I'm a web designer. I build websites on WordPress for small
and startup companies. I take care of everything;
graphics, content, hosting and domains. I also advise on making the
most of the internet based on what I learn from the social media and
One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of
self-control in the way you handle yourself online. You don't want to
build a reputation as a loon.
As crazy as it sounds, some people don't
understand this and are happy to dig themselves into deeper and deeper
holes till they end up in China.
Techdirt's Mike Masnick calls this "The
Streisand Effect." It's what
happens when you try to shut down criticism with threats of legal
action. Short version: don't. It makes things worse.
Okay, so someone has said or done
something online that annoys you. What do you do? Some people complain
about it, get sympathy, then a rightious mob of internet justice comes
riding into town, a-whuppin' and a-whoppin, etc. The net result is the
offending party is mobbed.
This can quickly get out of
hand, the more drama there is surrounding the subject. I've been
involved in a few of these, mostly to help artists I wanted to get on
One particular case involved an amazing guitarist called Preston Reed.
Another guitarist had taken two of his tunes, blended them together and
was trying to claim them as his own work with just a fleeting
attribution for Preston.
Five of us followed Preston into the
comments thread of the offending
party on YouTube and asked him to take it down. He complied when he
realised the trickle of complaints might turn into a tsunami.
Call it what you like, but it worked. And it was cheaper than hiring a
lawyer. All we did was politely but firmly complain. En masse. It was
the numbers that did it.
The key to knowing when to issue a call to arms, threaten a legal
onslaught, or otherwise attempt to bring the long arm of justice upon
your adversary is to make sure your response is reasonable and
proportional to the offense.
Over-reacting could cause a backlash, after all. It's one thing to
defend your rights. It's another to invent new ones.
If you find yourself at the epicentre of
a storm of controversy, the first thing you should do is work out which
way the wind is blowing.
People get up in arms when someone is being victimised or threatened.
Whether or not you feel that you are the
one being wronged, if other
people are piling in on you it's because they think you're in the
wrong and they want to help the person they feel is being mistreated.
Don't try to defend your
position if it's being contradicted. Accept that this is what people
believe and work towards an amicable solution. Often this means
swallowing your pride and doing what the mob wants, at least for the
Once the heat is off you can work out
what you want to do and whether or not your position is a reasonable
Using the whole of an item
of someone's work without crediting them or asking them first is a big
no-no. Using items without asking permission or linking back is plain
bad manners. User-generated content sites are the worst offenders and
most people don't realise they're upsetting people.
Taking on a popular user-generated site
can cause more problems than it solves. From what I've read I'd
recommend making a deal with the website owners to carry ads for your
site if their users are uploading a lot of your stuff.
That way you avoid getting
into an unnecessary argument that you will probably lose. As far as I
know, Adsense revenues can be redirected to people who can prove they
own the disputed content.
This means you can gain more from people
sharing your stuff than if you insist on controlling how and where it
appears on the internet.
If you're being criticised, being seen to resolve the issue in a
gracious and competent manner can gain you more business than trying to
censor negative opinions, which can only hurt you.
For other situations, I
recommend keeping your head down and waiting for it to blow over. It
will, trust me.