Whenever DreamHost has a massive screw-up of some sort, the thing I most notice about the customer response is the high level of animosity and aggression in the comments. People obviously have a right to respond to any situation in their own way, but still I can’t help but feel that some of them would benefit from taking a moment to step back, take a look at their actions, and consider if those actions are really the most effective path towards a positive solution for themselves.

Websites can be very personal in nature and it can be emotional to have something like that not functioning properly. Technical people in particular can become very frustrated when a technical issue is out of their control. They can feel powerless and in a situation like that anger is certainly an understandable emotion to feel. Still, it seems like an odd logic leap to me to go from feeling some anger inside to taking that anger and using it to fuel more anger and animosity. Ultimately, the goal in any problem scenario is to get to the solution as quickly and painlessly as possible. Obviously emotions can interfere with that but still most people can stay focused on the resolution anyway. The form that particular resolution or solution takes is obviously an individual choice.

What I see an unusual amount of online is people deciding that the best resolution for an unpleasant situation is to get revenge, no matter how much effort it takes. People decide that it’s worth hours and hours of their own time to start up ‘anti’ websites or to post message after message of spite and bile to message boards or blog comments. I get angry myself at times, but I just can’t comprehend expending so much emotional energy over something so ultimately minor. There’s just not enough time in the day.

What’s most unusual about this is that I feel like I don’t see this sort of animosity in my day to day life. When the burrito place up the street gives you a steak burrito instead of the veggie burrito you ordered, do you scream at and wish death upon the guy behind the counter? When the auto repair shop takes 3 days longer than they said it would take to fix your car, do you make picket signs and walk around outside of their business yelling at people walking past? I’m hoping not! What is it about the Internet that makes people exhibit such odd behaviors? Where does all the animosity come from?

6 thoughts on “Where does all the animosity come from?”

  1. You’re right. If they did that kind of thing in the real world, they’d be wearing a burrito and waiting even longer for their car to get fixed. I think the animosity comes from relative anonymity. 🙂

    I shut down 2 VPS hosts that I had for years when I put most of my stuff on DH. I couldn’t be happier. (It helps that I know where to find the honchos.) I don’t put much critical stuff on my regular account, but I have enough semi-important things on there that I feel it if there’s a problem.

    Thing is, I know what it’s like from that end and feel confident that people are scrambling to fix things. The majority of people don’t have that perspective so they might not understand that running a large scale host is insane. The other factor is people being able to say/do pretty much whatever they want on the web without repercussions. More than the time involved, flipping out on someone in meatspace takes balls. Balls that most folks don’t have. Some people feel important or tough by being a virtual badass. Maybe it’s time for a startup that contracts real world *enforcers* to put the smack down.

  2. Not everyone can be a rich & happy owner of a huge web hosting company. 😛

    Seriously though, some of the nastiest comments are coming from the people that were already about to file bankruptcy, so I’d guess most of the bitterness was already there. The nastiest ones are mainly complaining about overdraft fees–even though you guys are basically giving them back double what they’ve lost. When it’s all cleared up, they’ll still be complaining, just about something else.

    The time spent trashing blogs, trolling forums, spreading lies, etc… could be better spent improving the financial situation that was already bad before the billing screw up.

    I can’t help but wonder how many of the people are Lunarpages employees. They are doing some serious image doctoring on their blog and will not let anyone post that doesn’t bash you. One of their ex-employees just came clean on some of the stuff going on there as well.

    If you haven’t already seen them, you can see her blog post about it at http://spacytracie.com/dreamhost-and-lunarpages/391/ and the (now closed) WHT thread that turned into an LP mess: http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=663705

  3. I find this type of thing very annoying, but frankly I don’t think it’s terribly puzzling.

    As mister jason™ suggests, anonymity and insulation from any serious repercussions are a big part of it. Also, I think that the investment of effort and time, while often ridiculous, is generally significantly lower than the real world actions you mention. For example, if I could probably put up an anti-* website or post a whole bunch of negative blog comments and message board posts in an hour or two, likely while sitting at my computer at work or watching TV. To picket the mechanic, I’d have to get materials to make a sign ($ and time), make the sign (time) and go to the mechanic’s shop during business hours (at least, if I want to make a real impact) which may require taking time off of work ($ and time). And if I want a lot of notice, I’d probably want to picket for hours and/or over several days. And again, that opens me up to confrontation (potentially including violence) by the shop’s owners, happy customers and anyone who happens to think I’m annoying. All in all, much less attractive than just spewing vitriol online…

  4. Well… maybe its because, whatever glitch you had, now has me owing Dreamhost $299, and I can’t get a single response from your company (so I’ve resorted to posting here).

    I would completely relax, and take a step back, if you would have someone call me to resolve this. In fact, I’ve tried to call you guys, but alas, you list no functioning phone number… anywhere. That frustration of being unable to contact the company that has erroneously billed me $250 is pretty steaming.

    I’m not talking about any charges to my credit cards… in fact I’d cancelled the credit card you guys had on file for me… I’m talking about my current statement with Dreamhost listing my balance as $299 owed. Wouldn’t that piss you off?

  5. @Dan : Yes, it is understandable that people would be upset. It’s the way people are acting when they are upset that isn’t making sense to me.

    I emailed you directly to get more information to help you out.

  6. It’s the way people are acting when they are upset that isn’t making sense to me.

    That’s the key.

    Just like how it’s okay to get upset if someone runs a stop sign and hits your new car, but if they get out of the car apologizing and checking to see if you’re alright, it might be a tad inappropriate to punch them in the face and go set their house on fire that night while everyone is sleeping. 😉

    The bright side is that as much as the nasty ones stand out in the crowd, their numbers seem pretty low when you look at the total number of people that were affected. It seems like the whole internet is being polluted by the same small handful of people that just never stop to breathe.

    I wouldn’t worry about the extremists, though… since you Honchos never roll in a posse of less than 20 – 30, most of which are either masters of Ninjitsu, or at least packing an Uzi or two. 😛

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