Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

How to Keep from Embarassing Yourself Online

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

How to Keep from Embarassing Yourself Online

Article excerpt



In one Internet discussion group I follow, some of the participants questioned the ethics of a company. The company was accused, among other things, of manipulating the online images of items they were selling to make the items appear more valuable than they were.

The company got wind of this, and its attorney entered the fray. The lawyer, who in a phone interview later admitted he didn't have much online experience, adopted the rough-and-tumble online manner of some of the company's critics.

He ridiculed the computer and investigative capabilities of one critic and sarcastically said the was wasting his time. "Perhaps you need some suggestions as to what to do with your time. Perhaps you should take up knitting."

He called his critics names such as "fool," "joke" and "loser."

He made veiled legal threats. "Are you inviting, or daring, us to sue you?"

He pounded his chest. "I will hound that poor excuse of a human being until he yells uncle or stops posting vapid, unproven horse nonsense that all of you seem to believe."

When people questioned his tactics, he tried to justify them by saying, "Why is it okay for that hot-air blower to keep ranting and raving and not for someone to do the same thing to him?"

The above is how not to conduct yourself online.

What started out as a minor conflict involving a handful of people escalated into a major brouhaha with scores of people expressing outrage at this company's behavior. The company undoubtedly lost customers as a result.

Instead of engaging in gutter fighting, the lawyer should have taken the high road. Instead of posting dozens of angry, sarcastic responses to others' messages, he should have posted a single message thanking the company's critics for their feedback and offering to look into the company's marketing tactics. Then he should have followed through.

People have been making mistakes like this online since the beginning of the online era. "The Guide for Posting to Newsgroups" and "The Usenet Guide to Power Posting, " which have both been around for years, are designed to prevent these mistakes, or at least shed humorous light on them.

Various people have contributed tidbits to these documents. Both are tongue-in-cheek, yet wise. Here are edited highlights from each, plus additional tidbits.

* If you post and pretend to be a fool, people will believe you. …

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