Civility and Blog Comments

I was reading a post by Rob May on Business Switching to Mac is Great, originally titled Mac is a waste of time. In his post Rob outlines his experiences on the Mac after being a Windows user for many years. This post then generated quite a bit of criticism and hostility. The criticism lead him to update his post three times.

Now it sounds like Rob is a power Windows user, and mentions his PC has been running well, and that he hasn’t had a virus in over 5 years.

Original Post

The following is a summary of the arguments he makes against switching to a Mac. I haven’t used a Mac for many years, but these seem like reasonable issues:

Three weeks into it, I would say that if you are considering it, don’t waste your time. It’s all bells and whistles, and functionally, they don’t offer any advantages over a PC . . .

For starters, they aren’t intuitive at all. Everything is graphics driven and Apple seems to want to avoid using text whenever possible . . .

The delete button is a misnomer, as it’s really just a backspace, and the machine runs 3x as hot as my Windows laptop . . .

People also talk about all the cool widgets for Macs, but I’ve used those through Konfabulator on Windows . . .

Rob’s final take on Macs:

So if you are contemplating a switch to Mac, I would say think carefully about whether or not you will really benefit. The downtime for me to learn a new operating system hasn’t been worth it. There are some benefits, like iMovie and a few other programs not available for PC, but overall, I would say that if you are an experienced Windows user with decent security precautions in place, save your time and your money and stick with a PC. Macs aren’t bad, they just aren’t any better than PCs.

Final Update

Rob took a lot of criticism and hostility in his comments, and ended up updating and changing the name of the post. The final update:

UPDATE #3: Ok. Ok. I give up. Macs are wonderful. Anyone that doesn’t use them is an idiot. Bloggers should only post their opinions and experiences when they are pro-Mac. There is no such thing as anti-Mac because if you don’t like a Mac then the problem is with you, not with the Mac. Please please stop sending me email. I’ve changed the title of the post to be pro-mac.

Negative Comments

Some of the hostile comments that lead to this final update:

surfergurl – you’re an idiot! mac has never had a mouse (did you really mean touch pad??) with two buttons — not because they wanted to be different but because there wasn’t a need for two button

Tom – Most of your comments are ridiculous. You couldn’t give the Mac 15 seconds to learn its differences from Windows? Wouldn’t a site called Businesspundit want to know the subject matter more before making a decisicion?

ratty – Rob, sir, you are an idiot of the highest order. Either this is pure FUD / Astroturfing of the first order or you are completely stupid. As Hey has already pointed out right clicking is built into the trackpad. I know that might be a bit hard from someone coming from a windows environment to get their head around as they don’t actually have those left and right buttons under the pad.

Canceled – I canceled the RSS subscription to your blog after reading this article. The byline alone seems short-sighted and invokes just the reactions you are complaining about getting in your updates. The article seriously lacks in professionalism and I don’t think just another blogger posting ranting opinions that are irresponsible, and have no investigative base is a waste of my time. I subscribed to your RSS feed for all of one week.

Don – Reading your drivel was a waste of time. Absolutely absurd.

Positive Comments

Are just a sampling of some of the negative comments. Some comments were actually civil and helpful, but were overshadowed by the hostile comments:

Ben Smith – I completely disagree with your overall assessment of the Mac as someone who switched to it about 5 years ago. But you don’t have to like it, it’s a choice. But to answer one of your questions, you can use any two button usb or bluetooth mouse with the mac, so if that’s driving you a bit nutty, you can easily fix it.

Dave Gallagher – Ha ha! You wrote an honest post about Mac’s. Prepare to get highly opinionated hate and/or “you’re so stupid!” comments. πŸ˜‰ I’m completely in agreement with you when it comes to the perception that “Mac’s are better.” It’s marketing hoopla, and they have their issues.

Evaluation of the Conversations Generated

Some comments accused Rob of being overly sensational, and just writing a post for link bait. I wrote in my post Sometimes the Conversation is a Slap in the Face, where I ask the following questions:

But these posts and comments make me wonder:

  • Are these really adding to the conversation, or just being sensational?
  • Is a point reached where the sensationalism of the post, overshadows the message?

Which leads me to the questions –

  • Is this attacking criticism equivalent to a form of online bullying?
  • Are these types of comments a blogging form of SPAM?
  • Will these types of comments dissuade meaningful, constructive conversations in the future?

I am all for conversations being created, and I don’t think we have to all come to the same conclusion. I just don’t understand people getting so hostile in their reactions. In her post flaming vs. appreciative communication, Isabella Mori of Change Therapy outlines the different reasons that people are willing to be less civil using the cloak of anonymity.

I am not trying to focus on being overly politically correct, I think this can be almost as evil as being overly critical with no real constructive criticism. I think politically correctness, is the reverse side, of the pendulum swing, to brutal comments. I think the sweet spot is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Somehow I think Miss Manners would not approve.


12 Responses to “Civility and Blog Comments”

  1. isabella mori Says:

    thanks for mentioning my post. btw, the proposed reasons for uncivilized comments apply to all commenters – like surfergirl, don, etc. – not just anonymous ones.

    other than that, you know, i think it’s pretty straighforward:

    calling someone an idiot or stupid is never ok; if once in a while it happens in the heat of the moment, an apology is called for. same thing for calling someone’s ideas ridiculous or drivel.

    it’s pretty scary to think that people cannot handle the idea that someone has an opinion or experiences different from their own. this is how wars get started.

  2. Vegan Momma Says:

    A Mac is not a Windows PC. I read his post and I have to laugh because it’s obvious, at least in my opinion, that he gave it a half hearted attempt. It definitely was poor manners on the people who personally attacked him. They could have made their point without resorting to insults.

    Some of the inaccurate posts I’ve seen written, regardless of the operating system, borders on ridiculous and shows me that that person really did not take time to review the operating system thoroughly.

    Immediately after purchasing my MacBook Pro I started surfing the Mac forums looking for information. I basically knew next to nothing about Mac’s. I remembered reading about Apple computers back in the day. I had to get that out of my mind technology changes constantly. I could not get stuck in the past.

    I felt lost my background was Windows OS which I’m very knowledgeable about. I was starting at the beginning. I did not like that feeling at all and I had my biases but I kept my mouth shut and really immersed myself with the Mac OS.

    It took me a lot longer than a few weeks to become comfortable with a Mac.

    Slight Ramble…</i?

    When I worked in the corporate world the company I worked for had a direct contract with the military. I worked directly with their high ranking officers and had to report to them often online and fly to their locations often about a variety of new software applications, reports, etc.,

    If I had given an incomplete review, like this one, those Generals/Majors would have ripped me a new one. They did it often to the ones that did this.

    Some of the officers knew the reports almost, or in some cases, better than our staff but it was our job to report to them.

    My point? I gave accurate reports every single time. You have to or people will judge you in a positive or negative manner and unfortunately not everyone will be nice. Rambling Over

    How could the person not think that people would start flaming him for the review? I often wonder when people write reviews such as these if they are trying to draw more traffic to their virtual spots by writing about topics that most likely will start a flame war?

    Do you think the article would have attracted as much attention with the “updated title”? Perhaps but I highly doubt it, lol. πŸ˜‰

  3. Thomas Says:

    isabella – I really liked the explanation that you gave for the anonymous commenting behavior, and I think that others would benefit from this information also. As I mention in my post, I am curious if this hostile environment is going to affect how people interact in these conversations.

    Opal – I have to be honest and admit that I don’t know enough about Macs to know how thorough his review was. Out of technical curiousity I would like to spend time with a Mac to learn more about them. Rob does acknowledge that his background is in Windows.

    You do have a point, if you are going to try something, you should actually put some effort into it and give it a shot. It does sound like Rob has brought up some legitimate issues, that should be addressed with more than ‘you are an idiot’ as a response.

  4. The Decision Strategist Says:

    This is great Thomas. it points out how negativity breeds negative comments and positivity breeds positive comments. Sometimes our reactive thoughts are very good, but sometimes they lead us astray.

    It’s easy for readers to react however they want, but it seems like our responsibility, in the role of encouraging discussion and learning, is to take a step beyond that to react as magnanimously as possible.

  5. isabella mori Says:

    decision strategist – i agree with you – indeed, we had a conversation about in our bloggers meetup yesterday. i am very lucky that i have had only very few unpleasant comments on my blog – but where they appeared, i tried my best to meet them with respect and civility.

  6. Thomas Says:

    Nicholas at Decision Strategist – In my post
    Negativity Does Generate Forward Momentum
    I discuss how negativity does not move us forward, unless it is followed by a discussion on how to improve things.

    I understand that in the heat of the moment we may not be at our most articulate, but periodically I think we need to take a step back to ensure that we are making ourselves clear, and that the language we are using isn’t getting in the way of the message.

    isabella – For some reason your comments keep getting caught as spam – don’t take it personally, as soon as I see them I approve them. Being civil to negative comments is definitely difficult, but in the long run demonstrates that you are willing to have the conversation even when it is difficult. I believe this builds respect among your community and shows that you value diverse opinions. Also if really negative commentors don’t get that explosive reaction they want, they will hopefully go elsewhere.

  7. Vegan Momma Says:

    I just got through reading all the comments by Rob some of his responses in the comments section was not exactly nice. Calling people Mac Nazi’s is not going to help the situation. πŸ™‚ It works both ways. That is a definite way to make people angry. I would never do that regardless of what OS I prefer. There are benefits in both systems…

    Right Click
    Tap the trackpad with two fingers
    System Preferences
    Keyboard & Mouse/Trackpad

    Apple firmware issued an update that many users said fixed this problem. You can read about it here
    There are other applications that can be used that will make it run cooler if you do have that problem.

    I have not had any problems with overheating. Many times it is sitting directly on my lap. I use Final Cut HD Express, Aperture 1.5, and Photoshop on a daily basis. Those software packages are for video and photo editing.

    Again the problem, I seriously believe that people had was the points would not even have come to play if he had taken the time to understand the system and quit thinking of it like Windows OS.

    My father who definitely is not a power user is on a Mac. I bought him a Power Mac G5. What he did not know guess what he asked me. I showed him what works on a Mac. Mac’s are not Windows PC’s. πŸ™‚

    As you know I created a website for users making the switch. I haven’t been working on it in a few weeks but I’ll make sure I’ll include “right click with a trackpad” on my tutorial.

  8. Vegan Momma Says:

    I linked to the wrong article that is an older one I’ll see if I can find the one I was referring to…

  9. Thomas Says:

    Opal – From what you are saying, it doesn’t sound like Rob reviewed many resources about how to work on the Mac. I agree that you have to go in willing to flounder a little bit, and dig in a do some research to figure things out. You gave some great advice on how to overcome the obstacles that Rob encountered.

    When you get a chance, please leave the link to your Mac website.

  10. How Do I Right Click On A Mac? | The Mac Diva Says:

    […] do you right click on the Apple Mac? After reading Thomas – Technical Blogger’s post about Civility and Blog Comments I thought I would post this short tutorial. To be honest I thought I had already posted this. To be […]

  11. Opal Tribble/The Mac Diva Says:

    Hey Thomas I have! The Mac Diva has been silent for a few weeks although in my mind I would love to write on it more finding the time is a challenge.

    I’ve encountered many people, like him, in my past job. The employees were frustrated and out of their element when working on a new application.

    I was there to hopefully make the process a little easier with the trainings, handbooks, and online manuals I provided.

    The kicker for me was reading his comment. “I’ve used all flavors of Unix and Linux…The Mac OS X is based on Unix” It says that on the documentation when you receive your computer. πŸ™‚

    It was a challenge for me making the switch because I was at ground zero. I have not been there, with computers, in several years. All the knowledge I had gained through classes and certifications meant nothing on a Mac.

    Of course most people won’t have to face that because many just want a computer for basic functions and for that it’s great system. That is what my father uses it for.

    The information is out there just Google but for the technical aspects getting into how the system works internally that has taken me a lot longer to learn and that is understandable I didn’t pick up my certifications (A+, Network +, or MCSE) overnight it took time.

    Eventually I will take some type of Apple certification class because I truly love the system and I want to learn as much as possible about it.

  12. Opal Tribble/The Mac Diva Says:

    ..when I saw “basic functions” I include “power users” in that category. Now that I think about it I guess my dad would be a “power user” on his mac based on the software he uses.

    Although I call it basic I should not since people might get the impression you can only do simple things on the Mac. That would be incorrect. They do more than audio and video and they do it well.

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