We are all connected: commentary and criticism in the Blogosphere

Once again, there is an A-list discussion circulating (some people would call it a meme)around the question of criticism. One person posts something that offends another, who posts a complaint. Others chime in, and soon a discussion is raging. We’ve all been there.
But this time, what caught my attention, via the always original thinker Dave Winer, was Shelly Power’s comments on whether or not A-list criticism, directed at a specific person, is a form of censure. Shelly relates this back to her own blogging voice and presence and makes some excellent comments (as does Dave).
Shelly writes(this is an excerpt from a much longer piece):
“…Do you write to be part of a community? Or do you write to write, and the community part either happens, or doesn’t? Depending on where you’re at within this space can influence your writing. If community causes you to alter your writing–not to say something you think should be said, or to write a certain way to get attention–then you are betraying yourself as a writer. Worse. Lose yourself enough in the community and you’ll start to do what I did: embed a tiny demand for reassurance and approval in everything you write, until you exhaust both yourself and everyone who reads you.
Now, Marc’s photo isn’t really anything to rally around as a cry for each of us to exert our independence, but it is symptomatic of the community’s influence on its members. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, or with choosing to be community member first, writer second. It’s when the lines get blurred that we start losing a lot of honesty. Honesty, not truth, an important distinction, because here’s nothing false about not speaking out, but there’s nothing honest about it, either.”

Dave
says: “Don’t you get it that the power to offend is just as sacred as the power to please? In fact, even more so, because people are always trying to shout down the person with an original idea, because they’re easy to shout at (they’re usually alone).”
What catches my attention here is how this discussion functions as a demonstration of how people form and communicate in a virtual community. These folks are living of miles from one another, but have strong shared interests and professional concerns(and personal as well) are are truly functioning as a network. While this is nothing new–gaming communities, tech communities, trading communities have done this online for years–blogging and RSS and social network services help create a visibility, a public commons, as well as a speed and transparency, that seems like the next generation for self-forming online groups.
Note: An interesting–and related post from Chris Allen.