When they don’t get it

During the last municipal election there was a significant amount of chatter on the aprilroad.com discussion forum and a few incumbents were targeted for ridicule. All’s fair in love and war, right? Wrong, according to one of our city councillors. I sent emails to the election winners and losers inviting them to participate in the aprilroad.com podcast to discuss their experiences and their thoughts on our city. Most replied, and a few agreed to participate (some of which you can hear on the aprilroad.com Podcast page). A few others, including Shane Kennedy and Mayor Trasolini, will be interviewed soon and will be posted on aprilroad.com in the coming weeks. But one city council incumbent was incensed that some residents had the audacity to disagree with the Port Moody city council decision regarding The Boathouse Restaurant license and location (a terrible restaurant in my opinion). Here’s the email response I received from the city councilor:

Thank you for your invitation, however I must respectfully decline due to the disrespectful and vitriolic comments by the regular users of your forum during the election period. Specifically regular contributors Dozer, Paperboy and Johnny Vintage. That they choose to use your forum for such ‘antics’ is unfortunate and casts doubt as to the validity of your blog.

Vitriolic? Hardly. You suffered the digital equivalent of a few people sticking out their tongues. THIS is vitriolic.

Firstly, my blog didn’t exist during the municipal elections so referring to the discussion forum as both a forum and a blog tells me the author isn’t particularly savvy. Now I’ll be honest and say that I wouldn’t be happy if I’d read those posts about me but I’m not a paid municipal official who’s answerable to the community, and that’s the point this councilor fails to realize. The Cluetrain Manifesto maintains that markets are conversations and I think that also applies to the civic voters of Port Moody. The discussion forum is about DISCUSSION and INTERACTION. It invites anyone and everyone to share their thoughts be it good, bad or indifferent. Did this councilor wade in and address any of the points made or attempt to enter some kind of meaningful dialogue? Nope. It’s easier to fire off a cranky email and refuse to participate and communicate with the very people that pay her salary. She missed the boat and a few votes, mine included. Remember Ms. Councilor, I’m a resident, I talk to my neighbours and I vote.
Today’s technologically challenged are tomorrow’s illiterate and it worries me when they run my city.

R&O

  6Comments

  1. Francis Lemieux   •  

    I guess I have to admit to being somewhat less savvy. What, exactly is the difference between the discussion forum and a blog?

    • admin   •     Author

      Discussion forum topics are driven by those that post comments. Users can initiate topics and post random comments and thoughts. A blog is driven by the blogger, subjects are intitated by the blog owner and others are invited (at the blogger’s discretion) to comment on the available posts. To put it simply, a discussion forum is like a large conversation at a party, a blog is like a Hyde Park orator with listeners invited to comment afterward.

  2. Francis Lemieux   •  

    Thanks for the explanation. It seems, at least as far as your site is concerned they both serve more or less the same purpose.

    In response to the comments by the candidate declining your invitation; I did follow many of the posts she is referring to and agree with her. The word “vitriolic may be a bit too strong but the word “disrespectful” certainly is not. Just because someone is running for public office they should not be required to subject themselves to abuse and public ridicule. I agree that elected officials need to answer to the citizens, but I think its fair that both agree to the terms rather than having them set by you simply because you own the blog, or forum. I don’t see any referrence in her reply to the decision on the Boathouse. Are you suggesting that because the council member declined your invite that she is technologically challenged? Or is it because she is not clear on the fine line between a blog and a forum?

    • admin   •     Author

      You too are missing the point. Firstly, if a fellow customer in a restaurant calls you a name do you blame the restaurant and never eat there again? I would hope not, therefore by lambasting my web site she puts the blame squarely on my shoulders even though I extended her an opportunity to prove her detractors wrong. Secondly, the discussion forum is open to all opinions, good and bad and those that frequent the site are free to say their piece even if I personally disagree. That’s an open discussion. Agreed?
      If I see something on any discussion forum that refers to me personally, isn’t it up to me to post my opinion and defend myself? The councilor, in my opinion, should have waded in and set those that were posting comments and pictures straight by explaining why she made the decisions she made. That does two things: 1) Her position is clarified 2) She corrects those that didn’t understand the position of council during the decision process, possibly proving her detractors wrong. For those that read the forum she would appear to be progressive and willing to interact with residents that may not agree with her rather than thin skinned and overly reactive (are these characteristics we want in a city councilor?).
      I’m in no way deriding the councilor for not participating in the podcasts because some people are just not comfortable being recorded, may not have time or just don’t care. I get that, but that’s not why she declined. She didn’t like the fact that some people don’t agree with her views and may have been disrespectful. I agree with her and the fact that I ‘own’ a blog doesn’t empower me to insist that others participate. I suggest the council member is technologically challenged because she doesn’t understand the opportunity and, dare I say the ‘power’ of open and free discussion and by blaming me for other people’s comments she proves to me personally that she doesn’t understand the basics of how this discussion can work for her. Ask Barack Obama how the Internet worked for his campaign. He understands how 21st century interaction works and used it to his advantage. Perhaps our esteemed city council member might learn a thing or two from that.

  3. Francis Lemieux   •  

    One of the most important points that has been missed in this discussion is that the people the council member names as having engaged in antics on your forum cannot be verified as real people, let alone residents of Port Moody. She is being subjected to insults and abuse by annonymous people hiding behind pseudonyms and you expect her to become engaged in the discussion? That is in my view, ridiculous. There were plenty of opportunities for citizens to question the decisions and positions of candidates in public, face to face without hiding behind a mask on your forum. How do we know that the three stooges referred to are not political opponents, disgruntled ex co-workers or absolutely anyone we chose to imagine? As long as the participants in your forum are able to express themselves annonymously while attacking someone who is unable to hide their identity, the validity of the forum is in question. As far as Obama is concerned, I doubt that he would have directly responded to such a scam either.

    • admin   •     Author

      Scam? Conspiracy theories? Those are telling statements. You fail to address any of my points so I think I may be wasting my time, but…It’s an easy out to maintain that all open discussion boards are suspect because names and addresses are not available. That would negate this one, and this one, and this one and this one and this one and this one and so forth ad infinitum.
      Based on that, I’m not suprised you defend the councilors actions. And that’s the end of our discussion which might help you clarify the difference between a blog and forum.

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