Representing a Company in Public Internet Forums

Being an official company representative on the Usenet (or any other online forum) is hard, especially when the company you represent is the 800-pound gorilla in its particular niche. The attitude out there is often “large automatically means evil” – kinda like the public attitude towards Microsoft.

So I came in for a lot of flak during my years representing Adaptec/Roxio online, and some of it got personal. I mostly let it roll off my back (though I spent hours composing witty, sarcastic replies, which I rarely sent – sarcasm and irony do not come across as intended in email). The allegations which bothered me most were those that I lied on behalf of the company – I was always scrupulously honest. During my last months of representing Roxio on the Usenet, someone called me (repeatedly) “a lying bitch.” That thread went on for days, becoming a flame war between my detractors and my supporters. I finally weighed in myself:

Subject: The Bitch Bites Back
Date: Tue, 05 Jun 2001 10:57:42 +0200
From: Deirdre’ Straughan
Newsgroups: alt.comp.periphs.cdr

All right, folks, it’s time for the subject of all this to put in her own piece. I begin by quoting Elizabeth Hilts, author of Getting in Touch With Your Inner Bitch:

“There is a powerful and integral part of each of us that has until now gone unrecognized, its energy largely untapped… It is the Inner Bitch… The Inner Bitch is not that part of ourselves that is sometimes stupid, or mean, or humorless. She neither indulges in self-defeating behavior, nor does She abuse herself or others. The Inner Bitch does not engage in petty arguments, even for sport. Why bother? The Inner Bitch never enters into a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.”

I recommend this book to anyone who’s ever called a woman a bitch and thought it was an insult.

My “real” title in the realm of CD-R used to be well known out here, but I haven’t publicized it recently because my sense of humor was misunderstood by some colleagues. [That unofficial title, bestowed on me – lovingly! – by friends, was “the Bitch Goddess of CD-R”.]

“Lying”. That is slander, because it’s not true. If anyone has any proof that I have ever intentionally lied to any customer, here on the Usenet or anywhere else, I invite them to step forward with it.

As for the rest, my other guru, Miss Manners, would likely advise that the best response to coarse insults is a dignified, ladylike silence. And if you think a bitch can’t also be a lady, you have a lot to learn.

Naturally, this didn’t convince the troll of anything: years later, he is still slandering me out on the Usenet.

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