Drama vs. Helpfulness, how I will rebuild a friendship

Twitter. It almost means drama. Heck, for those who didn’t catch musician Wil.i.am and Perez Hilton going at it over on Twitter you can get a whif of the kind of things that seem to happen in our real-time entertainment-focused world.

I have drunk too much from that world.

It’s too easy to be nasty. To build alliances, mobs, and use them to hurt people. I know, I’ve been on both the receiving end of that and the giving end of it too.

But I’m going the other way. How can I be helpful?

Yesterday I reminisced about the good old days, when coders ruled the world, not drama. Code isn’t dramatic. It either works, or it doesn’t.

Code doesn’t incite riots. Code doesn’t call people names. Code doesn’t end friendships.

So, I’m leaving the drama world to those who want to use Twitter to riot, to harm, to hurt, or to cause a fight to encourage people to click on their links so they can get the page views and get paid.

Tonight a friend says he’s ending his friendship with me. I don’t care how or why, but I’ll work to be helpful again. I used to be helpful.

I used to help by being excited by seeing the coolest latest startups. I used to help by trying out all the latest technology and knowing more about how to use it than anyone else.

That is still there, but it’s been repressed by the real time world. The drama. The fights.

My friend is noticing the same thing, although he’s articulating it badly. So am I.

It takes two to fight, so now I’m off. How to be helpful?

Well, for one, have you tried Feedly? I’m playing with it and it is now my favorite way to read Google Reader’s feeds and tell the world about who has the best blogs. Yeah, it only works with Firefox, but most of you should be using that anyway. Would love to help out.

Anyway, earlier today I wrote that with every tweet we have a choice: helpful or hurtful. I’m trying to be helpful. Kick me if I’m not.

Excuse me while I try to patch up a friendship.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. It is interesting that you are moving where there might be more civility, at least in what it is you say and encourage.

    I think my twitter following must be selective enough where I don't see too many altercations. I do notice that it is easy to go for a cheap shot and I must remind myself to resist.

  2. I'm glad to see you return to helpful. I look forward to seeing less of you, and more of your work. I think you are larger than life sometimes. I don't blame you for that, but I think you so much more to offer than your persona.

  3. holdenpage: well, how do we turn that around and be helpful? Seems like you want the drama to continue. If that's the case, I'll have to figure out how to get you out of my life cause I won't continue to go down that road.

  4. I don't, but you are calling out Twitter as a drama fest but when I turn around every other day I see you contribute to a lot of drama. Perfect example is today with Arringtons post and what you said to Aaron for saying he was deleting his account. It needs to stop.

    Personally I respect you and I respect Arrington and I hope that you two get things worked out. But all you did today was prove Arrington right. I hope today is the day you contribute to proving him wrong.

    I personally was pretty ashamed to be using Friendfeed today because of you. I hope you keep to what your saying in this post.

  5. If you seriously want to talk about with me how to turn around and be helpful… please let me know.

    You're right, you have drank too much of that. Bring back the old scoble. The guy who was open and opinionated but never demeaning.

    I use to see that from that you all the time (I have been following you for god knows how long), now not so much.

  6. You're right. But you are continuing the drama here. One of my weaknesses is that when someone attacks tools needlessly (and communities while painting a too-broad-brush) that I have spent thousands of hours on my panties get in a bunch. I'm human. I react badly sometimes. But that's what makes me different from a press release or a media team.

  7. The biggest problem with the tech community as a whole is how everyone gets consumed in this echo chamber and how some rail to death this concept of “real time” and what not else.

    It is revolutionary, it is amazing, but I am sick to death of hearing about it. We do get to follow who we want, but still, you fascinate me Scoble but you drive me nuts with the constant screaming about “real time.” The truth of the matter is that 'real time' brings the human element to this medium, more so than anything else, and arguments grow faster in that form than any other. We all need to take a breath, step back, and look at our selves and see what we've become.

  8. As communication becomes more and more concise thanks to twitter, we end up using word contractions and series of letters to stand for whole sentences and concepts just to make our ideas fit into 144 characters. It is little wonder that emotion and real feeling is getting abbreviated down to drama…all the energy, half the meaning.

    As trite as it sounds, I am trying to go back to what my grandmother told me nearly half a century ago…before you speak, listen to yourself.

    Z

  9. Holden, how was Scoble demeaning? All the threads I've seen Scoble start have been interesting, thought provoking and never seen anyone get out of line. He's one of the few people who engages respectfully with everyone. And when he's arguing with someone he uses facts and logic in his discourse. I've never seen him attack anyone personally.

    I was out most of today. Can you show me the examples you are talking about today? I'm not trying to argue, I'd just sincerely like to see what you are talking about. Thanks :-)

  10. Hey, we all react badly. I am just glad you can admit that and I will be holding you to this post.

    Now, go be helpful. I think we all miss it. :)

  11. I would love too right now but dude. I gotta go to bed lol, one in the morning here.

    I can leave you some examples tom. morning Stephen.

  12. The only relevance twitter had to the Perez Hilton beat down, was the doofus twittered to have people call 911. Moron, that thing you were using to twitter? It's a cell phone

  13. I don't see where you have to apologize for anything you have done. I've never seen you be demeaning to anyone in all the threads I've read that you've started on FF. I've personally loved all the threads you've started, met a lot of interesting people there, though provoking, engaging debate. I was out most of today, so if someone can show me something different, you know then maybe I'll have a different impression. I don't see that you've drunk too much “that” It's been fun and engaging. I'd like to know what Holden is talking about, not to argue with him, but just to see.

  14. Robert, you said: “I used to help by trying out all the latest technology and knowing more about how to use it than anyone else.”

    I think everyone liked how you found new things. Just curious: how were your able to measure that you knew more about a new technology than anyone else? How was that tracked?

  15. Good luck there – though I'd disagree about code not causing drama: people criticise code that works when it doesn't match their idea of elegance. If it's tightly coupled, follows anti-patterns like the big ball of mud etc, even if it works it can make mature programmers weep & want to throw things at the perpetrator. (I work in support, coding bug fixes, so I know this pain well)

  16. Ahem. I've seen knock-down drag-out fights and flame wars that lasted months over which programming language was better. Coders are not immune from wars.

    But I find it better to just speak one's piece and not respond to attacks. Sounds like that's what your doing too.

  17. Dave: I never claimed to know more about a technology. I claimed I often knew more about using it. For instance, I am one of the top users of Twitter and FriendFeed. Other people claim to know how these things work, but they never post anything (I see more than one “Social Media Expert” who only has a few followers and a few postings, for instance). I tend to love using new technology and using it into the ground. It often gets me into fights too, because I'm passionate about technology. That's the not good side of things.

  18. OK, I know this will get deleted. So be it. At least it will get read once. You don't need to work on rebuilding your friendship with Arrington. You need to tell him to kiss your ass. I don't respect Arrington. He's mean, he treats people like shit and rips into them questioning their ethics at every turn meanwhile do far worse himself with the SUL. When there is a bully in the Schoolyard it does no good to kiss and make up. They only treat you worse. The points you made to O'Reilly and Arrington about the SUL are simply correct.

    Jesse Stay is a nice person. Louis something or other is a nice person. You are a nice person. Leo Laporte is a nice person. Mike Arrington is not. He's a jerk and a hypocrite. That's simply the facts. Let's see him have the balls to take down his Twitter account even though you know, I know, and everyone else knows that he's received just as much @ reply hate over there as FriendFeed.

    I don't want to see him dead. I don't want to see anyone dead or physcially threatened in anyway. But you have to call a spade a spade. If there is an 800lb elephant in the room, it doesn't do much good to deny it.

    If he's ended your friendship, you've got one less jerk in your life. Let him change and EARN his way back into your friendship. It's his personality that's caused the drama, not like he likes to think, that everyone in the world except him is horrible and nasty.

    Do what you want, but if you kiss his ass just because he has a lot of power, then you're going to lose a lot more credibility than you earn. And especially don't because you think you are wrong. He's the one who is wrong. He's done nothing but bully you and bully you, and a lot of other respectable people for as long as I can remember. He's the one who is wrong.

    You don't have to continue the drama, that's great and that's fine. But Mr. Holier than Thou has caused the Drama, and he should be the one feeling bad about it, not you or anyone else.

    OK, I know this will be taken down. That's fine. I'll just copy and paste it to my notes or blog, or maybe I'll just forget the whole thing, but I'm sick of taking shit from bullies in my own life as well, and I don't see why its the “nice” people who always have to end up eating it.

  19. I don't delete comments for the most part. Only when they go very hateful (and yours doesn't come close to the line) or racist or they just cross the line with me and I need to get them out of my life. I'm a believer that this is a two-way street and that there's power in treating the audience as a partner rather than some raw materials to use to build something. There have been some darn hateful things written about me over time and I'll defend everyone's right to say those, even though they hurt. But I get where other people are coming from too. Either way, I will try to save my friendship because I enjoyed having the friendship. Remember, I was the first to link to Arrington before he had any industry power and before I got to know him.

    It's sure not easy being in this industry, though, and trying to participate in live time without an editor and worrying about what the consequences of what you write will be. That said, I got too much into the real time drama and am working to be helpful. That seems to me to be the right side of the line I'll be on. If anyone doesn't like me on that side of the line it'll say more about them than it will say about me.

  20. scoble, you are a good man for lots of things.. here's why i found this particular post of your amazing:

    * seems like you wrote this from your heart, that takes guts…
    * writing from your heart and accepting criticism means that you are willing to learn and grow (it gets you places… stagnating and defending gets us nowhere)
    * it was simple and relevant to a lot of us… i think a lot of us (me being no exclusion) have got carried away by the “creating judgments on short snippets of info” bandwagon… its possible to help having seen only 140 chars… but never possible to judge…
    * you shed light on the fact that its easier to help than hurt (as long as one is willing to)…

    i'm inspired… i try to follow people not just for their technical ability or specialist experience… but for their whole persona, and the passion comes out in skills/experience…

    thankyou for an inspirational writeup… you're depicted a value – “helpfulness” – that i shall try to endeavor much more to…

    simran.

  21. Without commenting on your differences with others in the tech community, here's my challenge to you: Use the incredible platform you have to not only educate about technology, but to start dialogues about other issues that are pressing down on us right now.

    I saw a tweet from Lee Stranahan tonight where he was discouraged and disheartened. Why? Because he's made 10 incredible videos around health care reform. They inform and frame the issue in 10 seconds. If he had even one quarter of the traction you do, he'd be in heaven. Why not look at his videos and if you think he's using this new media technology in a new, disruptive and interesting way, give him some help? Right now he just figures no one really cares about this stuff. He couldn't be more wrong.

    And not just political. There are a lot of people who would love to have your mic for 5 seconds, let alone 5 minutes to do good for others. Maybe you could find a way to incorporate them into your time online as a public service thing or something.

  22. Karoli, actually that's what I love about FriendFeed: it's a way to distribute interesting ideas and content. All I have to do is click “like.” Compare that to the blogging world. Now I have to go over and check out Lee's videos. If I like them I have to start a post, write some stuff up, link them in, and click publish. Too much work for the most part and not enough added value over that work. But off to watch them I go…keep in mind I'm a geek and health care reform isn't one of the things I track very closely. Better off talking to Francine Hardaway who writes about that topic for Huffington Post.

  23. LOL, Robert…I write the US Health Crisis blog with Francine, and she's published some of my stuff to Huffpost. But here's the thing — even as a geek, you live in the same world the rest of us do. You don't have to be a wonk to know that there are people in your own community who are very ill and have no insurance. There are geeks who need health care too…and aren't getting it. Lee's stuff goes to Friendfeed. I share it on Friendfeed. But if the timing isn't quite right…it just gets buried in the flow and bounce of the 300-post discussion about discussions.

  24. I had been monitoring the feed about this event off and on today, and I was very happy to see this post tonight. It was getting far to passionate and personal over things that should be treated like the amazing tools they are. I know Robert personally and he has been a good neighbor and is always willing to come out an make a s'more or 2 at the Ritz (a trick I learned from him in our first meeting) when he is in town. Robert, you have helped me a ton in both meeting people and in just having another interested geek to hang out with, and the one thing I have taken to heart was a tweet or a friendfeed post back in February or March that basically said (I am paraphrasing, can't find the original tweet) “What use are [some huge number] of followers if you can't use them to help someone” then posted a link to someone looking for work. I am glad to see you going back to this mindset. Helping people and businesses understand and use these new tools are what it is all about and Its good to see you remembering that. Have a good time over the pond.

  25. Yup, you're right, it's hard to focus all the time on important stuff. Heck, is Michael Jackson really worth the human energy we're all giving it right now? Vs. other important things? Nope. I will try to take a look, but it would have been good to get a URL and just one to try out for those who are somewhat interested. Getting people to pay attention to content is very difficult, and for me even though it is an issue I'm somewhat interested in, it's one I won't push very hard on my readers because it's outside the scope of what they expect from me most of the time. I will look for ways to change that, though.

  26. Glad to see you recognize a few of the problems with Twitter and Friendfeed and I appreciate you writing an honest piece about it. It's made me think about how I treat people in real time when I really should give their ideas more thought instead of that instant reply.

  27. The more I think about it, the more I think that although he expressed it extremely badly, Mike Arrington is raising an important point. Real-time tools allow us to make real-time, instant responses – and those are rarely ones which show our best side as people. I don't think Mike is not guilty of this too, by the way – far from it. But it doesn't stop his fundamental point having some merit.

    So the question isn't really about the tools: It's about how we encourage people to use the tools better. I think the best way of doing that is trying to raise our own personal standards, and that's why I'm really happy that you're trying to do that yourself – and why I'm glad you're trying to mend your friendship.

    If you're going to be a the Travelling Geeks Tweetup on Sunday, I look forward to saying hello – it will be good to actually put a real-world face to the words I've read so much of! :)

  28. Yep, that's what I've come to like too. And one of the things that gets lost in the drama is the terrific little micro-communities that are developing there around specific topics. The Evernote-addicts group, for example, where there's lots of helpful posting and discussion. Or the iphoneusers group, where some really smart people post help, advice, and cool tools for the iPhone.

    It's that kind of stuff that's started to make me enjoy FriendFeed (and you know how much of a skeptic I was/am!).

  29. I will be at the http://www.travelinggeeks.com tweetup on Sunday. Look forward to seeing you there! Yeah, I actually don't disagree with the point that these communities can get messy and that real time gets messier faster. I guess I was hoping for a little more objectivity. Just a couple of days ago I saw hundreds of Tweets saying that Jeff Goldbloom was dead (he was not). This is NOT a FriendFeed-only problem. My wife was attacked pretty horribly around the Kathy Sierra incident (which so shook her she stopped blogging). This was a problem then and it will be a problem in the future. If Arrington had just packaged it that way instead of making it sound like I had a disease for hanging out on FriendFeed I wouldn't have reacted so. Oh well, we'll see what happens now, I'm off to sleep.

  30. Karoli, aren't you preaching to the choir by publishing to Huffpo? Seems you need to reach the unconvinced, imho

  31. Robert, thanks for clarifying. So, how do you measure knowing more about using a technology? The # of views you get from a blog entry. Don't get me wrong: you've exposed many of us to tools that would otherwise go unnoticed. For that I am appreciative.

  32. Being helpful is better than being hurtful, but *not* at the expense of honesty. Don't lose sight of calling a spade a spade. Sometimes that might be hurtful, but it's also honest. The fact that others (here it comes) can't handle the truth shouldn't make you back down.

    We need honesty. (Or at least the ability to bitch without being shouted down: http://friendfeed.com/bitchfest/447a9b91/announ…)

  33. I suspect part of the problem feeding this behavior in social media is the persistent nature of the communication. In real life when tempers flare and words are exchanged, we quickly focus on the fact that we are upset and allow the memory of what specifically was said to fade into the background. Thus once the emotional response subsides, the memory is already fuzzy.

    With a textual, persistent media like twitter, you don't forget what was said. You re-read it, possibly over and over. The emotional response is triggered again and again, building upon itself and being amplified. This can happen in real life if one obsesses over slights or insults, but the nature of social media practically encourages such obsession.

  34. Robert,

    I'm glad to see you return to long form blogging.

    Twitter / Friendfeed are good for quick comments or pointers to a bigger story. Sort of like the news headlines between shows back when they actually told a story “Storm coming tomorrow. Details at 11:00″ instead of today's worthless tease : “Is the President dead? We have details at 11:00″

    Blog entries are the equivalent of newspaper stories; more in depth reporting where you can actually follow the classic communications model : tell them what you are going to tell the, tell them, tell them what you told them.

    The best blog entries are those that are more like weekly or monthly magazines. Thoughtful pieces summarizing someone's long experience or research.

    These are far more useful then quick twitter entries.

    I am glad you are returning to a more substantive part in the conversation. You used to have a lot of good things to say.

  35. “Code isn’t dramatic. It either works, or it doesn’t.”

    Err i dont think you have ever worked on a big system when I worked on OSI ( Real Networking) a number of MTA's pointy black did not implement teh standard Sprint in particular where know for this. Micosoft gave up and canceled there MTA as they found it to hard :-)

    More recently Cisco OSPF has some very wonky behaviors in certain edge conditions so teh corect answer to some CCNA question is it depends :-)

    And when I was looking after the core part of a BT billing system (a humungous chunk of PL/1) for the UK arm of Dialcom sometimes you could fix bugs by recompiling the entire thing.

  36. Hmm, maybe using Disqus to comment on Scobleizer is a bad idea? The Disqus e-mails of all the ensuing comments has flooded my inbox something awful. Must figure out how to control that.

  37. I do have to say as a developer, Code can be much easier to deal with than people and most issues with code are caused by people wanting it written the way they “know” is best. I have had some extreme arguments on code format and don't get started on OO vs procedural code, how ever the code doesn't care, its a tool. Its the people that tie emotions into their tools that cause drama. Its been happening since the beginning of time and will continue to happen. I am sure there was a big nasty discussion on whether limestone or obsidian made better hand axes. We need to realize that a tool is a tool and if it gets the job done its great, if there might be a better way, try suggesting and offering training to help rather than going with the “Your limestone sucks, can't you see my Obsidian is so much sharper, better and lighter, you noob”. Tools are great its, just we all form emotional attachments with them and hate it when someone says the above statement as it gets your defenses up. “And remember, this fix is only temporary, unless it works. ” – Red Green

  38. Steven, how can you hate someone so much that you don't even know? Do you know how frightening it is to me that people need to state their opinion on whether or not they'd like me to die? Most of the time it goes without saying that people don't want others dead. With me, you felt the need to state which side of the line you're on.

    Is there anything in the world that I could say about tech that should put my life at risk? Is there any reason in the world for you to hate someone you don't know?

  39. Robert, apologies for not leaving the link. Here's the beginning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDjPL9-roFo&feat

    It is difficult to get people to pay attention to content, but it's less difficult to get them to pay attention to human stories. Lee tells a story in 47 seconds. And he's doing a video a day pointing out the hypocrisy of the current debate. He's using his words wisely, and using the resources of tech and the internet to try to get his message out. Whether you view his work as worth your time or not, I'm gratified to see you make a commitment to looking at important things. Truly.

  40. Yes, it is a bit of choir-preaching to publish to HuffPost. But it's the platform that gets eyes. I publish to several other sites too, and get some traction but not nearly enough. I would like to think that I could manage to get a message out without doing something insane like standing on top of a 40-story building threatening to jump, you know.

  41. Robert I've been following you for a while, however not as closely as these days. Fact is you are totally right about the drama between parties, and its not just celebs – its all kinds of people looking for attention (good or bad).

    I can say that i'm a happy follower of yours (even if you don't follow me) and within the last couple of weeks i've learned alot from you. Whats important here is the bleeding edge insight you share, and thats only if others care to read it (you'd be surprised how many don't)

    Out of my 16,000 some followers and the recycled links, content and egos i'd say you (and only a handful of others) have helped the most by being original..After all the guys who evangelized social media way before us should step up and take it to another level…

  42. I think the problem is many people do not focus on people who like them. For me when something bad comes my way, I invest all of my energy and waste a lot of time on it.

  43. This is an older post Robert, but I just happened to come across it and wanted to commend you on it. Hope you were able to restore that friendship and wanted to thank you for all the valuable information you've been sharing that's been helpful to many people.

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