So, I missed blogging about Mena Trott and Ben Metcalf's bustup at Les Blogs, but
Nancy White blogs about it as a precursor to our SXSW Panel titled Us and Them: A Blog Conversation Guide...
and I'll pass along this clip of it all courtesy of sean that shows what went down.
However, I will make this observation on the whole thing: in the blogosphere, there's a great misunderstanding about what is/is not civil. Ben gives an interesting breakdown of it, which points out that the notion of civility varies from culture to culture. In the blogosphere, we are creating a culture that is pan-global and our mores are bound to clash. What we have here in this realm is a mix of mores and attitudes about civility. Even from my own observation of the speech, Mena's ideas of civility are very touchy-feely. Ben's ideas are rooted more in the idea that two persons can disagree (and disagree greatly) but not have that disagreement be personal. I would have felt the way that Ben did--that I was being patronized by Mena's comments.
However, what is also caught up in the exchange between Mena and Ben is the problem of IRC backchannel conversations at conferences being posted on a screen behind a speaker. While it is indeed a civility issue, it is a different issue from what Mena seems to address in her speech. Frankly, projecting the IRC chat is simply rude, rude, rude and doesn't add any sort of "texture" to a presentation. Perhaps if we consider "texture" something like the hockey match-style brawls in the Korean Parliment...but I don't think most of us would want to have that happen at a conference. So, the solution is simple: if attendees want to have a conversation, that's fine. Tell everyone where it's going on, and let them find it. But don't upstage the speaker-- because when you upstage the speaker, you end up annoying those of us who actually want to hear what the speaker has to say! Perhaps we're paying good money to hear someone and don't want to be distracted by your idle chit-chat!
There. It's just that simple.