April 18, 2009

Rebuttal to a couple of idiots

Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

We are going to get down and dirty today, folks, so if you aren't interested, you might just want to come back tomorrow.

What the heck is it about the internet that brings out the worst in some people? Or is it not the internet, but the person's true nature shining through? There seems to be an innate belief in some that anything goes and nobody, nowhere, nohow is going to tell them what to do. Cursing, lying, slandering, spamming, threatening, stealing others' work − they believe all should be allowed in the name of free speech and woe to anyone who tries to stand in their way.

Honduras Living is a discussion group for expatriates living in Honduras, those considering moving to Honduras, and expatriate Hondurans moving back to their home country. We have a few simple, common sense rules that have served the group very well I think. In a little over two years, the group has grown to 850-plus members.

We did not want a group dominated with misleading information from unscrupulous real estate agents or where people are afraid to give their opinions because they would be attacked by others. We started the group and that is our privilege to decide the rules − simple as that. Our group's guidelines ask members to be polite and considerate. Everyone's opinions are welcome as long as they can state them civilly without personal attacks. At times, I personally absolutely cringe at some of those opinions.... but I and the other moderators respect members' right to give them.

Since members needs and wants vary, no internet group is going to meet the needs of all people all of the time. We just try to ensure that the group is the best that it can be for the majority of the members most of the time. One member's rights terminate when those rights step on the toes of other members. Of course, everyone always has the ultimate right to unsubscribe from the group whenever they feel the need to relieve themselves of the constraints of the group's guidelines.

Overall, we have a great group of helpful, friendly people and most do their best to follow the guidelines. Invariably, those very few who cannot, or will not, will cry "censorship!" What they are really saying is that "I was too lazy to or couldn't get away with (advertising/making personal attacks/trimming prior posts/fill-in-the-blank) so I'm going to blame the moderators for being evil censurers."

Recently, an either very misguided or unethical member decided to capitalize on the vast amount of information in our group. He copied a ton of members' messages from our group and put them up on a website. He was sent a form letter requesting that he remove all the information for which he did not have permission to use, which was about 98% of his site.

Ultimately, he saw the light and removed the material, but not until after he had sent various threats to me. Since he couldn't go with his original plan, he set up a forum. Great! More power to him. If he works at it and has something of value to offer, his forum will succeed. If he doesn't, it won't.

That is the ultimate law of the internet: It is not 'If you build it, they will come'. It is 'If you have something of value to offer readers, they will come back'.

Unfortunately, in order to build up his forum membership, he again took the again unethical route. He harvested email addresses from our group and sent unsolicited email to our HL members. What was done was done, not much we can do about that.

But then, yet again showing his true colors, rather than putting his own effort into making his site a place that people will want to visit, he decided that the only way to build up himself and his forum was to blast our group and me in particular with false claims. I guess he was thinking that our members would believe that and become so incensed that they would flock to his group.

He has one strong supporter who you'll read about below. I had to include the information about him just for the entertainment value.

Now ordinarily, I know how to deal with trolls and misfits. Ignoring them is generally the best option. Soon they get bored with their own griping or their new listeners get bored with the negativity and start wondering "Where's the meat? Why am I here?". That has happened before.

Try as I might, this time I feel compelled to defend my reputation. I don't care if they don't like me or call me names. It has happened before and it will happen again. But when someone casts aspersions on my integrity, I can't let that slide.

I wanted to post a rebuttal on his site, leave it at that, and let people make up their own minds about who was telling the truth. After 2 1/2 years of blogging my heart out and more than 2 years of our Honduras Living forum, hopefully people have a pretty good idea of my character.

Two problems arose. One person advised me that since Nick owns the forum, he could alter or delete my message or enter a bunch of false responses from imaginary people supposedly supporting his claims. Wow! Why didn't I think of that? I guess I just don't have that kind of nefarious mind.

The second reason is ironic. Despite his claim to have an open forum and allow anyone to post anything they want, it seems that he has blocked my IP address and I physically can't post a rebuttal to his attack on his forum! Hah. So much for an open forum with no censorship.

So, for those who are interested, here is the rebuttal that I would have posted:


It's just too funny reading the slanderous falsehoods posted by people to rationalize why they refuse to follow some simple guidelines. Nick stated: "You can count on the fact that no matter if someone pisses me off or not, I won't delete helpful info from MY site! " I guess he doesn't have to censor if he can prevent a truthful rebuttal to his false claims from even being posted in the first place.

Nick, first, Yahoo Terms of Service are very clear about copying and reposting information sent by other group members. I'm sorry you weren't aware of that. If you had asked, I would have explained to you that not only could you lose your Yahoo account but your website could be shut down by your website host provider. Host providers take copyright violations very seriously.

Second, yes, I sent a message to you pointing out your copyright violations. I thought it was fair to give you 48 hours to remove the unauthorized material − rather than simply filing a DMCA complaint with Yahoo and your website provider. The letter sent to you is a standard recommended form letter and there is nothing "nasty" or "rude" about it. You, however, were the one who sent three messages to us with various threats of trying to ruin my reputation if I didn't drop the matter, just as you are trying to do here, and just as you tried to do in the past. I didn't respond to your last two messages. You'll recall that the entire conversation was between you and all three moderators. We have all of the messages if there is still any question about who said what.

Third, despite what you had done, you weren't banned from the group until you threatened to spam all of our members, which you have since done anyway. Harvesting email addresses and sending unsolicited emails to members of a group is also against Yahoo's guidelines and in general is considered a pretty slimy thing to do. And, yes, I have gotten complaints from members about it.

Fourth, as far as accusing me of deleting your messages, that is a ridiculous claim. Any member can search the Honduras Living message archives and find all of your messages.

NYPD stated, "I never insulted,ranted, made inappropriate comments, but the "powers" decided I did not have a voice ."on their private site" So like any Demagog. they ban people who voice an opposing opinion."

Apparently we have a vastly different opinion about what is insulting, ranting, or inappropriate. The moderators did consider calling a pregnant woman "ignorant", "desperate" and a "moron" as insulting and inappropriate. We also considered telling an 80-year man to "grow up. get a life." as insulting and inappropriate. You also sent at least one abusive private email to a member and another one to the moderators.

The moderators were trying to work with you on your inability to follow the group's guidelines, but abusing our members is not tolerated. It had nothing to do with your opinions. I don't recall reading any "opposing opinions" from you at all. I have no idea what your opinions are except that you have difficulty expressing them in a civil manner.

Also interesting is the fact that NYPD complains of the discussions about the maquila closing dragging on. Obviously he didn't read the messages or he would know that Nick was the one who dragged them on and on with his 32 responses on the original thread and his 17 messages on the follow up thread started by him! Hah! There were many complaints about those threads from other members, but since we DON'T censor opposing viewpoints, what were the moderators to do? Would you propose censoring Nick? Or only allowing opinions with which *you* agree?

Nick, I wish you all the luck on your new forum. I sincerely (really sincerely) hope that all like-minded people join you there. I do think, however, that when your ethics and veracity is questionable, people will have a difficult time relying on your answers. Remember that the same technology that gives you the power to make these false claims publicly also allows others to follow you and your reputation wherever you go.


So that is the rest of the story -- the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I feel better now. Thanks for indulging me.

Cartoons by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.
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