Don't Send That Outraged E-Mail

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Blog it instead, I’m going to show you how. It’s free. It’s fast. It’s the way to go. Ask Matt Drudge. He didn’t send an email to Newsweek deploring the spiking of an article. He posted his report — without objections — on his blog in 1998. This eventually got a President impeached. His site gets 6 million visits a day. Meanwhile, Newsweek is up for sale. Here is the great irony: DrudgeReport.com (two employees) is worth more than Newsweek.

So, you read a bonehead article. You’re convinced that what that author really needs is a piece of your mind. You think you can spare it. You have decided to sit down and write him an email.

Here are eleven
good reasons not to do it.

1. YOUR TARGET HAS NO PUBLIC EMAIL ADDRESS

This seems obvious. The author is someone famous. He doesn’t list his email address. You will have to find ways around this.

One way around this is to post your email as an article on your blog site.

What’s that? You don’t have a blog site? Stick with me. You will have one by this afternoon — tomorrow morning at the latest.

Anyway, back to my strategy. If you post your critical letter on your blog, Google is likely to pick it up and list it.

Famous people tend to be egomaniacs. They use Google searches on their names to see what people are saying about them. If your critical response to his bonehead article is posted on your site, he may find it.

If he sees it on a public forum, he is more likely to read it than read an email from a stranger. When our ideas are online, they can do him more damage.

2. SPAM FILTERS

Famous people use spam filters. These filters are digital. They screen out a lot of spam, but emails from people not on the author’s list of accepted contacts get forwarded to the junk email box. You probably have such a box in your email. Your ISP may have one, even if you don’t have one in your email program.

If you sit down and spend time writing your list of corrections, and then send it as an email, you will have no assurance that the author will ever read it. You have gone to a lot of trouble. The result is questionable. Your brilliant observations may be sitting in a junk mail folder. Then, one of these days, he will click the EMPTY JUNK MAIL option, and your brilliant observations are gone forever, except in your SENT folder.

3. NUT-CASE . . . BLIP!

The famous author long ago learned that the world is filled with jerks, big-mouths, ill-informed blow-hards, and nut cases. These people have these things in common:
1. Time on their hands
2. Strong opinions
3. An inflated self-opinion
4. A desire to show off
5. A limited audience, constantly shrinking

Their friends have grown tired of listening to them. They find that nobody takes them seriously. This does not produce self-examination on their part. Rather, it produces a growing resentment against all those people who do not share their views and listen to them. This persuades them to go looking for other people who will pay attention to them. Any famous author becomes a target.

Famous people get emails all day long from critics. The easy response is to take one look at the first sentence and come to a judgment: “nut-case” or “serious critic.” If the recipient decides on the first, it’s instant DELETE. He may read another few sentences if the letter sounds half-way coherent. But he probably won’t. What’s in it for him?

If the email includes lots of all-caps words, he clicks DELETE.

If it does not include links to supporting materials, it gets deleted.

If it has misspellings, it gets deleted.

In short, a critical email from a stranger is considered guilty until proven innocent. It is likely to get blipped.

Don’t waste your time.

But what if you included a brief note in your email. “I have posted a detailed critique of you recent article on ….. You may be especially interested on the document you either are unaware of or conveniently failed to mention.”

Accompanying that cryptic comment is a link to your article, which is posted on your blog.

He is more likely to read the article on your blog than read a long e-mail.

4. TAR BABY . . . BLIP!

Even worse than a nut-case, from the point of view of the recipient, is a tar baby.

If you recall the Uncle Remus story — or if you recall the original, no longer PC version in Walt Disney’s long-padlocked Song of the South — the tar baby entrapped B’rer Rabbit. B’rer Fox constructed it, knowing B’rer Rabbit would take the bait.

It did not talk. B’rer Rabbit said “Hi.” It remained mute. He said it again. It remained mute. Finally, out of exasperation, B’rer Rabbit hit it. His paw got stuck. He hit it with his other paw. He could not get out. B’rer Fox had him.

An email tar baby is a person with a hobby horse. He wants to ride. He takes every opportunity to ride. He has alienated his friends, who don’t want to hear about it any more,

He could write a book on this, and get it out of his system. But that would take work. He does not want to devote that much effort.

It could be worse. He has written a manuscript, but no publisher will touch it. This really has him in a snit. He goes looking for someone — anyone — to interact with him. He’ll show them.

The recipient has two choices. Remain mute, and become a tar baby for the heckler, or respond, and become enmeshed in a lifetime of emails.

The fanatic will not stop. At last: someone has responded! Someone famous! He will not let go. The famous author has a new pen pal — pen enemy — for life. He’s doomed.

The best approach is to add the sender to the “Block Sender” list, which automatically forwards the letters to the junk mail folder.

Tar babies rarely have their own blog sites. Create one. Then send your letter, with a link to your article. As soon as you are perceived as a tar baby, you will go onto the “Block Senders” list.

For my full views on the tar baby phenomenon, click here.

5. A PUBLIC DISEMBOWELING

You are convinced that he has laid a gigantic egg in full public view. This gives you an opportunity to respond in public. This is part of the Web’s system of etiquette. It is considered legitimate to disembowel someone in full public view if he has posted his opinions on the Web.

The Web in fact encourages debate. It thrives on it. That is why people like public forums. They hammer away at each other by the hour. This is why I never read forums on free blog sites. The nut-cases are out in force, 24×7.

If you really do have the goods on the guy, get this in front of others. As long as you are going to go to the time and trouble of composing a response, do it for the whole world. You never know who is going to show up on your critique. Google pulls in people from all over the world. You cannot know who will show up.

Besides, if you are going to rant at the article, you will find it far more fun to twist the guy’s tail online than in private.

If you really do draw blood, he will be tempted to respond. He may be so tempted that he provides a link to your article in his response. This is another way to draw traffic to your site. If he writes for a large-traffic site, so much the better. The link will count for more in Google’s “importance factor” algorithm.

Why limit the effects of exposing the author’s errors? Share the wealth!

6. AVOID THIS NAÏVE GOAL: PERSUADING HIM

If you write a critical email in the hope of changing his mind, then you are nave. You are not quite a certifiable nut-case, but you are bordering on it.

People who are important enough to get their articles posted and gain lots of readers are fixed in their views. They are probably experienced writers. This means they are older.

People over age 30 are unlikely to change their views. The personal price (meaning cost) of changing is too high. They may have to abandon their positioning, which is basic to their career’s success. They may have to re-think their premises. This is expensive. Remember: “You can’t change just one thing.” Then add this: “especially your mind.”

His price of changing his view is high. Remember this economic law: “When the price rises, less is demanded.”

He has spent years coming to his opinion. He may have researched the topic. The article you don’t like may be the tip of a large iceberg. He may know a lot more about this than you think he does.

Why should your email change his mind? Who are you, anyway? No one important. How does he know this? Because you sent an email. If you were anyone important, your highly critical article would be posted somewhere.

7. YOUR SITE’S SIZE WILL GROW

There are lots of people out there who publish really bad articles. If you spend time sending emails, you waste your time. If you post these as articles, your site carries more weight. Why? Because it’s growing.

I see reviews of books on Amazon. Some people review hundreds of books. If these people are not posting their reviews on their own blog site, they are missing a way to build readers.

If your site is targeted on one topic, you can publish book reviews, article reviews, and video reviews. Divide them into categories: Good Stuff/Bad Stuff. Then divide them into subcategories.

The idea here is to position yourself as an expert who keeps on top of the literature in a topic. So, when you send an email with a link to your critical review, the author reading it will not automatically assume that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

8. YOUR SITE’S TRAFFIC WILL GROW

Over time, others will visit your site if it provides them with useful material. One useful item is a solid review. It tells people what is worth buying and reading and why, and what is not.

The goal should be to serve the public. A letter to a critic does not serve the public. It wastes your time.

As the popularity of your site grows, your reputation as an expert will grow. A site with hundreds of articles is impressive to anyone who visits it. Even if he doesn’t read all of them — he won’t — the site testifies to your diligence. A visitor thinks, “this person must know his stuff. Look at all these articles. This took a lot of time.”

It did take a lot of time. But sending emails takes time. Better to put the time to better use. Don’t send critical emails. Post critical articles.

9. THE CRITICISM STAYS ONLINE FOREVER

If you post on Blogger.com or WordPress.com, the site will stay up forever. You don’t have to pay anything. Whatever criticism you have today will be available for someone to discover in a decade or a century.

The blog sites are a great benefit to anyone who wants to leave a permanent record free of charge. There are no monthly fees. The domain name doesn’t lapse for non-payment,

If you think someone is wrong about this or that, and the author has gone public with his idea, you might as well get maximum leverage for your written response. Why not let it become part of the public record? Why not let it stay public long beyond your death? Don’t do things halfway. Do them right from the beginning. Sign up today.

10. YOUR OWN SITE

You will get more hits if you set up your own domain ($10/year), set up your own site on a hosting service (maybe $5/month), and post your articles. But you have to pay.

This is more work. It’s better to start a blog on Blogger or WordPress than not start anything, ever.

To create a nice-looking site, download the free WordPress software. It’s here.

You can download free software to help you design a site. An easy, powerful program in Atahualpa. A compactly coded program is Thematic. If you get thousands of hits a day, Thematic is a good choice. You probably won’t get that many hits.

You can host your site on any one of hundreds of services. I use Hostgator. There are inexpensive Baby Croc accounts. The advantage of Hostgator is that you can put up an unlimited number of separate sites with separate domain names at no extra cost. There are other hosting services that offer this benefit.

Why send an outraged email when you can build a site that will build a following? It makes no sense.

11. OTHERS MAY IMITATE YOU

If you post your email online, you can share it with others. You can encourage them to imitate you.

They may not be interested in your rant. But they may read it if you position yourself as follows.
Take a look at this article I just posted. I figure this is better than sending the guy an email

You could do the same. I’d be happy to show you how I set up my site. It was easy.

I’ve produced some short screencast videos on how I did this.

You can produce five-minute videos and post them on http://Screenr.com or http://Jingproject.com. All you need is a $30 Radio Shack lavaliere (lapel) microphone to make them look professional. Just narrate whatever you’re doing on-screen. Show them how to create a site.

CONCLUSION

As long as you’re committed enough to mail a bonehead a corrective email, you might as well inflict some real damage.

We need thousands of websites and blogs. That’s how we can inflict damage. But these can also be part of an informal network to help build a better society.

Get involved. Start your own blog.

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

The Best of Gary North

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