There Is A Person Behind The Screen

By Sarah Hawk
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I have a friend who is a weather girl. I don’t know if that is an international term or a New Zealandism, but she reads the weather on TV for a job. She has always had a firm rule never to use her daily on-screen slot to reference her private life, even if it is the perfect opportunity to get a message across. I think that is admirable. It would certainly be an easy way to get your message across for 4 million people quickly.

At this point you’d be forgiven for wondering what this has to do with the SitePoint community. I do have a point. I have been a personal blogger for years and the sole purpose of that blog was to offload whatever was on my mind to whoever would bother to read it. When I began blogging for SitePoint I had to occasionally reign myself in and remind myself that this isn’t my personal soapbox. But very occasionally something happens that blurs the lines just enough for me to use it as one. And today is one of those days.

During the last week we have had a lot going on in the community. With the end of the soccer, we saw the wrap up of our This Cup promotion – which culminated in the giveaway of the PDF of jQuery: Novice to Ninja. It is always fun to be able to give things away. The good will you get back usually makes it worthwhile. But over the last week I feel as if I have spent as much time dealing with angry people as I have with grateful ones.

SitePoint forums

Which (finally) brings me to my point. At the SitePoint forums, we have an agreement about how we communicate with one another. It involves being fair and honest, yet respectful. One of my favourite forum signatures contains a very powerful message. It says “Mounds of compliments can’t replace one insult. Choose your words carefully.”

That same rule should be applied to any form of social media. If we do something that bothers you, we do want you to let us know. But the level of anonymity afforded us by the internet should not be used as an excuse to be rude. Please remember that just because you are typing your words into a keyboard, rather than speaking them to a person doesn’t mean that someone isn’t affected by those words. There is a person behind that screen and people seem to lose sight of that fact on occasion.

Anyway, there ends my rant. I’m hopping down off the soapbox.

Hot Topics This Week
The competition is over and the overall winner has been announced! I’m talking about The Great Photography Competition, and so are the people over in the Photography forum. Drop by and congratulate simonz for his amazing entries.

While we’re on the subject of photography, we’re going to run a series of tutorials based on our newest book Photography For The Web. If there is an aspect of the subject that you are particularly interested in, let us know what it is and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.

They’re talking Android vs iPhone in the new Developing For Mobile Devices forum. Do you have a preference?

An interesting new thread has opened in the Internet Marketing forum. They are discussing the pros and cons of email subscribers vs Facebook fans.

I’m done for this week. Have a good one.

Feature image by Chris Roberts from Digital Precision

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • tokyoterri

    isn’t it amazing how easy folks find it to be nasty online? I hope the rest of your week rocks, to take away the sting of dopes who weren’t raised well: or who forget their ‘raisin’ when they hit the interwebs.

  • Wolf_22

    Hawk, those are some good words-of-wisdom. Something that helps me is always remembering never to say something to someone that I wouldn’t say to their face. Like everyone else, I’ve faltered a few times with this but practice makes perfect (I hope).

  • A topic worthy of soapboxing. Plus you’ll always get my attention where there is reference to a weather girl — I think something to do with a Nicole Kidman movie …

    Ooer, I seem to have ended up off topic. What was I saying. Oh yes, be nice folks. Like Hawk said.

  • AndyDH

    I think the anonymity can be a good thing, it lets you know what is really on people’s minds. If they were not anonymous you may not ever know that person’s true impression of what was written.

    Does that person have to be rude and a jerk about it? No! But if that person feels that strongly about it wouldn’t you rather know how they feel over them holding back because they don’t want the public to know their true feelings?

    I think this comes more into play for topics like politics…on a web community blog I think there could be a little more restraint and constructive criticism that in the end benefits the community more than someone letting off steam anonymously. Sitepoint could always do away with the ability to Anonymously comment.

    @Wolf_22 – What you would say to someone’s face could be completely different to someone else’s face to face etiquette. To me, this isn’t a very good guide on determining what is acceptable to post.

    The bigger problem, at least here in the states, is that people have learned that if they raise the voice and speak harshly, managers and corporations will give in, in order to not make a scene in front of other customers. This behavior essentially gets rewarded, and the next time something happens to these people, they resort to raising their voice and being rude instantly. It’s only going to get worse. And on the web, the anonymity allows for no restraint too easily. The anonymity can be good and bad…good, if people use it to bring attention to a problem they could not bring attention to publicly…bad, if people just rant and be rude.

    • Wolf_22

      It was a relative comment regarding my own personal approaches to online discussions (I never said it was a one-shot solution for everyone). I didn’t think I needed to clarify that…

      I’m someone I consider to be raised with good morals as my parents were pretty strict about how the kids acted in our family, so for me, my approach usually works. I rarely try to slam people for the sake of my own personal pleasures.

      However, when someone makes fun of the mascot my high school has, then all bets are off. It’s not his fault he’s a plant!!!

  • I really hate the whole “you wouldn’t talk to someone that way in person” bull – Guess what, I’d say anything I’ve posted on this site directly… this is because I’m usually trying to help someone learn and do things better, and in the real world you often have to be direct and blunt to help.

    Direct and blunt is NOT an attack, no matter how much some thin skinned soft spoken wussies want it to be. See, THAT was an attack.

    There seems to be this whole mentality the past… decade or so that’s gotten worse over time that is almost like Political Correctness Mk II. We can’t say or do anything that might upset people… Take school for example: We can’t call them “F” because it implies failure, so now it’s an “E” — which is why on the report card it reads “E : Failure”… Then we can’t actually keep kids back for failing grades (It’s called “Social Promotion”) because it might upset them… Can’t use corporal punishment, can’t use verbal punishment, can’t actually fail them, heaven forbid we make them spend a summer in school… It’s like trying to fight a war with nothing but harsh words.

    When something is bad, you use harsh language – that’s not attacking someone, it’s a statement of fact without sugar coating it… That’s how things get better. Negative reinforcement WORKS – anyone who tells you otherwise is packing you so full of sand you could change your name to Sahara.

    “If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the ******* car.” — The Wolf, Pulp Fiction

    This candy-coated world of slapping the rose coloured glasses on people’s heads over any problems you might be addressing is NOT helping them to fix a damned thing. It’s a “status quo” mindset responsable for 99% of the shlock and drek people vomit up and call websites. Some might consider such an attitude unreasonable…

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

    I can live with being called unreasonable.

    The way people react to my manner of speech astounds me no end – I really can’t believe people out there are so thin skinned… How in blazes do people with that attitude make it through a normal day without being reduced to tears?
    It’s where this NONSENSE of complete BULL like “internet bullying” pisses me off no end. Here’s a tip kids, you don’t like what someone is saying to you online, go to another website or ***SHOCK*** turn off the machine… (It’s like radio censorship — my radio has a dial and a power switch)

    Bullying, REAL bullying occurs in forced social situations kids are placed into where there is no escape from the bully on a day to day basis. “Internet Bullying” – WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT?!? You don’t like something someone is saying, ignore it, block it, or go somewhere else. It’s called tolerance; Doesn’t mean you have to like it, just means you have to TOLERATE it.

    Which is why most people preaching tolerance seem to be the most intolerant of all.

    • Wow. While I respect your right to have that opinion, I’m glad there aren’t many people in my world that share it.

      More to the point – you completely missed mine. I am not questioning the appropriateness of being blunt or even harsh. I am talking about being rude and disrespectful and no one should EVER have to TOLERATE that.

      • Related to this — the SitePoint Forums and blogs are communities that, like it or not, SitePoint owns. That means we get to set the standard for discourse and the level of respect that we command people use when interacting on our site. If you want to be a part of it, we expect you to abide by those rules. If you don’t, then (to be blunt, and possibly harsh) you’re not welcome. These communities don’t exist as a platform for people to be rude, and if someone wants to use them for that purpose, we have every right to discourage and even prevent that.

  • mcksmith

    Whether online or in the “real” world, I treat others as I expect to be treated, which is with respect.

    I am very blunt and to the point, so it’s sometimes very difficult for me to engage my “tact” filter. Online, I can take the time to edit myself so I can do my best to ensure my message is conveyed in a courteous and respectful manner. As a general rule, I find that you do “catch more flies with honey and vinegar”.

    I really don’t care if people (outside my circle of family and friends) like me or not, but most people find me to be quite personable because of the effort I make to be courteous – even when I just want to smack ’em upside the head.

  • noonnope

    a denial in having a violent behaviour, it’s a pretty good sign it exists in the first place.

    all those in favour of “direct and blunt” usually are not on point, but ranting away their own frustrations, taking the opportunity to feel empowered, doing anything to make their voice the loudest. and usually they don’t know how to hold back when they are caught red handed.

    if you want to make a person learn, you present arguments, you don’t justify your own uncontrolled outbursts using their need for knowledge. the learning process means sharing and guiding. it’s like sailing, you need to be gentle with the helm. but you need to first be able to teach somebody. it’s a vocation and few learn how to do it. the rest are in for the kicks.

    even in teaching tricks to your dog, a good, positive attitude goes a long way. you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and this saying beats any pseudo, mumbo-jumbo maid up philosophy.

    but i guess there are an equal number of flies around a dung. it’s only a question of taste.

  • noonnope

    as far as the pop corn education goes (which is not a replacement for a real one), think of Bloodsport’s van Damme’s Di-Mak. while for him, the display of his knowledge was put to use using bricks (breaking the bottom one), for the villain (think of rude people here) wasn’t enough: “it was good. but a brick don’t hit back”. and this is exactly the point here: to stop abusing people as means for displaying skills.