Interesting. You have to say that HPR sort of unwittingly proved a point about the open source ethos. In that it afforded un edited right of reply and promoted a very useful discussion of some important topics.
I enjoyed that HPR show, and props to pokey for correcting himself publicly. That takes stones to do.
I’m going to retell a little story that I was reminded of while listening to that show (and incidentally, Jono’s blog post on accountability).
A few years ago, I was driving home from work. At the time, due to being shit at money, I was driving a £450 Ford Escort 1.6 (which I bought of a dead transvestite, and was worth more after I got in the middle of a motorway pile up, but that’s two much longer stories). I was on the M5 Southbound and the traffic was much lighter than normal. In fact, when I pulled into the middle lane to overtake a car travelling at a mile an hour, driven by relics from a bygone age, the only other vehicle I could see was an HGV quite some distance back. In the UK, HGVs (trucks in other words) cannot legally use the outside lane, so technically I was in his way. But given that trucks are electronically limited to 56mph, I was doing 60 mph, gave me cause to believe I’d be moving away from the truck. What I didn’t count on is that, some drivers can over-ride the governor, and some-times the governors don’t work travelling downhill (which we were). As I got alongside the slow moving relic, I was suddenly shocked to find the only thing I could see in my rear view mirror, was the truck’s grille and lights flashing, the only thing I could hear was the truck’s horn blaring, and I’ll leave it to your imagination what the only thing I could smell was.
On getting home, about half an hour later, I was still shaken enough to email a far from flattering complaint to the company that operated the truck. As it happens, my best friend in the world drives a very similar vehicle for a living, and contrary to popular belief, they take a very great pride how in they behave and how their profession is perceived. And amongst other points, I did propose that scaring the lunch out of other road users with 20 tonnes of Volvo, didn’t do their company or professional image any good at all.
The email caused an avalanche of sweet fa to happen. So a few weeks after the incident, I wrote a blog post about the incident. The blog post named the company, and I emailed the company again offering them right of reply. Again, no response. Or at least no response for a few months. My blog is a self-hosted Wordpress installation. Thanks to this I’ve been able to install a couple of plug-ins which cross post to social media and optimise SEO. Nothing technically remarkable at all. The thing is, pretty quickly, my blog post became the #2 Google result if you searched for this company’s name, mainly because the company didn’t have or need a sophisticated web presence or SEO. This changed the game somewhat. The Director of the firm was less than pleased with me, and emailed me. The interesting bit was his email. He didn’t apologise for the incident, but he did bleat on about how he was just a little guy in the industry competing against bigger players etc. He also wanted me to delete the link on Google. At which point, I realised I’d got as close to winning as I was ever going to get. The guy wasn’t interested in how Google or the internet worked, despite the fact that it could ruin his business, and me telling him would either help him when he didn’t care about me, or be in vain anyway. I pulled the blog post for two reasons. First, it had eventually done it’s job and got a small, if quite craven amount retribution. Secondly, I got the feeling that the Director was a bit of knob, and could go legal if provoked any more, and make things worse, not better for me.
But that incident did give me an interesting perspective. Firstly, that bullies often don’t know they’re being bullies. For instance, I’m quite sure neither the driver nor the Director of the company thought they were bullying me. By the same token, I didn’t think I was bullying the company with my superior ability to understand page rank and SEO. And maybe Bully is the wrong term to use in either or of these circumstances. But I definitely find it helpful to question whether I am the bully or not. And discussions like this are also helpful as well.