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16 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Controversy

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Writing Controversial Posts

Earlier this month, I posted “The Art of Constructive Controversy on Your Blog” here on the NMX blog. Controversial blog posts are a great way to boost your traffic numbers, but at the same time, they can invite not-so-good attention to your blog as well.

Today, I wanted to expend on the post I wrote by giving you links to other brilliant bloggers who have also published advice on how to deal with controversial topics on your blog.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

How to Write a Controversial Blog Post with No Regrets by Rachel Held Evans

Writing a controversial blog post can be like opening a can of worms. It’s great to post your opinion on a topic, but it can also bring the wrath of trolls upon you. You also risk alienating members of your community or even writing a post you later regret. How can you avoid this? Rachel Held Evans has a ton of great tips you should check out.

After reading the entire post, you can also find Rachel on Twitter at @rachelheldevans.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. The 3 Hidden Benefits of a Controversial Guest Post by Eugene Farber (@EugeneFarber)
  2. 5 Rules for Effective Controversial Blog Posts by Althaf Ahmed
  3. Avoid controversial topics like politics and religion in your marketing by David Meerman Scott (@DMScott)
  4. Bloggers – Is It Wise to be “Controversial?” by Amanda DiSilvestro (@ADiSilvestro)
  5. Creating Controversy May Be Beneficial For Your Blog by Maikol Akintonde (@maikolakintonde)
  6. Controversial Blog Posts: Good or Bad for Business? by Jessica Bates
  7. Courting Controversy: Should Your B2B Content Touch Hot Topics? by Matthew McKenzie
  8. Helpful Tips for Writing About Controversial Topics by Zac Johnson (@moneyreign )
  9. How Not to Suck at Controversial Blogging by Bob Meinke (@bobmeinke)
  10. How To Restrain From Creating Controversy While Blogging On Controversial Issues? by Amanda Kidd
  11. How to Tackle Controversial Topics in Blogging by Jennifer Brown Banks (@Jenpens2)
  12. The Indignation Industry, or the Art of Blogging Controversies by Timothy Dalrymple (@TimDalrymple_)
  13. Is Using Controversial Content Killing Your Brand? by Directory Maximizer
  14. Why Controversy is Good for Your Blog and Inbound Marketing by Chris Stone
  15. Why I Don’t Write Deliberately Controversial Posts by Katie Tietje (@ModernAMama)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about controversial posts? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Podcasting Gear

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

The Art of Constructive Controversy on Your Blog

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Without a doubt, controversy can drive tons of traffic to your blog. I do, however, believe that many if not most bloggers out there are going about this in a destructive way. Controversy is the cholesterol of the blogging world: there are both good and bad forms. Both drive traffic, but if you perfect the art of good controversy – what I like to call constructive controversy – you can reap the benefits beyond a spike in traffic that doesn’t stick and a plethora of emotionally-charged comments on a single post.

What is Constructive Controversy?

Constructive controversy is like constructive criticism; it can sting, but ultimately, the conversation is helpful. You could take a tone that is accusing or snarky if that’s the style you want to use, but you have to do more than pontificate. A constructively controversial post follows these guidelines:

  • Research or real-life examples are given to back up the opinion.
  • The alternate view is considered, not dismissed.
  • The post starts a conversation about the topic – and it’s a conversation that really matters.
  • The opinions in the post are genuine, not manufactured for the sake of a good post.
  • The post attacks ideas, schools of thought, practices and the like – not things people can’t control like gender or race. (I like to call this the no name-calling rule.)

The post “Why 150 Followers Is All You Really Need” from Srini Rao is old, but a good example of constructive controversy. Writing this post, Srini had to have known that some people wouldn’t like it. Most Twitter tips are about how to get more followers. But within the post, he used examples to back up his opinion, and the post was about starting a conversation about why we care so much about quantity and ignore quality.

Another great example is “Are Universities Giving Hall Passes for Hate” (warning: link goes to a post with strong language and is on a NSFW blog, though the post itself is SFW) by Erika Napoletano. In this post, Erica writes strong opinions about an event in the news, and not everyone in the comments section agrees with her. But it’s a post supported by facts and opens a dialogue. On Erika’s own site, Redhead Writing, she often publishes posts in this vein – very opinionated and very snarky, but also a way to get everyone talking about the topic at hand.

Whether or not you agree with the post has nothing to do with whether the post is constructive controversy or not. It’s about the goals of the post, not about the message.

What is Destructive Controversy?

The antithesis of constructive controversy is destructive controversy. As the name implies, this kind of controversy isn’t about creating conversations. It’s about destroying them.

Sometimes, these posts attack people, not for doing bad (or perceived bad) things, but for being female or gay or whatever the hate flavor of the day might be.

Usually, destructive controversy bloggers are the first to cry “free speech!” but often they heavily moderate comments to only include those that agree with the post. It doesn’t matter if a comment was constructive or not. Or, sometimes, these bloggers take the complete opposite approach and don’t moderate comments at all. They stay out of the comments section, just opening it to be a free-for-all between trolls and legitimate commenters.

Destructive controversy is usually really smart. The post is written to play on people’s emotions, fears, and ignorance. The goal is not to start a conversation, but rather to beat people down so the blogger can stand over the pile of bodies triumphant. Bloggers who write destructive controvery blog posts have, in my experiences, low self esteem and the need to stroke their own egos.

In some cases, the controversy is manufactured – the blogger doesn’t actually believe what he/she is saying or at least does not feel very strongly about the subject. It’s all rhetoric to bait people. Destructive controversy usually comes attached to a sensationalist headline. The goal is to get as much traffic as possible, simply for personal gain.

I’m not going to link you to examples of destructive controversy. You know who they are. It’s a fine line that some bloggers walk between constructive and destructive, but we’ve all read posts that were little more than troll comments (for the record, this is a really good post about what a troll is, because a lot of people use the term incorrectly).

The Controversy Tsunami

Of course, I’m advocating that you write posts that are constructive, not destructive. But even if  you choose every word very carefully to be as diplomatic as possible, prepare for the storm that may be heading your way. If you choose instead to take a more accusing or even mean tone (and yes, you can still be constructive this way), prepare for the storm that is definitely heading your way.

A few facts about humans on the Internet:

  • When you voice an opinion, there will always be people who disagree. Some may be nasty about it, so a thick skin is necessary. Beyond that, however, be prepared for the trolls you’re going to attract. These aren’t just people who disagree. These are people who’s purpose is to disrupt the conversation, attack you personally to hurt you, and otherwise be destructive even when your post is constructive.
  • Stupidity breeds stupidity. In other words, once one troll shows up, you can usually expect more. You can also expect commenters to start attacking one another, especially when there’s a troll loose in your comments section.

So be prepared. It’s like a tidal wave – if you’ve written an interesting post that goes viral, you might see hundreds of comments in the span of an hour or two. If you lose control, it’s hard to regain it. Controversial posts are not posts you want to schedule to go live while you’re on vacation.

Controversy online, when done well, can lead to really interesting new ideas about topics that often divide people. It’s an art, though, to do controversy the right way, an art that I’m perhaps still learning myself. What’s important is not that you master this art before you publish controversial posts, though, but that you realize you’re a student. Aim to be constructive when you’re controversial, and you’ll be adding value to the entire online community and solidifying yourself as someone with a blog worth reading, not just dumping sludge on the Internet and basking in short-lived, negative glory.

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Overheard on #Blogchat: Controversy (@hugmeup)

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With all the BlogWorld Expo work I’ve been doing, I haven’t had time for Overheard on #Blogchat for a few weeks. Glad to be back this week!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Generating interest in your NEW blog

While at BlogWorld Expo 2010, Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse both mentioned that polarizing topics on your blog can help drive traffic. On tonight’s #blogchat, a similar topic was mentioned.

hugmeup: I’ve noticed that controversial topics gain a lot of interest quickly

Controversy can definitely be good for your traffic. But is it good for your blog? Consider the following:

  • Is the topic going to pit your readers against you?

Chris and Darren talked about polarizing topics, but that’s not necessarily the same as controversy. Polarizing is controversial, but the opposite isn’t always true. If you have a political blog and talk about pro choice versus pro life, that’s a polarizing topic. If you say that you support killing babies, you’re not going to get support from any of your readers – that’s just controversial. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t speak your mind, but if you’re trying to foster community, you don’t want to pit yourself against your audience.

  • Do you know the facts?

If you’re going to get controversial, make sure you have the facts straight. Trust me; on the Internet, if you’re wrong or even incomplete in the information you present, your readers will let you know. And most of them aren’t very nice about it. Cite as many sources as possible and think ahead to the debates you’ll have to face so you’re prepared to defend your position.

  • Are you controversial for controversy’s sake?

Posting something controversial can drive a lot of traffic, but if that’s your sole motivation, you’re not doing anything good for your blog. Believe in what you post. Otherwise, you’re not providing quality to readers, and eventually, they’ll figure out that you’re a fake.

  • Is the topic relevant to readers?

A few months ago, the WordPress/Thesis debate was definitely a controversial topic that many blogs covered, including this one. But did I post about it on the video game blog I manage? Nope. Sure, some of our readers might be interested, but does it make sense to further our blog? Not at all. If you’re really passionate about a controversial topic that doesn’t exactly fit your blog, think about guest posting instead! You’ll still drive some traffic to your site, but you can write something for a more relevant audience.

I’m someone who doesn’t shy away from controversy. Often, what I post here and on my other blogs is in direct conflict of the popular opinion. Do I do it for the traffic? I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t cross my mind. Strong opinions are usually extremely good for traffic, and that’s definitely something you should take into consideration. Just make sure that your controversial posts have a purpose beyond cheap hits. Otherwise, the traffic spike will be just that – a spike, not sustained traffic.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Controversy and Blogging

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

Something that is always on my mind when I blog is whether or not I’m being too antagonizing. So, this tweet caught my mind:

propickup I think too many people hide from controversy when blogging

I think propickup is right – and why is this the case? Are we worried about offending people or losing readers? Is it too much effort to defend a controversial post when the comments start rolling in? Are you worried that advertisers will desert?

Maybe a little all of the above. Bloggers shy away from controversy at times because we just don’t want to stir the pot.

But isn’t that part of the reason why we’re blogging in the first place? Earlier tonight, I talked about another #blogchat tweet talking about how a blog is your own creating, and you get to make the rules. So, it follows that you should be able to voice your opinion.

While that’s certainly true, we also blog because we want people to read what we write, either as entertainment or to help them learn something. If you don’t want people to read what you write, why put your work online? It’s just as easy to type your thoughts into word processing programs. So, with that in mind, I think it’s important to always think about how you approach controversy. Some tips (this is a bit of a brain-dump right now, so add to them with comments!0:

  • Don’t rant for the sake of ranting. If you have something important to say, really passionate ideas, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to drive traffic by saying things that are shocking, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
  • Research! Before you go off on a subject, make sure you full understand it. Read about the topic from multiple sources and even spend some times talking about it with  friends or other bloggers so you can formulate and educated post.
  • Avoid defensive comments. If you write something controversial, you’re probably going to get comments calling you stupid. Some of these comments may even make good points. Before you reply in a really defensive, angry way, take some time to ensure you’re adding value with your comment, not just defending yourself.
  • Address weaknesses in your argument. This is debate 101! If there weren’t weaknesses, there wouldn’t be controversy. Talk about good points that the “other side” has in your post.
  • Don’t single out readers or other bloggers (in most cases). If you’re going to attack something, attack an idea, not a person.
  • Edit, edit, edit! When you’re passionate about a topic, as is often the case with controversy, it is easy to write 7,000 words about the topic. You don’ t have to limit yourself to a few hundred words, but create something that people will actually read, not something that’s so long it turns off readers. If you truly have 7,000 worth of points to make, split it up into multiple posts.

We don’t have to be afraid of controversy. Often, controversial topics are the best, and even people who don’t agree with you will come back again to read more of your work. Be thought-provoking and don’t be too afraid of making people mad.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

Facebook Gives Two Holocaust Denial Groups The Boot

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Looks like pressure finally got to Facebook and they did what I am sure the vast majority of people will agree, was the right thing.  Freedom of speech in this country is beyond vital.  The ability to say what we feel, when we feel it without censorship or controlling is one of the things that makes America what it is, and when issues arise that test that, you’re always going to have controversy.  Hopefully Facebooks decision today will put an end to at least some of the controversy as they seem to have their bases covered in why they removed them.

In case you’re a bit out of the loop, Facebook has been receiving pressure from outside sources after some Facebook Group Pages were created that spoke out against the Holocaust and denied it ever occured.  There were two groups in question at the heart of this controversy, “Holocaust is a Holohoax” and “Based on the facts…there was no Holocaust,” and both were removed from Facebook today as it was determined that they were violating Facebook’s Terms of Service allowing messages that spread hate on their Walls.

The issue here is, there are still many groups like this that still exist on Facebook.  According to reports:

“Despite Facebook’s decision to eliminate two Holocaust Denial groups, numerous others remain on Facebook. These groups have names like “Holocaust: A Series of Lies,” “Holocaust is a Myth,” “the holocaust that the Jewish believe in is very big lie,” “Holocaust denial & Anti-Zionism,” three different groups named “F–K Israel And Their Holocaust Bulls–t,” and “1,000,000 for the TRUTH about the Holocaust.””

Why the other groups remain might be questionable to many, but Facebook has said they have to uphold that freedom of speech and these groups, while maybe not extremely popular to many, are merely “engaging in legitimate discourse about a controversial topic.”  Until those groups “cross the line” into hatred, they will do nothing.

All of this is controversial, that much is clear, but it does raise some important questions:  How far should Freedom of Speech go with online social networking?  What should be allowed and what should not?  Isn’t the simple fact that groups exist denying one of the most devestating and tragic events in human history enough to be called hateful?  These are big questions, important questions, and they all need answers.  What do you think?

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