One of the things that prompted me to start writing is that I’ve recently had some very bad experiences on web forums that I frequent. In one case, I have been a contributor for over ten years.
Over the past 14 years, I have been active on five different forums. Several years ago, I asked to be deactivated from one, a company forum linked to a specific video content provider, after thousands of posts. I felt like part of a community there. It was a virtual coffee shop, complete with a Monday night open chat. Coming from a mid-sized Prairie town where there weren’t all THAT many practitioners of video production, it gave me unprecedented exposure to new people, new ideas and new products that made my end deliverables better.
Well… one day someone decided to make a point that I fundamentally disagreed with. And in my humble opinion it was in contravention of forum policy. I tried to deal with the forum post by first inquiring of the contributor to see if they indeed meant what it appeared they meant. They did. I brought the post to the attention of the moderators, as I had done many times before as I legitimately felt it alienated a significant population of the forum. I was informed that the moderators saw no issue with the post. I contacted the fellow who owns the company in question and who moderates the forum, who agreed with his moderators and said frankly “If you don’t like it, leave”.
So I did. I also stopped purchasing their products. I vote with my hard-earned money.
“This is important! Someone is WRONG on the Internet!”
Since then, I have been contacted dozens of times by contributors to that forum, pointing out they missed my contributions to the community. I appreciate the sentiment and have connected with a few of them via Facebook or other forums but it just isn’t the same. That time we “spent” together in a virtual world, sharing experiences and insights seemed strangely magical to me then.
I recently signed up for another manufacturer forum to again share my knowledge and learn from others. The manufacturer in question is somewhat groundbreaking but has a tendency to release products that aren’t QUITE ready for prime time, at least in certain market segments. It seemed like a natural place to “hang my hat” as I sorted through some of the issues I was having and also help others in the same boat.
This past week a discussion broke out around something I do know a great deal about and I chimed in when I saw what I thought to be some misinformation gathering speed. After some initial civilized back-and-forth, I was called a member of the “old guard” and told that my OPINIONS weren’t relevant in this “exciting new fast-paced world”.
“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”
Then the lemmings piled on. If you have never been an active part of a web forum, you are missing out on some of the most gratifying and most frustrating human interaction imaginable. Knowledge becomes lost and OPINION rules supreme. No matter how ill-informed an idea is, if it appears on a web forum someone will take up the banner and it will become a “web truth”. I also noticed that other members of the “Old Guard” who were active on the forum in question when I started only a few short months ago appeared to be AWOL as well. The lifeboats had sailed away and someone forgot to tell me.
I respectfully requested to have my forum account deactivated. The moderator expressed placating disappointment that I was leaving and that was that. It felt good.
Then most recently, I had another run-in with a contributor on a different forum. We had differing opinions on the right course of action for someone that had a question in an area in which I have some proficiency. Granted, the person with whom I had the disagreement is a recognized expert in his field but his dismissal of my solution to the problem was rude, flawed and in contravention of forum policy.
I suggested an alternative, and a value based one at that, to a problem that I saw. In a world where cameras are often a five-figure investment and audio gear is normally in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, a sub-$100 potential solution to the problem also added future flexibility. Another “tool in the shed”, if you will.
This clash came to a head this morning and I felt that my continued involvement wasn’t getting anyone anywhere. So I asked the moderator, whom I have met on a number of occasions, to respectfully deactivate my forum account as my interest in continuing to contribute to a community with a bully active wasn’t going to be in sync with what I’m trying to accomplish, personally or professionally.
“You like me, you really like me!”
I received an incredibly warm response to my request to deactivate my account that reinforced my HOPED belief that I was a valued contributor and the matter would be looked into. The thread in question was edited heavily to remove the in-fighting and my suggestions remained. A request to reconsider my departure was also tabled in private.
I’m still considering the request to reconsider.
See… for me this is more than a case of “I’m taking my ball and going home”… it is a case of an increasing phenomenon whereby folks who now have a voice online suddenly think that the voice gives them something VALUABLE to say.
In this age of Internet Celebrity, it doesn’t matter WHAT you know any more (some exceptions may apply…) but how glamourously you can express your opinions, which then become mantra and dogma.
This Blog is my response to that experience.
As Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said: “With great power comes great responsibility”.
I hope to share my perspective: there are some things I know to be true, there are some practices I have found to be superior to others in practice and there are some opinions I hold that may or may not apply to your circumstance or your world view.
I hope to have some dialog around these items here.
And Community Builders: DON’T LET THE GOOD PEOPLE LEAVE.
Thanks for reading.