LearnThe web is a mean place sometimes

Ryan Carson
writes on January 28, 2009

I wanted to record a quick video response to Mike Arrington’s post about taking a break from blogging.

Photo credit: Danorbit.

0 Responses to “The web is a mean place sometimes”

  1. A few things after your post….

    1. No one will say anything to your face because you are like 8ft tall.

    2. NO HAT!?!?!?!?!

    3. Seriously, someone spat in his face? I was genuinely in a jaw dropped state when you said that.

    Right, ok. The video was a good call, it’s more personal and this is that kind of topic. I personally have found the web design community online extremely kind. I have met various people leagues above my skills and talents and chatted, helped out, had lunch with even received gifts. I even got a phone call from Andy Clarke once to see if I was ok because I was pissed off and just mentioned it one Twitter. I also have made various friends from people like myself just starting out.

    In all honesty I’ve not really noticed anyone rude online but I put that down to me not being huge on the scene. There tends to be a ‘beat them down if they are up at the top’ mentality. I’ve heard Paul Boag mention it jokingly a few times. Although when he mentions it, it’s more of a full poke like when he does the Boagworld podcast live. It’s all good fun and he laughs along with us mocking him. I’m pretty sure Marcus isn’t hugging him once the camera goes off saying “There, There Paul” and patting his head.

    Now that’s the kind of poke I imagine people to have and if I said ANYTHING and upset someone I’d beg them for forgiveness most probably. But the level of someone finding someone at a conference (I’m guessing it was at a conference) and then spitting in there face is just plain psychotic. It’s not nasty, it’s bloody crazy. Nasty is saying someone smells of poo then flicking a bogey at them.

    I just hope this isn’t the start of a trend, with all of the freaks crawling out of the woodwork looking for there moment of fame online.

    Man I typed a lot, you can tell I’m half asleep 😛 Adios amigos!

  2. Oh how true. We have had a big issue with a KIA (know it all) in a forum I belong to recently and he just gets so ugly and he shouts. I know he would never act like this in person.

    I am against open ID’s though.

  3. Some brilliant percepts here, a very interesting topic.

  4. Gavin Steele on February 1, 2009 at 2:39 pm said:

    I want start by saying I totally agree with your video post…

    I do however worry that…..

    In some cases, things have been said that have been very useful by anonymous commenters, that might not have been brought to light if they new that their comments might lead back to say their facebook account?

    There also needs to be some accountability on the site for checking that their comment sections are monitored in some fashion. Keeping in mind some young people have a great interest in the web and design and tech. Some of the comments I have read over the years that have not been monitored are a little heavy for young minds… saying that.. I am a great believer in 100% freedom of speech and battle to understand some censorship laws.



  5. I just wanted to say that you guys are really great to write as much as you do. expressing your opinion should be allowed but it should be done in a respectful manner. By creating and writing your blogs, you’re really trying to reach out and benefit your readers. It’s always harder to knock on the door than to open it. It’s easy to hide behind a fake name. Just remember there are many more people who the blogs make happy. You guys add so much. Don’t let those disgruntled naysayers get the better of you.

  6. You suck carsonified!

    Only joking I agree with your sentiments!

    Chris, Glos

  7. Now about that ebay fiasco . . .

  8. Ben, you certainly know how to ckick a man when he’s down! Nice one.

  9. My previous comment was so idiotically inappropriate it’s taken me this long to stop smacking myself on the back of the head.

    Sincere apologies.

  10. That’s an excellent point, Ben, about the importance of visual and audible cues.

    In most online situations (not the extreme ones, of course, but most) comments aren’t meant to be offensive or off-putting, but they are interpreted that way, and that leads to retribution and escalates into greater hostility.

    The same thing happens in e-mail or any other quick-turn-around form of written communication… even between two individuals who know each other very well (note: never handle sensitive subjects of conversation with your significant-other via e-mail! It doesn’t work out well…)

    The video post and response actually helped a lot in that regard. It’s not as quick to do, and it’s harder to connect to other relevant info inside the stream of the conversation, but it allows for visual cues and personalizes the communicator (so someone might think twice about insulting or offending them).

  11. Slightly off topic, but are you going to post a follow up after the selling, or lack of, Amigo on eBay?

  12. Ryan,

    The mistake here is in confusing this comment thread for being analogous to a real-life face to face conversation. It’s not. Even in this stilted responding-to-one-another fashion, we’re missing out on all the important details of a face to face conversation (like visual cues, body language, facial expressions etc.). My ideal for comments on weblogs (not that I’m actually following it) is that conversations between commenters should take place elsewhere, and each comment should stand alone in response to the original article. Conversations in comment threads far too readily turn into arguments and once you reach that point it’s difficult to ever recover.

    You ask: What “legitimate” reasons are their for wanting to comment anonymously on Carsonified? — it’s not really for me to say. Perhaps somebody feels that they have some feedback they should give, but due to their existing relationship with you are concerned they’d have a conflict of interest in going on the record? Maybe going on the record could put them in an awkward situation with their employer? Regardless of whether or not I could come up with enough plausible scenarios, you can’t deny that they can exist.

    Anyway, as I say; this is a conversation now, and if anything best done in-person.

  13. Good conversation here… thought-provoking…


    People have conversations in real life, face-to-face even, with people they don’t know or who aren’t “identified” in the true sense of the word. As long as those conversations–even among different viewpoints–are kept respectful, there’s little reason to worry about identification.

    On the flip side, people are also bullied in real life, even by people they’ve known for years. Some just can’t handle others who think/act/look/believe differently than they do, and they can’t find a peaceful way to resolve their own cognitive dissonance (wikipedia it). So identification isn’t necessarily the solution.

    It’s a step toward accountability (as in, it affects the way others view you), yes, but I think that, with regard to the bullying, it’s more important that one looks at their own “self-identification”–what kind of a person do they see themselves as? And that’s a tougher nut to crack, with any technology.

    I’d be interested to field ideas, though… any thoughts on how the web could be used as a mirror to prevent “e-bullying”? Maybe something that tracks and aggregates the conversations you have online into one place? Graphs the use of intimidation-related keywords? I don’t know…

  14. @ Ryan – I do believe it’s best to think twice before speaking… I self-edit and re-write all the time before posting/commenting on anything.

    In that example, I didn’t actually mean “I”… more like “one”… as in, “then one might think twice about the way one presents oneself.”

    Thought that sounded a little to “academic”, though, so I re-wrote it. (let’s call that “Exhibit A”)

    Personally, I always try to be considerate when I write (as in, consider what I’m trying to convey, what people are reading into it, how that affects the group dynamic, et cetera).

  15. Ben has a point, though.

  16. @Ben Darlow

    “After reading your ideas on creating a self-policing list of alleged design-thieves, I’d be deeply disconcerted at the notion of any accountability scheme with yourself at the helm.”

    I decided not to do this as I thought it might not be fair.

    “I’m happy to post here with my true identity, but I could well imagine that others might have legitimate reasons for wanting to comment anonymously. Depriving them of that will simply filter out the views that aren’t in support of your words.”

    I appreciate you post with your real identity. Wish more people were like you. What “legitimate” reasons are their for wanting to comment anonymously on Carsonified?

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I expect and welcome people to disagree with me. I simply ask that they have the decency to say who they are. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable having a conversation in real life with someone who refused to reveal their identity, so why would that be different online?

  17. I didn’t intend this post to be about people who are blogging/commenting in repressed countries such as China. Clearly there is a danger, in places like that, of revealing your true identity.

    Conversations with other web professionals about the web industry, on a blog, are something quite different. And that’s what I’m talking about.

    I’m not saying you should be required to reveal your identity to everyone on the web. However, in order to participate in a conversation, I think people should have to sign in with a *real* identity. This is no different than real life.

    Imagine this: If you were standing on a street corner, having a discussion with a group of people, would it be ok for certain people to stand in the audience, with balaclavas on their heads, shouting back at you? Why are they hiding their identity? Why would they not want you to know who they were?

    It’s too easy to say things you wouldn’t normally say, if no one knows who you are.


    “I mean, if every comment I made anywhere on the web showed up in something that’s more directly linked to my “real” life–like my Facebook wall where my “real life” social group and co-workers can make the connection–THEN I might think twice about how I’m presenting myself.”

    I find it strange that you think it’s bad to “think twice” about what you say online. I’m sure you think before speaking in real life. Why should you behave any differently online?

  18. Forget to mention that the last insult I got was being called a ‘Fad-chasing-tinkler’ which I rather liked the sound of.

  19. Personally I think that people need to lighten up. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with an opinion but many do take it too far in these personal attacks. If you don’t like a service – don’t use it and the same goes for reading someone’s content.

    Because there is an inevitable sense of being removed online (from a publishing and consuming perspective) people will always unfortunately translate things in their own way and respond disproportionately.

    Anonymity isn’t necessarily the problem here though. Plenty of people post under various guises for their own reasons – and quite often there are reasons for this beyond a cover to make cynical attacks.

  20. Hi Ryan, Can you do a South African accent? If you ever get tired of this web thing, there is a nice little earner out there for you as a Kevin Pietersen look-alike 😉

  21. I completely agree, Andy… there is no inherent virtue in either side (Accountability vs. Anonymity) it all depends on what the situation calls for.

    It seemed like this particular conversation was geared toward accountability for assholes with chips on their shoulders, but there is also a lot to be said for the positive power of facelessness.

    It’s all about what the individual decides to do with that power… improve their world and expose themselves to new ideas and connections, or use their mini-mic to bring pointless negativity. But then, that’s the same decision we all face in the “real” world… so I’m not sure there’s a technological solution.

    Respect seems to be the key… for those around you, and for the ability of your ideas to stand up on their own (without bullying or tearing others down).

  22. Fake Ben Darlow on January 29, 2009 at 2:20 am said:

    a**hole > Ben Darlow

  23. Ryan I completely agree with you. It seems that some people simply have no respect. Thanks for posting and I hope that people will stop being so hateful and ignorant.

    @AJ thanks for tearing down Ben Darlow’s comment I don’t think I have the time nor patience to respond to that today.

  24. I think it’s just worth pointing out that accountability isn’t always good and that anonymity can be desirable. For instance if you’re a Chinese blogger responding to a political post, somebody commenting on an embarrassing medical condition or wanting to discuss relationship issues without identifying who you are. So accountability or anonymity needs to be made on a site by site basis and you need to realise that the decision you make will affect the freedom and honesty of the discussions that follow.

  25. I don’t think including one’s name at the top of a comment really equals “identifying oneself” from a personal responsibility standpoint. Maybe if you’re a big web name with which people can attribute a broader persona (like a Michael Arrington or a Seth Godin, or a Ryan Carson), but not if you’re a relative unknown. You don’t have anything at stake but a name which no one cares about in the first place.

    Even if “unknowns” include their name, they’re still no direct “responsibility” to speak of… it’s not as though they’re going to be shunned by their co-workers or social group because their co-workers or social group aren’t necessarily reading the posts/comments. Worst-case scenario, they get blocked from harassing the online group they saw fit to piss off… no big loss to their personal or professional life.

    I agree that accountability is needed on the web, but I don’t think that identification on the web equals accountability in “real life”. At least not for the 99.9% of people for whom their life does not depend on that web community.

    Does that make sense?

    I mean, if every comment I made anywhere on the web showed up in something that’s more directly linked to my “real” life–like my Facebook wall where my “real life” social group and co-workers can make the connection–THEN I might think twice about how I’m presenting myself. But my name doesn’t mean anything on the web, at the moment, so I could say pretty much whatever I want without real-life social consequences.

    I’m not sure what the OpenID would be all about, but it sounds like a step in the right direction. How big a step really depends on how closely linked it is to “reality”.

  26. Wait… you reckon I thought this was about me?


  27. Wow, Ben, really flattering yourself here, aren’t you buddy.

    Ha ha, this is hilarious, after having voraciously gone after Ryan and Carsonified about the Twitter thing last week (that they APOLOGIZED for), here you are back for more, BACK TALKING ABOUT THE TWITTER CONTEST. What the hell is the matter with you, guy?! MOVE ON!!! The man apologized already to the Twitter gods! It’s over, shut the hell up about it.

    I legitimately feel embarrassed right now, are you that ego centric and arrogant that you think Ryan got up this morning, ate his breakfast, read the Arrington post, and immediately thought,

    “Wait, this is my Chance!! I can post a Seesmic video, responding to what happened to Mike Arrington…. with the real and ‘secret’ intention of … calling Ben Darlow to account for being a d*ck about the Twitter thing last week! Brilliant!”

    News Flash to Ben Darlow:

    Ryan runs a successful business, has great employees, and has a beautiful family, he doesn’t care about you or your opinion about how he runs things.

    It’s funny to hear guys like you go off, you think that a guy like Ryan orbits his daily activity on what ONE no name commenter posts on his blog…LOL.

    He is talking about the nebulous cloud of people that write hyper-negative comments on his blog without a) identifying who they are or b) clarifying why they think he was wrong about a post. It happens all the time on this blog (not just on Twitter day last week), and he obviously wasn’t speaking about the your (and other) concerns about the Twitter contest because he very clearly absorbed that criticism as legitimate and course corrected almost immediately.

    Ben writes:

    “I’m happy to post here with my true identity, but I could well imagine that others might have legitimate reasons for wanting to comment anonymously. Depriving them of that will simply filter out the views that aren’t in support of your words. I can understand why you’d want that, but it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to encourage a community spirit and everything to do with stage-managing your company’s profile.”

    If you are posting with your true identity then Ryan was obviously most certainly not speaking about you (if he even remembers you, which I doubt) since he clearly was speaking about people not willing to do that.

    What possible reason would there be for posting negative comments anonymously, except for the fact that someone is craven. If you want to disparage or even just disagree with someone, and THEY provide you with the forum to do that (ie this blog), then you should have the decency and courage to identify yourself and stand by what you say. Oh and by the way, genius, if Ryan was trying to “stage-manage” his company profile (which I am not so sure is a bad thing), he would just delete the idiotic comments, which he can but doesn’t do.

    Ben writes

    “You find it interesting that nobody will say anything critical to your face, but that’s just human nature. People who dislike or disagree with you are more likely to keep it to themselves, assuming they even encountered you at all.”

    That’s not “just human nature”, Ben, that is called cowardice. If one is willing to barrage someone on an online forum that they provide, but is unwilling to speak about those things in person, they are quite simply the lowest form of coward.

    Ben, in all seriousness, what is your problem? The tone you excrete in your comments is saturated in what feels like venom and vitriol. I am not kidding, you sound, in every post, as if you have a personal issue with Ryan AND frankly what you say loses a great deal of credibility because of it.

    If you are trying to articulate insights on how Ryan/Carsonified might do a particular something better or even if you just want to bloviate on some paradigm you don’t agree with, and want to be taken as a serious member of the community, THEN I suggest that you change your whiny and contentious tone.

    However, if your goal in posting your comments is to sound like some random and incredibly jealous a**hole that just doesn’t like Ryan personally for some reason, and has far too much time on his hands..well, then you have succeeded, sir.

    In closing, I love reading your silly comments because they are entertaining (in a stupid way) and a clear example I can use for “how not to brand yourself in online communities”.

  28. Can someone provide a transcript of both videos, I’m deaf and not very good at lip-reading.

    Cheers. Simon

  29. Okay Ryan. You’d love to hear our comments. Here are mine.

    I find it particularly irksome that you’re leveraging what’s happened with Mike Arrington like this. You had wound a few people up with your twitter competition (amongst other things) but to connect the two in this way feels like opportunism. Mike is well known for his vitriolic and at times outright rude demeanour. His connections to various companies in the tech industry mean he literally has the power to affect whether or not a fledgeling company succeeds; under these circumstances it’s not hard to imagine how somebody could have a very legitimate beef with the man. This doesn’t excuse spitting in his face, but it at least gives us some context to how it could happen. Watching your video blog entry you’d think that he was a meek and innocuous blogger who was assaulted entirely without reason. As is so often the case, I’m sure the truth of the matter is actually some shade of grey. How does this relate to your own situation? Are you implying that the negative feedback you received for your own acknowledged mistake was unfair? Or that if the feedback was anonymous it lacked credibility?

    What does this accountability you speak of mean, exactly? Knowing who your enemies are? After reading your ideas on creating a self-policing list of alleged design-thieves, I’d be deeply disconcerted at the notion of any accountability scheme with yourself at the helm. I’m happy to post here with my true identity, but I could well imagine that others might have legitimate reasons for wanting to comment anonymously. Depriving them of that will simply filter out the views that aren’t in support of your words. I can understand why you’d want that, but it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to encourage a community spirit and everything to do with stage-managing your company’s profile.

    You find it interesting that nobody will say anything critical to your face, but that’s just human nature. People who dislike or disagree with you are more likely to keep it to themselves, assuming they even encountered you at all. However I do feel strongly about these things and I’m prepared to repeat what I’ve said to your face. Whenever you are next attending a conference-type event (yours or somebody else’s) in London, I will be happy to spend a few minutes talking to you about it in person.

  30. I Agree with the point you make about accountability On the web, its all too easy for people to get away with blue murder. I myself used to used to write for tutorialblog.org, by the end of 3 months I had endured every form of verbal abuse and criticism you could think of. An its just a fact of life, if your online or off, some people just indulge in the ruin of others. As Chris Eubank once told me, ‘you have to become the change you wish to see around you’!

  31. There is definitely some grounds for discussion there, and I would like to see less cowards on the net running around leaving nasty comments anonymously on blogs etc.

    But as long as we don’t force people to sign up to our sites or have an openID etc. to post comments, then it will be rife. And the reason that people don’t do this is because of the freedom of the web, the same reason as some of us adhere to web standards, you shouldn’t force anyone to use technology or do something that they don’t want to.

    On a lighter note, Nicolas was clearly distracted by his IM towards the end of his video reply! ha ha

  32. In short Ryan, “Own your words”. It’s like the flip side of attribution, the grave responsibility and price that comes with the privilege.

    The other thing, if there’s more trust behind someone’s words it will probably become easier to filter the negative noise, it will be easier to call out the bad guys.

    Nice post, Thanks.

  33. It’s going to happen. It’s not right but these things will happen. People will be awful to one another if they think they can “get away” with it. I think the real worry is that Mike said in his post that it had changed him as person, that he now believed everyone was not to be trusted until proved otherwise. That’s a real sad thing and one I can understand. When I first started out in business I trusted everyone and dealt with them as I would wish to be dealt with.

    Of course I then had the pleasure of doing work for people who were not like me, did not share my values of honesty, etc and who were quite frankly out for only what they could get and would treat everyone badly, no matter what. My world view has changed. I find it hard to set my default now to “most people are nice and good and kind and won’t try to screw you over”. Instead, I always assume someone has an angle, and that they will try to rip you for something.

    It’s a bad world.

  34. Well said Ryan.

    I suppose it’s easier to feel invulnerable when you’re typing thoughts into your computer, without truly understanding that the people on the other end are real. It’s always been that way, but what happened to Mike Arrington in person is absolutely crazy.

    In recent years, the web industry seems to have become a community in its own right, with recognisable people at its forefront. With the rise of social networking, and various events, access to these people is really quite easy. This is great news for genuine people who want to exchange ideas, learn, create and progress, but the flip-side as we have now seen, is pretty scary.

    Accountability may not be easy to enforce, and the worry for the majority of us would be exposure to the exact same things experienced by Mike Arrington, but I think if it becomes accepted practice to use real names and genuine email addresses, etc. then it is a step in the right direction.

  35. Ryan I completely agree with what you are saying. It is as clear as day to me that someone like yourself is not out to piss anyone off, yet somewhere and somehow certain people feel the need to lash out.

    I must be honest, I am shocked at what some people say in your posts… It is unreal.

    In South Africa we usually don’t have these problems because everyone knows everyone. So if someone does start a flaming session then they are definitely held accountable because one way or another we find out.

    Having experienced the tightness of the South African web community means that we all have respect no matter how big or small the company is.

    With that in mind when I read the hate comments on yours and TechCrunch’s blog I sit back and think ‘Would I ever, in my life, say that to someone?!’… ‘No’…

    Kudo’s for the video post btw. People need to do more of them 😉

  36. Great video, I suppose its just like everything in the world.. Good and Bad

  37. Totally agree with what you’ve said about accountability.

    It’s an interesting topic, especially because of online security fears. Regarding identities, people are better than they used to be, especially people involved in the ‘web community’, but I can still see many people who are paranoid about revealing even their real name. I think security is a stumbling block to this movement to accountability, but it’s getting better.

    I actually don’t like using aliases. I guess the anonymity of the internet is a good or bad thing depending on who, and what kind of person, you are.

    A lot of obvious statements from me, but those are my thoughts after watching that, and reading the techcrunch post earlier this morning.


  38. Hi!

    I have to agree with you on accountability. I guess people mistake quasi anonymity on the web with “no holds barred” responses they give.
    But they would never do it in person so this makes what happened to Mike Arrington even scarier.

    I guess we’ll soon see some sort of “real person” identification on the web. OK, so people will go to the “it can be spoofed” (as you mentioned) but still, it’s one step to the accountability direction.

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