There's only one useful way to handle your detractors

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This is a repost from my main blog, but it applies to all of us working on Parrot and Perl 6. Keep on keeping on, ignore the trolls, and keep moving forward to completing the vision.

Here's a Reddit/Slashdot/whatever thread that never happened:

Internet crank on Reddit: "Hey, Steve Jobs, I guess that new iPad looks cool, but I think iPad is a stupid name, it makes me think of sanitary napkins."

Steve: "Yeah, well, here's why we called it that. (Long explanation justifying his choices)"

Crank #2: "Well, why didn't you call it the iTablet? I think that would have been a good name. What does everyone else think?"

Crank #3: "What does it have to be iAnything? I'm tired of the i- prefix."

Steve: "We thought about that, but ... (More explanation about his choices)"

Crank #1: "And really, isn't it just a bigger iPod Touch? I would never carry that around with me. And come on, you're just trying to redo the Newton anyway LOL"

Steve: "My logic behind the iPad is (vision, business plan, blah blah blah)"

Can you even imagine Steve Jobs in this sort of time-wasting and emotionally draining tit-for-tat in a thread on Slashdot? On reddit? In some blog's comment section? Of course not. Justification of his plans would take away from the amazing things that he needed to achieve.

Naysayers are part of every project. How many people do you think pissed on Jimmy Wales' little project to aggregate knowledge? Nobody's going to spend their time writing encyclopedia entries! And yet there it is. On a personal level, if I listened to everyone who thought I was wasting my time improving on find + grep you'd never have ack.

We all have to persevere in the face of adversity to ideas, but there's more than that. We need to ignore our detractors. Despite how silly and time-wasting it is to argue your motivations and reasons for undertaking a project, many of us feel compelled to argue with everyone who disagrees with us. I suggest you not waste your time.

On the Internet, the attitude is "Why wasn't I consulted?" Every anti-social child (measured by calendar or maturity) with a keyboard thinks it's his responsibility to piss on everything he doesn't like. They'll be there always. You can no more make them go away than you would by arguing with the rain.

What are you hoping to achieve by arguing with someone who doesn't like your project? Do you expect that he'll come around to your way of thinking? It won't happen through words.

Not only does arguing with your critics waste your precious time, but it tells them, and every other crank reading, that you're willing to engage in debate about what you're doing. Don't encourage them! Let them find a more receptive target.

I'm not saying that factual misstatements need to be ignored. If something is provably incorrect, go ahead and counter it with facts. However, most of the time these message thread pissing wars get down to "I would not be doing what you are doing, and therefore you are wrong for doing so."

The only thing that has a chance of silencing your critics is success at what you do. Arguing with the naysayers doesn't get you any closer to that.

4 Comments

Very well put.
Use the time of your life productively.
It may be rare enough.

IMHO, this is one more bolt into the Perl echo chamber's door to keep the world outside. There's a difference between a troll and a person who expresses his feelings. In this case it's about naming things which is a very emotional thing. The world runs on emotions not facts. Apple's products are sold through emotions first and foremost. A fact which the perl community doesn't seem to understand. Marketing is emotions for christ's sake!

By the way, Camelia does not only remind me of a sanitary napkin, it IS one and even has a frickin' butterfly logo: http://www.camelia.com/

Great article Andy. Never thought of it that way, but you are totally right.

You can't convince the Cranks. They work on emotions. Tobias knows this.

OTOH you can use the opportunity to explain your position again. Not for the Cranks but for the others who read the thread.
Steve Jobs did not need it as he ran a huge marketing department. We, open source developers, could use the opportunity. Maybe write an explaining blog entry and link there from the Reddit thread.

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