The Price of Freedom

I return from vacation. Nine glorious days of me not being at work, sleeping in, and basically returning to my groove. I wrote, though nothing blogable, I read, and I slept. I needed it. My sanity was in doubt, more so than normal. I popped my head into a few places I frequent for net things. A MUSH here, a BBoard there, but mostly I chilled and spent quality time doing nothing with my beloved SO. It was very Office Space but without the job quitting. And it came with enough of a break that I’m rather happy to be back at work, with the enforced regularities of work. I like the structure.

I hate the internet.

Seems a little out of the blue, I know. But the fact of the matter is I hate the uneducated masses of people on the net, who pontificate about their boring, shitty lives, and expect me to care. I hate people who think they know everything. I hate people who don’t pay attention to the rules of various internet places. I hate people who think that being a hacker is a cool way to brag. I hate people who don’t read what other people say.

Wow. I feel a little better.

Before someone bitches ‘Hey, missy, with your left-wing, socialist/liberal, lesbian voter sob-story my life blog, where do YOU get off bitching about other people’s lives?’ I would like to point out that I did not mean blogs. A blog is an oxymoron in and of itself. A blog is for people to express their ideas without the back chatter of online forums/communities. A blog is a cheap way for someone like me to get a byline. Think of my blog as an Op-Ed piece in a paper. Blogs are exempt from my rant. If I don’t want to read your personal opinions as presented by your personal essays on your life, hey look! I can use my browser and type in something else. I read some blogs, ones I like.

No, what I’m talking about are people who log on to ‘online communities’ and spend pages upon pages spewing their thoughts without with common decency to listen to what other people are saying. I’m talking about gamers (online or off for that matter) who care more about their character than they do about cooperative story telling. I’m talking about people who whine about rules and cry that the internet should be free.

Freedom comes at a price. Freedom is hard won and occasionally must be paid for in the blood of patriots. Normally this is an opportunity for me to rant about the loss of freedoms in America due to the Patriot Act, or maybe to riff on the presidential debates. But I’m not going to today.

Today I’m talking about the internet and it’s freedom.

The internet is often depicted as the Wild West, with a lack of marshals and a slew of vigilantes. If that were so, than gunslingers like myself would be allowed to boot idiots off the net without much fuss. What the net really is, I think, is chaos. Everyone has their own section of the net, be it a LiveJournal or a Yahoo!Geocities homepage, and everyone makes up their own rules for what is and is not acceptable. Everyone has their island. I don’t mind that.

What I mind are people who come to someone else’s island, don’t read (or pay attention to) the rules of the island, ignore common sense, and they do what they way.

Okay, look. If you want to do what you want (example: this blog) get your own fucking website/blog/journal. If you want to come to a place where thoughts are exchanged then you’re obligated to listen. Nothing is more irritating than a ‘Me too!’ post. Again, I’m not talking about blogs, or even comments on blogs. I’m talking about a place like TWoP where people share their thoughts. There’s a time and a place for your own ideas and interpretations. There’s a time and a place to listen to what people said and thinking about them before you post.

See, I have the freedom to say what I want, and I totally support your freedom to say what you want. The corollary is that I accept full responsibility for what I say, though not how other people interpret it. Therefore, if you act like (what I feel is) an idiot on a forum I moderate, I will smack you down.

I sound like Spider-Man, but with ‘great power’ comes ‘great responsibility.’ Except that’s not right either. With every action comes responsibility. If you drive drunk, you’re responsible for your actions because you chose to get your sorry ass drunk in the first place. If everyone in the world stood up and took some self-responsibility, as selfish as that is, we’d start to be a little better. If everyone was responsible for themselves, and then kept an eye out for their fellow man, we’d be even better.

So here’s the deal. If you go on the internet (look! You’re here!) then you damn well better use the same common sense you’d use in school, at work, or at home. Here are the basic rules everyone should follow when posting online:

1. Make sure you’re on topic.
Don’t go posting about Wanda Sykes in the Elvira Kurt threads (stand up comedians), unless you happened to see them together (or are doing a compare analysis). A little bit of off topic is fine, but pages and pages is a bore.

2. Make sure you’ve read what’s been said.
This will tell you a lot about the tone of the board. TWoP, my erstwhile example, doesn’t like ‘l33t speak’ so if you post ‘OMG, she totally roxxor!!!!111!’ then you will get smacked around. But posting style isn’t the only thing you can learn by reading. If you’re a rabid Willow/Tara fan (Buffy reference), then the Willow/Kennedy boards probably aren’t for you (there are exceptions). Pay attention what people say as well as how they say it. That’ll also help you from beating a dead horse by repeating something that someone else already said (elaboration good, repetition boring)

3. Make sure you’re adding something relevant to the discussion.
If all you want to say is ‘OMG! Kerri Russel’s hair is SO cool!’ you really aren’t adding anything. Now, if you said ‘I like Kerri Russel’s hair, because the way the curls accentuate her cheekbones, it makes her look like a college age person with a $10 SuperCuts do.’ Well, first off you’re weird (I kid!) and secondly that’s a lot better. By the way, Kerri Russel was the titular star if the canceled ‘Felicity’ and her hair was a huge deal with the show. My first forum post to TWoP was actually a double post about her hair being shot in the horrible cliffhanger. And yet I never watched the show.

4. Don’t be an idiot.
This really should go without saying, but don’t be an idiot. Don’t go to the Eden Studios boards (a gaming company) and bitch about how their game system is the worst ever. Instead, write a polite ‘I think your game could be improved by taking the following things into account.’ Eden is, by the way, one of the most chatty game companies I’ve met, and they’re more than happy to talk about semantics in their games.

5. Don’t flame people, especially the moderators!
You know how people say ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’? Well, don’t piss off the people who run the boards. Forums ain’t free, and they can ban you from posting. But really, this is don’t be an idiot part 2: don’t post just to angry up the blood. It’s annoying.

With those basic 5 rules, you may be able to prevent yourself from me wanting to hunt you down with a shotgun.

But I’ll still hate you.

Last but not least, if you hate all this and think that you should be able to say what you want, where you want, and the internet is free … shut up. It’s not free, I pay for this website, and that’s why I’m in charge. If you don’t like it, earn a little money and pay for your own, jackass.