Just a sec. I've got Holden on the other line.
January 3, 2008 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Do I have a web storm brewing?

The controversy over on MetaTalk has got me thinking about a situation with the former Artistic Director at my organization, a mid-size theater in Chicago. He changes our Wikipedia entry to tout his own work here (which ended nearly 10 years ago), while denigrating in fairly harsh language the current AD and General Manager. He redirects links to his own website, which he has given the same name as our own website, about which we are in the early stages of minor legal action. He posts very nearly actionable comments to theater blogs and on line reviews (the General Manager "will stab her best friend in the back" is one direct quote).

I have always maintained that we should be responding to these statements (we have contacted Wikipedia to mitigate his manipulations there), but the Business Manager and Gen. Mgr dismiss my concerns.

So my question is, in light of the conflagration re Holden over on Meta and elsewhere online, should we leave well enough alone, or should we respond to this guy? (Admins-- I'll post a link to the organization if you think I should, but I'd rather leave it. If anyone wants to see some of the links, MeMail for now and I'll send them).
posted by nax to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The controversy over on MetaTalk

Some readers will have no idea what you're talking about, so it may help to supply a link.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2008

I'm not sure if responding is a good idea. Responding won't erase the negative things he is doing, and will only add fuel to the fire.

I read the Wikipedia article, and although it does focus on the time that the person in question was there it doesn't have anything obviously negative in it, and there is no link on it to the unofficial website you mentioned.

I would say that you should try to avoid starting any kind of flame war, and try to ignore his comments if they are not having a large impact on your customer base.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:34 AM on January 3, 2008

Wikipedia: Resolving Disputes.

His edits, as you report them, are obvious violations of Wikipedia policy. You as a user of Wikipedia have as much right as anyone to revert them and call him out for NPOV violations and post warnings on his user-talk page. The fact that you have your own interest in the matter should not tie your hands completely, it just means you should be very careful.
posted by adamrice at 8:37 AM on January 3, 2008

Good point Brandon. I've gotten so addicted to this, I'm in my own little world here. Here's the whole sad thing: MetaTalk
posted by nax at 8:54 AM on January 3, 2008

That MetaTalk thread is made of wow.

As to the question here, what adamrice said. Use the Wikipedia rules to your advantage and fix the information and POV like anybody else.
posted by rhizome at 9:34 AM on January 3, 2008

If he does this continually, he should and will be banned. Work the dispute resolution system to this end.
posted by beerbajay at 10:11 AM on January 3, 2008

It sounds to me like nax has already taken the appropriate steps with Wikipedia and on the domain issue, and is asking more on general terms - should they respond to other incidents like comments in theatre blogs and on forums serving the community.

I can definitely see why you would think it's an issue. Nobody likes to see that kind of thing, particularly if it's so self serving. And you are right, it could possibly have a negative effect on your theater if it is sustained long enough (look at the positive effect it seemed to have had in the GiveWell case). The question is, is this person's activities really substantially affecting your organization's standing in the community? I think that for a lot of people, snide remarks reflect poorly on the person making them, rather than on the intended target. Maybe talk to some patrons or other people in the community that you know and trust, see if they have even noticed, and what they thought about it. If they have noticed, then you have a much stronger case for action.

In my personal experience, though, it's hard to respond to snide and insidious complaints/statements like the one you referenced without calling attention to them - which in turn makes them much more powerful. Your best bet might be to not respond directly to any such criticism, but rather to make sure that there are many more positive comments about your group and your current AD/GM online - enough to drown out any negatives seeded by this particular person.

Take it as a challenge to get your real life champions/patrons/marketing gurus to help you put a positive spin on your online reputation. It's not a bad idea to make it an ongoing marketing tactic, anyway. (Since I would assume that your target demographic is fairly affluent, and spend substantial time online.)

At the very least, this person's vindictiveness should be grounds for setting aside some staff time on a regular basis to monitor and document what this person is saying about your group/coworkers. Even "nearly actionable" comments, when they occur on a consistent basis over a long period, might offer you some leverage if it ever came down to putting your foot down and making some sort of formal complaint.
posted by gemmy at 10:23 AM on January 3, 2008

I agree with gemmy. When the attacks are coming from an individual outside your organization, sometimes the most dignified thing to be done is to simply refuse to take the time to address them.

My own institution is sometimes slammed in the local paper, and in general, we do not respond. If individuals want to call us about those things to fact-check and verify, they certainly can, and if reporters get involved and ask questions the record can be made clear. But with my organization as with others there seems to be a sense that to react to small attacks outside official channels demeans the institution rather than elevates it.

Documenting the attacks, though, is a good idea. Just keep a clip file. Print the web materials and keep a hard-copy file.
posted by Miko at 1:06 PM on January 3, 2008

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