Assuming The Worst… How Not To Build A Community

Perhaps the quickest way to ensure you never build a community is to assume the worst.

Just a few minutes ago I fell victim to my own crankiness and assumed the worst of one of our UrlyBits community based on a single comment, went off of them and am now eating humble pie and writing this post as an apology.

This was the entire conversation:

Too quick to judge

Too quick to judge.

This happened on the DailyShite Facebook wall which is our old community page. We’re moved since but still maintain the DS one actively. I’m the one posting as DailyShite.

Years on the internet have trained me to expect trollish comments and, more particularly, that single word comments like Dave Kaczmarek’s “reposted” usually have a  negative connatation like – “You guys reposted that, so it’s lame”, etc..

What I have come to expect and the reality of the situation are often, and in this case, not the truth of the situation.

As a community leader, and that’s what you are if you have a blog where people comment, a fan page or a following on any social service, I should know better.

I should know better than to think the worst and react to that assumption.

There are no excuses for my reaction. I over reacted, didn’t think it through and generally acted like an ass.

As such, I’m writing this post as an apology, not just to Dave, but to the entire UrlyBits community. I’m sorry.

It’s A Discussion Forum Right?

Monty Python Bunny Rabbit

He's such a cute wee thing!

I’ve always held the belief that this blog is a discussion platform. Folks who comment here know that the opinions can be strong and that, as long as the conversation doesn’t degenerate into trollish personal attacks, pretty much anything goes.

I don’t ask much of my readers. Just leave the occasional comment, maybe the odd retweet and stumble and I’m a very happy man. I don’t feel like I have a basis to ask much of you guys. You come here to read my ramblings and the simple act of spending that time to read what I write (and possibly to comment) is gratification enough.

However I do ask one thing of my readers and that is to stand behind your comments.

I strongly believe that if you say something you need to stand behind it. If I publish a post I need to be prepared to stand behind what I say or I will be taken to task. The same goes for folks who leave comments.  If you make a white-wash statement or an unsupported argument, you can expect to have it challenged.

It’s not that I can’t take being wrong (although that has been said) it’s that  an unsupported argument is a challenge and potentially lost opportunity to learn.

To say I’m a man of strong opinions is an understatement but the great thing about opinions is that they are not set in stone.

Opinions are born of experience and information and, unless someone has a closed mind, are constantly open to challenge and re-evaluation.

Yet, if you come here and tell me I’m wrong but don’t support your argument you lose the opportunity to sway my opinion to your way of thinking. You lose the opportunity to potentially educate me and in the process of correcting me, through the ensuing discussing, we lose the opportunity for both of us to grow intellectually and get to know each other a little bit better.

The same can be said when I post something on Twitter, Facebook or any other social network. I post these things because I want to draw attention to them, want to share them and, now that the discussion has in a larger sense moved off of blogs, discuss these things and find out your opinion.

The same rules apply in those forums as they do on my blog…

Always remember, my bark is worse than my bite and while I may attack ferociously, I’ll still go for a pint with you afterwards!

Honest Spam

Monty Python Spam

No, now go away or I shall taunt you a second time-a!

Comment spam is the blogger’s equivalent of hemorrhoids. It’s that itching, burning, pain in the ass that you just can’t get rid of no matter how hard you scratch.

Yet, very occasionally, the pain will subside and comment spam will provide you with a moment of humor or in this case a cheap grin at the plain honesty of it (I’m not sure if hemorrhoids will ever do that unless they give you some awesome pain medication).

This morning I happened upon an example of such honesty:

You need to approve this comment so that I can link to my website from your site which has lots of awesome posts, as mine has none.

The comment was (obviously) not approved, but this spammer can feel free to attempt to spam this site with more comments of a similar nature ;)

Writing For The Sake Of…

I’m struggling to write. I’ve hit some sort of a mental block. If I were a toilet, and my brain were the cistern, then I would have been flushed after someone turned the water off.

I’m empty.

This is not the result of a lack of ideas or motivation, but simply a lack of practice. I’ve spent so much time buried in code and dealing with real life (like having to mind my amazing step-kids for a week) that the ability to write coherent and structured sentences evades me.

This post is an attempt to break that block. Instead of sitting back in my chair and staring at the screen and mentally planning a post, I’m simply putting fingers to keyboard and praying (in the atheist sense) for a case of mental diarrhea.

The results, as you can see are far from impressive, but hopefully will lead to something more cohesive and worth reading.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to clear my brain a little further by shooting some pool with my beautiful wife and some good friends.

Ignorance Does Not Equal Bliss

No brainIf you haven’t got something intelligent to say, then shut the hell up.

That’s the kind of day I’m having, where puerile fanboy bullshit is driving me crazy.

It’s the release of new software that that usually brings out the stupidest of the fanboys,  and it looks like Microsoft release if the IE9 beta (download link) will be no different.

Having just read a post on Wired about the features we will see in IE9, the very first belly crawler to respond to the question “what next?”, spewed for the following:

Posted by: Ardent | 09/15/10 | 12:08 pm |

“What’s next?”
.
The answer is obvious: figure out who to rip off in order to stave off the loss of the browser market as long as possible.

My eyes have never beheld such a godlike command of design, usability and software practices, nor have my ears ever heard it expressed so succinctly.

Twat.

Just once, whenever Apple, Microsoft, Google or any other company release a piece of software such as a browser, I would like to see all the fanboys who claim “rip off” thrown into a meat grinder room together and not released until they have developed a browser which does not borrow or emulate features from any other browser that has ever been released.

I wonder how they would deliver a usable browser experince without any of the features that exist today?

Frankly, I don’t think it could be done.

Unfortunately, until such a time as I have built a large enough meat grinder, haters are going to hate and idiots are going to comment.

Would We Be Better Bloggers Without Statistics?

statisticsI was listening to TWiT episode 246 a few moments ago and Dwight Silverman said something that really resonated with me while they were discussing Nick Denton, Gawker and the whole “stolen iPhone / iPhoneGate” fiasco.

“This is the dilemma of the web. I think every news organization that has the ability to see how many people are looking at their news and what they’re looking at, you know, as soon as you see what people are looking at that changes what you write about and I think that just because you can count something doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea that you should”

What are your thoughts? Does the knowledge of what people are searching for, or what pages are popular with the unwashed masses make us change how we blog or write?

Do we lose focus of why we are blogging, lose focus of what we are passionate about in our quest for that next pageview or AdSense penny?

I Hate The Regurgitation And You Should Too

Dare to be differentRegurgitation of content is a fact of life within the tech blogosphere.

Steven Hodson wrote about how being doomed to see the same content on site after site  it is simply a fact of life especially within the tech blogosphere, as there simply isn’t enough news to go around.

We might think that there is an incredible amount of news and information that is flowing through our lives on a daily bases what with blogs, 24 hour news channels and Twitter news flashes; however the reality is much different. For all the apparent flood we actually have very little news – especially in the tech sector – truly happening in any given day or week – it just seems like we do.

It’s a numbers game. Too little news and far to many people reporting on it. Such is life. It affects bloggers and it affects main stream media  in much the same way.

We don’t complain when we see the same story reported on 4 different news channels because we have an expectation that their purpose is to report the news. If there is a breaking story or a major event it is their job to report it. We don’t complain about it, in fact, I’ve been guilty of hopping between news channels in order to see different sides of the story as it is being reported.

Each stations has it’s own style, it’s own values and, lets be honest, it’s own agenda and we accept that these things are part and parcel of their reporting of the news. It’s why different news networks appeal to different demographics.

Yet, in the blogosphere, specifically the tech blogosphere, this multiplicity of reporting is often looked upon as a bad thing. Why is that?

I think it has got nothing to do with the news itself, or the repetition, but to do with the effort (or more accurately, the lack thereof) applied by bloggers when they report a story.

I’ve said it time and time again, bloggers are not journalists. We like to play at being journalists but 99.99% of us lack the tenacity, drive, research skills, motivation and pay check to get off our asses and ever do one tenth of the work that it requires to be a journalist.

We aspire.

Aspiration is a good thing. Bettering ourselves is a good thing. Trying to improve and provide quality and service is a good thing.

You know what else is a good thing? A boss or an editor.

Having someone over you who will tell you to your face that you are a talentless hack without the skills to write descent coverage of a story, is a good thing.

Having someone who will tell you that your approach is nothing more than copy & paste and if that’s what you want to do, then he has a crap load of data entry that needs finishing, is a good thing.

Having  someone who tell you that you are unable to string a coherent sentence together and handing you a McDonalds application form, is a good thing.

Having someone who is qualified to make the call, tell you that you write with all the personality of concrete block, is a good thing.

You won’t find these things in the blogosphere. Well, not unless one of the trolls has a coherent and compassionate moment.

Starting out as a blogger you’re likely only to be read by friends and family. Lets be honest, even if you ask them, they’re not likely to critique your properly.

Most bloggers will never get beyond the friends and family stage and those that do stick it out long enough are likely those that become part of the circle-jerk association.

Sorry, I meant “mutual appreciation society”. You know, the social media crowd, who speak no evil and wouldn’t dare criticize you to your face if it was the only thing that could save your life. The people who drive traffic to each other and never unsubscribe from obviously crap blogs because it would be rude. They don’t want to hurt each others feelings. The hippies of web two point, whatever the heck we’re at now? 2.0, 4.0?

Then we have the few talented people who do put in the effort. That tiny percentile. Mostly it is their reports that are being regurgitated.

Their content is regurgitated by legions of clones aspiring fan-boys writers with heads full of  dreams of becoming the next rich a-list blogger (which is akin to believing in Santa Claus), but without the talent, or even the determination to put their own spin on things.

Post are pumped out relentlessly by the copy & paste merchants who are actually self absorbed, or delusional (or both) enough, that they believe they are “creating content” rather than aggregating and devaluing content which was created or reported by those who have put in the effort.

It is the effort that adds value. It is the opinion that adds value. The editorial content that adds value.

That is what still sells newspapers. Not the news reported. If you wanted the news, you’d be online and have it hours, sometimes days, before it can create ink stains on your fingers.

It is the effort that a blogger puts in to formulate their own opinion coupled with their ability to articulate that opinion in a cohesive and passionate way that sets them apart from the crowd.

I hate the regurgitation and until we can find a way to stop talentless or lazy bloggers from every hitting the publish button, I will continue to hate the regurgitation.

If we can figure that out, we may still have more bloggers than news, but at least those that remain will be expressing an opinion worth reading, even if the news they are reporting is the same.

Towing Company Sues Student For $750000 Over Facebook Page – Cease Your Hysterics

Stop complaining, stop shouting and take some pills for that blood pressure before that big red head of yours explodes. This is a non story, but is an interesting and cautionary tale about publishing things online.

The Consumerist and WoodTV.com are reporting this story about a student, Justin Kurtz, who started a Facebook page complaining about the practices of a company called T&J Towing.

The two sites above are painting T&J Towing as being some evil company because it is attempting to protect it’s reputation and is suing the student for defamation of character, libel  and loss of business to the sweet tune of $750,000.

T&J Towing of Kalamazoo, MI wants to send a message to anyone in the town who feels like complaining about the company online. They’ve filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against a Western Michigan University student for starting a Facebook page about them.

They are also, allowing the student to sound as if he has done nothing wrong by posting the following quote:

“It’s not like I was making untrue claims or anything,” he said. “It’s not like I had control over anything that everyone had posted the whole time. I told everyone to be professional, don’t post any threats. Just tell your story and that’s what pretty much everyone did.”

Nobody, is talking about the real truth of this matter, which the Inquisitor mentioned in their post, as being posted under the “info” tab of the Facebook page (while still not bringing attention to the importance of this quote).

It is my firm belief that my car was recently “broken into” but all that was stolen was my arboretums parking pass. This was an act by T&J so that they could charge me $120 to get my car out of impound. Please invite your friends to get justice against T&J!!!

T-and-J-Towing

That quote is a major "no-no" for bloggers with any kind of ethics.

It’s not about what other people posted, it’s about what Kurtz posted in the info tab. A place where only he (or a page administrator) can post.

That quote alone is basis for a defamation lawsuit. It is accusing T&J of a criminal act, without basis or proof. If I, or you to were make similar claims without proof against any person or company on our blogs, then we could and probably should also be sued for simply being grossly negligent and making unsubstantiated claims that charge others with criminal behavior.

So, all of you who were rooting for the student, starting your “RA RA” chants, painting placards and getting t-shirts with crappy slogans printed on them. Back off, back down and think.

I am not a lawyer, but regardless of T&J’s actual business practices, which neither you nor I have proof of, I would think that what Justin Kurtz wrote in the info tab of the Facebook page is perfect grounds for a lawsuit.