“What is the price of Experience?
Do men buy it for a song?
Or wisdom for the price of a dance in the street?
No, it is bought with the price of all Man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy, and in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain.”…William Blake

In my entire time online, I’ve only had one confrontation over something I posted.

When I wrote a post on the 2007 Domain Roundtable, in the first paragraph, I linked to an article I did not agree with using the term “misinformed”. I intended absolutely no malice to the author…I actually forgot I even did this until receiving an email from Tom Crandall letting me know that he felt slighted and upset by my action. While I didn’t quite view the situation as Tom did, I did understand his point of view and realized that I could have chosen a word/phrase for link text that expressed my disagreement with his post without casting an aspersion on his professionalism.

So, in attempt to make amends, I went to his blog and publicly apologized to Tom and his audience (in addition to starting a debate over the issue where we disagreed).

Hello Tom,

First, let me apologize publicly for characterizing your article as “misinformed”. “Misinformed” has connotations that are not consistent with my belief that you wrote an posting of high quality that was slanted in a way in which I did not agree…in fact, the quality of the posting was probably why I remembered it as I was writing my article…

I did not feel the least amount of personal shame or humiliation in doing this…for me; it was a moral imperative to write what I did.

There are plenty of spirited debates in search started when a person or entity has “acted irresponsibly” in the eyes of the greater community (and when the whole community is in opposition to one person/group, chances are quite high that the lone individual is in the wrong). The most common responses by a person to a community-wide attack upon them include defensiveness, attacking back, or skulking away and hiding. Humility by the malefactor doesn’t occur all that often.

Recently, an online marketer named Matt Bacak release the most obnoxious, self-promoting press release that I’ve ever seen. The Twitter and Digg communities rightly pummeled him. I submitted his press release to Sphinn where it got a large number of spirited comments. I believe I rightly described Matt’s press release as a “FUBAR”.

So what did Matt do? He accepted the community’s verdict on his press release and began to change his behavior to conform to what they expected of him.

He publicly acknowledged his mistake and shouldered the entire blame for the incident.

I barely even knew about this press release. I did not write it
nor did I even submit it. Yes, I did suggest to have it written. I
take full responiblily (sp) for it.

He then started following people back on Twitter (which he hadn’t been doing). He now has almost 50% more followers on Twitter than he did before this incident started and he’s tweeting back to all who tweet him.

While the community brutalized Matt for the press release, a large percentage of them remained open to accepting Matt if he responded appropriately. Because Matt consented to the community verdict and changed his behavior publicly, he has been welcomed by many of his critics and his business will greatly profit from everything that has transpired.

It’s natural to be defensive when the entire community is attacking you. However, try to look at the issue from the majority perspective. Even if you don’t agree with them, acknowledge their viewpoint. The right response to your opponents could turn the negative into a strong positive for you. The wrong response can cause you to be permanently excluded by your peers.

12 thoughts on “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

  1. Apologizing is a very difficult thing for most individuals. I’ve read articles that suggest that apologizing is akin to weakness. In my position within my company, I’ve had to apologize to customers for a mistake. It’s amazing how quickly you can turn a negative situation around by simply apologizing. I don’t advocate apologizing for everything but when a mistake is made, own up to it and make it right.

  2. Matt’s and your reactions were very mature and definitely the right thing to do. Especially when you are into blogs and Twitter you should always be ready to take responsibility for your mistakes and, if necessary, apologize.

  3. Nice article Todd. It also shows how internet makes it so easy for people to voice out their opinions…whether positive or negative and it spread like wildfire. But to err is human; to forgive is divine. Cheers =)

  4. It is a great article. Sorry seems like a genuine apology to me. We should be thankful for any apology even though its a week overdue.


  5. I think Lisa sums up best what I like about your work. It’s informative, but still offers a glimpse into your personality. Its perhaps why your so successful with social media. And its often an article on the Internet begins with a quote from William Blake.

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