Now here's a good rule to live by:
1) Do unto others as you would have them announce to 100,000 people you have done.
I had seen this one a couple of days ago on the Huffington Post, part of Richard Smith's 10 new Golden Rules for Living in a Web 2.0 World, a thoroughly enjoyable list. Good advice for a not-so-big world.
But wait. What if there's a corollary? You do unto others nicely, as implicitly suggested above, and nobody will announce anything to anybody, because that's boring. Do something dumb, mean, or otherwise embarrassing, and that will spur an announcement. We should call that the page-view paradox of Richard's rules.
Remember the old saying, "Nice guys finish last?" Bad news travels fast, and good news doesn't. Bad reviews are more fun to read than good reviews.
I still remember the line in a movie review, from 30 years ago, where the reviewer said the director had "delusions of adequacy." Panning is more fun than praising. I don't remember lines from good reviews.
I looked back at this and Richard's rules today after I read Michael Arrington's startling spit-in-the-face story on TechCrunch. Which, I should add, I had found because somebody I follow in Twitter commented on it with the phrase "you reap what you sew (sic)." Gulp.
Arrington, clearly still reeling from the unnerving experience of having such a vivid expression from someone he didn't know at all, says he's going to take some time off, and think about it. He tells of death threats a few months ago, and expensive security.
TechCrunch, the blog, and Michael Arrington, its founder, play a king-maker role in high tech. A good review on TechCrunch can make a company suddenly real. A bad review can hurt, but even that's better than no review at all. Arrington's in a tough position, in my mind. He can't do what he does well without disappointing a lot of people. I don't know him, but I've seen him perform, I've read his work, and I feel for his dilemma. You can't do a job like his well without making enemies.
And in his case, it's not even a matter of bad reviews: the worst thing TechCrunch can do to an aspiring new company is nothing at all; there is no news worse than no news. In other words: silence. That's a tough world to live in.
Which brings me to two more of Richard's suggested golden rules:
9) The day your name hits the top of the Google search rankings will NOT be a good day.
10) It is more compelling than ever to simply do the right thing for yourself and for the world. Positive actions have now been gifted with incredibly long tails.
These two go together because rule 9 is a restatement of the page-view paradox. Bad news is far more interesting than the opposite; and the opposite of bad news isn't good news, but rather, no news. So that contradicts rule 10. Damn! I want to believe that positive actions are now being gifted; but I don't see it happening. At least, not often.
It was about a generation ago that Thomas Harris' book I'm OK-You're OK was a best seller. It pointed out (among other things) that two random people sitting together on an airplane seat were far more likely to start talking by sharing the negative (these planes are always late … these seats are too small …) than anything positive. This seems to be a general rule. And it relates to the power of the negative in blogs, reviews, and general human behavior. We are all pretty annoying, you have to admit.
So I wonder. I get it that the new world can turn out and expose phonies and cheats faster than ever. But don't they — the cheats and phonies and all — get more page views too?