My survey of bloggers is just 100 submissions off the magic 1,000 … or at least it would be if some clowns hadn’t added around 80 “comedy” or garbage entries.
This has lead me to think about online vandals and vigilantes …
I am not talking about the simple mistakes everyone makes, like submitting half way through and having to try again. No, these people have added swear words, “jokey” ( but not funny ) answers, abuse or ran their fingers across the keyboard.
Even more annoying, some of them added seemingly valid email addresses. So as well as screwing up my stats, they also expected to be entered into my prize draw. Those prizes are pretty neat, why on earth should I allow someone who soils my results to win a prize over someone else who took the time to fill out the survey correctly?
Now the thing is, with the email address I could go off on a rant or cause these guys problems of their own. Obviously I won’t, I am not that kind of bloke, but the opportunity is there.
On Digg you see it often. Some story appears where a school teacher has been evilly cruel to a child and next thing in the comments you have all the teachers, principals and school district contact details, leading to phone lines and emails getting clogged with complaints.
Even when you think you are anonymous online, there are ways and means of tracking you down. Especially when greed overcomes common sense as in my survey. I think this faux anonymity is the root cause of both the vandals and the vigilantes. This imagined protection allows them to behave in ways they never would in the physical world, but in the virtual they feel like anything is fair game.
Very often the vigilantes go after the wrong target based on some faulty information, the vandals find their fun wasn’t so harmless after all, or either discover their identity is discovered and now they are on the sticky end. No matter how many times this happens, it doesn’t seem to serve as a lesson as the story is repeated over and over. I have seen people ruin their own reputations through retaliation far worse than what they were retaliating against.
Remember the guy who use DMCA to take down photographs of himself from sites who accused him of stealing other photographers work and claiming it as his own? The backlash to that was far in excess of the original accusation.
Next time you feel hot under the collar about something you see or read online, take some breaths and walk away. You never know if your reaction might cause you more problems than the thing that initiated it.