Woe be unto the enemy of the Geek Nation who strikes out at a fellow citizen.
It’s only been a short time since we last experienced Geek Wrath, but the Geek Nation quickly returned to DefCon 5. We all knew that the quiet wouldn’t last. Geeks are a quiet, peaceful lot — comparisons to Hobbits, although offensive to some geeks, are not without merit. But when a citizen of Geek Nation is attacked, geeks can often be counted on to armor up and join the battle.
For many geeks, the Internet is our first weapon of choice. We can use it to rally our troops and direct them to the proper targets. But the Internet isn’t an edged weapon, even though many might argue otherwise. Nope… for me, Internet fights are all about snowballs.
In a real snowball fight, everyone walks away in the end (hopefully). Maybe someone is a bit colder… a bit wetter. But the snowballs disappear and pretty soon everyone has forgotten about the fight.
Email message and forum post battles are often referred to as flame wars, but I view them as snowball fights. One person throws a small snowball. Someone else throws another. Then someone starts packing his snowballs a bit tighter and begins throwing them with a bit more spirit. A response is required, so a larger, more powerful snowball is created and launched. Pretty soon we have catapults and cannons flinging snowballs with such speed and power that there’s really no winner to be found.
Even worse, digital snowballs don’t melt — they sit around waiting for someone to Google them and re-use them forever. Digital snowballs also exhibit the snowball effect in the sense that they can quickly build up momentum and size to the point that the snowball maker no longer has any control. Case in point is today’s lesson in Customer Service provided by Paul of Ocean Marketing. The story first broke over at Penny Arcade and has quickly taken on a life of its own.
First, you have the original back-and-forth email conversation between Dave (customer) and Paul (marketer) with a solid ending provided by Michael Krahulik over at Penny Arcade. A strategic strike by Gabe appears to end the snowball skirmish and a winner and a loser appear to be quite obvious to those reading the events. But, no: news of the skirmish is building at a speed only the Internet could handle.
Next, it hits Twitter and numerous blog streams, including Kotaku.com covering the snowball war. (It’s definitely moved beyond a fight at this point.)
Following the entry of Twitter and war-time correspondents into the snowball war comes the First Surrender — Paul shuts down his Twitter account which is quickly picked up by someone not part of the original snowball fight and used instead to promote indie software developers.
Then comes the discovery and release of Paul’s new Twitter account, proving that in a digital snowball fight against geeks, there is no place to hide.
At the same time, we find Kotaku doing an innocent follow-up with a company that hired Paul to help market its product. Kotaku gets a response from Brandon, but with a bit more digging they find that the email address used by “Brandon” in the reply appears to be an email address used extensively by Paul — has the digital snowball war discovered its first case of espionage? Kotaku finally receives an email from the real Brandon, more evidence that not everything here is on the up and up. Kotaku isn’t happy, so with a bit more digging using good ol’ Google.com, they discover that the email address used by the impersonator has also posted some interesting items on a forum dedicated to anabolic steroid usage. The jury is out on the real identity of this email address owner, but one thing we can be certain of is that Google never forgets.
And now we come to the Second Surrender. Paul reaches out to Mike and pleads for mercy — if not for me, for my wife and kids! And Mike, finger on the button, ends the digital snowball war with a lesson for bully-salesmen everywhere.
December 16, 2011 to December 27, 2011 — 11 days from first customer contact to snowball nuclear winter. I’m guessing Paul didn’t wake up this morning expecting this to be how his day ended. And, paraphrasing a comment left by an observer to today’s entertainment — all it took for Paul to avoid this was a simple email reply that said Sorry, your order will be a bit late. I’ll knock $10 off easily. No, make that $15 off for your trouble.
A simple response from Paul and… snowball dropped. War avoided.
Well, until the next snowball is thrown.