inessential by Brent Simmons

When the Weapon Was Pointed at Me

Years ago, in the age of Twitter but not deep into the age of Twitter, I made a mistake. And then on Twitter I was piled-on mercilessly and relentlessly for weeks.

The community had always been on my side, so this came as a shock. But I should have remembered Dave Winer’s words to me from 2003, after I released NetNewsWire 1.0. I’m paraphrasing, not quoting, but they were something like this: “You’re the golden boy now. Enjoy it. They’ll turn on you later.”

For the next six months after the pile-on I asked myself every day if I should just quit the industry. Seriously. Every day, and especially every night. I came very close.

I learned a few things. I can’t count on the public to have my back. Forget it. Also: I can’t rely on the public liking me or my apps for any of my emotional needs. (That was another mistake I had made.)

This period of time is a black chasm dividing my career into two parts. I was naive, and then I was heartbroken.

This accounts for much of my ambivalence toward Twitter: having been the target of a pile-on, I know that Twitter is a weapon that is often — usually, perhaps — wildly disproportionate. And it is often pointed at people who don’t deserve even a lick of fire. (Though, to reiterate, I did make a mistake.)

* * *

In retrospect there are a couple other things to learn. One is that nobody but me has any memory of this at all.

Another is that I wasted that six months being hurt by this. I was certainly depressed during that time, and I didn’t need to be, because it wasn’t worth it.

And I’m still hurt by it, so many years later, and I should let it go, but there it is.

* * *

Hence my plea: don’t threaten people. Don’t abuse people. Ever.

Consider that flaming or being mean to somebody isn’t helping the world in any way. Consider proportionality. Consider that you may not have the facts.

And: whatever evil you think you see, it’s probably not as evil as your joining in a mob.