On the Internet No one Has to Know How Much of An Ass You Really Are

November 3, 2009

I’m kinda tired of all the negativity lately.  In fact, it’s starting to get stale and exhausting and nauseating.  The latest large dose of it is courtesy of the Annoyed Librarian and all the anonymous commenters on the most recent posts.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you disagree with the medium, I don’t care if you don’t agree with the message.  I don’t care if you disagree with the list of skills, the essays on the site or the work that Michael Porter and David Lee King do.  Because if you disagree with those things I will make the assumption that you can back your opinion up with some substance.  And then there would be a constructive discussion.

What really bothers me is the massive hate pile on.  The general attack on both of their personalities and professional work.  The non-constructive comments.  The anonymous mean comments.

Library 101 may not be my thing, but I’ll never take away from the enthusiasm, passion and effort that went into creating it. I appreciate that enthusiasm and frankly I think the library profession needs more of it.

It bothers me to watch two people get attacked for work that they put a ton of time, effort, money and love into.  When was the last time you did something that you passionately believe in and put a huge effort into and gave your all and got really excited about creating?  Think about that.  Now think about how you’d feel if it was bashed in a national public forum by anonymous strangers.

It wouldn’t feel too good, huh?

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21 Responses to “On the Internet No one Has to Know How Much of An Ass You Really Are”

  1. tab said

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Margo said

      Exactly! You’ve done an excellent job of summarizing what is wrong with this whole scenario.

      Personal attacks are not cool, especially when we’re all supposed to be working towards the same goals here.

  2. with the stipulation that the Annoyed Librarian’s schtick is cheap and increasingly played, the massive pile on for the Library101 creators is unsurprising to me at least- whenever you get out in front of everyone in public and say UR DOING IT WRONG there’s going to be a backlash

  3. Terrific post. It really makes me question what happened to the idea of a COMMUNITY of librarians that are supportive, constructive, and willing to experiment. Thank you for saying what has been on the rest of our minds!

  4. While it’s understandable that you would feel sympathy for the creators, if you put content online for public consumption, you have to be prepared for all kinds of feedback – negative and positive.

    There’s a comedian, Katt Williams, who does a bit where he said that people need ‘haters’, because haters let us know just how effective we are at doing what we do. If we don’t have haters, Williams said, we’re not doing our jobs. If we only have 14 haters, we should be figuring out how to get to 16 by the end of the week.

    So if people are complaining about Library 101 – and I’ve not yet met a librarian who doesn’t complain about *something* – that means that Michael and David are doing a damned fine job, and that they should keep on doing exactly what they’re doing.

  5. pcsweeney said

    Its so easy to be negative online… I’m wondering whether AL is contributing to the community or if folks like AL simply stating their opinion really adds anything of value. It is getting a little tired and played out.

  6. anon for now said

    From the outside, I saw a ton of smart librarians enthusiastically promoting Library 101. So when I finally went to watch it, I was surprised and disappointed and confused. I saw a strong community supporting it for reasons that weren’t entirely clear (and I’m a twopointwhateverian). It is great to support your friends. But I saw very little real talk about the effectiveness (which, as I understand you stating, is far criticism) of the project. And no comments about the project’s weaknesses.

    The cool kids seemed to love it because it was made by cool kids. And it really didn’t help that the creators were (allegedly) deleting critical comments from YouTube.

    Again this is an outsider talking (and yes I’m too chicken to use my name on this!).

    I think there was a strong backlash in part because it was so hyped and so talked up… and then seemed all a bit silly. I agree with the person in the Annoyed Librarian comments who said that faking the Barack Obama essay seemed wildly inappropriate at worst and distracting at best.

    I was intrigued enough to watch and then was really disappointed. I suspect the community here is so strong that people couldn’t see past the problems.

    And the AL blog comments do have some strong criticism–for example, the lack of Google Books, etc in the list of skills.

    I wonder how many people who are so supportive of Library 101 know these folks. It’s hard to see your friends criticized, but can we step back and actually talk about this thing? Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book about the culture of positivity in the US, and how it makes people scared to be critical. I think that’s actually more along the lines of what’s going on here.

  7. Your right, there could be a lot more constructive conversation that is going on. It seems that this project could be an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the future of librarianship. Instead it is a lot of ad hominem attacks and criticism. I’d be all for criticism if it was constructive, but most it it negative and destructive.

    I like Sarah’s point about community. We’re all in this together. You, me, all the other commenters, David, Michael, and even the Annoyed Librarian. We all want libraries to thrive in this next century and it may be more helpful if we tried CONSTRUCTIVELY disagree as we are creating and thinking about the future of libraries.

  8. dave said

    I suspect a good deal of the frustration expressed on the Annoyed Librarian’s posts is due to the overwhelmingly positive attitude toward library 101 elsewhere on the web. People in my own online sphere have been promoting it like crazy, often with multiple posts a day. I don’t read a ton of library blogs but the AL seemed to be the only place where one could express doubts and criticism with some degree of comfort (and anonymity).

    While I certainly don’t agree with AL much of the time, I think he/she is great for the profession.

  9. marycarmen said

    I agree with everything that everyone has posted and greatly appreciate the constructive discussion that is happening. My whole point of the post was that I would have loved to see the kind of discussion that is happening here happening in other places. For every constructive comment on the AL blog, there were 5 that were just flat out mean. I’m not afraid of mean people and I try very hard to not let it affect me, but I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed at the lack of considerate discourse and I’m disappointed that LJ continues to support a blog where every other post generates this kind of thing.

  10. marycarmen said

    I don’t know. As a manager I deal with personal attacks stemming from entirely different things and I know that after a while the gossip, negative remarks and criticism really does begin to wear you down. I think there are ways to have challenging discussions without making them personal. Yes, I know that when you put yourself out there, you’re asking for it. I agree with that. But I like to hope that when you get it, it comes constructively. My POV is as someone who has found themselves a bit shaken at one time or another from overwhelming harsh criticism. It’s difficult to shake off and it makes you doubt yourself. I think that having a very large public finger to point at individuals can do a lot of good and a lot of harm.

  11. Thanks to everyone commenting here. Naturally David and I appreciate public support and are grateful for that. But what seems to be lost to some, despite our repeated requests for it, is that we deeply appreciate constructive criticism. I am personally surprised at the level of snark and mean in some (again in the minority) of the anonymous comments to be sure, but as others have said when you stick yourselves out the you have to be ready for whatever you get back.
    This response is long, long, long (like the Library 101 video?! ROFL!), but I’m going to use it as a venue to get a few larger thoughts on the matter of Library 101 Project and the minority of cruel, negative voices out there. “anon for now” brings up some issues here that other have expressed and has done it in a way that is very useful imo. So I’d like to respond a bit.

    1. anon, I *hate* that you feel “too chicken” to use your real name. If people hated on you for doing that, I would hold them in low esteem and come to your defense.
    2. Regarding the hype, backlash, you being disappointed by the video and fake Obama essay (which, despite a few comments like this, was obvious parody clearly labeled as such), I want you and everyone with similar feelings to clearly know that David and I are learning from this experiment ourselves. We can already see things we would now, and in fact will do differently with upcoming large scale projects. We used our experience, strengths, interests, research, time, thought, care, money and love of and belief in libraries to make the Library 101 Project happen (with the help of a few hundred Libraryland friends of course). We did this simply as two people who know about and care for libraries and librarians. We know there is room for improvement and we will do all we can to improve future projects. In the meantime, we stand behind our work, the work of the contributors and have solid proof that the project has been a success.
    3. Part of what is most difficult about anonymous, cruel criticism (and I am not lumping you in this category) of David and I is that these comments are insulting to everyone that participated in the video. HUNDREDS of library staff from around the globe. If you don’t like what we did, please tell us how to make it better. We welcome constructive feedback and critisism. But I have yet to see a comment that at least gave the participants a pass on the cruel comments. That is very upsetting for both David and I.
    4. When you talk about what amounts to a rumor of us deleting comments on YouTube, the source speaks volumes (anonymously). In truth, I have so far deleted ONE comment on the YouTube page for the video. It was personally cruel and destructive and if similar comments show up I’ll do it again. People may disagree with that, and that is fine. You can see though looking at the comments that are there now that negative comments are not being deleted because they are simply negative. I would also add the Library Journal editors have done the same to comments on certain posts, including some of the most recent and cruel comments streams that you discuss. The comment(s) in question violated the LJ terms of use and they have the right and obligation to do that. I feel a somewhat similar duty.
    5. One of the things we have learned is that not everyone understands that “Library 101” is designed to be augmented. We thought we made that very clear, but not everyone got that message. It is a list that is very tied to now and will need to change, both for temporal and situational reasons. If people actually read what we wrote they would understand the editorial nature of the list and would also see the requests we put out for constructive augmentation of the list. We clearly asked for adjustments and comments that would improve or clarify what other people thought 101 was to them. Another thing we have learned? Perhaps we could have made that part more clear, and well, some people could have paid more attention before they made incorrect assumptions.
    6. I hate the “cool kids” idea. I cannot speak for others, but I can promise you this: if you want to talk with me, email me, teach me or learn from/with me, all you have to do is reach out. I FIRMLY believe that people that love libraries, work hard for their benefit and are not outright rude, cruel or mean ARE the real cool kids. And I want to know and work with them. And it is funny… you know, David and I are so, so aware that we are mega dorks….and we also love Spinal Tap! We thought it would be crystal clear that we did not actually think anyone would believe we were honestly thinking we were cool. We certainly trying to make a goofy spectacle of ourselves in some ways, but only with the intention of getting the messages of the Library 101 Project across. Another lesson, well, maybe a lesson learned. 🙂

    David and I are not inclined to respond often along these lines, but have done so in a couple places. “annon for now” made some insightful observations and I’m glad to have conversations like this. One unintended consequence of the size of this project is that David and I don’t have as much time to respond everywhere as we might like to if we didn’t have day jobs in Libraryland like all of you. We’ve had a LOT of long, long days, nights, weeks and months working on this project and more than anything we hope that it returns some benefit back to the larger library community that we love and care about so much. People will on occasion say mean things as they wish, but that last sentence is what it really boils down to for me.

    Respectfully,

    -Michael Porter

  12. Anonymous Librarian said

    Is this just more execrable commentary from the masses?

    Mr. Muggles seems disgruntled by the oft demonstrated inability of commentators to think carefully. Thinking carefully and developing articulate arguments are the criteria for being taken seriously.

    Yes, I am the exception which proves the rule.

  13. Helen said

    It could be a simply case of women being bitchy and wanting to be noticed all the time online by criticizing people and in this case AL is trying to exert power and control through posts.

    I have worked in libraries before and prefer to work with men.Please forgive me, I am not saying all women are like that in our profession.

    I do not know if the AL is a female “professional” blogger. All I know that there is no modesty but an attitude of “I am more intelligent than anybody reading my blog posts”.

    I saw a recent TV show in Scotland called “Kath & Kim” (from Australia) and there was one line that applied to AL which was ” Look at me!!Look at meeee!”

  14. Mandy said

    Just to be devil’s adovcate, isn’t all this Annoyed Librarian bashing also a hate pile-on? S/he’s not always my favorite person, but it doesn’t seem like s/he’s the only hatemonger in town.

    If nothing else, at least all this is stirring some debate, which is healthy for the profession.

  15. Bobbi said

    mandy I would respectfully disagree that this post & comments are piling on hate. My principal problem with the AL is the nasty personal attacks, everything she said could have been said a different way andthat may have actually reached more people& inspired morw debate than the present metod. I have no problem with any expressing an opinion. Even better if it includes constructive feedback & suggestoins.

    • Bobbi said

      I should point out that while my previous comment may look like I was incapacitated in some way when I wrote it, I was not. I typed it on my cell phone, something I will clearly not be doing again.

  16. Liz said

    I may not always agree with AL’s arguments, but she does a great job of voicing the frustrations experienced by lots of people in the profession. It is all about balance, and I think our profession needs someone who will challenge our thinking. I think a lot of the criticisms about AL come from her use of humor. Often times humor is confused with meanspiritedness.

  17. Liz – jumping in here for just a sec. I also use humor in many of my blog posts, but it is never confused with meanspiritedness, and I think there’s HUGE difference between the two.

    Just sayin.

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