As much as being a business related post, this is also very much a personal post. It's something that I've been through time and time again, and am still learning how to do. Don't publish negative content, ever. No exceptions, don't do it. Want to know why? Read on! And don't be a fickle skim-reader - this is a really important article.

How To Kill Your Reputation In 5 Simple Steps

  1. Publish a blog post vehemently disagreeing with another blogger
  2. Leave a comment on an article that you disagree with telling the author he's an idiot
  3. Tell someone on Twitter that you've never seen a tweet that's quite THAT meaningless before
  4. Start, and continue to fuel an argument on a forum when someone disagrees with you
  5. Get into flame wars where you just keep going back and forth with someone in a big pointless argument

So now you're probably thinking "yeah right, who would do those things - that's suicide!" but can you honestly look at that list and tell me that you haven't done at least 2 out of the 5? I have, I've done all 5 - more than once.

Why Negativity Will Get You Nowhere

This really boils down to logic, but it's something that we all seem to forget about on a regular basis. When sitting in a pub with a group of friends, how likely are you to absolutely tear down someone for making a statement that you know to be incorrect? Not very likely, I hope. Now put you behind a little screen with access to the internet, and you, the very same person, become a keyboard warrior.

It doesn't matter if you're rude, right? Cause no one knows who you really are, and anyway, what the hell do you care if some idiot who clearly doesn't have an ounce of intelligence "doesn't like you"? Life goes on!

Incorrect.

Why is it, that when faced with a convenient divide of a computer screen, we often lose all shreds of common decency and turn into ego fueled idiots? And do you really think you're still anonymous in this day and age on the internet? I've got news for you, you're not.

Putting negativity out there into the world (or in this case, the web) will only bring the exact same thing right back to you. Call it Karma if you want, I call it common sense.

Learn From My Mistakes

I want to share a story with you here to outline the point I'm trying to make.

Last year I was going through my RSS feeds when I noticed an article by a top SEO blogger, talking about an amazing track driving experience that he, and some other bloggers went on. The article was full of dubious, keyword heavy links, all going back to the company who operated the track. Having worked in the SEO industry for a number of years this screamed "paid link spam" at me, especially when I visited the blogs of the other people who went to the event and found that they'd all written near identical posts with the same trashy links going back to the supplier.

So I wrote a blog post titled "How To Ruin Your SEO Blog", and published all my reasons for calling out this spam content. Oh, and I didn't "sugar coat" it.

Half an hour later I had a flame war going on in my comments, all of the bloggers were there defending themselves and attacking me for attacking them. Another hour down the line one of the bloggers had written a post titled "John O'Nolan of [Employer Name] Is a Sad Angry Little Man" - and guess what? It instantly ranked number 1 in Google for both my name, and my employer's company name. Bad news.

To cut a long story short, I got one of "the big boys" on the phone and we talked it through - egos so prominent in my comments section suddenly vanished and we were both able to be rational human beings. He insisted that I'd gotten the wrong idea, and I conceded that I had no real evidence to support my claims. We both took down the offending posts, and nothing more came of it.

Thankfully, I just about rescued that bridge before it was fully burnt down. However, the underlying fact remains that I published negative content, and it came right back to bite me in the rear. This is just one example of many of failed judgment calls on my part. Being young and hot headed sometimes, I still have to reign myself in every now and then. The good part is, I'm aware of it, and I'm constantly working on improving upon it.

Are you?

The Flip-side of The Coin

In closing, I'd like to really highlight and showcase the effect of doing the opposite to what I've talked about so far, being friendly, positive, and constructive - always. I can't think of any better example to give you than my good friend, and insanely talented developer: Japh.

Japh is one of the very few people I've met in my life, who never has a bad word to say about anyone. If you need help with something, he makes time for you - it doesn't matter if you know him or not, just ask him on twitter - I guarantee you he'll reply.

In addition to that, if you ever disagree with something he says then you can go ahead and tell him - he listens, he replies and he's genuinely interested in your point of view. Take a recent example where Paul Boag posted on AudioBoo about the whole recent IE6Update saga:

Japh didn't agree with him, so he posted an AudioBoo reply that was insightful, and made some really good points. The result? Japh was featured twice on the following BoagWorld podcast which goes out to thousands of designers and developers every week.

If only I'd been that clever I'd have been featured myself and completed one of my 2009 goals!

As if that wasn't enough, to that very same AudioBoo, Japh got this reply from some random guy from South London. You have to click that play button - you will not believe your ears. (Warning: Very strong language)

Now if that had been me, I most likely would have told the guy to take a long, hard look in the oven - and stick his head in it. Which would in turn have led to some very nonconstructive banter - but Japh? He just posted a simple, short comment, suggesting that that the person in question offered him some more constructive feedback.

Now I won't go as far as to rename Japh: "Jesus2.0" - but we could all learn a lot from him.

In Summary

Don't be negative, don't do it! That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone, but do it how Japh does it, and not how I used to do it.