Internet naming and shaming

I’m not a great fan of public spats online. Well, obviously they’re entertaining from a point of view of pulling up a seat and fetching some popcorn, but after everything blows over, what’s been achieved? Other than a lack of dignity.

Earlier this week, I was quoted in Chris Lee’s NMK Forum piece on the consequences of social media shaming from a PR reputation management perspective. It hit the headlines after one woman publicly shaming a developer at PyCon (a programming conference) for alleged sexist remarks ended with both losing their jobs and a whole host of other fallout that could have easily been avoided.

The whole episode made me recall an incident from three years ago when I somehow got onto a PR mailing list and got bombarded with emails every day. A polite request to be removed was ignored and a follow up resulted in some sarcastic comments on this blog, which I subsequently traced back to the offices of the same PR company (Golden rule of the Internet. You write it, somebody can probably find you. Just ask Curtis Woodhouse).

I sat for a while deciding whether to name and shame before the journalist in me thought it best to at least get their side of the story and speak to somebody at the company. I’m glad I did. I had a good chat with somebody senior, made a contact and considered the whole thing closed (I’ve no idea what happened to the individual concerned – it’s not my place to conduct another company’s HR).

Although I never really followed up the contact, I’m still glad I didn’t name and shame. Other than perhaps a five second burst of Internet infamy, I’d rather my name wasn’t circulated in circles for the wrong reasons. Ultimately, I’d rather resolve things by talking rather than leaping on Twitter to denounce all and sundry.

As I said on Chris’s post, there a lot that can be achieved behind the scenes before resorting to naming and shaming.

Not that it doesn’t have a place. One particular utility company drove me to absolutely despair to the point shouting about the problem on Twitter, which was more cathartic than anything else (I have no idea how useful my frustrated rant was). And working on several Twitter accounts, I’ve seen how often turn to Twitter as the first port of call rather than call or email, which fascinates me from a professional perspective.

I’m still hopeful there’ll never be a time when I resort, if that’s the right word, to naming and shaming on Twitter or elsewhere. For a start, I’ve no wish to be the focus of an article rather than a person quoted on it.

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