Two days ago I wrote the Genius and Tragedy post. It was extremely controversial - very popular on one hand, but got some very strong visceral negative reactions. I'd like to share with you what I've learned about writing, so I can step my game up and improve. Also, I got some downright hateful comments made about me, some really bad and terrible stuff. If this has never happened to you, maybe you don't know what it feels like, and I've got some advice on how to deal with it. I also did some detailed reading and analysis of the kinds of comments I got, and there was some fascinating results that I'll share.
So, first and foremost, I made a mistake - If you're writing to help someone, it can be pretty presumptuous to do it without touching base and clearing it with them first. I made that error for a few reasons - first, two of my best posts have come from the same format, and both achieved their desired objective. ("How do I write so much, you ask?" and "I think greatness is something you do, not something you are" both publicly called people I like out - and both times it worked) - so that's the first thing, I'd had a good track record with this, however those were people I'd been touching base with already.
Second, as a general principal I believe in working really quickly. I analogize it to "fighting out of formation" - quick, lightly edited writing is always worse than well-edited best practices. But, the more you do of it, the better you get at it. And by producing anything really quickly, you get better faster. If someone produces 10 times as much content, how long until their lightly edited work is superior to the other person's highly polished work? This isn't a rhetorical question - check out "Quantity Always Trumps Quality" on codinghorror.com sometime. If you produce quickly and of lower quality at first, you can iterate and improve, and eventually your quick production work is better than the obsessively refined person's work who isn't getting as much done (and thus not learning the lessons). Pablo Picasso talked about this quite a bit, if you're particularly interested on the topic.
The downside, of course, is that you make mistakes. And I did - I should've touched base before writing that post, or had it vetted, or at least, spent more time editing it to be clear, concise, and unambiguous, and even more polite. Mea culpa - my mistake! It's okay for me to work quickly and bring errors upon myself because of it, but I need to be more careful when involving others.
Then, why is that post still up? This is what I wrote as the episode was winding down, it was well-received by the community -
Easily the most controversial thing I've ever written, but I'll stand up and be accounted for in my errors. I write once daily, every day, and I write honestly. Here, the mistake I made was not filtering my thought by another person who could feel ill because of it.
I will explain my line of thinking, which does not excuse the large gaffe I made, but perhaps so people can understand my thinking. I've met a book editor, a literary agent, a prominent researcher, and other notable people through my writing on my site.
I am four months into blogging, and getting the feel for what is right and good for decorum when discussing publicly with discussing others is tricky. I shared no information that wasn't public knowledge, I broke no confidence, and I shared what I was thinking, in a way I believed would be constructive.
The community has mixed feelings over that. For the record, I did not expect the piece to be so popular, nor for it to have such a negative reaction. I misjudged.
A prominent, very good member here and I shared a few emails when this was happening. He condemned me strongly, and I listen to that - random people saying hateful things I don't notice, but good arguments from good people I do. In the end, he recommended "One thing you could do is to email Paul Graham to ask him to kill your post, to explain why and then remove the article from your blog. I think the damage to your reputation would be minimized that way."
I will not look to preserve my reputation here - I have presented what I thought, it was my honest and well-intentioned thought, but I did it carelessly. A few hours ago, I emailed patio and told him I would edit, delete, amend, or otherwise follow his instructions if he preferred. I still will; I will respect his wishes.
John - I'm going to respect Patio's wishes, whatever he wishes, and try not to make this into a larger spectacle. We have had some (always civil) disagreements in the past, but I would ask you do the same.
Going forwards, I will learn from this error, and be more cautious and tactful in the discussion of other people. For my part, I hold no ill will for people, even ones who said horrible things, and my door is still always open to people who need a hand. I'll lay low for a while, and be more tactful going forwards. If anyone feels harmed or like this is a less safe space for them, you have my apologies, and I will be more cautious and tactful going forwards.
A few people who were offended wrote, "Take it down. Why don't you take it down?" I emailed Patrick and told him I'd edit or refine if he wanted me to. The offer still stands - I'd like to have his back and be in his corner. If it was too personal or anything is offensive, I'll edit the post down an impersonal summary of the key points.
And I'm curious as to what the results of it were. Did he connect with anyone in a good way as a result? I got something like 8-12 emails over that post, so I wouldn't be surprised if he got between 20 and 60. Certainly, he got at least one. Did him any good? I hope so - I was presumptuous, and my presentation could have been refined. But I think my crazy call to action for people to go through his materials and reach out if they have worthwhile projects might pan out. Or it might not, I don't know, I'm still learning. But it might work, y'know? I really think it could. I don't know, I'm curious. Again, I’ll respect his wishes if the outcome has been poor. I bet it’s done some good though.
I stand by everything I wrote. The presentation - it could have been better. I'm still improving as a writer. Presumptuous? Yes, that's my fault, my mistake. I'll touch base with people a little more if I want to do something like that again. But I stand by the fundamental points of what I wrote.
The general points that I wrote, again, were:
1. There's a guy who is very smart who I respect a lot. Here's a link to his best of list. I recommend all of them. Also, he has lots of strength - and then I listed them.
2. I believe he's undervaluing his talent.
3. When someone of extreme talent and clearly defined skills is not receiving high compensation, it's either because they don't feel comfortable getting the compensation or they don't feel comfortable promoting themselves effectively. (One response was that the person could just not care about money - that's a good response that I have mixed feelings on - I don't think earning more necessarily requires loss, but that's a long topic)
4. Technologists are frequently underpaid because they undervalue themselves.
5. Unfortunately, people still mistake brash confidence, self-aggrandizement, and self-promotion for talent. Thus, go with the universe and gradually increase your brash confidence, self-aggrandizement, and self-promotion. There's a way to do it without compromising your ethics.
6. It is morally right to receive a small fraction of the value you create. The more you willing receive, the more you can do good things, make change, help people, and achieve all of your goals. There is no conflict between being compensated and being a good person. It's virtuous to be better compensated if you're a good person doing honest things.
I stand by all those points. I think they're all true. I could present them more elegantly and cohesively, I should have vetted them first if I was going to talk about a specific person, but it's all true. The points about identity and wealth are really upsetting to a lot of people, but I think it's very important. It's not more virtuous to limit yourself from compensation you could make, because it also limits the amount of contribution you can make. If you're better compensated, you can contribute more, give more away, serve more people, have better tools, have more access to the mediums you need to do good work, and so on, and so on. If you believe in doing good, then you can do more good if you have more honestly gained resources. That's just a simple, obvious fact that's correct when looking at it on paper, but a lot of people feel differently emotionally. Analyze that if you think that way. If you're a good person that wants to do good things, you can accomplish more good things if you have more resources. It's virtuous. There's no conflict there.
What I Learned From the Comments and Feedback I Got in the Firestorm - I did an analysis of the comments that were made. I read every single one of them carefully, then I went back and categorized them into groups.
What am I, crazy? Why would I go read some terrible stuff written about me? Well, because people took the time to write it and express how they feel, and I think I could learn from it. I did, I learned a lot. It was really, really unpleasant, but very instructive.
There were 166 comments. After looking at them carefully and thinking on this, I found they fall into one of six rough categories.
Category I: Graciously complimenting Patrick, thanking him for his work, mentioning that you think his next business has potential, etc.
Category II: Money isn't everything, happiness is important.
Category III: "All press is good press" or thanking me for writing it.
Category IV: Civil, intelligent criticism of my piece, potential flaws in my argument, or criticizing me for being presumptuous.
Category V: Nasty, horrible stuff, ad hominem attacks, and raw hatred.
Category VI: Tangential and irrelevant stuff - neutral replies about business in general, or criticisms of Patrick's business model (there weren't too many of these).
31 people replied in Category I. Graciousness.
8 people replied from Category II. Money isn't everything.
6 people replied from Category III. All press is good press.
11 people replied from Category IV. Civil criticism.
20 people replied from Category V. Vicious.
15 or so people replied from Category VI. Neutral.
Strangely, the vast majority of gracious comments came from Americans. I started recognizing a pattern when I was studying, and I got intrigued by this so I went and checked. I'm pretty fast at putting numbers together for analysis, it took me only 90 minutes or so. Here's what I found - 20 out of 30 people that complimented Patrick without mentioning me were American. There was also one Italian, one Canadian, one Australian, one German, and one Taiwanese commentor. Only five gracious commentors didn't have profile info.
The "money isn't everything" sentiment was global - one Indian, two Englishmen (one of them expatriated to China), three Americans, only one person with no info.
Everyone who thought "All press is good press" were American. Four from the USA, one without info.
Civil and intelligent criticism came from everywhere - One German, one Italian, two Americans, one Indian. Five people with no info.
In the nastiest comments, 10 of them were by highly anonymous people with no info or submissions. Two people registered accounts just to make one comment saying something really nasty. Only two Americans were very hostile, along with one Indian, one Dutchman, two Canadians, and two Englishmen.
Overall the reaction to the post was very positive by Americans - out of 31 American commentors, 24 left positive comments. 20 said something good about Patio or thanked him while leaving me out of it and 4 thought roughly "all press is good press." Three commentors said money isn't everything, two civil criticisms, and only two ad hominem nasty things.
I've spent a lot of time out of the States, but I was born and raised American - it looks like my homeland is generally more comfortable discussing people in public, praising and thanking people they don't know well, and encouraging others to make money.
The sample sizes are smaller, but Europeans disliked the post a lot more and were less comfortable complimenting. Out of 9 Europeans, only two complimented and none thought all press is good press. Two said money isn't everything, 2 made civil criticisms, 3 wrote really nasty comments.
The sample sizes are too small from elsewhere to draw any conclusions, probably due to the time of day it was posted and commented on. But definitely, Americans were much more comfortable with the writing and much more positive about it, and Europeans much less so.
Hey! Those judgments are subjective! Indeed, yes. The hardest to categorize would be the difference between civil criticisms and ad hominem. I erred on the side of assuming good intentions and giving something the civil mark.
Here's an example of each -
Civil disagreement: Note that it is supported by facts and a cohesive idea. It's blunt and straightforward, but a smart and good comment.
This guy doesn't understand Patrick and he doesn't understand Paul Graham either. [...] That's just one example. There have been plenty of years where pg sacrificed making big bucks in the short term in order to work on a bigger plan. In fact, I think 2010 has been one of them. Maybe it's been every year, except the year Yahoo! bought Viaweb. Perhaps that could thought of as sacrificing short-term money for time and attention, too. If they waited a year to sell Viaweb, maybe they could have sold it for even more. Also, the mere mention of Grad School would make this article explode.
Nasty, ad hominem - doesn't address any of the points made:
Embarrassed for whoever took the time to write this.
I erred on the side of labeling something civil.
Who asked you?
I gave that the civil tag because it is worth thinking about, and I actually agree with the guy. This was the funniest ad hominem post -
Linkbait, pandering, superficial, too long, empty, dumb. How in the holy hell does this have 162 points?
God lets hope the patio11 guy doesn't take any of this advice. I mean jesus christ: ...rose to international celebrity...
This is so stupid. Look at this guy's own about page. It is a billion words about how he tries to be disciplined and travels. Oh, and he's interested in "strategy". That's it. Is this a guy you want to emulate? Or is this a guy who avoids work, has accomplished nothing, and expects to be commended for it?
Look at that, he's got all the answers written down but he can't put 2 and 2 together. He writes "How in the holy hell does this have 162 points? ... ...rose to international celebrity... This is so stupid." Dude, the kind of confident, assured writing I encourage resonates with people. People either like it or dislike it, but they don't feel indifferent. It ended with +240. Why? Because it makes a strong point with no apologies. If you make strong points with no apologies, people pay attention. Guy can't put 2 and 2 together. Don't claim bullshit, but once you're respected across the world as one of the best teachers in your field, YES, write "rose to international celebrity" - that's actually not my own original idea, I noticed it in two different places among founders of multi-million dollar consulting firms. As soon as you can credibly make the claim, yes say you rose to international celebrity. I actually agree it's stupid, but thoughtful people kind of shrug at it while normal people are attracted to it. It works.
Anyways, it seemed like there was something of a firestorm with some really nasty, negative comments. But then when I went to analyze, it turns out the number of commentors who were negative was actually fairly low. There was lots of graciousness and some insightful criticism/disagreement, but the majority of people were gracious. Then, why did it look so negative?
I didn't realize it at first, but one guy dominated the conversation, making 16 comments, all very negative. Yes, SIXTEEN. Whenever positive discussion came up, he jumped in and said, "No, that's not right, I disagree, this was an awful thing, etc, etc." He just kept making negative points.
This is someone I respect, but he choked out all of the other discussion. Yes, the majority of individual comments were negative - but damn near half of them were by two or three guys combined talking at each other. What's scary is I didn't realize this at first until I started reading more closely in order to learn.
"Here, fetch me a stick to beat you with..."
Three or four "delete your post!" demands were made.
I have two pieces of advice for when anyone tells you to back down, apologize, or delete you work.
1. Ask yourself, "Do I stand by this?" If there's anything you don't stand by or a mistake, own it.
2. Double down on what you believe. Say, "YES! I believe that, and I'll own all the criticism for it!"
Why? When you apologize, self-censor, or delete, you instantly justified everything they said about you. Look at musicians - the musicians that apologize or back down get blacklisted, the ones that double down and say to hell with you have long careers. Compare Madonna to more cautious 80's pop singers. People didn't like her, so she kept doubling down on what she believed until they gave in or gave up. Look at Eminem - he gets protested for his first, largely joking around album, and he doubles down on everything nasty said about him. Protests double, he doubles down again. Then he wins a Grammy. Compare Howard Stern and Don Imus. Howard says, "Yes! And I'll say it again, you loser cowards. Smell my fart!" He gets a multi-million dollar pioneering contract for satellite radio. Imus apologizes and gets fired. If he'd said, "To hell with you oversensitive censorship loving losers!" he'd have done much better. Own your mistakes, but double down on the things you do believe, and don't let others write your story. If you make a minor slip of the tongue, say, "I didn't say that perfectly, but this is overreacting self-righteous bullshit." If they come harder at you, double down again. Grow stronger. Own your mistakes, but never apologize for things you truly believe. If you do, they'll beat you down using your own weakness and apology. It's the worst of all worlds. Also, apologizing gives hateful people satisfaction, where doubling down makes them piss their pants. Most nasty people are really cowards, anyone strong has some level of respect for anyone else who is strong.
Just When I Thought It Was Over...
Just when I thought it was over, John Graham-Cumming wrote a call for me to be banned from Hacker News. This is ridiculous on multiple levels, but the biggest one is that he resurrected a discussion he didn't want to happen. Someone brightly commented that this is an example of the "Streisand effect" - when you try to censor something, everyone wants to look at it. So it failed first and foremost on that level.
Second, he wrote, "Today's psychoanalysis of patio11 was uncalled for and the member who wrote it should be banned. There's no demand for that sort of thing here." Well, obviously there is John, at least 239 people liked it a lot.
Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house.
Now, what really kills me about John Graham-Cumming is the utter hypocrisy. Just six days earlier, six days!, he wrote about how he got banned from Digg and how that made him really upset -
It hurts to hear that lots of people thought it was stupid. Fine. But that doesn't excuse the public bad mouthing I received.
The really sad thing is that I was a very active Digg user; I was on the site every day reading stories and submitting. Here's a screenshot of the Digg front page for July 21, 2006 (five days before my prank and the closest I can find to that day): http://i.imgur.com/UE09Z.png (actual page from archive.org is http://web.archive.org/web/20060721035713/www.digg.com/).
The second link down on the front page was submitted by me. I was looking for cool stories and submitting them to Digg every day during that period and then whammo I'm banned and bad mouthed.
The dude actually pulls a prank on the Digg community, gets labeled a spammer and banned, and then complains and makes a big ordeal about it. And then a week later he calls for me to banned! "The really sad thing is that I was a very active Digg user; I was on the site every day reading stories and submitting." Yeah dude, I've been active on Hacker News for two years, I comment there regularly, I actively reach out to members of the community and offer to help (usually by email), I've helped people write marketing plans, do strategy, and promote for free with no recourse. I'm all over "Ask HN" threads. In any profile anywhere I tell people to drop me an email for coffee, or if they have questions, or if I can help. A fifth of my posts on this site are answering questions publicly.
On my daily tracking, I've got "Help someone" as something to do, I aim to reach out and help someone every single day. Since HN is my online hangout of choice, a lot of times that's me reaching out to people getting started in entrepreneurship and offering a hand, asking what they're working on, volunteering some time, and generally trying to pay it forwards. I submit a post that was very popular but also controversial, and you call for me to banned? After you were whining and crying and making a big deal of your banning for actually violating terms of service?
Dude, you're obviously a lot more sensitive than me. Now someone writes, "Those calling [just one person JGC: you] to ban you on HN have the same mindset as the Spanish Inquisition" - so Frank says publicly you've got the same mindset as the Spanish Inquisition, and I'm publicly calling you out as a crybaby and hypocrite.
I first heard of you with your work on Alan Turing, which I massively admired and still do. The Geek Atlas, the book you wrote, it looks pretty good. I'd been planning to buy a copy. You know what? I still will. You're probably an okay guy. But don't throw stones if you live in a glass house, man. Especially if you just complained about the same treatment you're publicly calling for. I've got no bad blood here, I'd buy you a curry to say thanks for standing up for a good man that suffered a massive injustice. But seriously, think. You seem like a sensitive and kind guy that feels hurt when people say bad things about you. That's not a personality type that should be throwing rocks.
The first responses to an event massively shape discussion.
In the first post, the first comments were negative. Also, a high profile commentor went on a rampage framing the whole thing as awful on my part. He should know better, we've swapped communications offline. Presumptuous, yes actually I see that now, I own that mistake, and I'll learn from it and adjust going forwards. Some of those comments were intelligent and valid, but all points could've made in I don't know, two, three, or four comments? Sixteen? Jeez.
Here's an exchange very representative of the whole thread:
Comment 1: "Watch your back Patrick. I think you have a new stalker. Seriously though.. this is one of the scariest blog posts I've ever read." -> Fully anonymous guy, no name, no contact info, no submissions, minimal comments.
Comment 2: More ad hominem nastiness, no substance at all on the actual points made.
Comment 3: "It may be inappropriate on some level, but calling it sick and scary is a little bit creepy itself. He's only saying out loud what many of us have been thinking. If the suggestion is that you can't freely admire someone (and the praise was clearly served up as an extra helping to offset the criticism) based only on the quality and volume of writing that Patrick has produced, well, that's just extra creepy." -> Thank you for standing up for me, there. American, incidentally.
Comment 4: "> and the praise was clearly served up as an extra helping to offset the criticism Hitting with one hand while praising at the same time never fooled anybody." -> The guy with sixteen comments. European.
We have different value systems, him and me. Comment 3 nailed it. Comment 4 attributes the worst possible motives to me and then gets outraged at his own attributions. Yes, in the Netherlands people are close-knit and don't speak out as much. Talking about money in NL is really a no-no. It's different in the States. We're very comfortable saying we like something, we're comfortable pointing out when we see something that could be different, and we're more comfortable talking about money. There's downsides to this, but people from the States have invented a hell of a lot of the cool stuff everyone is using right now.
The whole thread was like that - and honestly, I didn't realize it until I started reading more carefully to try to absorb and note all the good feedback and correct any errors I made. The first responses and most prominent responses shape people's feelings.
A fascinating thing I read, by the way - did you know people are almost equally convinced by hearing the same point 60 times from one person as they are hearing it from 60 different people? When something gets repeated a lot near you, it slowly builds validity. I should do a full post on this sometime - when one or two vocal people are keying in to lots of little terrible things, that sets up and guides the discussion. The second post, the JGC silliness, it had a couple good contributors in the community stand up and back me up and say we're allowed to discuss things and ruffle feathers, and this isn't kindergarden. (Both Americans, incidentally) That thread became much more positive.
I didn't expect the post to become so popular - I thought it'd be moderately popular, with mostly friendly discussion and some friendly criticism. Instead, it was very popular with a bit of friendly discussion and then waves of raw hatred. If I'd known it was going to go up so much, I'd have spent more time polishing it to be as clear and unambiguous as possible.
I try not to respond to idiots, but I think I could have shaped the discussion by saying, "Hey, guys. Valid criticisms and critiques of what I wrote are welcome and I'll read them all. If you want to say hateful stuff about me, knock your socks off but you're kind of ruining discussion here." I think upset people would still be upset, but they'd at least cut out some of the hatefest.
What it feels like to be in a firestorm - It was strange. I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad I went through it. Have you heard the expression "in the pit of your stomach" - my stomach actually did feel heavier and weighed in. This must be some sort of biochemical reaction, it felt very real and substantial.
I tried to go to sleep after three hours of watching that whole situation develop, but I woke up after only 90 minutes, fully alert (though slightly confused). Then I was wide awake and didn't want to sleep. I did good work that day - a lot of writing, and some really business stuff. I had about five hours of work that was due on a deadline, and I got through it all pretty easily even though I was only running only 90 minutes of sleep over 30 hours. I went running in the mid-morning, and I ran pretty hard and strong, more so than usual. I tried to eat, but my appetite was shot and I wasn't hungry, despite the low sleep and heavy exercise.
Strange results, huh? I've heard of this phenomenon before - stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. I was wide awake and alert on very little sleep. Maybe this sounds silly, but people were writing some really terrible and hateful stuff. I didn't strike a nerve, I struck multiple nerves, and people said awful stuff. In response I felt pretty bad, kind of weighed down in the pit of my stomach, and yet very alert. I haven't had quite that same sensation quite like that before, and certainly never from anything on the internet.
That's the physical side. My initial thought process was a little stranger to me - I thought, "Whoa, did I write something bad?" At first, I figured I must have done something because people were writing very upset very confidently. Then I'd go re-read, and I thought, no, I actually some true and important things. There were a few valid criticisms and discussion that was good to learn from and consider, but a lot of real negativity. I thought, did I mis-write? Did I write something terrible? But then I re-read and I stand by everything I said.
Out of context excerpting - I got no good thoughts on this one for ya.
> "At the risk of upsetting people, I’m going to go out on a limb here – were you raised Catholic?"
What a bigoted, horrible, terrible thing to say! Did I write that?
Oh, wait, I actually wrote -
At the risk of upsetting people, I’m going to go out on a limb here – were you raised Catholic? I was. So I know how it goes.
Those are night and day different quotes. You'd only pull the first one that way if you had an agenda and didn't have integrity. Seriously, you can't do that by accident. "At the risk of upsetting people, I’m going to go out on a limb here – were you raised Catholic?" and "At the risk of upsetting people, I’m going to go out on a limb here – were you raised Catholic? I was. So I know how it goes." - these are lightyears different sentiments. You'd have to be as stupid as a pile of bricks to do that by accident.
Or look at this ridiculousness:
The author comes across as a borderline stalker/psychopath. From the blog comments.
"> You are making a number of strong assumptions about him from a few comments on HN. If you really wanted to help this would have worked better as a personal e-mail.
I went back and forth on that. In the end, I think doing it this way is going to produce the best outcomes – a couple of my popular posts have brought me a great amount of attention from cool people lately. "
This is just sick. He does a drive by creepy "analysis" of someone else so he could get "attention from cool people".
I saw that quote and I thought, "Damn, did I write that?" That is awful, man I must have wrote sloppy...
Oh wait, here's what I really wrote -
I went back and forth on that. In the end, I think doing it this way is going to produce the best outcomes – a couple of my popular posts have brought me a great amount of attention from cool people lately. I had a very cool, talented editor from Penguin reach out to me, I had a couple very successful business people I really respect reach out to me, I’m now talking with a top business nonfiction literary agent about signing on as a result of my work, etc, etc. Hopefully this helps increase Patrick’s profile and exposure to smart and good people, my readers get exposed to his work, and other people can learn by example. But yes, I did think about that – thanks for sharing your perspective.
Oh, yeah, that's entirely and totally different - whose the psychopath exactly? Jeez, I talk about how I'm achieving my goals in writing, business, and I've connected and had a good discussion with a researcher the other day, and that I think I can help someone I respect have the same positive experiences. He misquotes it brutally. Dude, what a bunch of shit. You can't do that by accident, no way you do that by accident. That's just zero integrity nastiness right there.
I don't have any advice for you on dealing with that, aside from pointing it out. That guy is a jerk anyways, he goes into any thread he doesn't like and calls things creepy. I don't mind him, per se, but how many people will skim and read that misquoted and then mis-analyzed garbage? I have no recommended remedy for you on this.
Taking a hot bath in hatred.
Unenjoyable. Very, very unenjoyable. However, I like that it happened. One of my friends described doing meaningful work - "People like to fantasize about results, but they don't like doing the process. I think you should fantasize about the process realistically, and imagine enjoying it." Well, this is part of doing meaningful things. It means getting valid criticism, which I respect and appreciate. In the end, I stand by what I wrote, and I'll step my game up going forwards, vetting with people I respect first, and I'll work to improve my writing.
It also includes getting raw hatred if you write on very sensitive topics.
For the hatred, I didn't enjoy it. It was distressing, I felt that heavy weight in the pit of my stomach. But this is necessary, so I welcome it. Give me strife and suffering - this was a larger dose than I wanted, but I feel stronger now as a result. I feel more clear, more purposeful. I'm tempted to say thank you to the people who wrote bad things.
That Sebastian sure is a loser to write such a long post!
I spent a few hours carefully considering and re-reading all of the criticism I got, adopting and improving from the best points made. I dove in deeper to do some analysis and research to try to figure out why this had a different reaction than I expected, and in fact a startling one. I analyzed, produced my findings as straightforwardly as possible. Then I thought on this during a run and at a cafe having a coffee, I wrote it and edited it, and now it's yours to learn from.
Yeah, maybe I've got too much free time on my hands . Sure beats watching TV though.
 This is the only sarcasm in the post.
I just stumbled on this which is strange since I do read your blog quite often.
I have no idea why you set off such a huge fire-storm. Your intent was perfectly clear to me, and in no way did you come off as creepy.
Your post is the same kind of thing I could have written myself, actually, and I've been through the same kind of criticism for giving someone tough love and telling them that they are uber-talented but could do better.
In the end, as long as you know you had pure motives, I think that's what's going to come through long-term. Remember Cato's admonition to only feel shame for what is truly shameful. You did nothing shameful IMHO.
I am Swedish btw.
[making it public]
My thoughts about both of texts:
I do think that you assumed a lot of stuff, but, you know what?
Intention is what really matters to me.I hope Patrick is developing his full potential right now. And getting fair reward from it.
A general feedback to especially your long posts. You start to ramble and repeat the same stuff over and over again, in slightly varying words. It would probably be a good idea to try to work on that. This occurs both in this post, and in the other controversial one.
Concerning the topic... well, I didn't like that post everyone's so upset about either. I think it includes too many carelessly and arrogantly made presumptions and conclusions, and at the end I wondered... well, what was the point? A long rant about somebody being great, please give him a job? It didn't carry much substance, that post. And I wondered why it was relevant, or what the purpose of the post was. It was too specifically talking about a person to make a general point about how brilliant tech people are underpaid, etc. It ended up reminding me of those scandal/gossip stories in celebrity magazines. And that disappointed me. Because I've come to expect other things of your blog.
Heads up. I hope I get to read some better stuff soon.
A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.
To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).
He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.
A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.
Without further ado...
When you write a blog that has a fair number of readers, you get a lot of comments on your writing. I just did a quick query, and I've had over 18,000 comments here, nearly all of which I've read. Most are positive and constructive, some are contrary but still constructive, and some are malicious.
I'd guess I have less than a hundred malicious comments (which is a huge testament to my awesome readers), but they do come once in a while. They don't affect me emotionally because, frankly, pickup gave me a really thick skin, and I have enough positive feedback from people whose opinions I respect.
That doesn't stop me from thinking about the comments, though. I actually find them really fascinating. I mean-- for me to leave even a positive comment, I have to really engage with a post. I can't fathom what would cause me to leave a negative post. What's the point?
There was a comment today about how my carbon footprint is huge, how going to see MMA fights is stupid, how people who fight are stupid, and how America is stupid for hosting such fights.