Can the internet ever forgive? Or forget?

Posted by · January 3, 2012 12:27 pm

By now you’ve probably seen the references to PR-guy-from-hell Paul Christoforo, his run-in with Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, and the fallout that comes from sending the wrong email to the wrong person at the wrong time.

But while Christoforo richly deserves the treatment he’s getting from the Twitterati, Blogosphere, and Comedy Writers you have to wonder: when is enough, enough?

This tempest in a teapot illustrates both the best and worst of the internet. Never before has there been such an equalizing force for an individual who has been wronged. Companies have teams of people who do nothing but look out for negative social media posts from disgruntled customers precisely to head off this sort of thing which makes the individual complaint a valid recourse after decades of frustration. On the flip side, it’s also something that can, and often is, abused. Complaints about minor or unavoidable issues seem to proliferate in the hope that a trepidatious company will offer a discount or freebie to avoid any whiff of bad press.

Beyond the petty complaints is a deeper issue: once your screw-up has gone viral, can you or your brand ever truly recover? Or is Christoforo, like others before him, forever destined to be known as “that guy” and basically blackballed? What of the product that he was hired to represent…should it suffer the same fate as the hired loose cannon?

Every company is made up of people and every person is capable of making a huge error of judgement and will more than likely suffer the consequences for it. But the archival nature of the internet means that mistakes there live on forever, a Google search away. Being forced to confront one’s worst hour for the rest of one’s life seems an overly harsh punishment but that is the new reality we live in.

As we head into a holiday weekend traditionally associated with having a good time (and with the beverages to prove it) there are likely to be a lot of hung-over and irritable people manning the phones and email on January 2, 2012. The EE Tech News Blog wishes for all of you to remember the sage advice of former Experts Exchange Senior Administrator, Computer101:

“Step away from the computer”

If you feel at all angry, cranky, or even overly satisfied while typing a response to someone, please take a deep breath and go for a walk.  You may save yourself a lifetime of infamy.

  • Dan Rollins

    So…
    As a representative of Experts-Exchange, would you say that the best course of action when in a conflict with an EE Member is to stop replying to the Member’s posts and emails?

    That would make a lot of sense. You can’t get hurt by something you don’t say, and the best way to avoid a paper trail — say, to avoid a scandal or cover up an administrative error — is to never output anything that can be printed.

    On the other hand, a company that depends on the efforts of its Community to survive should probably have a policy of treating its Members with courtesy, or at least civility. And that would surely include communicating with them.

    Do you have an opinion on that?