False gods

There seem to be some kind of worshipping of certain personalities online, and at the same time, well-known web people who misuse their position. I don't know if it's me becoming jaded or if it's an accurate impression of the state of the web, but here goes...

Fanatic followers

A lot of people seem to idolize some bloggers/famous internet names and always agree with them. They will defend their hero to death and they're rarely objective in their opinions... Half of their comments are purely praise, which in general is a good thing, but seldomly they actually contribute or break out of their boundaries. This is the fanboy mentality most us bump into in some place or the other... At SXSW in March this year, everyone kept looking at each other's badges when meeting in the hallways (or the bathrooms, parties etc) just to make sure they spoke to the right people, and didn't waste precious time on someone less known. And I'm afraid to say that I myself wasn't much better... Haven't even got a web site of your own? Why should I talk to you then? After a while, however, I realized I was behaving like an ass and sincerely tried to turn around. Others will be the judge if I succeeded or not. All this behavior is such a waste. I agree that many well-known names are just that because they're talented and have worked hard to get there. But when solely trying to please them and only read their blogs, we both socially and when it comes to knowledge miss out on the people we should be focusing on: the young and the hungry, the ones of whom some will definitely be the next big names.

Delusions of grandeur

On the other side of the fence we have big names who, some more often than others, can't deal with their stature and act respectful and like a grown-up all the time. Mocking people with fewer skills when they write a comment, threatening to delete a comment next time the code in it isn't perfect, getting all upset because they think people put words in their mouth. Chill. Really. The tone in some blogs seems to ooze with elitism, be it intentional or not. But I think they should really read through what they've written and try to see it from other people's perspective as well. There so much flaming, bickering and crap going on in various places on internet that soon Google won't have time and servers to index all that shit. Treat everyone with equal respect, and if giving critique, do it in a respectful manner. Otherwise you're only wasting your and everyone else's time, and the internet will be a lesser place for us all to be...

 

Don't idolize the false gods. Everyone's equal and deserves to be treated that way.
Posted in General,SXSW 2006 |

34 Comments

  • web says:

    Well said — I too may be guilty of this sometimes and hardly do I ever act that way <acronym title="In Real Life">IRL</acronym>.

    I find it funny that these top "bloggars" have almost achieved rockstar status amongst the community — and how few of us realize every morning they adorn their iPod and hop on a bus (or in some cases a limo) and go to work.

    Nobody here is curing cancer — and there are no hearts in coolers.

    Were just a bunch of dorks on this big rock trying to get a little piece of cake — we are all in the same boat.

  • Richard says:

    Absolutely. It's about time someone mentioned this.

    By the way, you made a typo in your last paragraph. "Threat" should be "Treat". :)

    Great entry.

  • Johan says:

    Exactly. It is a sort of tiranny inhabited with elitists with faulse pretenses. It is like some authors cannot deal with criticism, because they feel like they just told about the holy grail. While the Internet is full of interesting people with superb knowledge and in-sight. But we only see a certain group of people that want to be in the picture. For instance, duoh.com (my country) is voted weblog of the year but maye there were so many others that surpassed that design. It means that we see a distorted view, and unaware people only see a small world of designers, developers but not the whole picture. It is more that

    always the same people suck up to the same … I live on earth not in a room, thank you. So people ligthen up and laugh hard, it is all a hoax trying to lure in their fantasy networks.

  • Faruk Ates says:

    Haven’t even got a web site of your own? Why should I talk to you then?

    Do you really feel that this is your or other people's position on it?

    For me, during SXSW I was trying to find people I already knew or knew of but had never met before. Whenever I met completely different people, unknown people most of us wouldn't ever have heard of, I still had an interest in them for as much as they as person interested me (i.e. I wouldn't force myself to come up with conversation, but neither would I do so with big-shot people).

    At SXSW I wanted to hang out with my friends and make friends with people I'd thus far only knew by name. Any and all friends I made whom I had never heard of before, I consider extra awesome bonus, and something I'm very thankful for.

    I don't think we do anything wrong by looking at badges and only talking to the people we know — how would you respond to something like this:

    "Hi, I have no clue who you are, what you do or why you're here, and you have no idea who I am or what I do or why I'm here, but hey let's have a chat!"

    What I'm saying is, it's only natural and logical for us to try and find people we know by name. Sure, there were tons of unknown people there and sure, most of them were totally cool, super-awesome and lots of fun to hang out with — but those people are out there on the streets as well, and we don't just bump into strangers there, so why would we do so at a conference?

    Now, if anyone would not care to talk to you just because you're not a Dave Shea or a Molly, that's a whole different story. But I don't think there was much, if any, of that going on.

  • KJ says:

    Being as this was my first year to SXSW I didn't know what to expect. However, I did encounter the same kind of attitude. It seemed that if you weren't considered one of the "elite", you didn't really matter. Aside from the co-worker that went along with me, the only other people I met were the ones who didn't attend Interactive. The Film people seemed way more open to meeting new people.

  • Nathan Smith says:

    Robert: I think I did the opposite of what you did at SXSW. I steered clear of the "big name" people, other than to briefly say something like "Mint Rocks," or "I liked your work on ____." I figured, they had enough people kissing-up that they didn't need yet another person to take up their time. Instead, I just focused on spending time with the people I had already got to know over IM. It just so happened that some of them are big-name, such as Bryan Veloso. But, I hung out with Bryan not because he's (now) famous, but because he's a nice guy, and we talk regularly online. On the same token, I had people come up to me, and say "Whoa, I love your site, etc." in which case I would actually try to spend time talking, to show that hey – despite the popularity of a person or a website, we're all still human beings, and everyone has a story worth listening to.

  • Johan says:

    There is nothing wrong with socializing. But the keypoint is – the danger :

    "The same developments and trends that look dangerous elsewhere: namely, ignorance and greed. The cult of personality and power, and the religion of money.

    Industries develop momentums and agendas of their own, and they rearrange the world at an other-than-human scale."

  • david says:

    i didnt go to SXSW but i have been screaming from the roof tops about this very thing. and i guess nobody heard cause im not a well know person ;)

    anyway i was saying the same thing about the new vitimin site with its advisory board. much to the point of why is it the same people? are thier other people with respected inelect to fill the position? and as i said before this is not a rant against them because they have worked their buts off doing great things and deserve whatever accolades they get, but i fell people have stopped looking arround for others that are equally deserving and if you arent one of the 'famous few' (yeah, i coined that term) then people dont take you as seriously or they argue to death about something without really taking the time to fully understand what you are talking about.

  • Jakob Heuser says:

    Reading this, it makes me really glad that before SXSW I knew almost nobody from the "blogging world".

    @Faruk: I don't know, randomly sticking out your hand to meet people was a lot of fun. There were lots of people I met who don't really blog, but still had a lot of interesting things to say. The nice thing about SXSW was we all had a common ground, and you could always strike up a conversation about professional jobs and you would either learn new things or be able to relate.

    Back to @Robert: I don't think I've been to a site where the original authors are that extreme. That sounds like a really hostile place to post. :(

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments and opinions!

    web, Richard, Johan, david,

    I'm glad that you agree.

    Richard,

    Thanks, it has been corrected.

    Faruk,

    Naturally, SXSW was in general a great place to be. Lots of cool people, lots of happenings. And of course there were a number of people I wanted to meet that I knew from beforehand from their web sites and/or IM.

    I personally didn't get met in a bad way (at least not a lot), but I saw it taking place.

    For instance, for my colleague Daniel who was with me, and who hasn't got a blog and isn't well-known in the blogging community, got met a number of times like this (starting with Daniel):

    -Hi.

    -Hi, I'm [insert semi-well-known name here] (staring in vain at Daniel's badge). Who are you?

    – I'm Daniel H.

    – Ok… You got a blog/URL?

    – Nope.

    – Ok… (awkward silence for a while, and then the person would just leave or desperately jump onto someone else passing by)

    Daniel never bitched about this, but it really hurt me to see that kind of treatment.

    Did I myself initially look at badges to decide who to talk to? Yes, because time was sparse, so at first I felt I had to behave like that, but this changed later on…

    But even though we can talk forever about good and bad things taking place at SXSW (and it was overall good, don't get me wrong), it was merely an example of a trend I think is very present overall. And given some other comments here, apparently I'm not the only one that has gotten that feeling…

    KJ,

    I'm sorry to hear that.

    Nathan,

    …we're all still human beings, and everyone has a story worth listening to.

    Absolutely, I couldn't agree more. I was very glad to meet you there, but it was because since I knew you from before and I look up to you, not because I was thinking:

    OMG, it's the Nathan Smith!

    Jakob,

    But are you glad now that you do know some from the blogging world? :-)

    Regarding people being that hostile, I have some examples of that, but it would just be stupid to bring them up and point fingers. The only thing that would come out that would be a bashing and dissecting details instead of looking at the greater picture.

  • Sean Fraser says:

    There are very few Pop Stars in the standards community I want to meet. Maybe, ten. And, even then, I wouldn't discuss standards related things. It would be music, most likely.

    Most of the "elite" Pop Stars – it seems to me – are simply aloof. Being aloof isn't being elitist. It's like Faruk says above. I am always pleasently surprised when I get a response from an email to a Pop Star. Most are gracious and informative; some are brusque.

    The wannabe Pop Stars are more elitist. Did you ever not find these sorts of people in forums.

    Do you remember when "A List Apart" had 'No Syncophants' in the comment guidelines. It seemed elitist but they wanted actual discussion of the subject. [They've since removed that particular guideline.]

    Maybe, one day I'll attend SXSW and I'll get to sign autograph books.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Sean,

    Most well-known names are nice,no question about it. But some aren't, and some aren't all the time…

    But this post is as much, if not more, about people raising them to the skies and making them into gods.

    Maybe we'll meet at SXSW one day! :-)

  • Kai Malloy says:

    I agree with alot of what you say in this article. It seems like most movements have their fair share of leaders that get all the recognition and those in the background doing the hard work that don’t receive any at all even though their work is just as important, if not more, than those in the spotlight.

    I guess its just impportant to look at things objectively and realize that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, even though the parts are sometimes all we look at.

  • P.J. Onori says:

    Cliques exist everywhere, including the web dev/design crowd. I have to say that the name dropping is much worse in other vocational circles, but it still annoying to see it show its ugly head in our backyard.

    Very nice and appropriate article. Unforunately, I think this is not something that is going to change anytime soon.

  • Info Guy says:

    Sorry, will have to point the finger at one person. SCRIVS. I personally don't like him. Although I will have to say he did a good job at making a great community.

  • Jakob Heuser says:

    Robert, I’d never ask you to point fingers~ Maybe I was just really overwhelmed and never saw it. :) I am glad that I know some of the bloggers now, though I’m really glad I got to know them as people and not bloggers. In many cases, I didn’t know they had a weblog until after SXSW when I read through business cards, hehe.

    I think web is on the right track, in that we’re all just posting about stuff that’s cool and stuff we’ve learned. It’s awesome when others benefit from it too.

    @Sean: I would agree about the wannabe elitests. This happens a lot on Gaia (community site) where you have the people that are effectively legendary on the site, but then you have the people that want to achieve that “legendary status”. Those wannabe people go out of their way to be elitest in a hope to set themselves apart from the community. They never really achieve that status they seek, but they never leave either. As long as they have a “fan-circle” as we call it, they will get community support no matter what they do. We have yet to find a good way to handle this other than to let things run their course. Eventually the fan-circle thins, and the community moves on.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Kai,

    Yeah, absolutely.

    P.J.,

    It probably won't change, but I sincerely wish people would think one step further in their behavior.

    Info Guy,

    Personally, I haven't had a bad experience with him; on the contrary, and when we met at SXSW he seemed like a great guy. But then again, that doesn't necessarily mean that you haven't, so, if possible, try to work it out.

    Jakob,

    That's the best way to get to know people! And absolutely, the web is great and there are lot of people sharing things for free just to help out, so I applaud that.

    This post is just about the things/persons that stray from that path.

  • I idolise nobody on the internet and it's a reason I don't go to some of the so-called big-name sites often.

    Some seem so fake and plastic only interesting in marketing themselves. I'd probably be happier (on a personal level) talking to anyone who has replied to this topic – who isn't considered famous as one of the megastars.

  • You raise some interesting points here. I’m not really into the fanboy mentality and I think there are people out there that collect names/cards without actually engaging people in a meaningful way. I certainly didn’t get into the whole queuing up to speak to people thing that went on, but each to their own.

    The “well known” people I did meet were totally down to earth and it just felt like a bunch of web developers hanging out rather than feeling like I was lucky to be hob-nobbing with rockstars.

    Only once at SXSWi did a couple of people give me the impression that my point of view wasn’t worth listening to, so I just let it ride and didn’t get all worked up about it.

    I think something people forget is that we are all just human, whether you are Madonna or a popular web developer and the whole point about something like SXSW is all about meeting up and learning from each other regardless of ‘status’ within the community.

    Another thing I noticed at SXSW is that people were getting jaded as time went on, so any percieved lack of friendliness could be attributed to too much beer and not enough sleep and water!

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Robert W,

    I definitely think you have a valid point.

    Stuart,

    I know from before that you don't like all the fanboy movement.

    Well, the things at SXSW were just an example, I'm more going for online behavior in this post. There's a vast difference between how people behave in real life as opposed to writing blog posts, comments etc.

  • Lee says:

    Hi Robert,

    I think, on the one hand, Faruk made some good points earlier, which I won't repeat, but the fact remains that any community is going to have this sort of problem. Not that we shouldn't be annoyed about it or try to fight against it, but it seems silly if anyone should try to deny this mentality exists.

    I didn't attend SXSW but I have attended events with well known bloggers, and i've seen the action of some other people become pretty embarrassing. In my experience it hasn't been the famous bloggers with a bad attitude, instead it's been people who seemed quite normal suddenly being sycophants. It's pathetic, but there you go. Sorry, I appear to have rambled…

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Lee,

    Oh, absolutely, it would be naive to believe that it wouldn't exist at all. My hope/wish is just that people would make the effort of thinking things through before some of their actions.

    And yes, the problem lies more with the fan culture than most of the well-known people.

  • Mike says:

    Robert, fantastic entry and I totally agree. One of the things I love about the industry right now is that the people who are doing the coolest and most innovative work *aren't* the ones who get 10,000 pageviews a day on their blog or have a book deal, in fact they're usually the ones who are working their butts off trying to make for themselves in the industry.

    I don't know about you guys, but I like talking to the people nobody knows at SXSW because they're the up-and-comers :)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Mike,

    I'm very happy to hear that we're on the same page about this!

    One of the things I love about the industry right now is that the people who are doing the coolest and most innovative work aren’t the ones who get 10,000 pageviews…

    Most definitely!

    I don’t know about you guys, but I like talking to the people nobody knows at SXSW because they’re the up-and-comers

    Yeah, I realized the exact same thing, so in the end I was indeed hanging with the most interesting people. :-)

  • Maaike says:

    I know a couple of really good web developers who don't have weblogs – usually because they're modest and think they haven't got much worthwile to blog about. Or they're too busy working.

    I know a couple of web studios who work with web standards all the time, but never get mentioned in 'the community'. Some of them are better than the most famous webloggers IMHO.

    Then again, I think the web world is no different than the film or rock world. People generally just like to follow the leaders, don't they?

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is: excellent article and I agree all the way :-)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Maaike,

    Thank you! I'm happy to hear that we agree!

  • andrew says:

    Robert, I agree with you for the most part. I was reading a designer's blog comments, where he was being panned for his new logo. Some people just flat out insulted him, while some gave constructive criticism, but most people were just kissin' major ass, there's only so much ass kissin' one can take before throwing up. I actually skipped the ass kissin' comments to get to the ones that didn't like the logo, but conveyed it in respectful manner. The insulting folk are just idiots.

    But more importantly though, I think it's not always black and white, and we should not forget this point:

    * The fact that I'm a famous web designer/developer does not mean that I have an outgoing personality. I shouldn't be crucified for that, it's similar to regular folk wanting sports stars to be role models. So when I do become that next famous web designer/chef/rock star/soccer star, and you see me on the streets, and say hello, and I say hello back to you, but I keep walking instead of shooting breeze, don't think I'm snubbing you. It's just that I've spent so much time in front of my computer that I don't know how to interact with people anymore, infact I'm afraid of people ;-p

  • Paula says:

    I find all this quite funny! authentic minds tend migrate to the energy of other creative people. Groupies are the least interesting types and should be avoided at all costs. The web is a dream based society; like a voice for the soul. You can't be a shallow person to respected on the web.

  • Zephyr says:

    The sheer volume of information from blogs, books, magazine articles and others that I can read daily, as well as work, family and hobbies are quite enough for me to keep me from blogging myself. Some people probably think that they need to part of the "blogosphere" to exist.

  • Andy Budd says:

    Hi Robert,

    I agree that events like SXSW foster a lot of badge name checking. One interpretation is that people are only interested in talking to well known bloggers, and I agree that there were a few people like that. Another (and in my opinion a more accurate) interpretation is that, at a conference full of strangers, it's easier to talk to somebody who you have a vague connection with, rather than a complete stranger. I tried to be gracious and talk to everybody who talked to me. However it was often easier to talk to somebody who's name or blog I recongized, as I could say, "Oh, you're the person that did…" or "you work with…". It's has nothing to do with peoples level of fame and everything to do with providing a conversational way in. I'm sorry to hear that was your impression of the event, but it definitely wasn't my impression.

  • Sounds like a bunch of Blog Snobbery to me. ;-)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    andrew, Paula, Zephyr, Andy, Ara,

    Thanks for your input.

    Andy,

    Some situations at SWSW were merely an example of that behavior (and no, that's not how I experienced the event as a whole, it was a great happening), but what I was going for with this post was people's behavior on the web as well as how some people fail to interact properly at real life events. You know you're not one of these and I actually told you that in person in Austin. :-)

  • Brad Eastman says:

    Great post. Everybody's already made that point, and made it well. You do say that by speaking only to the big names we miss out on the knowledge of the "the young and the hungry". True enough. But it's worthwhile mentioning that there also the "old and the hungry." Not everyone who is on the bleeding edge is in their teens or twenties (or thirties).

  • joe caprio says:

    people are only as big as you make them you like something read it you dont , dont. people sometimes think they can piggyback on others fame by some sought of carma or other bullshit. be who you are and you will be amazed by the person inside you.

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