Dave Winer and Robert Scoble have been rallying against what they see as a rise of snarkiness amongst bloggers lately. Scoble’s most recent post here takes the argument he’s been making lately and calls it a lynch mob. Now as much as he makes a valid point in relation to the way Dave Winer has been treated over the Winer v Conehead legal stoush, I can’t help that feel that Scoble is being a little bit disingenuous over the whole matter.
Although Scoble is now a corporate mouthpiece for Microsoft these days who still pretends to be the free, unfiltered voice of blogging tech (and he’ll argue that he isn’t, but a bit like Calacanis and AOL, there has to be some restraint in such a position, and even if its not vocal or written it’s something that will naturally occur) take a dig through the Scoble archives and take a look at some of the criticism Scoble has dished out in the past. Indeed it could be argued that although he’s trying to take the high moral ground in the Winer/ Lynch mob case, he’s still being critical of others. Indeed, if a similar rant had come from someone else, say about his criticism of someone else, he would most likely label it as snark, and this is where Scoble becomes disingenuous, because one mans snark is another mans valid criticism. Of course, we’re maybe not quite at the level of Mena Trott abusing an audience member during a speech on civility here in the Irony stakes, but if Scoble is really serious about snark being a problem then he’ll need to tone it down himself.
As for the other concurrent argument, that we are seeing snark for the sake of snark, and snark to boost traffic, I’d argue that whilst there is little doubt that some people are pursuing this strategy, it’s not a strategy in blogging that will deliver long term benefits, because contrived snark will eventually be seen for what it is. I’ve been accused of being a snarky blogger in the past, indeed many people thought that The Blog Herald was nothing more than my personal outlet for snark. It of course wasn’t but when I was snarky it did get noticed. But I’d note when I was snarky, or critical, or even scathing, I was doing so because I believed what I was writing. I was never snarky for the sake of it, I was always honest in my views of things. Sometimes I got it right, other times I got it totally wrong. Either way though, it was honest. Dishonesty and blogging never mix. What we are seeing now, to some extent, is people becoming bolder in their blogging. Once upon a time, when bloggers were fired from their jobs, people were very weary of what they wrote online. Now, with more and more people blogging as a full time job, and well written blogs being seen as an asset for any would-be employer, people are being themselves more and more. And guess what Robert Scoble, real people can be snarky. As long as it’s honest snark, I see no problem with it at all.
And as much as I can’t help than feel sorry for Dave Winer in the current blogstorm, Im sure many of the people writing what they are writing feel that way. Dave’s that sort of guy, you either love him or hate him. I’ve been in both camps over the years, but I suppose there comes a time when you come to respect your elders, those that have come before you, and despite being an Alpha grumpy old man, Winer now holds this position for me.