Though the cover page of Open Salon assures me that "YOU MAKE THE HEADLINES," I never suspected that "top rated" item this morning would be a post accusing me of "despicable low behavior," written by well-respected and long-time OS member Catherine Forsythe.
The despicable low behavior described in this post apparently refers to a post that I published last week: The Current State of Spam on Open Salon. I suspect that anyone who wanted to read the post already has, but if you have not, feel free to click on the link.
But for those who have already read the post, or don't want to spend the time, I'll give you a quick summary. The post describes my experience as an OS "spam cop," one of the people who volunteer to delete spam accounts on OS. Based on that experience, I then discuss the volume of spam on OS, talking in particular about the large volume of spam accounts that might not be readily visible to most OS members. I then offered suggestions for ways to do a better job of controlling spam, and suggested that those who are concerned about spam might want to contact OS management to voice their support for better spam control.
Out of a fairly long post, the portion devoted to my description of my experience consists of two short paragraphs, for a total of four sentences.
This, apparently, is what Catherine interprets as "self aggrandizement." even though I use the plural "spam cops," as well as phrases such as "When a spam cop observes a spam post, comment, or link account, he or she can delete the account using a special utility." So the post clearly acknowledges both the existence and work of other spam cops.
But this obviously was not enough for Catherine. She takes umbrage over the fact that I have talked about my experience as a spam cop with others:
"Nevertheless, he makes it well known that he is among those managing the spam problem and stresses his prominent contribution. He had made in known in a comment on one of my articles; he has made in known in his own article; and he makes it known in private messages."
Yes, the horror! The horror! What a terrible person I must be to mention my spam cop experience in a single comment, and in private messages! And then to write about it in a post! To Catherine this is like Clark Kent letting everyone know that he is Superman. But for me, this was simply a matter of talking about my experience on OS, and part of my experience is, in fact, being a spam cop and deleting spam. No one ever told me it was supposed to be a secret.
Concerning the contributions of other spam cops, as Catherine well knows, there is no way that I can know how much spam other people are deleting. All I know is that someone is deleting spam, but I don't know who or how much. All I know is that whenever I logged in, there was more to delete.
And that was the problem I described in my post. I mean, you could recruit Einstein, Jesus Christ, and President Obama to be spam cops, and they could delete spam day and night, and you still would not be controlling the spam in any significant sense.
And I don't necessarily even know who all the spam cops are. Nobody ever sent me a list, and for all I know there could be ten spam cops. Stated in terms of popular culture, I don't know who the spam cops are any more than the inhabitants of Battlestar Galactica know who the Final Five Cylons are.
So the bottom line is that what she calls "stressing my own contribution" comes from the fact that there's no way for me to know what anyone else's contribution is. Spam is either deleted or not, and if it's deleted there's no way to know who deleted it. Unlike in the movie Apocalypse Now, there is no "spam death card" that we place on deleted spam in order to identify our "kills."
The sad thing about this little controversy -- a controversy that Catherine has manufactured for reasons known only to her -- is that it is so unnecessary. After my "spam post" was published, I heard through the grapevine that Catherine was upset with it. I was sorry about that, because it was not my intent to offend anyone. And I told a couple of people in private messages to tell her that I would be happy to discuss the post with her. Whether those messages got to her I don't know.
I do know that she never contacted me. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but when a person is in a mind to accuse someone else of "despicable low behavior," that person should at least make an attempt to resolve the issue privately. This was not done. And if someone is going to accuse another OS member of despicable low behavior in a post, the polite thing would be to let the target know that the post is coming. That was not done, and instead I ended up finding out about the post through private messages written by other people. And then Catherine closes comments on her post, and I am unable to respond to the accusations in a comment on her post.
As I mentioned at the start, Catherine is a well-respected member of OS. But in this one case, I feel that she has handled the situation poorly, creating an unnecessary controversy that could have been handled with private communication.
And I guess the lesson for me is not to offend a popular person on OS, or you'll get torn a new orifice in public on the front page. The last time I looked at her post there were 59 "thumbs up." And to those who rated that post and thus kept it on the front page, I would only ask "rated for what?"