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How to speak up on the web

Speaking up, whether in real life, or on the web (as if the web isn't real life!) is a tricky business. Done correctly, it is wonderful. Not only does it feel good to the speaker, it can make life better for us all. And people will listen. Done incorrectly, which is what the vast majority of people do, it's a disaster.

It's human nature to want to speak up. If you see something wrong, you want to put it right. But it takes more than good intentions to speak up correctly. And if you've seen the nasty comments that people make on the web, you know that, regardless of the intention to help, a bad tone takes it all away.

Since it's easy to see the wrong ways to speak up (just read most of the comments on YouTube), I will concentrate on the correct ways. Here they are:

• Stand up and show your face. On the web that means not using an "avatar" or posting as "anonymous". Would you say something, in a particular tone, if people knew that it was you? Would you stand up at a small town meeting and say something obscene? Probably not.

• Collect your thoughts. Getting facts correct, such as who won the French and Indian War, is important if you are going to speak up. If you don't know, Google it, or go back and read about the history of it. The difference between someone who is speaking up and just making noise is all about the content. Get it right.

• Blog. Rather than point out that the person in the video isn't trimming roses correctly, write a blog. If you know how to trim roses correctly, speak up, on your blog. People just love that kind'a stuff. You get to speak your mind, and you come off as an expert, not a jerk.

Everyone wants to be heard. And believe me, people want to hear you. Do it correctly and you will be.