Chinese burns and deadlegs: There’s bullying in the blogosphere

Consensus is that social media is on the verge of ‘tipping’ this year coming, so as we go through the generations it makes sense that we see comments from ‘experienced’ PR bloggers criticising ‘new’ PR bloggers. I’ve seen it happen before.

Jennifer Mattern on NakedPR really doesn’t like the so-called PR Blog Party. She thinks it’s a little clique of bloggers who promote each other. Given that Jennifer expressly doesn’t like rankings or interviews, I suppose I’m a prime target for her ire.

A while ago Steve Rubel issued a call for getting our mojo back through good, original content. I have no problem with this but then Scott Baradell ups the ante by saying that while “the same people are writing about the same things they were when I started”, he sees that “more people are inserting themselves into the ‘conversation’ to make a quick buck every single day.”

I’ve seen this happen before. Pre-blogging, I forumed (is that a word?). I spent several years as a fairly active member of the Computer Music forum (which seems to have been reincarnated yet again).* Some established members could be extremely scathing of people who popped in to ask the basics all over again: “which is better, Mac or PC? Analogue or Digital? Cubase or Pro Logic?” They branded them ‘noobs’ and simply posted ‘OLD’ in response to their questions. It was one byte short of bullying.

What better way to poison a community? Surely the ‘noobs’ are simply reminding us that the same issues are at play? Don’t we all need reminding of the basics from time to time? I remember feeling pretty bad if I received that kind of feedback. All I was doing was making my first tentative posts about a fairly in-depth subject.

So this year coming, watch out for the bullying. Watch out for mentions of ‘little cliques’ which are also small communities. Keep an eye open for criticism of the same old issues when, really, they’re the same new issues.

The word on the forumosphere (or whatever it was back then) was generally “live with it, improve it, or leave.” I think that still applies to the blogosphere now.

* Explanation: I initially signed on to the CM forum as ‘Brendan’. Then they relaunched it, I had to sign up again, so I became ‘Brendan again’. Then they did it again, so I was ‘Brendan again again’. By the fourth relaunch my name was so long that it broke the columnar formatting so I summarised it – and future-proofed it – as ‘Brendan again etc’. Now the forum’s moved, perhaps I should sign up again as ‘Brendan again etc again’?

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12 thoughts on “Chinese burns and deadlegs: There’s bullying in the blogosphere

  1. I was just going to stick up for Jenn (who clearly doesn’t need any help from me) – as you’d only be one of the people she criticises if you were courting love from other bloggers in a desperate clique-oriented sort of way.

    The check is in the mirror if your nose ain’t brown!!

  2. OK, but how to differentiate from interviews/rankings done in a genuine “let’s find out about what’s going on” way, and a “desperate clique-oriented sort of way”?

    In other words, what’s the difference between a clique, and a community? I’d like to see examples so I’ll know what to avoid doing – or participating in – for the future!

  3. Oh shit, did I accidentally involve myself in a PR blog community discussion? That was not my intention.

    I see lots of new bloggers writing lots of good stuff; in fact, most of the best stuff I read is from newer blogs. Not necessarily PR blogs — most of those suck, new or old. These days, I prefer blogs by individuals about their real passions, wherever they may lead, unconstrained by category limitations. Not blogs with topics and keywords that are neatly designed to attract new clients.

    Of course, by virtue of the Web 2.0 hysteria of the past year or two, newer bloggers are more likely to have gotten into it for financial reasons (or as they say on The Bachelor, which my wife still makes me watch, the “wrong reasons”), whereas we KNOW that folks who’ve been blogging as long as Kevin Dugan and Jeremy Pepper started for other reasons … just cause they’re weird or whatever.

    Anyhow, most of my criticism is reserved for people who are satisfied with Groundhogs Day content — be they new or old. I’m amazed they can get up and keep writing the same shit every day.

  4. Brendan, a clique is all about promoting each other, agreeing with each other (at least to a large degree), linking to each other just for the hell of it, etc. A community (in a blog sense) is about legitimately “deserved” linking, real discussion, etc. A community is far more dynamic, with new people entering through that linking, discussion, or other means (and exiting) regularly, whereas in a clique environment, it’s more exclusive and actions are more calculated.

  5. Sure, but it’s actual examples of this that I’m missing. With the definitions circulating, it would appear that I’m guilty of creating a clique. I need to see an example of this actually in process so I know what to avoid.

  6. Implying that Jenn Mattern is an online bully in a post, then waiting to see who shows up to support that claim/echo your thoughts might be an example…. 😉

    Not sure why you (or anyone else) would expect her to provide a specific example; *that* could/would be online censure/bullying and (of course) merely her subjective opinion as to the worst offenders. Jenn made some general observations about the prevalence of narrowcast group-think, fawnish linklove and link-baiting, calculated gaming, etc.

    If you read her post carefully, you’ll see that Jenn encourages independent, original and critical thought/assessment. Plus she encourages one to test theories and gut instincts against different types of people, instead of remaining in your own comfort zone (or PR blog party or clique or “community”).

    If you are so inclined, test your own practices against her observations. Only you know what your genuine motivations are to “build a community” and what shape/form it has or might take. In the online (so-called PR blogs) world I find “community” to be pretty amorphous, anyhow. A blogger who I valued having a relationship with a year or two ago might have disappointed me in the ensuring time as one of the PR Blog Party peeps, so I’ve moved on.

    The good news is that there are *so many* new and (more) interesting bloggers to meet, from around the world. So, your world has the potential to enlarge, rather than shrink in the mediocre pool of the best date past-due crowd. Good luck on your journeys.

  7. I only asked for examples because I don’t really see what Jenn sees, that’s all. Plus, as I say, her description of what constitutes clique-creating activity seemed to apply to me so, well, I just wanted to know ‘who I was being like’. If I’m not doing that, then great. I don’t think I am.

    I agree that there are lots of great bloggers out there. I’d rather talk about them than bad bloggers, and about great communities rather than small cliques.

    So, fair enough: to throw out the word ‘bullying’ may have been a loaded word. But by the same token, be careful about proscribing activities. Let people experiment/ play/ copy/ adopt/ adapt/ improve, even if you think you’ve seen it all before.

  8. Brendan, what about you specifically makes you feel like you’re a clique-starter based on my views? Is it because you started a rating system? If so, then no, I don’t think that classifies you. (And for the record, I never did think of you as the originator of any clique.)

    I do think something like the rankings could potentially make you a target for courting – even though I don’t care for blog rankings in general because of the lack of meaningful metrics, I do know that others feel differently and do care about their rankings here, there, and everywhere so they’ll have something to feed their egos and “show off.” I would sincerely hope though that you would be able to tell the difference between someone wanting to build a real friendship with you as a blogger and “communities” of the favor-trading variety.

  9. Pingback: net.mentor » Blog Archive » A bit of a PR Punchup!

  10. Damn. Stopped by to suck up to Brendan and tell him how much I love his list, as it’s the only one I’m on. Then I find this thread. Jenn, you do know how to stir ’em up.

    Let’s be honest. We all know about and have witnessed the “blog party” behavior Jenn posted about, and it does get unseemly at times. The fact that she won’t cite examples — Well, I view that as evidence of her civility. I was part of the blog party back when my site was a pup. I was trying to cultivate contacts and, you know, fit in. I still do what may look like “link love” from time to time, but only when I think my readers (most of them NOT bloggers) will find the content interesting and useful.

    I once lusted for links. Today I don’t give a rat’s behind. But then again, I’m not selling anything. I’m just writing stuff.

    Love the list, Brendan.

  11. I’ve got no issue with cliques emerging, and people talking about whatever they want. I go to the pub once a month with my mates Dom, Christiaan and Rich and have the same circular discussions about the England cricket team, Premiership football and rugby. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years, so any outsider will have some catching up to do. Web 2.0 is supposed to make those conversations easier.

    The PR industry will get more voices and more interesting content, when more people can be arsed to get involved. There are enough bright people with bright ideas. If they don’t want to join a conversation about meta tags for now, then that’s fine.

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