During the twentieth century, Sydney’s Domain was host, each weekend to a variety of impromptu lectures. Known as "Speakers Corner", anyone with a point of view could go along and speak to the passing crowd. Some speakers became well known and built up a following, while others were more casual, comic or plain ridiculous. Sometimes the Speakers Corner would turn into a hotbed of debate and discussion, other times it was just diatribe — it depended on the mood of the times, the audience and the speaker.
Many speakers, to give themselves a little more prominence would bring along something to stand on — often a soapbox. They were of sturdy constuction, easy to carry on the train and could take the weight of the speaker for hours on end. So popular did the soapbox prove that a common saying entered the lexicon — "get off your soapbox" — a comment called by the crowd to taunt the speaker.
In many ways, this tradition has much in common with blogging. Bloggers put forward their views which attracts (or repels) an audience. Some readers participate in the debate or drop by to listen before moving on. But there is also a large divergence between "soapbox speaking" and blogging — and this is based around the movement from talking/discussion to action.
If you are a blogger you are bound to receive pitches from PR agencies and comments from your readers. Some will be well researched and others will be dismissive, cursory or even rude. If you are a reader you will have favourite writers that you visit regularly and others who you disregard. But with social media there is not a simple connection between speaking and listening. The velocity with which thought becomes action has never been faster.
For example, Geoff Livingston shares his exasperation with bloggers, PR folk and readers in this excellent post that challenges both the "PR people shilling for long tail hits about crap, and mean cranky bloggers who think hiding behind a keyboard with a decent Technorati ranking is a license to act like jerks". He shows that by looking beyond the shadow of our egos that we (and he means "the greater we") can actually work to achieve an outcome.
So think about this. When you want to fire of a flame comment or a nasty blog post — who are you hurting and why? And if … IF you could put that time and energy into something constructive — imagine what the result would be. AND now that you’ve thought about it, get on with the action. Get off your soapbox, there’s work to be done!