It is so hard to define ethics in the offline world, no wonder it is even harder to define such a thing in the online world. The topic of misunderstanding things online is a very sensitive one, since many of us do it repeatedly every few minutes. What someone may consider good for them may be harmful to someone else. What someone may consider good for others may actually only be good for their own self.
I would like to talk about a simple example, which I will dissect for you to show the complex Internet peeve that lies within, thus enabling me to give you some headache.
An example – Tommy from MyBiggestComplaint.com contacting me
Take yesterday, for example. I was talking on the phone, around 8:10 pm, when my phone made a small beep. I had received a text message. Hmmmm, could it be someone or something important? After the phone call was over, I checked the text message. It read:
Subject: your blog – quick heads up
Date: 6/12/2007 8:10 PM
I just sent you an email about your peeve at peeve week. We’d love to have
you as a beta user.
Thanks in advance,
Hmm, that was weird. Tommy, in the above text, was referring to Ronald’s Peeve Week 2 series, the very series this very post (which you are reading) is part of.
That made me wonder about Tommy’s text message. Is it spam? Is it an ad? Is it an ad spam, or a spammy ad? It sounded interesting; someone thinks that I am, individually, important enough to be considered a beta user. I am thankful to anyone who sends me any e-mail or phone message that is useful to me. Keeping that thought in mind, I decided to check my other email account, the one Tommy referred to in the above text. The e-mail Tommy sent me, in addition to the above text message, said:
Tommy Smith wrote:
I noticed your recent peeve post at Ronalfy.com. I’m part of the beta user team at MyBiggestComplaint.com and we think you’d be great at … well, complaining!
We’re making complaining fun and productive. We would love to have you as a user. Complaining is a great way to feel better and gain exposure for your
Thanks for a second of your time. We look forward to hearing you complain. (How many times has anyone said that to you?)
Ok, so Mr. Tommy is either really interested in what I write, or Mr. Tommy is spamming me on my e-mail account and my cell phone. If Tommy e-mailed only me, it is an invitation, and I would be honored.
If Tommy e-mailed everyone who participated and is participating on Ronald’s site, then Tommy may be spamming.
If Tommy e-mailed everyone except Ronald, then it is probably not only spamming, but also taking away Ronald’s loyal readers away secretly by e-mailing them directly. Ronald had the idea before Tommy, because Ronald started the first Peeve Week in January and has been executing it successfully for his audience, whereas MyBiggestComplaint.com was registered on April 21st of this year.
Is it good business? Is it spam? Is it back stabbing? Is Tommy and his team focusing only on getting more people to complain so that their own site can grow bigger or make money through ads? Am I myself taking it out of context, and is it simply a unique invitation sent only to me without copy & pasting any e-mail template, since the MyBiggestComplaint team thinks that I can be of value to their site.
So what do I find out? That MyBiggestComplaint.com is sending the same e-mail and messages to everyone, copy pasted word for word. Inspiration Bit also got the exact same e-mail, since Vivien from Inspiration Bit is also participating in the current Peeve Week 2 series.
That is spam. The site can be famous in the future, but this is spam. The site can make money in the future, but this is spam. Such a tactic is frowned upon when done by someone like Microsoft, but in the case of a new website where people complain, many or most people do not notice.
Tommy and My Biggest Complaint Team Misunderstanding and Assuming what I want
One of the many things that Tommy assumes is that making complaining fun and productive is going to work for me. Tommy’s site does not tell anywhere how complaining is going to be productive. Also, Tommy assumes that I want to complain. Tommy also assumes that I want to feel better by complaining. Tommy also assumes that I want to gain exposure for my site.
I do not want exposure for my site through the peeve week; that is why I have not posted any of my Peeve Week 2 articles on my site. The reason I am participating on Peeve Week is because I want to share an annoying trend in the society and the online world that is probably not noticed. Sharing such a thing makes me feel better because people realize such a thing; sharing such a thing does not make me feel better because I am complaining. If I want to complain and feel better, I probably have an offline life where I can easily do that any second of the day.
Misunderstanding Tommy’s and My Biggest Complaint’s approach?
Another thing about the internet is misunderstanding people’s approaches. Maybe Tommy is actually considering the welfare of others and not only MyBiggestComplaint.com. Maybe Tommy did approach everything thinking that everyone including Ronald can benefit from the invitation; however, Ronald never got any invitation from Tommy, but other Peeve Week 2 writers did, so I am guessing Ronald was left out of the loop on purpose.
I am going to check out and test MyBiggestComplaint.com . Sometimes people may actually be contacting people individually, actually caring about their involvement. Other times, people may be caring only for themselves and may be sending template-filled e-mails to anyone they can.
The discussion has been moved to the author’s website.