How To Avoid Being An Unintentional Jerk Online

You probably think of yourself as a decent human being who doesn’t go around pissing off your friends. But because we are all human beings it is inevitable that you will make some assumption that is not true, or not shared by the other person, or just not think something through from the other’s perspective and thus come across as insensitive or worse.

Here are a few things to consider before, and after, you put your foot in your mouth in an online situation:

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Why I Volunteered To Play With Amanda Palmer

The web was abuzz yesterday after a New York Times Arts blogger published this article about how for her current tour Amanda Palmer is soliciting volunteer local string, sax and brass players to perform with her in each city’s show.

Other bloggers piled on bemoaning that musicians should be paid. Facebook threads got acrimonious. People who don’t understand what it actually takes to pull off a tour and album release (never mind Kickstarter rewards fulfillment to nearly 25,000 people) with NO corporate support complained that she was being a cheap “millionaire.” My personal favorite snipe was the person who claimed she “owns an expensive condo in the South End” – they had obviously never been inside the Cloud Club, which is two 4-story narrow brownstones cobbled together out of found objects by owner and outsider artist Lee Barron. He lets upcoming artists live there for free – AP was one of those (and the last time I was in that part of the house she still seems to have rooms there).

The controversy appears to be fueled by people who view AP in the same way they view Lady Gaga – a top-tier famous musician with lots of fans touring a massive show. They may have heard of AP when she was in the Dresden Dolls, they know she tweets a lot (as does Gaga, but AP’s tweeting is several orders of magnitude more), but basically she is seen by non-fans as another greedy (some adding “untalented” since her music is not to their taste) superstar trying to take advantage of fans desperate to have any contact with her.

Add to this that she is recruiting volunteers from instrumental groups most often associated with the Classical genre. Members of this group are more accustomed to getting paid a decent wage for any professional activity – though it’s becoming a different economic world for them recently (several orchestras have locked out their players after failed contract negotiations). Aside from top-tier record company-sponsored bands, Rock musicians hardly ever draw a salary and consider themselves lucky to earn gas money most nights from a club/bar gig.

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Feeling Music With your Whole Body

Amazing Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie (who lost her hearing in her early teens) gave a TED Talk about “Listening To Music With Your Whole Body” – it’s 32 minutes well worth your time.

If someone asks me: “Oh well, how do you hear that?” Then I simply say: “I really don’t know, but I just basically hear that through my body, through opening myself up. How do you hear that?” “Oh well, I hear it through the ears…” …you know…” Well, what do you mean, ‘through the ears’, what are you actually hearing?” So, when you try to bounce the question back to a socalled hearing person, then, they simply do not know how to answer these questions…

There’s also a longer documentary about this, Touch the Sound.

Quick Quotes

Things that fell out of my mouth today during a meeting:

Inter- means “between groups.” Intra- means “within one group.”  (e.g., “interscholastic competition” means a contest between different schools;”intra-team communications” means talking amongst your teammates)

Get to “yes” first, from all parties involved, to avoid later “no”s.

Escalate responsibly

Random thought after explaining to a non-IT person how they broke a piece of the internet (though not totally their fault – combining a 1980s app with arcane Exchange 2010 features frequently does not end well):

A key communications skill when explaining tech to nontech users seems to be anthropomorphizing the effect of their actions on the application.