Archive for May 28th, 2007

SourceForge, the company for which I do most of my writing, was one of the pioneers of community-building on the web. Slashdot, one of its main sites, is notorious for both the size of its audience and its — well, frankness, I suppose. Linux.com, the site which publishes my work most often, is more subdued, but feuds still break out from time to time — and sometimes article links are posted on Slashdot, exposing me to even more fire. So, over the last few years, I’ve learned to live with the fact that my work will be discussed publicly and with no holds barred.

On the whole, I’ve been handled more generously than many of my colleagues. Nobody has ever threatened me, questioned my sexual orientation, or called me a communist (I probably would have insisted that I was an anarcho-syndicalist, and invoked the peasant commune in Monty Python and the Holy Grail if they had).

However, I have been called a “moron” and “ignorant” and been told that I wasn’t a real journalist. Memorably, too, reporting on an issue that involved three parties got me accused of being a paid hack for all three (I only wish I were, I might have said; I’d probably be much better paid).

And I’ve lost track of the times that people have missed my incorrigible if sometimes dry sense of humor, taken something I said out of context, or seen bias because I ventured to criticize a project or cause that was dear to them or seen proof of an opinion that was the dead opposite of the one I was expressing. I don’t very much mind being publicly berated — it goes with the job — but if I’m going to be verbally abused, I would prefer it was for something I actually said. Sometimes, I wonder if people have read my article at all.

At times, these misunderstandings seemed willful, as if those who made them were picking a fight out of frustration with something else in their lives, or were just waiting for an article vaguely related to a subject that they wanted to rant about. But eventually, I learned to take them in stride, and they cured me, too, of taking an undue pride in the compliments that I receive. After all, if the hostile comments were so far off-base, how could I suppose the friendly ones were any more accurate?

Some online journalists never read comments on their articles. However, even after I became disillusioned with them, I still continued to scan them at least. Between the extremes, there are also people with insights that hadn’t occurred to me, or with an expert knowledge or sharp eyes who point out genuine mistakes. I know I’m not infallible. I figure that I might as well take advantage of the comments to to rewrite an unclear sentence or two when necessary or correct a genuine factual error. After all, the ability to receive input and correct mistakes are two of the benefits of online journalism.

Still, I take a perverse pride in both the attacks and praises. If nothing else, they prove that my articles are at least being noticed. About six months ago, I posted a kudos and an abuse page on my website, and occasionally I read both of them together or add a comment to one of them. I find that they help to keep me from taking myself seriously when I should be taking the work seriously instead.

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