5 Jan 2012
Towards the end of 2011 there was a lot of, sometimes angry, debate about how we speak to each other online. How should we criticise and point out bad advice without offending and hurting people? Time and time again people confuse being kind with being uncritical, as if the only positions are to accept everything as lovely or make personal attacks with no explanation of what the actual problem is.
Critiquing something on Twitter is likely to end up with hurt feelings. As a commenter on Sarah Parmenter's post on the subject pointed out, it is similar to being with a group in a pub, and hearing something you disagree with so standing on your chair and shouting, "THIS PERSON HERE, IS AN IDIOT!", sitting back down and continuing your chat. Most of us would agree that is not a constructive way to behave - even if the person attracting this treatment was wrong.
I want to encourage a culture of argument and debate, that takes the web and technologies forward. A culture that takes everyone's view as important. A person who has only been in the industry for a year may well have insights that those of us who have been around a very long time do not have. I can remember CSS being introduced, and debating the merits of using it instead of font tags, how much of my thinking is clouded by our history? That said, those of us who have 10+ years of web development experience, by way of that, have insights into a wider range of projects and problems that newer folk do not have. We can seem stuck in our ways when we point out potential issues - but our advice is tempered with experience.
We move things forward by listening to each other, and arguing our various viewpoints to bring new methods and ideas into being. When we argue however we need to remember that there is a real person behind each email, behind each Twitter message, behind each keyboard. That person may have strong ideas and opinions, but might also be having a tough day and wording their thoughts badly. Or have little experience in arguing a point of view and so come across aggressively. By being kind, we prevent people becoming entrenched in their positions, and constructive debate can occur.