Where Are Your Manners?

It may not seem evident all the time, as I’d like, but I really do place a high value on civility. With the recent blog posts about how certain people in the SEO industry are constantly being harrassed by other SEOs asking them to Digg a story, etc., I have to wonder if barbarism is getting a hold on some of us in this industry.

It’s not just people bugging Rebecca and other “names” in SEO for votes either. That’s simply the latest thing that I’ve read about that disgusts me…it’s the blatant attacks that are being put out there for the world to see in comments, it’s email threats, and it’s the incessant bickering that goes on in the blogosphere in which people seem to feel obligated to publicly choose sides on issues that may or may not even affect them personally.

It’s seriously annoying, and while some people have indeed built a reputation for themselves as being outspoken, majorly annoying, and, let’s be honest, pretty rude, it’s not something that we should aim for. Chances are, if you’re one of these people and you find yourself gaining fans online, it’s because they’re scared to death of you. While inspiring fear in others does have its place, and its rewards, in this case it’s something that’s mostly just embarrassing. Save the fear for someone who deserves it, like the teenagers who walk through your yard and set off fireworks after 11 pm.

I have a hard time saying no to people. Just ask all the guys I dated in high school. OK that’s a joke…god almighty. It’s been drilled into my head that having no manners is worse than having no money. If someone spills coffee all over me, I’ll be the one profusely apologizing for having been in the area and possibly having caused the accident. When someone says “we’ve got a serious problem on a site” I’m usually the one saying “I bet it was me!” just to spare everyone else the potential humiliation of taking ownership of the infinite loop. I’ll take on any mindless task that’s handed out anywhere, unless it involves singing, giving up lattes for charity, or going into a public restroom. This is quite problematic at times, as it means that I’m usually insanely overloaded with a massive variety of crap to do. This is not out of fear; it’s my inability to be intentionally impolite.

Our entire culture, and not just in this industry, is becoming less nice it seems. I’m not saying anything new, of course, as you can read and hear about this phenomenon everywhere. Celebrities drive drunk, authors and scientists make racist statements, people honk and flip you off on the highway if you have an “Obama for President” sticker. I just think that, with the type of people that I know in this field, it’s really a shame to see some of us acting like spoiled little brats. It’s really not ok to act like a jerk constantly. It’s fine to complain, and to rant about something that really bothers you, but when you force everyone around you to yield to your will, you’ve crossed the line. Get some class.

Emailing threats to people isn’t nice. Neither is posting comments where you lay out your plan for the site owner to meet with an unfortunate accident. These are pretty obviously nasty things. Some barbarisms don’t seem so obvious to people, though, so let me lay some out for you…

Bugging people for social media votes isn’t nice. By doing this, you’re potentially forcing someone to be the bad guy by saying no to you. If you can handle that, and handle it nicely, then ask away, but don’t harrass people. I can attest that it’s not only the big names in this field that this happens to, either, so don’t think that just because someone isn’t yet well-known, he or she is open to your manipulative ways. If you insist on bugging people for this type of thing, at least indulge in bribery in which something lovely and tangible will become the property of the Digger or Sphinner. A new pair of boots is my current suggestion, but lattes work fine too although they don’t hold up too well in the mail. Send a Starbucks card at least.

Writing entire articles about the stupidity of someone is slightly nasty. Entities are fine to criticize though. And actually, now that I think about it, it’s probably ok to write about Jason Calacanis as well since he seems to ask for it nonstop. Even so, if you’re going to do this, at least have a bit of class and use some good words that people have to look up. Don’t just say “this guy is an asshole and he sucks” or something that shows a lack of imagination. Channel your inner Oscar Wilde and come up with something that makes the target step back and wonder, at least for a few minutes, whether or not he is actually being insulted.

Closing your group to outsiders is not something that sends off friendly vibes. Yes, I know there are private parties at conferences for specific reasons, and that’s fine, but please don’t make these so public that everyone feels like crap for not being invited. In this same vein, if someone new comments on your blog and you’ve never heard of them, at least take the time to figure out who he or she is and respond. I’m not suggesting that you have to respond to every single comment, but try to respond to most of them. If people are taking the time to interact with you, the least you can do is give them the same respect. And I beg you, don’t insult the person because not everyone is as nice as Stephanie Weingart and you may end up feeling like total crap for overreacting.

So be nice(r) if it doesn’t tax you too greatly. There are a lot of impressionable newbies in this industry, and showing them that being nasty gets you somewhere is going to do nothing good for all of us in the long run.

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