Aug 262011

This guest post is by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

You’ve been told that controversy sells. You’ve heard you need to use hyperbole in your headlines. You’ve tried to create polarizing content that gets comments rolling in like crazy. You’ve heard that being a jerk is the key to effectively drawing people to interact with your blog.

But I’m here to tell you there is a better way.

A way to generate more traffic. A method to write more meaningful content. A secret to building a more passionate community.

I’m here to teach you how to be a better jerk.

We’ll call it Jerk +.

Three secrets to starting controversy

Angry typing

Image licensed under Creative Commons, Copyright Douglas Witt

Before you can be a Jerk +, you have to learn how to be a jerk. You can’t transcend jerkdom without first understanding it. You can’t break the rules before knowing what they are.

Here are three effective ways to be a jerk and create controversy:

1. Use satire

Remember, Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal? During Ireland’s potato famine of the 1720s, Swift argued that starving parents should eat their children. Of course, he wasn’t serious, but by satirizing the heartless rich, he helped convince them to take better care of their poor countrymen.

Satire is simple. Satire is like saying the opposite of what you believe as offensively as possible. You write a blog about social media? Write a post about three ways to piss off your twitter followers. Or for your photography blog? Write a post called the 5 Best Ways To Take a Terrible Picture.

2. Question dogma

What recent author wrote a book about heaven and hell was so controversial that one leader basically excommunicated him and many others called him a heretic? Ann Coulter? No! Rob Bell and his book Love Wins took a commonly held belief and said, simply, “Is this really true?”

What’s a widespread assumption in your field? Something everyone subscribes to? Start asking questions. Is this really true? What if it isn’t? What if the opposite is true? The best thing is, you don’t necessarily have to disagree with the dogma. You just have to raise a few doubts.

3. Be irreverent

Note: Do this at your own risk.

In April 2011, four young men walked into an art museum in France. They threatened the security guards with a hammer (one of them had hidden it

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