People skills are malleable thing. I can be a perfectly wonderful human being, if I've a reason to be so. I can be a horrible troll. When and if I am in a position where kid gloves and delicate diplomacy are called for, I can - and do - play the game.
The Register's comment threads are not such a place. Quite the opposite; show any sign of weakness and the vicious pack of internet piranha hereabouts will tear you to pieces. Never mistake the persona that an individual chooses to portray in one forum on the internet – in this case quite deliberately - for the native and "natural" approach that individual takes.
What should give you pause is that while I may play the part of the ornery internet troll here on The Register's forums, even that affected persona is far – far – more agreeable than the demonstrated personalities of many top CEOs.
If you knew me personally – if you've interviewed with me, spent time with me at a junket or lived and worked with me in my native frozen habitat – I think you'd find that I am somewhat unlike the persona I portray for the hoi polloi text blocks here in the forums. Oh, I retain the "brutal honesty" trait – that's endemic to my personality and thus something I have trouble weeding out of any "character" I build – and along with that my true nature reflects my online one in that I don't like to mince words.
In reality, however, I'm far more like to listen to opinions and complaints. If for no other reason than that when dealing with an individual who is aught but a random block of text you are able to read more about that individual than their words alone can provide. Body language and voice patterns provide clues by which to judge many things about an individual. You can far more rapidly assess whether that individual is likely to be competent, have opinions/complaints/concerns that are valid or whether they are simply "hysterical individuals."
What I find interesting about this entire thread is the certainty of some individuals that they can pin you down based on what you type in forums like these. We're readers of The Register for $deity's sake! We are supposed to be technologically adept internet sophisticates! We are supposed to understand the complexities not only of the machinery we tinker with but also of the online communities that we frequent!
How many articles have you read that discuss the science of alternate behaviour patterns in online fora? Or group dynamics as it applies to either online or offline scenarios? If you are older than 12 and on this site, you should have encountered dozens – maybe even hundreds – by now.
Forums on websites like The Register aren't carefully constructed, rigidly moderated bastions of academic thought, inclusive cooperation and mutual respect. Far from it! They are cesspools of the worst kinds of egotistical self promotion and partisan vitriol. Anonymity removes people's social inhibitions and you don't tend to get civil discourse.
Unlike some, I accept this as the natural order of things. I may not personally like it – and I have lengthy proposals for changes that could be made to eventually curb this – but I do play the game.
In this case, the game is being a mirror to The Register's community. The Register's commenters have become a community of "me, me, me;" inwardly focused on their own opinions and demanding that all and sundry believe exactly as they do. The past few years have seen this get worse, not better. Everyone enjoys tearing everyone else down whilst maintaining a pretence of individual unassailability, doubly so when individual opinion rather than rationally deconstructable criticism is the topic of discussion.
I find the entire exercise childish and demeaning, doubly so to the writers whom many of The Register's commenttard community seem to feel entitled to mock, berate and belittle.
So I gave up any attempts to be civil or lead by example; and yes I did have a period of trying that. I even had a nice period of simply "walking away" and washing my hands of the for a entirely. That lasted the better part of a year. Ultimately, I decided against both approaches deliberately and with very careful consideration.
If The Register's commenttards choose to act like vacuous children, then I will hold the mirror up to their faces. I will treat them with the same lack of respect they demonstrate for the writers and for their fellow commenttards. I will engage with them – at random, if I can – and argue them down to little trolled-out nubs. Since it is generally the same offenders over and over one of two things will happen, both of which are completely acceptable to me:
1) I will drive off the worst of the piranhas (unlikely).
2) I will vent my personal frustrations in a safe and largely consequence free environment whilst creating a "personality" that commenters on The Register can become polarised towards: love or hate, they can't stop reading, commenting and engaging with (seems to have worked.)
Yes, it's cynical. Yes, it is cold and calculated. What else would you expect? Every single thing I do is calculated and has a purpose. It always has.
If you want to get to know me, and not the character I choose to play you need to step away from The Register a little. A great start would be some of the Q&A interviews that folks have done with me. The first part of the Spiceworks Q&A is out. It should provide a much more realistic view of me, the individual.
The fact that you – or anyone – buys the persona portrayed in these forums as "me" without questioning the lunacy of that should tell you a lot. Of itself, it should start you thinking about human dynamics in online for a…and I use my real name here. Imagine how those dynamics change for those using pseudonyms!
The people that don't think about such things – that simply accept the world at face value – they are the ones that shouldn't be running companies. They are incapable of seeing the wheels within the wheels that are part and parcel of human interaction. Everything from fora persona to business interactions and reading your opponent across a negotiating table.
Have a pint on me.