There is a common misconception that words, whether spoken or written, are meaningless, and that we should just ignore the insensitive, rude, or stupid comment and chalk it up to “trolling”. Well, I write a publicly open internet blog mostly concerning woodworking, including my projects, and my opinions on the topic. This entire blog is “word based”, as are most blogs. As far as I am concerned, words are pretty important. Words have forged nations, toppled empires, and started wars. Words have recorded world history. Words have moved people to great deeds, and brought ruin to others. Nearly every person on the planet communicates with words, both spoken and written, so yeah, I don’t think words are meaningless by any stretch.
There may be another misconception that I am paid or sponsored to write this blog. For the record, I am not. I receive absolutely nothing in terms of money, goods, or services. I am not a professional writer and I am not a professional woodworker, not even close on both counts. I do not sell anything here. I have done my best to support woodworking products such as books, videos, tools, and magazines that I have enjoyed and thought that others may enjoy. I have done my best to write honest reviews of those things (when I happen to write a review). Once again, I receive no compensation for those reviews, not in the least. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are reviews that I have written, even though they were favorable, that the individual or company who distributes the product may not care for all that much. To that I say: If that is the case, please feel free to contact me and I will gladly remove the post with no hard feelings whatsoever. I’m not here to generate hard feelings. That being said, sometimes I do generate hard feelings, and sometimes I have them myself.
I’ll say this again because it is worth repeating: I have NEVER gone on another person’s blog or forum, in particular with regards to woodworking, and deliberately insulted somebody in the comment section. I have left comments, and almost always those comments were very innocuous, that were responded to by others in a sometimes not so friendly way. When that happens, and I see it, I will and have responded. Because the internet is filled with “Jack Wagons” as Greg Merritt so eloquently put it, a comment regarding something as simple as a hand plane you happen to like can easily turn into a name-calling, insult fest. If you are one of those people who think that woodworking blogs and forums are immune to that behavior you are woefully misinformed.
For my own part, if I feel the need to say something that may be considered “controversial” I do it on my own blog. The way I see it, another person’s blog is not the place to rant; there may be people who happen to read that blog who don’t particularly want to read somebody else’s ramblings. That is why I do it here, because there is no chance that somebody will accidentally read something they do not want to read. Otherwise, I freely admit that on my own blog I may say some things that other people don’t care for, or I may have an opinion that is not popular. Because I read a fair amount of blogs on woodworking and other topics, I sometimes read things that I don’t agree with. If I read something that is open to debate that I happen to disagree with, there are times I will comment. Once again, I do my very best to keep my comment civil and fair. If I read something that I completely disagree with, to the point that I may even become angry with it, I do the smart thing and leave no comment at all. There are some blog writers out there who want to generate controversy and a heated discussion on the comment board. They generally aren’t the problem, it’s the other commenters who are. So, rather than get into what I know will be a long, drawn out war of words, I avoid it completely.
The other day, I wrote a post about an exchange I had with a commenter on Popular Woodworking Magazine’s web page. There are people who didn’t agree with my handling of the situation, which is fine. I handled it in what I felt was an appropriate manner. Maybe the problem wasn’t with how the situation was handled, but the fact that I discussed it on the blog. Once again, I have no problem with that. But I do have a problem with explaining myself. As I said to a commenter the other day, there are things I write on this blog that I am serious about, and others that I am not. I leave it up to the people who read the blog to figure out the difference. That may confuse some people, and rightly so, but “it is what it is” as the cliché goes. A while back I wrote a post about the “Paul Sellers Controversy”, where he made a statement concerning woodworkers who use power tools. Was I really “outraged” at Paul Sellers? The answer is: “no, not even the tiniest atom sized bit of outrage”. But I will tell you what did bother me; afterwards, when the woodworking forums turned into an insult-filled, name-calling festival among those who both agreed and disagreed with Sellers. I took a lot of flak for that post, not only in the comment section, but much more so in emails. I spent far too much time explaining the point I was trying to make: I had nothing against Sellers one way or the other. At the time, I was only vaguely aware of him, and I read his comments second hand on another forum. I had a huge problem in that every “Jack Wagon” who read Seller’s post used it as an excuse to be a “Jack Wagon”.
We all have a right to an opinion, and he has a right to say what he likes on his on forum, just as I have the same rights on mine. I like to say that any opinion should at least be an informed opinion, but sometimes that isn’t the case. Either way, had myself or Sellers charged a fee to read our respective blogs because they contained a specific content that was expected with each entry, and then decided to change the format, then complaints would be warranted. But that is not the case with my blog, Sellers blog, or many, many others. However, it’s one thing to say on your blog or forum that you don’t like cheaply made tools or furniture; it’s another thing to tell people not to buy them, and it goes even farther when you make statements such as “The people who buy cheap tools and furniture are ruining woodworking!”. Your typical “Jack Wagon” who reads statements such as that suddenly has a whole lot of ammo to fire around the nasty comments and more importantly, they feel that their nasty comments have been validated.
So when it comes down to it, if you think I’m the “bad guy”, I don’t care. I’m finished with explaining myself or my style of writing. If you get it, and get what I am trying to say, I’m happy to interact with you even if you may not always agree. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you and I’m done trying. If that makes you angry then tough shit. I know who the “bad guys” are, and there are times I’ve pointed them out subtly and not so subtly. I’m not trying to sway anybody’s opinion one way or the other. I’m just putting my opinion out there. I am not leading the horse to water and asking it to drink; that is not why I’m here. I don’t want a flock; I want to interact with people who can think for themselves. Hopefully, there are still a few of you left out there.