Derek Powazek – Three Tales of Trolls:
Sometimes things happen in threes. I recently read these stories and, maybe it’s just me, but I think they share a common thread.
In the first story, Mattathias Schwartz goes deep into the troll subculture.
Finally, in the third, Duncan Riley reports on the latest incident of Thomas Hawk getting thrown out of somewhere for taking photos.
In all three cases, consider how the outcome would have been different had the people involved followed the old net axiom: Don’t feed the trolls. Online or off, the best solution is often to ignore the guy who’s out to fuck with you.
Or more. Humans have a tendency to find clumps within things that aren’t really related — it’s how our brains are wired. But there’s also a fourth recent one that ties in here that Derek missed.
The first item can be defined as “to better defeat your enemy, understand them.
And in the third? In some ways, it’s too bad this happened to Thomas Hawk; as Derek noted, it’s not the first time, and Hawk has a tendency to be — strident? assertive? a jerk? — about these situations. I’ve jumped on him a bit for this in the past. He tends to forget that we all have rights, and those rights are many times in conflict and his don’t “win” just because he wants them to. While my gut tells me the SFMOMA guy blew this one royally (I’ve seen that “I’m in charge” ego play too often), since Hawk is involved I really wish I knew the parts of the story that haven’t come out yet. I just have to assume it’s more complicated than it seems on the surface, because he has a past as an instigator.
But let’s not forget the fourth, which really ties back into the first. And that’s that William Patry shut down his blog, in large part because he got sick and tired of fighting the trolls.
When other blogs or news stories refer to the blog, the inevitable opening sentence now is: “William Patry, Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel said,” or “Google’s top copyright lawyer said… .” There is nothing I can do to stop this false implication that I am speaking on Google’s behalf.
Yeah, just like I never got away from “the Apple blogger” attribution, when in fact I was never more than a blogger who happened to work for Apple. And then people wonder why more people from places like Apple start blogs (and admit they work for Apple….); the reality is, both Apple and Google have enemies; they are looking for any excuse to put some pain on those companies, and they aren’t afraid to spin something however they think it gives them advantage to do so. Reality just isn’t high on the list.
And you can’t fight it, and you can’t win, because you’re trying to play fair, and they take advantage of that. Or perhaps they’re simply naive and don’t understand the implications of the power of words. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
I’ve been involved with and running online communities for decades. Whether it’s “don’t let the turkeys get you down” or “don’t feed the energy monsters” or “ignore him” — it’s advice easily given and difficult to follow. The reality is, trolls and instigators are few in number, but it doesn’t take too many to completely take the fun out of it or destroy a community. We had a notably persistent one in the Maple Leafs mailing list, and he ultimately won — a good chunk of the group moved elsewhere when they got tired of him, and I finally gave up trying to keep him out. Eventually, it stops being worth it — and you hate letting them win, but you end up no longer caring. That’s the ultimate sadness.
So I have a lot of sympathy for what Patry went through; it sucks. And because of the actions of a few, the greater population loses a great resource. And you know what? there’s not a whole lot we can do.
My one big suggestion to Patry is this, though: take some time off, relax, get away from it all, and see what happens. Sometimes the distance and time gives you a new enthusiasm or takes you in a different direction. Sometimes it gives you perspective to see how you can better cope or ignore the negatives and celebrate the positives of contributing. And sometimes you end up saying the hell with it and go play video games. All of them are good options, if they work for you — just don’t be afraid to say “hey, let’s try it this way…” if you feel it’s worth a shot.
Time off, I’ve found, really helps.
Which is, amusingly enough, another meme wandering the net right now:
louisgray.com: Relax, Bloggers: Nobody Is Keeping Score, and There’s No Quota.:
With the dog days of summer upon us (in the Northern hemisphere), I’m seeing the issue crop up again, as peers are talking about taking time off from blogging or social media, explaining holes in their publishing schedule, or openly questioning their enthusiasm.
Bloggers are finding out they aren’t immune to the realities of the grind — I sit back somewhat amused that they thought they were. Too many folks decided this blogging thing was really neat, and they could even make some money at it, and set themselves up into a situation where they could never turn off, unplug, relax. Instead of asking another “web 2.0 worker” what to do, maybe ask someone off in the real world — there’s a long history of people running one-person businesses, and the successful ones learn early on that weekends matter, and vacations matter, and evenings matter. Having a life matters. Forget that, and having a life will at some point force itself on you, probably at 3AM, and probably on deadline when you can least afford it.
You need to schedule it in and plan for it, or it’ll simply be another crisis, when you least can afford one. And burnout is one of those things that really puts trolls in perspective, because in effect, you end up trolling yourself.
But isn’t this whole “web 2.0″ thing different? it’s new! it’s online! it’s in a coffee shop and a laptop!
Well, no. Ultimately, it’s still just a job, no matter what the tools are and what your pay scales are (if you have any). Just because it’s a laptop in a starbucks doesn’t change the basics of real life, any more than being online stores made pets.com or webcan invulnerable to the economic realities of the real world. hint: it’s all the real world, folks….