Late Thursday night, ok it was actually very early Friday morning, I wrote a blog post that stirred a bit of a controversy in the community. While the outcome of the discussion that was sparked by that post in the community has been good, it is definitely a case where the end isn’t justified by the means. Hindsight is always 20/20, and while I stand by the point I was trying to make with that post, there are a number of ways I could have gone about making that point without risking my friendship and reputation with Tom LaRock (Blog|Twitter). While Tom has no hard feelings about that post, we’ve traded a number of emails about this, I’d like to take a few minutes and reflect on how that situation could have been handled differently.
Tom made one suggestion in his blog response to my post, I could have emailed him directly with my problem rather than making it a public blog post, or at a bare minimum I could have emailed him that I was blogging it so he wasn’t blindsided in the morning. I can’t argue with Tom on that point, well I could try but it would only make me look like a bigger ass. (<= This is supposed to be funny but I’ll get to that in a minute) I personally think that the issue being addressed is a bigger community problem that needed addressed openly, but I don’t think it necessitated as Tom put it, a public smack down, and that honestly wasn’t exactly my intent. I absolutely intended to call Tom out on this as a community leader, but I didn’t consider it to be a smack down when I wrote the post, though to be perfectly honest, I would likely have been equally annoyed as Tom was if the reverse had been done to me.
Paul Randal (Blog|Twitter) wrote a blog post today that provided some guidelines about blogging and one of his Don’t items was:
If you're correcting some misinformation that you've seen on the Internet, don't link back directly to the post you're correcting. That makes it personal.
I’m really bad about this, and it’s something that I am going to be cognizant about going forward with blogging. While the issue here wasn’t misinformation, linking to and naming Tom in the manner I did was just as personal and turned out to be the biggest part of the controversy. I have my own domains where I could have setup WordPress to use tynt.com to produce an example showing how annoying it is to have an uncommented message appended to any copy/paste operation. It would be interesting to know whether that approach would have had the same effect that being controversial did. I personally doubt that it would have had the same effect since the personal nature of that post is a big part of what drove the response from the community, but that is up for debate.
It’s really rare for a blog post to affect the community in a positive and negative way. If you read the comments on my original blog post and on Tom’s response blog post, things are somewhat split in the community between those that think the tynt.com addition mattered or not, and there is a split between those that think I am an ass or not. Admittedly, I am, but I can also admit when I am wrong, and I should have handled this differently. To Tom, my sincerest apology for the embarrassment, I hope you know I don’t intend you any ill will. To the community, let this serve as a lesson on multiple levels.
First; think before you post. I have a strict rule at work about email and controversial subjects and it basically is never respond to an email that could be controversial immediately, take a walk, change tasks and come back, or pick up the phone and call someone, before writing anything down. The reason for this is that I am very easily misread in written form, primarily because voice inflections and other cues that exist in speech don’t come across in written form.
Second; don’t use sarcasm in written form unless you are good enough to pull it off. I pointed out a spelling error in Tom’s tynt.com message and that became a big deal in the community because I am one of the worst spellers out there, and my grammar is even worse at times. What I wrote about the misspelled word was entirely sarcastic and if you heard me say it in person you’d take different meaning from it than you would reading it in text form. Unless you are really good, sarcasm just doesn’t work in written form, and the only person I know that can nail sarcasm in text for is Buck Woody (Blog|Twitter), but we never take him serious anyway. (I apparently didn’t learn my lesson that was sarcasm! You know I love you Buck, not that you read my blog posts. <= Yet again!)
Third; the general consensus is that plagiarism sucks, but using something like tynt.com isn’t likely to stop it. I actually like the fact that something like tynt.com can be used to append a source message to a blog post believe it or not. I mention in some of my presentations that I have a whole slew of code in my script archive that I have no idea where it came from. Three years ago when I started blogging, I realized I couldn’t tell what scripts in my code library were my own or something I had found online and I began adding a comment at the top of anything I found online noting the link address where I found things so that if I used it in the future I could provide credit where credit is due. Anything I had prior to this was moved into a separate folder so I knew that I couldn’t account for where it originated. Something like tynt.com, if used appropriately, could solve this problem.