With all the travel that I do, sometimes there are "moments" that happen when I'm at 37,000 feet, rather than on the ground.  And by the time I disembark from a nine-hour journey, they've boiled over or played out.  At the same time, those long flights give me some time to think.  I was all set to come home and write a little missive on professionalism, courtesy, tone, and how to win friends and influence people.  

Nathan Freeman beat me to it:

I've heard some variation on this remark from several sources in the last 24 hours...

"If you get past the language, he does make some valid points."

Each time my answer is, so what?

There are two reasons to offer criticism on any subject in public.: 1) to affect a change in behavior or outcome on the part of whoever you're criticizing.  2) to display your criticism for an audience  for whom the criticism is an end in itself.

The difference between these two objectives is almost always tone.  A civil tone signals to the subject of criticism that you have the first purpose.  A profane tone signals to the subject that you have the second purpose.  If I say to someone "I think you're misinformed and examine this matter further," that acknowledges that the listener is valued and that I hope for resolution.  If I say to someone "I think you're a ---- idiot," then I have denied all their value and signaled that resolution is of no interest.

So if someone offers public criticism that's filled with vulgarity and vitriol, is there any reason to engage them?  They might as well be waving a flag that "I am doing this so people will think I'm cool.  I don't really want to change anything."
Actually, I'm finding myself with less time to engage with critics in several forms -- the profane and slanderous one that prompted this blog entry and Nate's post, but also blogs that constantly criticize for the sake of criticism.  

Anyone noticed that I'm not commenting anymore on a few of the "Lotus community" blogs?  It's a passive approach, I admit, but it's a signal that I just don't have the energy to engage critics in this fashion, especially when the critics have no sense of balance.

It's not like I don't listen.  Most of you who read my blog today do so because you know that over the last seven years, on blogs and notes.net discussions and partner forums, I've chosen to get involved.  I learn a lot through being a part of the community, and I take actions as a result of professional discourse.  I answer just about every e-mail I receive, and I publish every possible way to get ahold of me.

But I have a business to run.  The antics of the last 24 hours on a blog that I was led to believe was important but turns out to be run by an @ss, and the associated discussions, remind me of the Denis Leary commercial for Notes, all those years ago:

Does this mean I'm unwilling to engage critics?  Of course not.  But, as Nathan so clearly put it, there's simply no reason to engage those who do so to get attention.  I'm done with that.  
Alex Kassabov had the right idea the other day:
I have decided to try as much as possible to stick to the teachings of Thumper.  That means no more bitching, no more complaining, no more pointing out shortcomings. I can't promise to be this good 100% of the time, but I intend to try.  Instead, I intend to focus on the positive.

In terms of the "yellow bubble" and IBM products, I will no longer complain of IBM's marketing, I will not criticize Lotus products.  While controversy is very exciting and is likely to generate traffic to your blog, it is easy.  But is it worth airing your dirty laundry?  Going forward, I want to talk about cool things, things that get me excited about software, products and events.

Don't get me wrong, I don't propose to turn a blind eye, to pretend that everything is hunky dory inside the yellow bubble.  It is just that there are password protected forums that are better suited for criticism.  Public blogs are better for promoting things that you like as opposed to putting them down.

What I'm discovering as a side effect is that it is a lot easier to speak evil than to speak good.  Critiquing and bashing is easy to do.  Promoting something is hard. Guess I will have to work at this harder.
It's a good mindset to have -- for everything from parenting (I'm reading a book about this right now) to politics to business.  When done right, you've got my ear -- and there are tens of thousands of comments on this blog to prove it.  I'll keep reading, writing, and responding -- as long as we are all after a common and greater good.

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