nerd rage – uncool

I remember my first few weeks as a software developer at Cisco. I'd joined one of the oldest teams at Cisco and the team comprised of people who had been with the company for 10 or 15 years. I was interacting with a lot of these old-timers on a regular basis, mostly via e-mail. I was warned advised several times that I should word my emails carefully, to avoid strong language, to be precise and to not forward anything that would irrelevant to these "old timers". But, this one time, I slipped. I sent an email to a large mailing list that all the software developers in the company were a part of, making a comment about something. Within minutes, the mailing list I'd sent that email to was removed from the thread, and another mailing list - "software-flame" was cc'd. And I was being flamed by an old-timer who was a part of my team. His email was unbelievably harsh and demeaning. He cc'd pretty much everyone in my management chain. He emphasized how he thought new college hires shouldn't get access to the source, and he just went on... It was a very harsh email to read, and worse yet to swallow.

I'd gotten flamed via email before, it was no big deal. I've been involved in email wars. Lot of harshness. But I'd never been in a situation where someone who was sitting 2 cubes down from me decided to take the time to write all this up, and cc pretty much everyone who had the authority to fire me. Bottom-line, this guy could've just as easily come over to my cube and have a conversation with me about this. And here's the kicker, I'd been working for about 2 weeks now, but I'd never met this guy. 2 cubes down, and no idea what he looked like. So after this email, I decided to physically go over to his cube and confront him. He reminded me of Milton from Office Space. He didn't have a personality. He smelled. He didn't know how to react to me confronting him in person. Actually, he was actually very matter of fact, but just didn't know how to react to me. And I wasn't going there to pick a fight - remember, I was actually a little scared. I was 20 fresh out of school. That was my first such experience of a guy who decided to launch an email vendetta on me.

Over the years, there were more such flames from people who decided to use email as a weapon. I've noticed this trend a lot more. Especially in the blogosphere, there are assholes who are just assholes for the heck of it. They could be the nicest most harmless humans in person, but on email or when leaving comments on a blog, different story.

What peeves me the most is when people leave nasty comments, but don't leave their names or contact information. For example, look at this comment left by this coward in this post by Scoble. That is just rubbish. If you genuinely feel like you want to flame someone on their blog, you should at least leave your name and/or your contact info behind. It's easier to know how much to disregard your comment then. The ability to be anonymous on the internet (well to some extent) seems to give people this bizarre need to say whatever they want. And most anonymous comment leavers, I've noticed, are rude.

The reason I decided to write this post was because in recent weeks, after I'd published my cell phone number, I've started to receive some nasty emails, some (not very many) blog comments, and a few nasty voice messages - including one from a guy claiming he wants to blow my head off (my voicemail greeting asks you to do the normal thing once you hear the beep). Although this "threat" was no where as bad as what Kathy Sierra had experienced (that was just plain disgusting, btw - words can't describe how enraged I was to read about that whole affair, yuck), but it was still unnerving. I have the number he called from, and I'm probably going to hand this over to the police.

I thought we're supposed to be civilized humans. Whatever happened to treating others the way you'd like to be treated?

now playing in my head : "khalbali" from the soundtrack of the movie "rang de basanti"


Comments (9)
  1. MSDN Archive says:

    What do you mean "probably going to hand this over to the police"?  Absolutely you should.  This stuff has no business being allowed to continue.

    (Of course, I personally question publishing one’s cell phone number to all-an-sundry, but that’s just paranoid me.)

  2. Thomas says:

    Sorry to hear about the nerd backlash. Apparently some people have too much time, and anger on their hands.

    There is a great comic by xkcd, that I posted on my blog about comments people make:

    There is something about the anonymity of the Internet that let’s people think they can say anything they want, that they would never say to someone’s face.

  3. Tom says:

    Good post, and I agree with a lot of what you say.  Except for one thing – why does leaving one’s contact information in a post immediately give it any credibility?  In my view, a post should be judged on its own merit – whether it is sensible or not, useful, insightful, etc. – and the real name and contact information shouldn’t enter into that.

    Also, good luck getting the police involved.  One time, a couple months after 9/11, I received a death threat on my voice mail from someone whose voice I didn’t recognize and who had a middle-eastern accent.  I did call the police, they came over and listened to it, and they told me it was probably a prank call.  I was genuinely scared, but they pretty much told me there was nothing they could do.  That’s kind of the reality of the situation.

  4. JohnGalt says:

    What you’re talking about is called "Basic human dignity" and it’s fading in the rear view mirror quickly.  Treating someone with basic respect and honour is foreign much of the time now-a-days. (and has nothing to do with age, so I’m not waxing notalgic!)

    It goes along with the other aspect that I’ve been seeing lately.  You take responsibility for something and are knowledgable, thus you are to blame for anything even remotely related even if you have no control over it.  

    I’m all for taking responsiblity for your actions, but I have a hard time believing that I deserve to be screamed at simply because I happened to help you with your virus problem one day as a gesture of good will, and now 2 months later, Microsoft Word isn’t working on your computer.

    It all comes down to ignorance and more fundamentally laziness.  

  5. ai says:


    You’re right… I’ve gotten things underway. We’ll see what we see. At this time, the PD doesn’t look too interested.


  6. ai says:


    That was a funny comic! Too funny, in fact.

    ai (back to leaving comments on youtube)

  7. ai says:


    > why does leaving one’s contact information in > a post immediately give it any credibility?

    Well, ok… its not so much that it adds credibility as much as it tells me that you (or whoever) is not hiding behind the anonymity of the internet and saying whatever you (or they) want. Leaving a name or your email or your blog address tells me that you are not picking a fight for the sake of picking a fight. And that if needed, you can be reached and we can talk about this beyond the comment spool here.

    And yikes (about the call you received). That would’ve been scary.


  8. Programming says:

    In response to Wil Shipley's recent post about the lack of an iPhone SDK , a reader left this comment

  9. I’ve received several several bizarre calls since I first put my phone number up on my blog. I’ve received

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