The Internet is a strange place. It seems to magnify the negative traits of many of its denizens. In the more than twenty years that I’ve been online, I’ve seen behavior that I’m sure would never happen in real life. For example, I recently noticed that an old-and-probably abandoned website crashed. I liked rereading its content and commented that I would be willing to republish it with modern technology.
Someone who says he owns this content sent me several emails raving insanely about my desire to “steal” this content and my liability under copyright laws. I replied that I had no commercial interest in the content and just want to keep it publicly available. This brought on new tantrums accusing me of being a thief and worse. When I pointed out that nothing I put online is commercial and I don’t make any money publishing my blog, I was greeted with new vitriol. There’s more to the story, but that’s not important.
What is important is the emotionally-charged reaction to an innocent request to help. I’m pretty sure that this guy is a sane, loving member of his real-life community. Online, something happens to him. He’s not alone. Internet feuds abound. It isn’t a matter of who’s right or wrong. It’s the incredibly strong emotional reactions this medium provokes.
The ability to think rationally disappears. I didn’t say I wanted to own the material in this situation. I know that both its owner and the angry blogger have limited technical skills. I figured I could use the platform that I built for this blog to help another blogger keep his site alive. It would have cost me $20 a month to do it. I thought I was doing a good deed. You know what they say about good deeds.
This post isn’t intended as an attack on the angry blogger. He has to deal with his feelings. I’m not insulted. I get it. The event is valuable as a teaching moment. Maybe it’s the lack of face-to-face contact that provokes strong feelings like his. I suspect that if we discussed this over coffee, we would depart as friends. After all, this isn’t a big deal in the scope of our lives. I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of spending another bunch of money to support another free website. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do.
I’m not allowing comments on this post. I absolutely don’t want another Internet feud.