Dec 14

Here there be dragons.

Posted by A Writer

As someone new to the "art" of blogging, I still have a lot to learn.  For instance: how to properly encourage discussion on or off site.  I posted a link to yesterday's post about the job market column from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the Chronicle's online message board.  Seemed logical: my post was about a Chronicle article; perhaps people reading the Chronicle might be interested in seeing it.  So I titled the post "The Job Market Horror Story" and posted this, verbatim:

I enjoyed this column, but wondered a little if it isn't indicative of a larger issue in higher education relating to what we tell graduate students about the job search and why.  The full article is on my site, http://www.rewrittenreality.com; feedback there or here would be welcome.

     Real Writer

Whoops. 

Apparently my writing was utterly confusing, because I soon got this gem in response:

wow… you enjoyed an article that you wrote.

You're SUCH a REAL writer!

Besides taking offense at my nickname, which he/she had apparently viewed as arrogant (and not related to the website, from which this name obviously comes), the poster had evidently thought I was referring to enjoying my post–not the article to which the post refers.  Given that this was the Discuss Chronicle Articles forum I would have thought that distinction to be obvious, but I was clearly wrong in that assumption.  I quickly posted a clarification (with a comment about the tone of the reply seeming inappropriate while I was at it), but the damage was already done.  I got things like this:

A failure in clarity is usually grounds for snarkasm around here.

And this:

I think he plagiarized the forum.  Without attribution.

And this:

So it is a piss-poor plagiarism as well?

And my favorite:

MY NAME IS REALWRITE AND I AM A REALWRITER AND I HAVE A BLOG PLEASE COME VISIT MY BLOG YOU WILL LIKE IT BECAUSE I AM A REALWRITER.

Yes, I had gone from an well-meaning attempt to get a discussion going and encourage people to check out my post on this site to a Nigerian E-mail scam, all in less than eight hours.  For the academic world, that's actually blazing speed.  So I changed my name to "A Writer" (and on reflection have changed it here as well), asked that the thread be deleted, and won't come within a mile of the place again.  

But the whole unpleasant experience was useful, because I've learned two very important lessons:

1.  Academics quickly become defensive (or "snarky," which in the real world means "acting like a jerk") when they feel their territory is being threatened.  I already knew this to be the case in the real world; I hadn't translated it to the online universe.  Online, academics quickly become defensive when "the new guy" comes into their forum and starts posting without asking the higher-ups politely.  My fault for not making the connection sooner; next time I'll follow the "chain of command."  Undecided

2.  People really, really, really hate anything that refers to any other site besides the one they're on.  Really.  Apparently the spam problem has become so widespread that anyone posting on a message board, forum or comment section with a suggestion to visit another site is automatically the online equivalent of a used car salesman and needs to be slapped down, and hard.  I'm kind of troubled that some people can't seem to make distinctions between legitimate comments and ones which are obviously just trolling (civility and mutual respect seem to be in awfully short supply over there if this overreaction is any indication), but it's good to know the lay of the land nonetheless.

So I've learned my lesson.  Readers, tread carefully: here there be dragons, and "snarky" ones at that.

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