— blending the mix

The Arrogance of the “Citizen Journalists” & Amazon Fail

Neville pointed me to a post by Clay Shirky looking at the justification (or not) for the extensive lambasting that Amazon received this week.

For the uninitiated, Amazon had tagged gay and lesbian (and others) books in such a way that they dropped off Amazon sales charts and searches. They were effectively tagged as porn is the even shorter version of the story. What ensued was quite the most vociferous backlash against Amazon (tagged globally as #amazonfail) who were forced to come out and explain their actions.

What amazed me though was just how many people jumped on the bandwagon – not necessarily because they themselves had a book drop off the list, couldn’t find a specific book they had been looking for or that they were genuinely offended. They were in it to “teach” Amazon a lesson.

Before long, Tweets and blog posts were everywhere with nothing more than “amazon sucks #amazonfail” etc. Do explain your thinking dear band-waggoner.

“How DARE a company do that to books I had no interest in reading, knew existed or cared for before.”

Clay articulated this blind momentum very nicely:

there can be an enormous premium put on finding rationales for continuing to feel aggrieved, should the initial rationale disappear.

My tweet sums my feelings up very well and something we should learn from if social media is to become a truly accepted medium – and one which is respected rather than feared:

image

There is an arrogance that comes from some corners of the blogosphere thinking that as the owner of a moderately well-read online journal their entirely self-absorbed editorial agenda gives them the right to say what they want, when they want, however they want.

To some extent, the web is the tool that allows them to do so, but the BBC didn’t earn its reputation by shouting its mouth off and jumping on bandwagons with no justification or good cause. There are 160-odd million blogs out there – don’t think you are as special as you think. You NEED readers as much as everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, if you hack me off, I will respond, maybe even in public, but only unless you really do offend and upset me (GMPTE for example!), but please people, can we have some discretion and standards before we unload our attacks?

UPDATE: I can’t let this post go without making reference to The Don’s post about this a year ago!

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15 comments
  1. Ideoloogical Amplification says: April 17, 20098:19 pm

    I’ve brought the subject of this hideous behaviour up 12 months ago, and people are only now waking up to it.

  2. Ideoloogical Amplification says: April 17, 20093:19 pm

    I’ve brought the subject of this hideous behaviour up 12 months ago, and people are only now waking up to it.

  3. Jed Hallam says: April 17, 20098:29 pm

    As always Paul, bang on.

    I’m not sure who said it, but the idea that ‘the whole world’s a stage’ is magnified massively once publishing becomes accessible.

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with people having an individual voice, but is this the first time we’ve seen ‘the maddening crowd’ (as Emile Zola would put, look how fancy I am ;-)) in blogging? No, and it most certainly will not be the last time.

    I was relieved to see Dominos spared from the angry mob.

    Do you think a ‘code of ethics’ (a la journalism) will be crowdsourced among the more read bloggers? I hope so.

  4. Jed Hallam says: April 17, 20093:29 pm

    As always Paul, bang on.

    I’m not sure who said it, but the idea that ‘the whole world’s a stage’ is magnified massively once publishing becomes accessible.

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with people having an individual voice, but is this the first time we’ve seen ‘the maddening crowd’ (as Emile Zola would put, look how fancy I am ;-)) in blogging? No, and it most certainly will not be the last time.

    I was relieved to see Dominos spared from the angry mob.

    Do you think a ‘code of ethics’ (a la journalism) will be crowdsourced among the more read bloggers? I hope so.

  5. Anonymous says: April 17, 20098:38 pm

    Chris, as always – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I read your piece and especially liked this bit:

    “stepping out of your tribe takes balls, courage and a willingness to argue”

    We (in general) with social media, are all too eager to be seen to follow the general consensus, especially when it has been put in motion by an A-lister who may, just may, link to us.

    Are we victims of our own egos?

  6. paul.fabretti says: April 17, 20093:38 pm

    Chris, as always – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I read your piece and especially liked this bit:

    “stepping out of your tribe takes balls, courage and a willingness to argue”

    We (in general) with social media, are all too eager to be seen to follow the general consensus, especially when it has been put in motion by an A-lister who may, just may, link to us.

    Are we victims of our own egos?

  7. Dodders says: April 17, 20098:49 pm

    But why did amazon do it in the first place?

  8. Dodders says: April 17, 20093:49 pm

    But why did amazon do it in the first place?

  9. Anonymous says: April 17, 20098:51 pm

    @jed hey mate, thanks too for stopping-by.

    I like “the maddening crowd” – you really are “well-red” (yes, deliberately misspelt!!).

    I too was glad that Domino’s didn’t get too much of a bashing. It was nothing of their doing – and whilst they handled it pretty well, I do think that it presents a great opportunity for them if they can move quickly and build some kind of social media presence to publicly rebuild their brand.

  10. paul.fabretti says: April 17, 20093:51 pm

    @jed hey mate, thanks too for stopping-by.

    I like “the maddening crowd” – you really are “well-red” (yes, deliberately misspelt!!).

    I too was glad that Domino’s didn’t get too much of a bashing. It was nothing of their doing – and whilst they handled it pretty well, I do think that it presents a great opportunity for them if they can move quickly and build some kind of social media presence to publicly rebuild their brand.

  11. Anonymous says: April 17, 20099:03 pm

    Hey Dodders. THEY claim it was a mistake if you read this, but then they would say that:

    http://www.techflash.com/Amazon_ham-fisted_error_caused_glitch_with_gay_books_42931087.html

    But, even so, I don’t see why this is SUCH a huge issue. The database tagging policy of products on ANY e-commerce site is always, ultimately, down to the site owners. Unless this was a policy change (which I agree, they should then have notified those affected), then I think they are totally within their rights to tag stuff how they want.

  12. paul.fabretti says: April 17, 20094:03 pm

    Hey Dodders. THEY claim it was a mistake if you read this, but then they would say that:

    http://www.techflash.com/Amazon_ham-fisted_error_caused_glitch_with_gay_books_42931087.html

    But, even so, I don’t see why this is SUCH a huge issue. The database tagging policy of products on ANY e-commerce site is always, ultimately, down to the site owners. Unless this was a policy change (which I agree, they should then have notified those affected), then I think they are totally within their rights to tag stuff how they want.

  13. Bill says: April 18, 200912:21 pm

    The Amazon fiasco has bothered me from the beginning because it underlines a problem that seems to exist everywhere today, not just social media: a determination to only hear what we want to hear. In this case, it wasn’t that Amazon was guilty, it was that we wanted them to be guilty. It our worldview better. I wrote about it here: Lessons learned from the Amazon Kerfuffle.

    It made us miss the real problem, one that I think underlines a danger in our tech world, that problem being how easily screw-ups happen and how large their impacts can be.

    Of course, Amazon didn’t help by managing their communications in a “ham-fisted” way. It was a beautiful example of inept communications.

  14. Bill says: April 18, 20097:21 am

    The Amazon fiasco has bothered me from the beginning because it underlines a problem that seems to exist everywhere today, not just social media: a determination to only hear what we want to hear. In this case, it wasn’t that Amazon was guilty, it was that we wanted them to be guilty. It our worldview better. I wrote about it here: Lessons learned from the Amazon Kerfuffle.

    It made us miss the real problem, one that I think underlines a danger in our tech world, that problem being how easily screw-ups happen and how large their impacts can be.

    Of course, Amazon didn’t help by managing their communications in a “ham-fisted” way. It was a beautiful example of inept communications.

  15. Shawn Collins says: April 18, 200911:01 am

    The Amazon fiasco is just the latest example of the kind of angry unthoughtful discord thats going on globally in the online and offline worlds. Its now clear that we’re all capable in mass scale to jointly assume, threaten and shout, but next it will be interesting to see if we can collectively take a step outside of ourselves to question, think, and have an actual dialogue.

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