Don’t Worry, Be Happy

17 Apr ’06

As I gradually get reacquainted with life on the ‘net, I’ve been catching up with my feed reader, news of the world, etc., and I’ve been a little startled to realize that not much has happened on the ‘net in the past 10 days. That’s perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but very little of what I missed while I was away has caught my eye.

And then I noticed some comments by Robert Scoble that resonated with me. He’s announced that he’s going to moderate comments, and it appears to be of a piece with an effort he’s making to foster positive change in his life. Gist:

But, mostly, this past week was about change.

Some things I’ve changed? 1) No more coffee. 2) No more soda. 3) Xercising. 4) No more unhappy people in my life. 5) Get balance back in my own life.

Thanks to all the interesting people I’ve had conversations with this week. More than 100 people by last count. Some, who, Gent Hito, showed me some killer technology (it’s called RSSBus, and takes RSS into places I never really thought about. In other words, things that aren’t blogs or news feeds. If you’re a developer you should get a demo from Gent).

One of my most memeorable conversations, though, was with Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords and a good friend. He told me to hang around people who are happy. And I realized I had been listening to too many people who were deeply unhappy and not bringing any value into my life. He told me to listen to this recording on NPR about “finding happiness in a Harvard Classroom.” He also told me about the four agreements, which are Don Miguel Ruiz’s code for life. Good stuff.

It was that moment that I decided to moderate my comments here. Yes, I am now approving every comment here. And I will delete any that don’t add value to either my life or the lives of my readers.

My impressions – First, making changes is a grand idea – Scoble is the unfortunate focus of a lot of critical attention, simply because he’s a visible Microsoft blogger, and being at the business end of all of that unremitting and pointless negativity has to be terribly corrosive, and a serious waste of time. If that comes with living online, it’s time to think about getting offline.

Second, anything that Buzz is selling, I’m buying. I’ve only met him once, and emailed with him only a few times, but that was enough to recognize that Buzz is a blast of fresh air and a very positive influence.

Third, the blogsophere seems to be a magnet for deeply unhappy people – one sees this over and over again, but I had too close an experience with it after my recent Dvorak / Apple postthe comments I received here and on Digg.com were an unwelcome insight into the effort that some on the internet will go to complain, criticize and insult for no useful purpose. Oh, and there are a lot of them.

Fourth, if it were me dealing with such negativity in comments, I wouldn’t moderate my comments, I’d either ignore them or I’d require commenters to register (with verified email) before commenting, and I’d IP block those who show that they can’t contribute without adult supervision. Moderating is simply going to require paying a lot of attention to a lot of negativity – I think a bigger change is in order. First, if you ignore your comments, anything that really adds to the conversation will find some other way to announce itself to you and you can resume the conversation when it does. Second, requiring commenters to register is a pain for the readership, but anyone with anything really worth reading is not going to mind the effort.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder whether Scoble is (finally) experiencing the blog fatigue that Phil Sim recently described. Living a life online does take a toll, and getting away from it for occasional (long) stretches may well be a very good thing.

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