads in a moment.

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing allows me to make arguments, then refine them in the comments section. I learn from the comments. I'm made more aware, more knowledgeable, more informed. The commentors make me step up my game, which makes me think harder, which makes me experiment more, which ultimately benefits my career.

When I benefit, other writers seem to benefit. It's a nice, efficient, reciprocal relationship. Everybody wins. Even the pinheads who can't stand me. They get to feel superior and self-righteous, and they come here and take anonymous potshots at me, and then I get to humiliate them, and people come to watch the trainwreck. They form camps, polarize opinions, and discuss the topics here and elsewhere. Some of that discussion trickles back to me. Some of it I benefit from.

Are you getting where I'm going?

I could treat everyone graciously, with respect. I could discuss issues and make arguments without getting personal. I could act like a level-headed adult and never be provocative. I could trade being outspoken for being genteel.

Do you think I'd get as many blog hits? Do you think I'd get as many comments? Do you think the points I make would be as widely discussed and debated if I presented them in a more courteous way?

If so, point to another blog that averages 100 comments per post.

There is a whole sub-section of folks in the entertainment and news-entertainment industries that draw big crowds not only because of what they stand for, but how they say it. Radio shock jocks. Right wing political commentators. Controversial talk show hosts. They biggered their platforms by being opinionated loudmouths who don't care what people think.

Sound familiar?

The more traffic I get, the more comments I get. The more comments I get, the more I learn.

In short, I learn more by calling people pinheads. It attracts a larger crowd, draws more minds to the topics I discuss, and I improve as a result.

People take me to task for tone quite a bit. I see three reasons for this.

1. They can't attack my main arguments, so they have to focus on my attitude.

2. It makes certain people feel morally superior (Perhaps some of them use disrespect as a tool like I do, to learn from it, but I haven't seen any evidence of that.)

3. The targets in many of my blog posts are ignorant, greedy, brainwashed liars who present their poor arguments respectfully. If you are on the side of these pinheads (and therefore are yourself a pinhead) you become defensive when your stupidity is laid bare to the world. Pointing fingers at my tone is a defensive, ad hominem reaction.

While being attacked for my tone is distracting, the distraction is outweighed by the benefits of a larger audience. I don't mind being attacked if it leads to me learning.

Here's a terrific blog post called Tone Argument as Logical Fallacy. I have no idea who this blogger is. They haven't blogged a lot, or in a while. But this is a clear and concise explanation of tone that boils down to this: "I can call you an idiot and 2 + 2 still equals 4."

So why am I blogging about this at all? If I don't care what people think, why do I need to show the world why I do what I do? Why would I inform the pinheads who take me to task for tone that they're helping me out?

Because now, when someone brings up my tone in some discussion, I can simply link to this post. Then, hopefully, we can get over my tone and begin discussing the points I made.

When I debate, I am always as gracious as the person I debate. That may sound incorrect, considering how I skewer people on this blog, but my skewerings are always based upon dismantling an opponent's argument and revealing it to be stupid. If you say something stupid on the Internet, you open yourself up to justifiably being called stupid. But if you want to engage me one-on-one, I'll be as nice as you are, even if you are acting stupid.

My intent is not to convert writers to Joe's Way of Thinking. It's great that a bunch of writers are making money, some for the first time, because of my blog. It's great that more and more writers are realizing how shitty the legacy publishing world is. But those are all secondary benefits to me.

I'm here to learn. And I don't learn from people who agree 100% with everything I say. I learn from those who disagree. Or partly disagree. Every so often some anonymous poster says something that makes me reconsider my views. That's why I allow anonymous posting. Though it is entertaining to bitchslap the offended, which brings more traffic and thus more attention to the issues I present, this blog is not meant to persuade anyone but me.

Could I persuade more people to do what I do if I was nicer? Sure. But how is it in my best interest to persuade more people to do what I do? Wouldn't I learn more from angering the establishment so much they begin working hard to think of ways to prove me wrong?

I am purposefully controversial, intentionally disrespectful, and use tone in a precise, deliberate way that benefits me.

So suck on that, pinheads.

And if you want me to stop saying you're stupid, stop acting stupid. If you really hate me, that's the way to hurt me. If you stop saying and doing stupid things, you'll effectively reduce my audience. Your vocal hate makes me stronger.

But it's my guess you're too stupid to know that.

Love,

Joe