Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Be nice people

In its infancy this column brought the chatter and commentary of the advertising blogosphere into a monthly periodical read by a group of people who had better things to do than read ad blogs.

At the end of most of my columns I’ve shared links to the websites and blogs where the conversations I had written about were taking place.

Over the journey there have been many emails and blog comments from readers thanking me for introducing them to a wealth of knowledge, ideas and thinking that they were totally unaware of.

All of it available on the internet. All of it free. And pretty much all of it self-published.

In recent times however, there has been much written and discussed about industry blogs. More specifically the bile and vitriol that appears on these blogs in the form of anonymous comments.

David Nobay from Droga5 in Sydney wrote about the problem a year or two ago. His article stirred up a hornet’s nest that sadly has since dissipated.

More recently John Mescall from the agency Smart has also rallied against anonymous comments and the overwhelming negativity that has become a feature of industry blogs.

He’s so fed up with the situation he’s; “Decided to make a deliberate attempt to opt out of being critical of other people’s work in public forums.”

Yet when I visited Mescall’s blog I found the following comment by someone known only as Susan;

“Reading your opinions about other peoples ideas for the names of hairdressing salons made me realise you are putting down others to make yourself look good.”

She went on to say, “…you have insulted them, but in such a way that is tacky and unprofessional to say the least.”


Personally I think it’s time we as individuals all took a long hard look at ourselves. And, as my Mum told me many years ago, treat people the same way we would like to be treated. Not just in blog comments, but in life.

Anyway, back to the blogs.

What so many adland figures who are critical of blog commenters don’t seem to realise, is that this situation is not unique to adland. Far from it.

It is rife amongst teenage Facebook users. And a major problem on YouTube. Yes YouTube.

You may think YouTube is just a place to go watch inane videos of Lol Cats, but scroll down the page an inch or two and nine times out of ten you’ll find some of the most horrendous bitchy, bullying commentary.

There’s no shortage of nasty racist undertones either. Yet we never hear of people getting on their high horse about the comments on YouTube.

Someone who has looked beyond the industry blogs is New York based digital entrepreneur, Anil Dash, who recently published a piece titled, “If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault”.

“How many times,” says Dash, “have you seen a website say we're not responsible for the content of our comments?”

Quite a lot I’d say.

As does Dash, who argues that there is a moral obligation expected of anyone who runs a blog or website where anti-social comments happen.

“It's your fault, say Dash. Take some goddamn responsibility for what you unleash on the world.

When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you're the person who made it possible, it's 100% your fault.

If you aren't willing to be a grown-up about that, then that's okay, but you're not ready to have a web business.”

Interesting perspective, don’t you think?

Of course it’s easy to blame the commenters. And so we should. But how ‘bout we follow Anil Dash’s lead and take aim at the blog owners too?

Failing that, as I mentioned before, let’s all start treating each other in the exact same way we would expect people to treat us.



Anil Dash

John Mescall