When I immersed myself in the social media world three years ago, one of the most remarkable things I noted was how freaking boring it was.

There was an almost total lack of any meaningful debate or community.  Sure, everyone SAID they wanted community … that was the big buzz word …  but that is NOT what was happening!

For the most part, the top bloggers of that period hated any form of debate. If anybody dared to criticize an A-Lister, a fortress of sycophants would gather like blog-zombies to mindlessly defend against the most minor criticism or slight. Blog comment areas were simply a chronological list of people saying “Great post!”

It was remarkable to observe. Nobody would EVER DARE to write an unfavorable word against another blogger because it would end the reciprocity gravy train.

It’s still a lot like that today, or course.  The social web runs on the hope of reciprocity — an economy of small favors. If you cross a powerful blogger, the hope for a favor in the form of a mention or a tweet dries up.  So why risk it?

I thought this was a really destructive and dysfuntioncal dynamic. The blogosphere was one big love-in. How would we grow, how would we move forward, how would we innovate, unless we challenge and push each other in constructive ways?

And on top of it all, I found all this social media nicey-nicey happy-happy joy-joy breathtakenly dull.

So I wrote an article about it.  In The Social Media Country Club  I called out the A-Listers and said they were a bunch of back-slapping, glad-handers and I wanted to see some debate. That … I got.

When I pushed that “publish button” I figured I had just killed my chances of ever being a mainstream blogger. But just the opposite happened. Yes, I got a LOT of flak from the blog zombies, but I also had a groundswell of people saying “YES! It was about time somebody said this!”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of the {grow} community.

I took the risk and stepped out of the nicey-nicey box for a day to see what would happen and it was successful because it started a REAL debate and attracted a core group of folks who said “We’re in” and many of them have stuck around for good.

So now I need to ask you something. When was the last time you wrote a blog post or comment where you DISAGREED with somebody?  I mean you’re human, right?  I’m sure you disagree with a lot of stuff going on around these parts.  Why aren’t you writing about that?

If you really want a blog community that TALKS to each other you’ve got to get out of nicey-nicey mode.  We do not need another freaking blog about “Five Things I Like About Google Plus.”  Disagree with something. Show some passion. Take a risk. Write a blog post that only you could write.

Here are five tips for disagreeing in a productive way:

1) Don’t write when you’re mad or emotional. You’ll probably regret it and you’ll lose credibilty if the rant does not have some substance. Also, don’t rant when you’re drunk.

2) Don’t take it personally. When you get pummelled, it’s a sign that you’re making people think and that you’re evoking a reaction. Get in a mindset of “If I take a risk, it is likely people will disagree. I should be prepared for dissent” … and when it shows up, just think “well, there it is.”

3) Be constructive. I have publicly and voceriferously disagreed with Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Jay Baer, Mitch Joel, and Jason Falls, to name a few.   In each of these cases, I have disagreed, but also managed to remain friends with these folks (Except Seth. Have never met him) because the disagreements have been constructive and professional. Don’t just rant with out some answers.

4) Take your licks. I’ve had more than 18,000 comments on {grow} and I have only deleted just three for being inappropriate (and two of them were just being too blatantly sales-y).  Trust your community. Usually people are nice. And if they’re not, hang in there amd show ‘em what you’re made of.

5) Be patient. At one point last year I actually did a study and found that about one-third of the comments on {grow} disagreed with me, Honestly, this can get wearying!  Sometimes I am in just in a mood for harmony. But I also know that every comment — both positive and negative — is a gift. This person devoted their precious time to YOU and cared enough to comment. That’s awesome, isn’t it?

Now I know if you are working for a big corporation there are some very practical, legal, and political reasons why you might not want to kick up some dust.  But if you have a personal blog, what’s holding you back?

If this is out of your comfort zone … all the more reason to do it.  At least try it. It will add some interest and diversity to your content … and it just might the kick-start your community needs!

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