Writing about music online
I participate in a few interactive online communities at any given point in time. One thing I've noticed is that it's difficult to find a musical community of any substantial size in which the members care about discussion. Past some ill-defined critical size (depending, it seems, upon the interests of the members, the membership's median age and the involvement of moderators) it seems as if most communities devolve into popularity cliques in which the dominant "world view" is expressed repeatedly and unthinkingly while "nonbelievers" are told with certainty that they're "wrong".
Opinions are fine. Everyone's entitled to their own opinions. The `net, however, has bred a self-identified group of people who believe it's their right, if not their duty, to reduce their most cherished opinions to a catch phrase or talking point and to post as often and as stridently as the demands of "real life" will allow.
I can't especially fault anyone for this behavior. The `net has democratized communication, while our "traditional" media outlets and book publishers have all but eliminated any standards of journalism and writing in order to appeal to people who'd rather relate to the outside world via the `net.
Strong opinions only annoy me insofar as they're unsupported. If you want to say that someone's music "sucks" or is "the best", fine. But if that's all you're going to say, then you haven't contributed much to the discussion. All that your readers learn from a statement like "X sucks" or "Y is the best" is that you have formed a particular opinion and are not interested or not willing to share any of the thoughts or experiences that led up to that particular viewpoint.
In some cases leading off with an absolutist remark is a gambit to open up the discussion; this can work well among friends in face-to-face conversation. On the `net you're communicating with a diverse group of people, most of whom do not share a common understanding of your communication style or personal preferences and many of whom won't bother to check back (see below) for any follow-up remarks.
Also consider this: Search engines index and cross-reference virtually all of what is discussed on the `net. I've had a presence on the `net since the late 1980's; most everything I've ever written online over the past two decades can be found by someone who knows where to look. Everything you write builds a permanent legacy of your online persona.
When I communicate online in a public forum, I try to consider: would I be embarrassed at some future time by what I'm about to write? I'm not talking about expressing a particular viewpoint; a viewpoint is a matter of who I am and where I am in my personal development, for better or worse. What I'm more concerned about is the tone of my discussion, and whether I've made an attempt to explain why I believe what I do at this particular point in time.
The tone of one's writing online is very important in a forum populated primarily by mature, intelligent adults. If someone comes into a serious discussion to add an unsupported absolutist remark, I tend to speculate - as a reader - that the author of that remark is perhaps unaware that he has not left his readers with a positive first impression. In the absence of any follow-up from the writer, I'm left to wonder whether the writer was pressed for time, intellectually lazy, contemptuous of his readers, or simply part of the "Hey, look at me! Bye now!" crowd who developed their online communication style by participating in various "output only" venues like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.