Friday, February 28, 2014

Lessons Learned - Misbehavior in the Internet Age Can Kill Your Career

The first headline that popped up on my MSNBC news feed yesterday concerned the nasty ass response Kelly Blazek, a woman named "Communicator of the Year", gave to an applicant on a job bank run by Blazek. When Blazek's response went viral, others came forward to say they had been treated the same way by Blazek.

In today's environment, nearly everything you say or do or type is recorded. It's simply the nature of the Information Age. The problems occurring today are no longer those of twenty-somethings posting pictures from the bong party they went to over the weekend. (Though you should watch what photos you post on Facebook.)

Now, we're seeing issues of people not thinking about the consequences of their actions, and those consequences come back to bite them on the ass.

Blazek's response to a young job-seeker was through LinkedIn, a social media site specifically for professionals. It was bad enough that the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, picked up the story. Even worse was CNN and NBC. According to CNN, the backlash against Blazek was so bad she apparently deleted her Twitter account and her blog.

The last few weeks seem to be rife with people sticking their feet, or in the case of uber-agent Donald Maass their hoof, into their mouths. (Really, an agent shouldn't refer to writers as cattle to be culled.)

British author Lynn Shepard's first mistake in a Huffington Post UK essay was dissing beloved Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. Shepard's second mistake was insulting adults who read the Harry Potter books. You know, adults? The ones with the money to buy Shepard's books?

The backlash was immediate and fierce. Over fifty one-star reviews appeared on Amazon US for Shepard's latest book, The Solitary House. Nor was she spared on the book fan/review site Goodreads.

Last year's negative publicity for self-publishing distributor Autharium had already died down when the director of the company, Matt Bradbeer, stirred it up again by filing a DMCA take down against popular publishing blog The Passive Voice. Now, not only are the new articles at the top of the various search engines, the old articles are back up there, too.

Then there's Sean Fodera, a contracts attorney with publisher Macmillan, who made the mistake of dissing one of Macmillan's authors on a public forum. When the story spread across the internet, Fodera made matters worse when he threatened to sue anyone who linked to the story.

So what can you take from all of this?

1) Watch what you say on the internet. Never post or tweet while angry or upset.

2) Treat others with respect. If you can't, go back to Tip #1.

3) Learn when and how to disengage. Sometimes, it's not worth the fight. There's an old saying, "Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it."

4) There are competing opinions and there are trolls. Know the difference.

5) If it's not something you would say to someone in real life, you probably shouldn't say it online.

And most of all, remember the internet is forever!

If you have any additional tips, I'd love to hear them.


  1. For those of us who prefer to step nearer to the edge (as opposed to never talking politics etc. at all) I'd add 1) know the difference between being blunt and being an asshole, and stay on the blunt side, and 2) be aware of whom you might be offending, and decide ahead of time, preferably when you're not angry about something, whether you're okay with offending that group.

    My personal philosophy is that I want never to offend anyone accidentally. There are some people I don't mind offending, and upon occasion I'll do it deliberately. But I never want to have someone I didn't mean to offend feel like I've trashed them; that case calls for apologies, and I've given them. But I'm okay if, frex., homophobic or racist bigots don't ever buy my books. There are things I feel I need to comment on, and if I lose that segment of the audience as a result, I can live with that.

    Losing a chunk of audience should be something you do deliberately, though, not accidentally.


  2. Angie, your personal philosophy goes back knowing the consequences of your actions and accepting them. A lot of people can't do that.

    Like the LonCon 3 folks who tapped Jonathan Ross for the Hugo MC. *facepalm*

  3. Yeah, I read about that... yesterday? Something like that. I've never heard of the guy, but what I've read suggests he wasn't the best choice. I can see why they'd want him, if bringing SF and WorldCon and the Hugos farther into the general-public limelight is considered an important goal. But considering the kind of material he reaches for when he's being funny, I agree that the fit wasn't great.

    One thing I was wondering about, that the con chair (or whoever decided to invite him, I forget exactly who that was) rejected discussion or criticism of his choice. That suggests to me that they knew there'd be objections. Knowing that there'd be objections, and knowing about how fandom responds to these sorts of situations (as I'm assuming anyone qualified for a major committee position at a WorldCon does) one has to wonder exactly how this person assumed the scenario would play out. Because if they knew there'd be objections to inviting Mr. Ross, they had to have some idea of why people would object, and with what degree of fervor. Which leads one to the conclusion that inviting him was a bad idea. Why would anyone in their right mind not at least run it by the rest of the concom first, as a sanity check? I can't find a way of looking at this that doesn't lead to the conclusion that someone suffered a major brain fart here. :/


  4. Someone's ego got in the way, or he was thinking, "I'll show those bitches who's boss!" Either way, it causes a lot of bad feeling all around.

    There's the committee member who quit for saying exactly what would (and did) happen and was told to shut up.

    Neil Gaiman was put in an awkward position when he was asked to extend the invitation to Ross because they are personal friends.

    Ross was put in an awkward position because he is both a fanboy and a sci-fi writer (most people don't realize this) as is his wife and then was harassed for accepting the invitation.

    The worst thing was the total lack of sensitivity or sheer awareness on the part of the person who wanted Ross gdespite the recent problems within the SFF community.

    Personally, I don't have a problem with Ross. I regard him the same way I do Howard Stern. When he's thinking, he can be very funny, but when he opts for stunt humor, it backfires horribly. Another time, he could be a great MC, but right now, no.

    And now LonCon 3 will start with a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

  5. Right, I agree that a lot of the crap was flung at the wrong person. Whoever decided to invite Mr. Ross should've gotten all the headslaps, not Mr. Ross himself. [sigh]