I wrote this last week when some of this brouhaha was still percolating. Still seems relevant, so enjoy.
Being an IT person for a bit over a decade of time, I’ve heard many requests for computer help. I get the expected questions from family and friends and when I’m home for a little while with my parents, I do spend a little time with each of their computers to tidy them up a bit. Friends do ask about this sometimes, but since the last two jobs I’ve had were IT consulting jobs, most friends at work really don’t need that kind of help anyway. I do get questions at clients about their home computers. Generally, if it’s something I can answer under a minute or two, I’m happy to offer my opinion…which is all it is and should not be understood as anything more.
Questions dealing with me fixing a person’s computer on my own time are categorically met with the same response. My hourly rate for fixing computers. If you are a total stranger, expect this number to be higher than the one my friends get. This point is non-negotiable. It’s also clearly understood that I’m not guaranteeing that your computer will magically work again.
Although I’ve had this policy for a long time, what really got me thinking about this again was a series of posts. The first was looking over John Scalzi’s post on why he won’t read your work on his awesome blog, Whatever. The post pretty much asks in a fairly nice way to not ask him for favors involving either reading your work in the hopes that he could magically get it published or get some editor to look at it. It’s a common sense piece. Still, some people don’t get it.
Then on September 9th, Josh Olson at the Village Voice stirred up a virtual shit storm with his post “I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script“. It contained a bunch of profanity, which a lot of people took to being just plain rude. Profanity aside, the frustration was palpable in Mr. Olson’s blog post but understandable as he describes the level of work he did for a favor and the lack of appreciation of the person who asked it. In fact, from Mr. Olson’s telling, this person whom he spent time agonizing over how to let him down easy essentially thanked Josh by talking behind his back to others about how much of a dick Josh was for giving an honest appraisal of the work. Surprising me about the post is the number of angry comments about how rude he was apparently being and I was stunned at the number of anti-Semitic rants laced in the listed comments.
John Scalzi followed up with his original post and Josh Olson’s rant with a follow up, On the Asking of Favors From Established Writers. It’s less charitable than his first piece, but still dead on in it’s conclusion. Again, people didn’t seem to get it. The most common complaints ran along two lines; They were “you should be nice to people even if you let them down, so you don’t have to be a dick about it”, or “why are you so against helping people (possibly including something about how they didn’t like their work anyway)”. It did not matter that they had helped people in the past and still do–John Scalzi often posts the Big Idea in which he highlights an upcoming or recently released book and a blurb from the author who wrote the it, and he was instrumental in seeing an actual paying online Speculative Fiction magazine, Strange Horizons, hit their donation goal for the year.
Instead there were the few who were gnashing their teeth at the tone the author took towards people who refused to understand. Fortunately, many people did get it though. Posts like these are meant to get to people who are well intentioned, but not knowledgeable about what’s acceptable. Still, it’s disheartening to see those who don’t and won’t ever understand.