My first posts on the web were well before my first post here on Typepad in November 2004. I have done thousands of posts and seen just about anything that can the web can throw at me. Still as I continue to write, I am amazed at the hostility and incivility shown by some people over simple things. It is hard to take when you spend a lot of your life trying to see beauty in the world around you.
I have been writing articles for ReadWrite for almost two years. Back in the spring after some particularly nasty comments on an article, How I Moved Away From The Mac After Leaving Apple, which was about why I no longer use a Mac exclusively, I told my editors that I was done writing about Apple because of the personal attacks that I got from a small percentage of Apple users who could not even get far enough into the article to figure out that I still use Macs along with my Windows and Linux computers.
Recently while working on another article yet to be published, I noticed that they were looking for someone to write an article, Why Is Internet Still So Slow And Expensive In The U.S.? Since I wrote a very similar article for ReadWrite, Just How Bad Is Your Internet Connection?, last fall, I volunteered for the article and wrote it.
The article, Why Is Internet Still So Slow And Expensive In The U.S.?, was quickly published after I submitted it and it was reviewed by a couple of editors.
Nothing I wrote in the artice was controversial or something unique that I had pulled out of the blue sky. Most of what I mentioned in the article had already been mentioned in the first article and is similar to the opinions of experts with even more experience than me.
One of the things you agree to in your guest author contract is to answer comments. I try faithfully to answer comments and have tried hard to maintain a cool head even when under attack by some of the Apple faithful when I hint that I use a Windows computer alongside my Mac.
Usually I get a final review of an article before it goes live. It did not happen this time with the Internet article but once I noticed a comment notification show up in my email, I read the article and quickly noticed that an editor had inserted a word that changed the meaning of a sentence. I sent a note and got that corrected and started working the comments. I take the content of the articles very seriously.
The first couple of comments were pretty simple and then someone with the Internet handle of Second Star Technologies chimed in with this comment.
Mr. Sobotta is the owner of WideOpen Networks. A Gigabit internet provider. Of course this is his opinion. It has nothing to do with need or working from home, those are bullet points for a sales presentation.
This isn't a researched article. It's a sales slick....
I responded back pretty simply.
I am not an owner of WideOpen Networks, I happen to be an employee. I happen to work from home and it is not my full time job. I am also an author and do lots of work on the web, some of it for other companies. I have worked from home mostly since 1989 with companies as diverse as Apple, G3 Systems, WebMail, and National Lambda Rail. People who need broadband connectivity really need it and they are usually happy to be given the option of paying for it. A fiber network can as I pointed out deliver a variety of services at lower costs. Not everyone needs high bandwidth and some people buy the equivalent of low end connectivity on a fiber network. You would find that to be the case in many places with fiber. I have the best service that Time-Warner can provide with a cable modem in my area which is a new subdivision with new copper. I rarely have good enough connectivity for a full video conference...
The guy from Second Star responded back...
My fault. VP of Marketing. Which basically means shill....
As far as I was concerned that was over the line. On one of my own blog's I would told him to go away and if he did not, I would have blocked him immediately or moderated each of his comments.
For anyone who is not familiar with the term shill. Here is the definition.
an accomplice of a hawker, gambler, or swindler who acts as an enthusiastic customer to entice or encourage others
If you know anything of my professional history, you might understand how offensive it was to me to be called a "shill." I have spent over forty years in professional sales. I take great pride in being a sales person who adds value to the relationship a customer builds with a company before and after purchasing a product. I have written extensively about sales including how I think it should be done. Many former customers continue to be friends with me.
I tried to get the editors to do something about the shill comment but apparently none of them have spent there lives in sales like me. Certainly none of them lost their career at Apple for standing up and making sure that a former customer was treated correctly. The story is at the end of my book, The Pomme Company.
Anyway, Dan Rowinski, one of the editors finally posted this comment.
Mr. Sobotta has been a long time contributor to ReadWrite and we are well aware of his current and past job history. While David is a guest author, we consider him part of our core family here at ReadWrite. This article was vetted by two editors and upholds our editorial standards. (You can see our guest author guidelines here https://docs.google.com/docume... )
In this particular article, David lays out a fairly reasonable explanation for the problems and potential solutions of fiber in the United States. Enhancing the speed and distribution of wired networks in the US is and will continue to be one of the major challenges for telecom companies and the federal government. Hence any discussion in this area is welcome and debate on the salient issues is encouraged.
We respect the experience and knowledge of David and stand by his work and opinions at ReadWrite.
Of course I appreciated a nice statement like that but the truth is that once you let someone like Second Star get away with a personal attack like calling someone a shill, he is not going to get more reasonable, he is going to be even more unreasonable. Also my opinion is more than "fairly reasonable," it is completely reasonable to anyone who has seriously looked at the issues.
Much to his credit Dan posted a comment supporting my position, but certainly Second Star would have none of it and demanded to see the math behind Dan's comment. Dan never responded. I tried one more response about a question about rural areas.
As to rural areas, read the article, I mention the WiredRoad. It is about as rural as it gets. Danville and Wilson are not big metro areas. We don't piggyback on government subsidies. You have to be an ETC to do that.
Here is the response that I got back.
Im not reading anything that isn't 100% fact based. Present your findings here for discussion please. Barstow is as rural as it gets. What about them?
I never responded to his comment, and of course no one else wanted to make any comments for fear of running into Second Star. Why would someone want to get involved with a discussion controlled by someone who is completely unreasonable. It is unfortunate that people like Second Star can use their belligerence to hijack perfectly reasonable conversations.
Second Star's claim that "most people don't need more thant 5 Mbps" was backed by his very limited personal experience and "15 years in the IT business" which I take to mean that he is not smart enough to know what he does not know.
I happen to work for the most respected company in the business of helping communities decide what they need for connectivity and if they can afford it. Our CEO and parent company have been involved in helping well over 200 communities from the Grand Caymans to British Columbia make a decision on whether or not to get involved in helping to provide their citizens with high speed Internet connectivity. They have been doing this since 1996.
My personal experience includes a stint working with National Lambda Rail helping getting the message about their ultra fast research network to the federal labs of the United States Government. I was even involved at the time in delivering a presentation about the network to Karen Evans, who was at the time the federal CIO for the whole United States Government.
On top of all that with a career of nearly twenty years at Apple, I have been on the Internet longer than most people and I have used everything from a 300 baud modem to various combinations of DSL and dishes. One of the reasons that I took my current (not full time) job at WideOpen Networks is that I believe that we as consumers deserve Internet connectivity that functions more like the Interstate highway system than the system we currently have which has almost no choice and high costs.
Almost all people in the industry, government and forward looking communities believe that we need better Internet connectivity. Which is exactly what I believe. If you want to enjoy some of the planned Netflix offerrings, you will need lots more connectivity than most of us have now, especially if you have more than one device.
That we need better connectivity is not a revolutionary view. It is even baked into the government's broadband goals. The government hopes to get us to 50Mbps by 2015. How we get to that better Internet connectiivity is where people have disagreements.
Many people and cities like, Chattanooga, Tenessee, Wilson, North Carolina, and Danville, Virginia believe the best way to bring that connectivity is through cities and areas working to deliver fiber to their citizens. It makes sense to almost everyone except cable company executives who are happy to make huge profits and deliver marginal service.
Our company is not an Internet service provider but we do work with cities and areas like the Wired Road to create and manage networks where a variety of services are available. Some services are priced to make sure many people who have avoided using the Internet can do so at very low cost. While our company has had no involvment with the people in Wilson, North Carolina's Greenlight project, I did interview them for the first Internet article and continue to believe that most of us would benefit from services similar to what they offer. I know that looking at what they offer, I could get much faster Internet services, similar cable and phone services and save nearly $500 a year. Over paying for Internet services is very similar to the way we paid for long distance calls before there was competition. Cable companies lobbied the North Carolina legislature to make future projects like Wilson's illegal.
On the day I wrote the Internet article, I sat in a conference call with the FCC about their latest plans for increasing broadband access and speeds in the United States. It is one of several where I have been involved. I feel that I am far more up to date on what is going with broadband in our country than the vast majority of people including Second Star so I stand by my qualifications to talk about the subject knowledgeably.
So how do we fix the problem of people like Second Star? It is simple. We kick them out of the discussion as soon as they cross the line. If you have ever been on a debate team, you know there are rules. Certainly one of my rules is if you attack my reputation, I am not interested in arguing with you. I quite happy to let my career and reputation to speak for itself. If you start by calling me a name, I am done with you. It is rude and unacceptable. Most people would not do it if they were in a room with a person so why do we accept it on the Internet? I don't and I am not interested in arguing with people who seem to be hell bent on shaping the dialogue to fit their twisted view of reality.
We will continue to be plagued with people like Second Star as long as we let their immature behavior take over our dialog. I seriously doubt that you can find anyone with experience in broadband that would agree with Second Star that we do not need faster connectivity.
It is a shame that the discussion on the Internet article got hijacked since I would have welcomed a debate on the best way to get better Internet connectivity at a lower cost. It never happened and it will not as long as we let people with no civility drive the discussions.
It is a good thing we had much more forward looking people thinking about bringing electricity and Interstate highways to our country. Otherwise we might live in a very different country.