Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm not enough of a hipster to be aloof

So, this website grew out of the accompanying newsletter, which existed as unformatted email that I sent out from 2002 through May 2014. Both got a very light makeover shortly after launching: I changed the title to the one you see now, from one that had included the full BS-word. To many readers that title lasted about a week. I got one response from one reader, and that's all it took.

In truth, I had used that title as part of an on-again/off-again, little-known blog I had maintained since 2005. The title was supposed to convey the following:
  • This guy's cool.
  • He must like to write about the weather.
  • He must like to write about non-weather stuff too.
  • He is not your everyday weather-dork. No sirree! He is edgy. He's not afraid to swear.
I think any students of mine, almost anyone who has come to one of my public weather-storytelling "performances," my friends, family (sorry mom), and even colleagues, know that I can turn the occasional profanity-dipped phrase. Well big deal: my dad's from Manhattan. He gave me a solid foundation. What can I say?

But I draw very sharp lines too:
  • Never around the kids (unless someone in a car does something really dumb and my reptilian brain takes over, in which case we have an "advanced vocabulary" moment).
  • Never to clients, superiors, or professional peers if they have not made the move first
  • Never to parents of friends, friends of parents, or in otherwise polite company
  • Never to/with people who have said that, for whatever reason, they do not like swearing
I might know how to swear well, but I know how to read social cues too. And I try to take care of the person on the other end of the conversation.

Or do I?

The letter/response I received, right after launching the new site and newsletter design, woke me up to the notion that I might be alienating readers, even if only a few of them. Even if only one of them.

Look, aside from my supposed edge, having the spelled-out BS-word posed some challenges too:
  • Clients, boss(es) and employer(s) may stumble upon the site and not be amused
  • In general, it's not good professional form
  • Swearing might not *hurt* in all cases, but that doesn't really mean it helps.
These are all valid, but I am most concerned about actually alienating readers.

You can approach objections to swearing in all sorts of ways, and a common one is to say, "they don't like it? Too bad." (some might even weave directed profanity, into the "Too bad" section, for good measure.)

That one doesn't work well for me. I am sharing here. I am inviting people to read what I write. I don't know why. I have wanted to share for many years. And this blog--who knows where it will go?--is just an outgrowth of the emails I had been sending out for years. Emails to which readers had opted in and said, "yes, include me."

Why would I want to alienate someone who has taken that kind of interest in something so important to me? I am simply too sensitive to (pretend to) be aloof. I can't pretend I don't care. It's not something I can pull off. I'm not that cool; not enough of a hipster perhaps.

Plus, zero value is lost in going from the full BS-word, to BS. And that means that zero value was gained by having the BS-word in the title in the first place.

Lesson learned!

So, it was a surprisingly swift and easy choice. It is now Weather and BS. Same title, less offensive. Does it mean I am promising to keep it entirely clean? Not necessarily. It just means the blog title and email header are now different, and that I am probably a little bit more mindful about how, when and where I use certain phrases. Especially those edgy, profanity-dipped ones!   

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