Nick Carr wondered about this, then an obviously-bored Martin Veitch had a little fun with the episode; his little gem being picked up as far afield as the Malaysia Sun’s Technology News page. Out of public view, the Sun internal bloggers alias exploded, opinions ranging from those saluting me as an exemplar of New Age Marketing and Proactive Transparency to others who felt my mouth ought to be washed out; one person related that he’d heard from a Sun shareholder who was going to sell as a consequence.
Dave Douglas, our VP of Advanced Technology, who’s one of the prime movers on BlackBox, was surprised enough at all this that he wrote a thoughtful piece entitled Tim’s Bomb.
My Take · Well, I could be flippant and quote Barnum about how I don’t care what they say as long as they spell my name right. And in point of fact, my little BlackBox piece got way more traffic than it probably deserved. But I really don’t think of it that way.
The pro and con of this are not that complex or subtle. On the one side, there are people who are genuinely and unaffectedly offended by coarse language; for them, my doing this devalues my message and even perhaps by association, impairs their image of my employer. On the other, I think that there is substantial value in the transparency and honesty that characterizes the blogging medium in general and ongoing in particular. I am keenly aware that I am not a great writer, and that the range of subjects on which I’m sufficiently expert that my opinions ought to be taken seriously is pretty narrow. Given that, if I don’t offer 100% complete unvarnished honesty and transparency, what am I offering? And when I express myself naturally, my language includes a certain amount of coarseness; nowhere the Tarantino-screenplay level, but somewhere around the engineering norm. So I’m reluctant to do anything that makes ongoing read less like the way I really sound.
Surprise · The real take-away is deeper. Let me start here: I was surprised at this little flurry, because coarse language has occurred regularly here at ongoing. But not that much, because I’m used to surprise at the reactions to what I write.
I long ago learned that carefully crafting a piece to get some particular person’s attention, or to get it on Slashdot, was futile. Lovingly-crafted essays on subjects that I think are important sink without a trace, while three-paragraph squibs touch off Minor Internet Memes and get hundreds of thousands of reads. Pieces that I think are lightweight and humorous offend people, and edgy war diatribes bring me warm waves of supportive email.
As to the effect of what I write on the people who read it: I don’t know. I really, totally, absolutely, have no idea. So what I do is write the words that ask me to write them. Then I read them again and decide whether they say something that needs to be said, and if so I push the “publish” button.
So, to anyone who was offended by my language: I’m sincerely sorry. But that’s really what I’m like.