In days of yore quests were raised by noble, and often not so noble, knights to find fonts of wisdom, holy grails, eternal youth, the sovereign specific, the philosopher’s stone and such oddities as a potion, philter or talisman of Iron Skin. Most of these items are fairly well known, books have been written, movies made, and endless stories told about all but that last one. Iron skin, now how cool would that be, no weapon could harm you, the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune remain Shakespeare’s problem. But there’s a downside to that, if you can’t be hurt you can’t feel discomfort, but you can’t feel anything else either.

What the…How did that become part of the bargain?

Small print.

Anyway…

You don’t need iron skin to avoid feeling the jabs, and you don’t need asbestos underwear to avoid getting your butt burned. You just need a modicum of an oxymoron called common sense. If common sense was all that common there’s a lot of news stories that would never need to be written, but then where would the fun be in that?

Newsvine is a great big community, it pretends to be small but bear with me on that. There are hundreds of users, and there are people that write and seed from sunrise to sunset and will never bump into each other. Just like high school people tend to congregate into cliques based upon the kind of stories they appreciate. Cliques can be a good thing or a bad thing, its all in how people interact within them, and to those that come in contact with it. To complete the school analogy, have you ever opened up the yearbook and noticed someone’s picture that you have no idea who they are? Same thing.

Example time: You like stories about science so you comment on those and share a lot of cool insights with some really interesting people. That is good. You like science and comment on a science story that touches a political issue and suddenly the shared insights are replaced with commentary about your intelligence and somebody implies you are the reason cousins aren’t allowed to fornicate.

“WTF?!?!??! I’ll show that razzen-blanker!” And then you unload with both barrels, and then you get a broadside in return and the fecal mater impacts the oscillating device and you skulk off bitter, or worse you raise enough hell that the Vine guys have to get involved and then its just silly. Long ago somebody said “laughter is the best form of birth control.” I maintain that’s only half true, laughing and pointing is far more devastating and good for more than shriveling… egos.

Careful, you almost let me digress again.

Think a minute. We shall open to the Book of Newsvine, Code of Honor, item one: Turn not the other check, for it too shall be smited… smitted… smitten…smacked! Instead turn ye to the little ! at the bottom of each comment and drop ye a dime upon them, where they will be dealt with by the staff, in their mercy. /Monty Python

Oh all right, it says: “Above all else, respect others. If you see disrespectful behavior, report it, rather than further inflaming the situation.” So, click the ! at the bottom of the offensive comment and it’ll be flagged, enough people flag it and it gets collapsed and enough comments get collapsed and somebody might find themselves in either the greenhouse or woodshed. If it is really bad the person writing or seeding might just delete that comment in an effort to police their own column and if that doesn’t happen or it doesn’t help the situation contact a Newsvine staff member. They get as busy as anyone else but they’ll do there best for you. Not too long after I got here somebody had posted a rather harsh comment to and about me and one of the Vine staffers, either Tom or Calvin I think had already killed the comment and the person that posted it eventually left.

The next sticky point is Headlines. There are headlines in the Vines that would put the National Enquirer to shame, others are long enough to be considered a chapter in a fairly thick book. Less is more. I’ve seen discussions for an article be half-filled with complaints about and defenses of a headline. Simplicity where possible. If you’re seeding the original headline is likely to be more than adequate, if it’s a headline to your own article look back at all of the bad headlines you can recall, and don’t do whatever irritated you about them.

The next best way to figure out if you’re wandering into a minefield is to look at the tags to an article. If a tag has more than three or at the most four words, beware. I can’t use a real example here, because somebody will try and track it back to who did it and that would be naughty of me, so I’ll make up an example:

unprincipled-partisan-darwinian-rejects

If you see a tag remotely like this then proceed with caution, there are chips on shoulders the size of boulders here and likely somebody waiting to pillory anyone that doesn’t agree with them. Let caution be your watch word. If you came up on a body of water, you wouldn’t jump right in would you? Horror Movie 101 says check out the situation carefully. Is there a shark or gator in the water? Is the serial killer in the woods behind you? Do you hear unexplained ominous music? Is somebody whispering Jay-Jay-Jay-Son-Son-Son… well that’s probably me and that’s a completely different story that I’ve told elsewhere.

Anyway, take a little time and just look at tags people use, you can actually learn a lot by doing it, at least I did, your mileage may vary.

One thing I have noticed with a few newcomers or newbies (some say noobs or n00bz, feel free to make obscene gestures at the monitor if they do) is that they found somebody they agreed with and suddenly they are the doughty Sancho Panza to their Don Quixote and then after a week or two they suddenly realize that this person isn’t jousting at the same windmills that they’d like to see challenged.

By all means, find people from many diverse outlooks to fill your friends lists. Person A has a similar take on recycling as you, but you think they’re nuts about net neutrality. Person B drives you crazy because their chicken recipe has cinnamon, but they have a great view on gardening. Befriend them both, look for common ground when you can, or look at how somebody makes you defend your own principles and beliefs and recognize that they are strengthening your resolve, or maybe they’re giving you a perspective you never considered. If you find somebody that agrees with everything you say, and vice versa, you’re looking into a mirror, not a monitor.

A few people on my friends list have cussed me black, blue and bloody but when it appeared pointless we moved on to other things. It is possible to be in heated battle on one topic and singing koombiyah in perfect harmony on another. I wish I could say I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

If you meet anger with anger you’re doomed to eventually burn out and lose any of the good that a community like Newsvine offers. Don’t be shy about defending your views, but make it your own personal challenge to stay on point and let the jackass in the conversation be somebody else.

A while back I’d made a comment about sit back and take a deep breath, a nudge from someone on my friend list, it was pretty short back then and would start to be a friends list later, but at this point it was pretty much a friend li…HEY! We’ll never get anywhere if you let me continually digress.

So the Deep Breath Principle. You read, you’re boiling and you hammer out a reply, written in blood on asbestos and by thunder you’ll show that misera…. WHOA!!!! Hold up, don’t skin that smoke-wagon! Take a deep breath, sit back, breathe a little more. Can you still feel your pulse hammering in your neck or temple? Then get up and walk around… without clicking the Post Comment button.

After you pace a little, and if you have a dog and it’ll come near you, and if you don’t have a dog I’ll give you a moment to put that furry intruder outside…. Ok, anyway, read it again. Think about what you said. Is it really necessary to call someone a blanken-fricker? Trim it out. Take a few seconds to make sure you aren’t posting something in wrath that you’ll regret later. Post-Posting Regret Syndrome (PPRS) is sort of like realizing in the heat of the moment you forgot the condom, and its too late to do anything about it now, either way it’s the not fun version of getting screwed.

Its not the quest perilous, but it involves a little bobbing, weaving, shucking and jiving. You really don’t need iron skin, because the aforementioned slings and arrows have no more effect than you let them, if you toughen your hide to spare yourself a few thorn sticks what happens when you miss feeling something good? The same with the asbestos, protecting yourself too diligently from feeling burned by scorn will also prevent you from feeling the warmth that so many here have to offer.

© 2007, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.

I was born in the Midwest and grew up in Iowa, Missouri and Texas. I guess you could say I had an eventful childhood, at least it was a helluva lotta fun! I enlisted in the Air Force in 1984 and retired in 2007. I saw a whole bunch of the world and racked up a lot of experiences in the process. Now I'm retired and enjoying life to the fullest!