How About a Little Civility, On-Line and Off? Thoughts on Cafe Pharma and Blogger Kathy Sierra’s Call for a Code of Conduct

April 18, 2007

We've all let our hair down a bit over the past 10 years, and become more relaxed in expressing ourselves. Great.Why be uptight? But expressions and four-letter words that would have shocked people even a few years ago have gradually become the lingua franca.  I wonder: can any of this really be good? What is being lost, on a day to day basis is the art of conversation and graceful interchange. Pretty soon, I guess, we'll all be grunting. Some of us already are.

The quality of written communication is also taking a nosedive, particularly writing via email and over the Internet. Every week brings some awful "comments" that must be expunged. A few months ago, I received an irate anonymous email from someone who had mistaken our company for a competitor.  He was complaining about telemarketing (which we don't do) and launched this tirade with a subject line reading: "Your company sucks," and the content of the email didn't get much better. He was presumably of a graduate-school level education, earning multi-six-figure salary, etc.  Without toning down the point of his message, couldn't he have expressed himself better---or, as our grandparents might have said, "put his best face"  in all his correspondence? Prompting this little rant was a quick visit to Cafe Pharma yesterday. I don't cover the sales side of the industry, but it's important to know what sales issues are, too. I'd visited the site in the past and it's always interesting. And I'm glad that the web site has given everyone a place where they can blow off steam, but really, is it necessary to be so graphic? What does it add?And are these folks who write this stuff bottling in so much rage and so much obscenity every day? How do they manage to function? On the extreme side, this morning, NPR aired a program in which IT blogger Kathy Sierra recalled the violent response she received from readers (all presumably educated, rational people) when she called for a "code of conduct" on her blog, which may be an indicator of the zeitgeist.  Cafe Pharma's not anywhere near the disastrous state that she saw on her blog, but desensitization starts with obscenities and the slope's a slippery one. To listen, click here.

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