East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Flogging the Sea


This is not the post I was planning.
But something happened, and while my common sense tells me it would be wiser to shut the hell up and keep going my way…
Ah, you know I can’t, right?
So, let’s call this a pork-chop express, shall we?

What happened?
Here in my sector of the world wide web, twice, in the past seven days, two digital publishers reacted in a highly counter-productive way – in my opinion, of course – to what amounted to simple instances of people (a customer in one case, a writer in another) expressing their legitimate concerns online.

Mind you – I’m not siding with one or another.
I don’t care if the opinions vented by those guys were legit or preposterous.
This post is not an attack on somebody or a defense of someone else.
I’m just trying to put down what I think failed here.
And I am convinced that failing is not bad in itself – it’s bad only if, failing, we do not learn from failure.

hammer_thumbThe idea is – if you work through the web (say, as a publisher of digital books), you cannot blame the web if things do not go the way you planned it.
It would be like cursing the hammer because you hit your thumb.

I know it smarts.
I know we all try to project an aura of infallibility, and of high professionalism.
It’s the way to go.
But then, we cannot allow ourselves to spin out of shape when our infallibility and professionalism are questioned.
Because that way, we give definitive proof of our lack in both fields.

And I know it’s hard going, publishing books – digital or otherwise – in the European country with the lowest number of books bought per capita, but reacting with a siege mentality, in which anything but the highest praise is to be interpreted as an attack and a potential damage to sales, is suicidal.

The people out there – customers, writers, bloggers, facebook punters, innocent bystanders – are not your subjects.
They are not there to do your bidding.
And when they express ideas or opinions that you do not like, they are not rioting.
So there’s no need to read them the riot act.
It’s called communication – and by reacting with rants, menaces or general aggression, you fail at communication.
And that’s not good, because writing (or publishing, or selling goods) is communicating.

In these cases, the good old hypocrite way is probably the best course – you thank your counterpart for pointing out the problem, promise you’ll get the guys (it’s always “the guys”, btw – never make it personal) to fix it, and then, in the quiet of your offline world, you curse them for a fool, scream and thrash a bit to release your pent-up anger, and then forget about the whole thing.
Or maybe, you look into the thing – because maybe the problem that was pointed out to you really is a problem, and fixing it might make your work easier and your counterparts happier.

Just being aggressive, in these cases, is counterproductive – you loose customers if you publicly thrash a customer.

whipseaAnd huge, sarcasm-loaded scattershot rants are certainly a great way to get an endorphine rush and feel cool and badass, and probably will gather a few accolades from the usual bootlickers, but in the long run, they feel like the time Xerxes had the sea flogged for disobeying his orders.


Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Flogging the Sea

  1. I guess the problem is: too many people in this world (“publishing”) cannot split their lives from their work – or wannabe work, let me say. And sometimes, you can notice that also thru the way they are on the web. Should we say that this means those people are really in bad mental health?

    Excellent hint, anyway, since I’m workng on online communication too… 😉


  2. With all this giant egos on a little planet like this one who can tell when and where you will stomp on one of those? 🙂 It’s not a matter of talking about quality. It’s a matter about doing something good for the sake of it, without hoping for an applause.
    You see, it’s the same about getting good ideas. There’s always somebody who think that can outsmart you and doing the same things but better. Usually they discover that copying is not the same thing as thinking.


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