Monday, April 17, 2006

Confessions of an Internet Junkie & Groaners

Before the summer of 2004, I’d never been on an author forum. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

With this discovery, the internet started to get interesting. Now I could actually discuss the books I love with likeminded individuals. I started reading author interviews. I could lose hours of my life online.

It wasn’t long before I saw the negative aspects of forums. Posters would attack other contributors. On one, being sworn at because you did or did not like a certain book was the norm. Eventually, that one was shut down.

In 2004 and 2005 I participated on a few author forums, a few independent forums. Ultimately, they all seemed to meet the same end. Problems, conflict, hurt feelings. I watched friends leave because they couldn't take it anymore, debated leaving myself because I didn't like the negativity. One forum was a prime example. The last time they reopened it, I sat back and watched - lurking only. This was an unmoderated forum with no author participation. It had been shut down twice since I’d known of it, and this was the third try. They struck out again when someone came on and impersonated the author. That forum has been down for several months now, and I don’t know if it’ll ever come back.

I was down to one forum at the end of 2005. Simply put, I wasn’t willing to stay on any forum where people abused other posters. It’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to state that respectfully, but if I just want to be sworn at or called names for my opinions, clearly there are other places I can go. The forums were where I went to connect with people with similar interests. Instead, they seemed to become places where people felt persecuted for their tastes in books.

The internet is both weird and wonderful. I’ve had some pretty great internet experiences. I’ve made friends online. Some have been friends since 2004. I’ve had the chance to meet people I’ve only previously corresponded with and usually things go well. I’m really honest, really open about my feelings, so people shouldn't be too surprised, except that I'm usually quieter at first than you'd think.

I’m inclined to give someone the benefit of belief first, until proven wrong. Of course, those are the people that go beyond redemption for me. Anyone I accept at face value and then begin to trust down the road that turns out to be contrary to what they said is toast. I am not interested in people who play games, who start online arguments, who make critical comments of others and won’t discuss situations causing problems and hurt feelings.

An example of this happened on one author forum. A woman posted there a lot. Initially, I had no issue with her- I had no reason to have an issue with her. But over time, she began to monopolize the forum. It was no longer focused on the author who hosted it, but on this woman. Many people commented on it, I received some emails from people voicing their concerns, people I’d known from before joining this forum.

What really clinched it for me was her gradual hints about the fact that she was an author, she had books out, and she started giving clues about how people could find out who she was. Having worked herself in as the center of every conversation, many people were now very interested in her, or wary. The interested were discussing purchasing her books. This is a good time to point out that this forum had a NO BSP rule. And breaking the rules in such an obvious way made me uncomfortable.

When she learned that something I’d written had been published online, she hunted it down. I specifically said I didn’t feel it was appropriate to talk about it on the forum when she kept pushing it. She posted a link to my story.

I was upset about it. This act was quickly followed by another scenario where she did the same thing to someone else, despite them also stating they didn’t feel comfortable posting a link.

There were other incidents. Open fights between her and other posters. People I knew from another forum first started emailing me, discussing leaving the forum.

Ultimately, I voiced concerns to the webmaster. I was given the choice to confront this person about her behaviour after she did something else that wasn’t just against me, but several people. Knowing I had the author’s blessing, I posted to her that it seemed she had an issue with me and I wanted to know if we could clear this up. She literally flew into a rage. Instead of trying to explain the purpose of her posts or how I could have misunderstood (and I wasn’t the only one, as I knew at this point) she started attacking me.

It was hard. It goes to my whole shy thing, that I don’t like having to stand up to people, but when I’m being attacked, I will. Especially if I feel the person is contributing to a negative environment that is undermining the purpose of the forum and causing others to feel uncomfortable.

I’m still on that forum, but it hasn't been easy. People like her have come and gone. There have been other problems. A few months back, I joined a new forum. It had been a while since I’d done that. I’d seriously doubted I ever would again.

But this time, the forum was moderated! Hallelujah, a safe place to chat with people and just enjoy the posts. And that forum has been a great experience. Whenever I’m feeling a bit down or stressed I don’t like being on risky forums where arguments occur regularly. I go to the moderated forum and the tension starts to seep out of my shoulders and I can relax.

I don’t have to worry about standing up to people who are rude. And I don’t have to worry about being attacked with no recourse for dealing with some troll or abuser.

One of my other pet peeves is with is people who author-bash. I feel the same about people who poster-bash, if they just attack people who disagree with them. But there are some people on the one author forum I frequent who routinely post scathing comments about authors. “Wonder who she had to bribe to get nominated (for that award).” Calling authors liars. Making sweeping judgmental statements.

I got into a real fight with one of them, at a popular industry blog when the Edgar nominees were announced. I was just so sick of it. I’d read it on the author forum, then I went there – to an industry blog, no less – and read it there.

And what really baffles me about these people? They use their real names. They post all over the place making scathing, judgmental comments about books and authors, sometimes about people in the industry.

And some are trying to get published.

Wow. Newsflash. A lot of authors read those forums as lurkers and don’t comment. And a lot of industry people read that blog.

What these super-critical posters don’t seem to fathom is that when you’re out there trashing best-selling authors, if their agents see that, you're likely toast. An agent with clients with high profile who sell really well isn’t going to take on someone slagging their existing clients without a pretty fucking amazing reason.

After all, agents usually take on the work of people who are similar to the authors they already represent.

Simply put, you never know who is reading. I’ve learned the hard way. I’m still really forthright, though. I just occasionally try to temper it with common sense. But if I find out someone on a forum is bashing me behind my back or has an issue with me they haven’t brought to me to get sorted, I’m done with them. That’s why there’s an email address – if anyone was ever offended, they could talk to me about it. Doesn’t mean we’d see eye to eye, but it’s the adult way of giving someone a chance to clear up a potential misunderstanding if they don’t feel comfortable addressing me in the blog.

Something happened on a blog, a few months ago, and the person thought they’d offended me. They emailed to ask. I said then, if I’m upset I’ll do one of two things – address you directly about it, or go really quiet and fade away. The latter is my reaction when I’m depressed, the former is when I’m really hurt. They may not be perfect responses, but people always know with me. 99% of the time you’ll get the former.

I admire that person for even asking. For caring enough to make sure there wasn’t a misunderstanding. I have a lot of respect for people who are careful to make sure that the regulars on their blog don’t feel attacked or alienated, and I can honestly say from July when I signed on to blogger and read and commented until Oct. 31 when I started the blog until April 14, that never happened anywhere I went.

In the future to only be a serious participant on moderated forums. The ones I’m on already, I’ll stay on. But the chances of getting me to join an unmoderated forum and actively participate…unlikely. I want the security of knowing I’m behaving properly, as well as that everyone else will too.

About ten days ago, I actually said I'd be talking forums. This is on schedule from then, because I will be posting an interview with a forum moderator that will go up at Spinetingler. I've been compiling the information over the past week, and it's almost ready.

But there was a recent blow-up on a forum I've participated on for some time. Someone announced on the forum they were leaving - someone else followed suit. I'll spare you the details, but it made me think about this space. It made me think about the fact that I have a responsibility here.

I’ve only ever deleted spam here. But if someone attacked other commenters, I’d have to deal with that. Like I said before – a different opinion is fine, expressed respectfully. Anyone comes here and calls commenters names, I'd probably delete them. That’s not a way to make the regulars feel comfortable. And it isn't what I want to experience on the blogs.

It isn't what I want to experience anywhere online. Forums where people attack others aren't where I'm going to invest my fun time. Same with blogs. It's okay to disagree with others - Lee Goldberg and JA Konrath disagree regularly. But they talk about it openly on their blogs, naming each other, referencing the posts. It invites debate. People make up their own minds.

Which is the adult way to do things, instead of attacking.

If nothing else phases you, the fact that a man could be married to a woman, each would turn to the internet to have an affair and they’d end up having an affair with each other should convince you that sometimes, you have no idea who is saying what online or who you're talking to. Clearly, if the marriage wasn't working, the affair proves neither had matured much in the partner-selection process. Even in deception they made the same bad pick.

Enjoy yourself, but be careful. Life's too short for garbage and I know enough people 'round here who'd be happy to kick me and call me names. It isn't something I need when I'm online.

Did you guys have a good weekend? Heavy Monday morning post, I know...
Why don't you guys ever post jokes in the comments? Nobody's sent me really good jokes lately.


Two blondes from Newfoundland were chatting. One blonde asks the other, "Which is further,Vancouver... or the Moon?"
The other replies, “Vancouver.”
“You sure?” the first one asks.
The second blonde sighs. "HELLOOOOO, can you see Vancouver?"

* * * *

Two Hillbillies from Kentucky walk into the local bar to wash the dust from their throats and grab a beer. They stand at the bar, drinking a beer and talking about current cattle prices. Suddenly, a woman at a nearby table, who is eating a sandwich begins to cough. After a minute or so, it becomes apparent that she is in real distress.

One of the Hillbillies looks at her and says, "Kin ya swalla?"
The woman shakes her head no.
Kin ya breathe?"
The woman begins to turn blue and shakes her head no.

The Hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up the back of her dress, yanks down her panties, and runs his tongue all over her butt cheeks in a circular motion.

The woman is so shocked, that she has a violent spasm and the obstruction flies out of her mouth.

As she begins to breathe again, the Hillbilly walks slowly back to the bar and takes a drink from his beer.

His partner says, "Ya know, I'd heard of that there "Hind Lick" maneuver, but I ain't never seen nobody do it."

* * *

Who said blondes are stupid..........
Last year I replaced all the windows in my house with those expensive double-pane energy efficient kind. But this week I got a call from the contractor complaining that his work had been completed a whole year ago and I had yet to pay for them.
Boy oh boy, did we go around! Just because I'm blonde doesn't mean that I'm automatically stupid. So, I proceeded to tell him just what his fast talking sales guy had told me last year... that in one year the windows would pay for themselves.
There was silence on the other end of the line so I just hung up and I haven't heard back.
Guess I won that stupid argument.

Sunday School

Little Mary was not the best student in Sunday School. Usually she slept through the class. One day the teacher called on her while she was napping, ''Tell me, Mary, who created the universe?''

When Mary didn't stir, little Johnny, an altruistic boy seated in the chair behind her, took a pin and jabbed her in the rear.

''God Almighty!'' shouted Mary and the teacher said, ''Very good'' and Mary fell back to sleep.

A while later the teacher asked Mary, ''Who is our Lord and Savior?'' But Mary didn't even stir from her slumber. Once again, Johnny came to the rescue and stuck her again. ''Jesus Christ!'' shouted Mary and the teacher said, ''Very good,'' and Mary fell back to sleep.

Then the teacher asked Mary a third question, ''What did Eve say to Adam after she had her twenty-third child?'' And again, Johnny jabbed her with the pin. This time Mary jumped up and shouted, ''If you stick that damn thing in me one more time, I'll break it in half!''


Erik Ivan James said...

Good morning, Samdra!

James Goodman said...

Bashing sucks and sometimes what started out as a healthy if not spirited debate often results in all out flame wars. It sad, but's indicitive of human nature even without the safety net of cyberspace. Some people suck no matter what media they use to correspond in.

as for a joke:

A teacher asks her class, ''If there are 5 birds sitting on a fence and you shoot one of them, how many will be left?'' She calls on little Johnny.

''None, they all fly away with the first gunshot.''

The teacher replies, ''The correct answer is 4, but I like your thinking.'' Then Little Johnny says, ''I have a question for YOU. There are three women sitting on a bench having ice cream. One is delicately licking the sides of the triple scoop of ice cream. The second is gobbling down the top and sucking the cone. The third is biting off the top of the ice cream. Which one is married?''

The teacher, blushing a great deal, replies, ''Well I suppose the one that's gobbled down the top and sucked the cone.''

''The correct answer is the one with the wedding ring on...but I like your thinking.''

Trace said...
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Trace said...

Lee Child has a private forum which you have to sign up for because of all the assholes posting. He'll step right up if somebody is being a dick and he'll tell them that they're way out of line.

Trace said...
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M. G. Tarquini said...

People who lash out without reason and who won't give any specifics are doo-doo heads. Remember the 'best selling author' who was ranting from behind a veil of anonymity about all that nasty racism? Easy to toss invectives if the tosser or the tossee is anonymous. Don't waste time with doo-doo heads.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Morning Erik!

Trace, sounds like Lee runs a good forum - everything I hear about him makes him sound like a great guy.

Yep MG, no doo-doo heads. It just sucks when you're on a forum you really like and you try to ignore the doo-doo heads but they are so insidious they scare all the good people off. Then they've one. They SUCK!

James, you're right, and great joke!

David Terrenoire said...

I stopped going to a mystery forum because it played hell with my blood pressure, so I quit.

Now for a joke:

A man was a guest at a country club and after 18 holes he was invited to the bar. He begged off, saying he wanted to shower first and that he'd meet with his friends in the bar later.

While showering, he hears female voices and realizes he's gone into the wrong locker room. He figures that he can do one of two things - he can wrap the towel around his waist and run out or, he can wrap the towel around his head, hiding his identity, and run out. He decides on the latter.

Three women watch the naked man with the towel around his head race by.

The first one says, "I wonder who that was. I know it wasn't my husabnd."

The second woman laughs and says, "It wasn't my husband."

And the third woman says, "Why, he isn't even a member of this club!"

Sandra Ruttan said...

LOVE the joke David!

Mary said...

I am fairly new to the various author forums, and except for the closure of one, I think I've had a relatively "easy" ride. (I hasten to add that the closure was in no way connected to me!).
I have my fingers crossed that the one which is relatively unmoderated will remain civil, but with interesting debates.
Sandra - your posts are both thought provoking and humorous - so please don't let any morons drive you away.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Mary - since you and I have a shared forum past, I think we're both on the same page on it. I won't be easily daunted - I've been around forums too long.

And I can come here and call people names.

JamesO said...

I've never really been into forums - I'm too much of a hermit to get out that much, and it takes so much time keeping on top of everything. Sadly the world is full of asshats who think that being rude makes them important.

And as for a joke, well, I can only ever remember the old ones, and they're far too corny to repeat here.

OK, OK. What do you call a man with no arms and no legs who swims across the channel?

Clever Dick.

See, I told you;}#

Gabriele C. said...

I have left even moderated forums when the moderators weren't up to their task. In one case the mods have been replaced some time after, but I never felt like returning. I'm not much for giving second chances, an uneasy feeling remains. ;)

The forum I run myself has member application - I want to know who's playing in my garden.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, that should've been posted with my groaners!

Gabriele, I'm with you 100%. That's why third kick at the can, I didn't participate on that one forum. Twice was enough.

Lisa Hunter said...

Yikes! I haven't been on any of the writers forums, unless you count Miss Snark. Mostly I lurk on sports blogs, where name-calling is half the fun. I don't go anywhere NEAR political blogs, because my blood pressure can't take them. I had no idea that writer forums were as contentious as Red State versus Blue State sites.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I think any forum can get bad. Particularly the kinds of people who've caused trouble - most of them are anonymous, that one author is a real exception to the rule.

Just wait until I blog on spam...

M. G. Tarquini said...

Talk to Dana before you do...she's an expert on spam. Hawaiians are really into that stuff.

For The Trees said...

A wonderful, thoughtful post.

Now back to writing.


Lisa Hunter said...

BTW, if you like blonde jokes...

Do you know Julie Brown's 1980s song "Because I'm Blonde"? It's in the film Earth Girls Are Easy, but she also put out a record. HILARIOUS lyrics.

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