Courting Controversy

On Friday, I attended Northern Voice, an annual personal blogging conference here in Vancouver. Last year, I presented at #NV10 as part of a panel discussion on using Social Media in the Arts. In March, Lorraine Murphy, Kazia Mullin and I were all staying at the Serenata Guest House in Penticton, as we were presenters at the Eat.Drink.Tweet Conference. While polishing off a bottle of wine, we decided to pitch a session to the organizers of #NV11. We were accepted, and presented a panel discussion on Friday morning called Courting Controversy: Dancing With the Devil.

The lovely Kazia Mullin, Lorraine Murphy and I get ready to dance with the devil.

I’ve written about controversy before. I don’t consider myself to be a controversial blogger. I’m too nice, and furthermore, I write a marketing blog. I don’t think it fits within my mandate to slag folks, although I have on occasion.

Courting controversy on your blog has its pros and cons. We looked at the example of Nerdy Apple Bottom. She’s a blogger from the American Midwest, and she wrote a post around Hallowe’en called My Son Is Gay. You see, Nerdy’s five-year-old son decided he wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Hallowe’en. So, they got him the costume and all, but there was a lot of controversy when they showed up at school that day. So, she wrote a post about it. The post got 140 Million hits in 48 hours and to date, has 46,592 comments.

Wow. So: upside: hits. Traffic. People that have never heard of your wee little blog are finding you. And many people are very supportive of your point of view.

The downside: trolls. Site crashing if you don’t have the bandwidth. And all the negative criticism. Do you have a thick enough skin to stand it?

For me, as a writer, maybe not so much here on this blog, but in other places, I feel like it is my responsibility to expose truths. To peel back layers. To force people to look at things they’ve always seen in a different way. Lorraine’s favorite quote on this (she attributes it to Oscar Wilde, but I think it’s Brecht) is:

Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.

At the end of the day, you have to be true to your own voice. Don’t write about things that are controversial just to get hits. People will see through that. Don’t engage in a flame war. But if something bugs you, and you can express that in a way that doesn’t slander anyone, then you have every right to do that. It’s your blog. And your blog, by its very definition, is your voice, your experience, your life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t research your facts, and put stuff on your blog that is not backed up with solid research. The truth is, if you speak from your heart, there may be times when you will be controversial, whether you are trying to be or not.

Speaking of Lorraine, here’s her take on the session. And here’s Kazia’s.

I have a feeling I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but in the meantime, here’s the awesome Cartoon that Rob Cottingham (Noise to Signal) drew in our session:

Noise to Signal Cartoon

UPDATE: MAY 17: A big thank-you to Ronald Lee, who audio-recorded our panel, because we were unable to get it together to video-record it! You can listen to that MP3 here.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 12

  1. It was so great presenting with you on Friday! Tons of fu, and I think there may be demand for a part 2 next year ;).

    Now have to go work on my Northern Voice wrap up post for my blog.

  2. Hi Rebecca, I enjoyed your presenation with Lorraine and Kazia and love the post-presntation followup you all did with your blog. I came to Northern Voice with a more passive perspective when it cames to controversy and flaming, etc… but now, after the event, I’m starting to wonder if passive is the wrong approach.

  3. Rebecca,
    I really love the cartoon; a picture with words is worth a 1000+ words too!

    And I will read the other presenters comments on the road – again!

    Thanks for sharing Rebecca!!



  4. Love Rob’s cartoons. I watched him sketch one during the Sat keynote on his iPad. Anyway great recap. Lots to chew on. I do like the “stay true to yourself,” and “Are you ready for the traffic anyway?” Loved the session!

    Yours truly

    Mutha Bloggah

  5. […] with the first panel I mod­er­ated: Court­ing Con­tro­versy: Dan­cing with the Devil. Rebecca Cole­man, Kazia Mul­lin, and Lor­raine Murphy had everything so well organ­ised that I didn’t need to […]

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