Powazek says:
May 28, 2000 11:38 PM   Subscribe

Powazek says: "Remember that personal sites are digital stand-ins for real people."

Well said, bro! (And hang in there!)

posted by EricBrooksDotCom (39 comments total)
One of the basic problems of being a 'celebrity' is that people start treating you differently. Derek is a celebrity, no matter how much he denies it.

He just is. Just look at the 'about page' "episode". Derek writes: 'It's too bad there aren't more "about me"' pages on the web. And suddenly hundreds of bloggers are creating about pages, writing something about themselves. Derek speaks and the web listens.

The problem is that such celebrity usually brings with it resentment from other people. It's sad but inevitable. We all have a few close friends, more not-so-close friends and an even larger number of aquaintances. We create rings of intimacy. But when these groups become too large we have to start making choices, putting one person ahead of another, writing back to a friends while postponing email to an aquaintance. I'm sure it's not easy for Derek to do, but he has to do it and it's what we'd all do in his situation.
posted by jedrek at 12:00 AM on May 29, 2000

posted by hobbes at 12:06 AM on May 29, 2000

I'm no celebrity. But by virtue of knowing a celebrity (nothing to do with the web) I've been put on a pedestal and had my arse licked sideways. All too often these people would turn absolutely psycho on me if I made one little (human) mistake. (Didn't answer mail soon enough, had to tell them off in my role as a list-owner, etc etc.) They'd start a ruckus, drag other people into it, there'd be a pro and to contra group, etc etc.

It hurts, it drives you mad and it makes you cynical, more and more each time it happens. You learn to ignore it, but it still smarts.

And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, except run and hide. Which is NOT an option.

Don't let anybody have that much influence on you.

posted by prolific at 12:10 AM on May 29, 2000

Good advice there.

As a person from the con-ish side, I remember when I sent off an e-mail to Matt. I didn't get a reply for over a week, and as much as I hate to admit it, I thought that he just ignored me. Later on, he replied and I actually thought more into it.

Just because someone does reply your e-mail within a week doesn't mean anything. Everyone's busy at times, and everyone does put off replies every now and then.
posted by hobbes at 1:04 AM on May 29, 2000

Thanks Hobbes! At least *you* understand where I was coming from.

Maybe I should elaborate further.

Derek Powazek is one of those guys that are trying to "Give back to the Web" rather than draw attention to himself. He also said "...all I've ever wanted to do is encourage everyone else to take to the web and tell their stories as I have. Because that's what I believe the web is for. It's for you."

It's not about popularity, judgement, hit counts, being a "web celeb", or winning an award.... Finding or doing something you love what you love and sharing with everyone. You become a "star" when you take the spotlight off yourself and shine it on others... And when you tear a site apart...you tear the builder apart with it.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:39 AM on May 29, 2000

In the early days of the automobile, they passed a law which meant that a man with a red flag had to walk in front, not just to warn the pedestrians ahead, but to make sure the car itself went at a reasonable speed.

We're at that stage now, except we need the men with red flags to slow down our assumptions about people: about identity and contact and access.
posted by holgate at 3:56 AM on May 29, 2000

I sent the following to think.donk a while back, but it never appeared on the site (apologies if that's just me being unable to find it):

Your positive blogging page struck me as pretty sad.  Of course, I've no objection to being polite to people, and no wish to encourage people to be rude or agressive.  What saddened me was that it needs to be said.  Not because I think people should automatically be polite (although that's a fair point), but because I'd prefer web site authors to do something a bit more constructive than simply discuss each other.

Perhaps the problem is the global nature of the net.  I'm a fairly old, intolerant, bad tempered Englishman using the web mainly as a source of information.  I suspect you're a fairly young, contented American, using the web as a way of chatting with other people from the same social background.  Why should I send you this strange email commenting on what is effectively a private conversation amongst friends?

As I write this, and think about that last point, I'm tempted to buckle in, to think "Aw, they're just sweet wholesome American kids, leave them alone".  But there's something so twee and complacent in your site.  The blithe assumption that hugs are the most important thing around.  That "positive energy" is going to change the world.

In other words - I think you've made things too easy.  Your goals are too low.  Anyone can agree to be positive.  Why not take on an issue that might really change something?  How about the treatment of gays for example, or the way people in your country keep shooting each other?

Questions with easy answers aren't worth asking.

posted by andrew cooke at 4:07 AM on May 29, 2000

(Heh. Should we start this up again?)

Andrew, I'd have to agree with you in wishing that authors would "do something a bit more constructive than simply discuss each other." But since they probably will anyway, and since most of them are probably new to the internet, there is no harm in introducing them to the basic principles on human interaction online.

The issues (popularity, idolization, long rants, group narcissism and personal attacks) are exactly the same that've existing among every group of people who elect to choose a patch of the ether together. I've seen it on mailing lists, usenet and throughout the history of the web (And, let's face it, this is basically alt.links + hypertext + nicer formatting).

For some reason, it takes a while before normal human respect and consideration develop in the identities new participants create (and some never seem to get it). People really do say things that they would never say face-to-face and everyone takes it personally. ("Fuck you" is "fuck you" even on the screen.)

Despite the fact I wasn't inclined to subscribe to the non-negative blogging thing (and note that that is "non-negative" very different than "positive") I think it's great that people would purposively decide to think before they made a personal attack (that's all I ever saw on the site, btw).

In any case, I doubt there is a single person who has decided that they would say positive things in their "blogs" as a means of absolving themselves from their larger moral responsibilities. Frankly, while I hope that everything in the whole proceeds in the best possible way for everyone, I'm more interested in people creating an intelligent, mature discouse on the topic of their choice than reading about another cause (and there is no lack of organizing for politcal, charitable, religious, human rights, radical anarchist, philanthropic, etc. organizations on the web right now).

On the matter of low goals: you and I both, I suspect, engage in a variety of activities to which a neutral observer might ascribe varying amounts of extrinsic social value (reading, washing, talking, eating, fighting for equal treatment of GBL or gun control, watching terrible movies, and so on).

The people I know who make every effort to maximize their extrinsic social value to the exclusion of activities which might be entertaining or pleasurable aren't very interesting. It's OK to not be saving the world all the time; it's ethically permissible to do something mindless once in a while, and just the same, it's certainly permissible to encourage people to realize that unthinking cruel comments actually hurt people's feelings(just like I hurt someone's feelings ranting on this topic elsewhere on MetaFilter).

It would seem to me that questions with easy answers would be the best ones to ask, since one can answer them so easily: so, really, why does this make you "sad"?
posted by sylloge at 4:52 AM on May 29, 2000

I admit it's difficult to criticise the blogging culture in general - my worries about that should be clear in my previous post.

But that doesn't let *positive* blogging off the hook. Why has it become such a popular cause? Because it's something people can sign up to, getting social approval for, without any cost. The result is a bunch of people patting each other on the back - a mutual admiration society.

I agree that it's tedious to always wear your heart on your sleeve and I'm *not* saying that blogging should be banned.

But what I see are people *playing* at, for want of a better word, "dissent". If you're taking it easy - fine, take it easy. But positive blogging takes the "at least I'm doing something good" feeling of "activism" and attaches it to the banality of hugs.

Is that clear? What saddens me is that the atmosphere of "fighting for a just cause" is attached to such a bland activity....

posted by andrew cooke at 5:39 AM on May 29, 2000

This is just my opinion, and maybe you're seeing something I'm not, but....

"But, somehow, eventually, it backfired. Some people, for whatever reason, resent me. For just being here, I guess. For being online."

I used to think that was the case, but after watching it for a while I believe it's actually something different. I think that there are a subset of Internet users who are just mean. And not your garden variety mean, but more of a 'wrong in the head' sort of mean. Suddenly these people have a captive audenience. In the real world you could see them for what they are and blow them off. You could walk away. You could punch them in the nose if you were so inclined.

But on the web none of those things are possible. They know it and they love it. All you can do is either flame them back or ignore them. Unfortunately this is exactly what they want. It gives them some affirmation. They are getting to you. In real life they'd never be able to do that.

I had an opportunity to be in a chat room with one of these bitchy little brats a while back. He was very happy that people hated him. I don't exactly understand it. But there it was.

These days I just see this as noise. One of those things I have to put up with if I want to be on the Web. I treat it like calls from telemarketers or spam email. When someone writes to tell me that I'm an idiot or that my site sucks I usually politely write back asking them to give me a coherient explaination of their asseration. People who think they have something important to say will settle down at that point. Trolls will take the bait and start calling me names. At that point it gets treated like spam.

Of course I don't get the volume powazek.com does so maybe it's different. But I still think it's more of a cry for attention than a personal attack.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:29 AM on May 29, 2000

Please, not this again...
posted by Calebos at 6:33 AM on May 29, 2000

Mean Users Suck.
posted by scottandrew at 7:15 AM on May 29, 2000

Two unimportant things to read in a non-inflammatory kind of way.

1. The 'not this again attitude' that crops up on BBS, mailing lists, newsgroups and what not, (I'm not picking on you specifically Calebos) One great thing about the web is, after the initial shock of running across a topic you've grow weary of, you can easily avoid it by not clicking on the link anymore. That way, you avoid trauma, and people who still want to talk about it, can talk about it.

2. When I first saw Derek's diatribe, I though it said "On hurt feelings, negative blogging, and Jakob Nielsen:", which still would have worked in that context ... kinda
posted by alan at 7:28 AM on May 29, 2000

When I first saw the non-negative page, it kind of raised my hackles for a number of reasons, which I couldn't really articulate well at the time. I think my original interpretation was that she was saying "don't criticize anyone else", which seemed rather stifling of honest debate and disagreement. Now (possibly due to later clarifications she made on her site) I believe that she simply means, "if you do disagree with someone, don't be insulting about it", which seems far more reasonable to me (even though I still feel no need to be listed as a "supporter"). I've sent e-mail to ThinkDink in the hope of clarifying some matters, although I have yet to see a response.

(What really saddens me in all this is some of the counter-reaction I've seen by some of the "supporters" of non-negative blogging. I've seen a few disappointingly insulting condemnations of anyone who didn't interpret ThinkDink's remarks in the same way they did, or disagreed with any part of it. I really think some of these statements have been as negative as anything ThinkDink opposed in the first place, and don't really help her cause.)
posted by harmful at 8:33 AM on May 29, 2000

The original thread is still available here:

Mind you, that thread has gotten a bit long, and Metafilter isn't really set up to accomodate long discussions. I guess if you want to keep the ball rolling, starting the thread up again is one way to go about it.

I seriously considered ignoring the post entirely. However, I felt it necessary to add my 0.02$ and suggest we move past this topic.
posted by Calebos at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2000

Let's sum up this subject:
  1. Some people want to pledge to be nice to others.
  2. Some others think that's naive.
  3. Nobody is obligated to listen to the other side.
Have I missed anything? It's a big old Internet. If you didn't want people to write you and call you names, you probably shouldn't have a website. I'm as far from a web celebrity as possible, and I've gotten my share of garbage. If Sturgeon's Law says that 90% of everything is crap, what makes that suddenly not apply to the Internet?

Of course, the next time someone tells me my site was obviously designed by overly-medicated monkey's I'll probably have a screaming fit...
posted by mrmorgan at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2000

I'll apologize to for lack of response on some emails, as was posted earlier in this thread - I too get very busy. I'm a single mother and have tons of my own "real life battles" to fight.

The real people behind the webpages have real lives too.

I will sit down and answer email soon.

The slightly different point of view that Derek offered, because he is so known - reminds me - People who are placed on pedestals for whatever reason are in clearer sight for snipers. It doesn't make it right, but it does happen.

Andrew, I do believe I either responded or posted some sort of answer to your email on the site. I did not post the whole thing, but I can.

"But there's something so twee and complacent in your site.  The blithe assumption that hugs are the most important thing around.  That "positive energy" is going to change the world."

I never made that sweeping of an assumption, really. I've not had an easy life and I personally am one of the more cynical, realistic, sarcastic people I know - BUT I try to keep a positive outlook on life. If I focused on/chose to view the negativity of the world all the time, life would not be worth living. That is MY personal view, which I shared.

Non-negative itself, was in response to a ton of petty personal attacks, flaming, etc. that I saw on the web. I had to make it a simple statement so that people could take that and make it their own statement. I don't expect it to change the world. I wanted to make people think, which I think many did.

It is sad that I felt that the statement needs to be made, yes. I find that it's easy to fall into doing the same thing over and over. For many, choosing to write a short attack rather that a thoughtful discourse had become habitual. One loud voice screaming, "Hey, what are you doing?" shook some people up.

As I've also said, all along - in email, on the website, in the last mefi thread - if you don't agree with it, don't pay attention to it. If you hate it (or another site) why promote it with a link to it?
posted by thinkdink at 9:19 AM on May 29, 2000

posted by thinkdink at 9:21 AM on May 29, 2000

good lord - all of this makes me glad i jumped on the blog bandwagon really late in the game (and actually, sorta glad that my blog has nothing to do with most other blogs out there). I haven't even *seen* any of the 'negative blogging' in effect.

Negative words hurt, tho.

A few years ago, after a year or so of gushing over the Fray, i made a tepid attempt on angelfire and somehow, Derek found it - never a remark was made about the crappy, sloppy amateur code, the nonexistence of design, or the fact that you couldn't get to it without dealing with a popup window.

Eventually, it got better - I'd like to think that not hearing a bunch of negative comments (and getting a few positive ones here and there) is what kept me going - that, and my own chutzpah. It's true, the web is for you. I'm sure I'm not the only one out here inspired by Derek's efforts, or the efforts of countless other people who've made stuff like he has. In my mind, the Fray is one of Derek's best creations - wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of a lot of other people, tho. It's what it's about. There's absolutely NO reason to be a sheep on the web. You have the freedom to be your own shepherd.

It's too bad we can't dump all this non-negative blogging stuff and just get on with it - countless hours of inspired thought are being wasted on it.

No wonder people are frustrated.
posted by cadence at 9:33 AM on May 29, 2000

A couple of comments to ThinkDink:
I'll apologize to for lack of response on some emails, as was posted earlier in this thread - I too get very busy.
Sorry if I came across as saying "where's my frickin' answer?" before; I understand there are lots of reasons why you may not be answering mail, especially over a holiday weekend (hope you're having some good BBQ). I was just trying to make it clear that I was still relying on my own interpretation of your words.
...if you don't agree with it, don't pay attention to it.
I believe that if people thought that there was no value to your words, they wouldn't be saying much about it (except for a few of the Usual Suspects). I think that as important a subject as you've brought up does deserve some debate as to where people draw lines, etc. I'm just sorry the debate has gotten as uncivil as it has.
posted by harmful at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2000

I bet this guy, gets a lot of mean-ee-mail. Thank god, he doesn't blog..... Yet.
posted by PaperCut at 10:12 AM on May 29, 2000

My impulse was to let this pass with some respectful silence.

I still think that is the appropriate response.

Unless this is a 12-step group. In which case, I wonder what personal problem we're all trying to work on together.

Derek is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. He did so. He then went outside to enjoy a nice day. Perhaps we could do the same, metaphorically speaking.
posted by Zeldman at 10:15 AM on May 29, 2000

yep, I'm tired.
posted by thinkdink at 12:36 PM on May 29, 2000

<disappointment> This threat was *NOT* supposed to become "Blog Nicely II"... I've said for months that a site is a "digital version" of yourself. We *all* deserve a pat on our back for our hard work... Rather than a scathing letter from a bitter anonymous moron...or a rejection from a portal site because someone's work isn't "cool" enough... we can all work together before American Business takes all of the "dot-com" realm from those who originally made the web...

I thought we could share our stories of success & rejection... those on a pedestal and those off....

Forget it... I'm arguing a lost case here. I'll go join another discussion and regret ever posting this.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:40 PM on May 29, 2000

Eric, I don't see how posting a link to Derek commenting on the Blog Nicely would do anything *but* turn into "Blog Nicely II." ;)

The post probably needed more upfront explanation as to what point you wanted to discuss (which you have since clarified). Having said that, it looks liek there is still enough people who want to discuss the topic that anything even remotely is going to turn into a "Sapwn of Blog Nicely" thread.

I can't help feel like I've been surfing all the wrong sites, since I've never really encountered any kind of offensive, personal-attack bloging. I've had a handful of disagreements with folks, but it was no big deal. Maybe that's why I find the whole thing wierd.

posted by Calebos at 2:24 PM on May 29, 2000

typo hell... "Spawn of Blog Nicely"

(where is that friggen Preview button...?)
posted by Calebos at 2:28 PM on May 29, 2000

People who tell other people to Think Positive or Act Nice should just practice what they preach and if it works, the world will follow. And then, it will be real instead of just "doing something because it's the cool thing to do this week".

And a big right on to that Brit fellow up above. Besides giving my own feelings on all this another dimension, he finally helped me figure out what the word "twee" meant. I've been wondering for awhile.
posted by monde at 4:33 PM on May 29, 2000


. I had to make it a simple statement so that people could take that and make it their own statement.

THIS is what I find loathsome about this whole thing. As if we are incapable of having our own thoughts about something. Ewww.
posted by monde at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2000

I've found one thing in the years of running a fairly high profile site. The mean people? they love it if you flame them back or dont' write them back, but when you write them back and are so exceptionally nice, they can't handle it.
    Dear reader, Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful words about my website. While I can't seem to locate the "overflowing pile of cow feces" that you refer to, I hope that horrid and putrid smell won't affect your enjoyment of the site in the future. Thanks for your feedback!
It drives them nuts. And you win.

Really, in the end we're all a bunch of geeks who like the web for one reason or another. Criticism in a constructive sense is good. So be constructive. Not nice per se, but constructive.

some famous guy said: I don't agree with a word you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.
posted by eljuanbobo at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2000

Calebos, all...I'm sorry.

The topic was open to interpretation, and I guess I got upset at one remark (not yours). Though I *still* resent all of you for not being mind readers with I was driving at. :0)

Basically... I am a major fan of the homepage. Whether you're lucky enough to get www.yourname.com, or you have a geocities address, complete with pop-up banners. They're great. everyone should have at least one. Upon reading my server logs, these are also "My People". People with feelings. People that want approval and acceptance just like the rest of us. We're *ALL* "stars"... and a little bit of our souls are in our web pages. You want popularity? Shine the spotlight on others...that'll drive people to your site everytime. It's not about page hits or awards... it's about expressing yourself. It's the heart of the web (or at least the one I remember).

While another discussion rages elsewhere in CyberTown about "how to separate the good sites from the garbage".... That's something to think about.

I just figured if someone of Mr. Powazek's stature says the same thing I've been saying for months.... People will listen.

Re: Nice Blogging. Like the Rat Bastard says: "If you can't say anything nice...sit next to me!"
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:38 PM on May 29, 2000

Actually, Dorothy Parker said that.
posted by Zeldman at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2000

I know. That's "Granny Bastard".
Right Don? :0)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2000

I'm sure The Zeldman is correct about Dorothy Parker. But my fancy always flies to Alice Roosevelt Longworth (daughter of Teddy Roosevelt) when I think of that quote. She embroidered it on a sofa pillow. Heh.
posted by ratbastard at 7:23 AM on May 30, 2000

Zeldman writes:

Unless this is a 12-step group. In which case, I wonder what personal problem we're all trying to work on together.

Hmmm. Interesting thought. If anything, I'd say that our shared personal problem would have to be our borderline-pathological need for self-expression. :)
posted by webmutant at 1:46 PM on May 30, 2000

"A 12-step group for the borderline pathological need for self-expression": Welcome, friends, to the first meeting of DON'T WANNA BE ANONYMOUS (DWBA).
posted by wendell at 3:27 PM on May 30, 2000

close tag . oops.
posted by wendell at 3:28 PM on May 30, 2000

Don't you mean the right to be self-referential

(Come on...you knew someone was gonna do it...)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:36 PM on May 30, 2000

Self-expression makes us human.

Or, um, means we're alive, or something.

(Other animals express themselves, too. They just don't leave artifacts. Well, the artifacts they do leave tend to decompose. Um, well, anyway, they don't check to see which of the other cats linked to their meow.)

(I'm not feeling well physically, can you tell?)
posted by Zeldman at 10:17 PM on May 30, 2000

Feel better dude...

I also suspect (not to bring up slashdot) that there was a certain post that *really* got to you, and yeah...that should have been discussed privately instead of being brought into an open forum full of vipers.

So since it's your site's birthday....and since you're such a nice guy, I'll say it for you on *our* forum...

You're welcome.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2000

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