The problem of acerbic and vociferous haters is not going away anytime soon.

Ugly people voicing vicious personal attacks is obviously nothing new.

It’s been a topic since we first started opening up our platforms of communications on corporate blogs. When we knew open communications was the answer to community markets yet had to address the outliers telling us our products sucked and as did our companies.

A year or so ago running up to the election we all lamented the politicizing of just about everything, most seriously language itself. (See posts The new normal is anything but and Humanizing our networks.)

Today is a different reality and most every brand has embraced that their stance on any one of the vast social challenges is part of who they are. Part and parcel to defining themselves to their markets.

True for Vogue, true for Merck, true for Rupert Murdock.

Even companies who may not put their causes first, need to caucus internally and get clear with the teams their core values and how to deal with the haters.

The most conservative companies are addressing at a board level the communications chains to their employees and customers when execs tweets cross their line of what is acceptable to them.

This is a tough one for a variety of obvious reasons, not least of all how to address this in public.

Common knowledge says that the best way to deal with the haters is to ignore them.

The power of ignoring those with a crazed need not to communicate but to vent bile, is what we do. With some exceptions, we have learned to grit our teeth and allow for this on our blogs and in larger community forums.

We do this out of respect for diversity of opinion and acknowledgement that open communications, no matter how painful at time is how it should be.

This is changing, for me.

Maybe it is the grating intersection of our need to step forward on social issues and what appears to be an increase in the viciousness that spouts from the trolls that stumble around communities, spewing venom and ugliness.

Hijacking our threads, like marauding crowds of zombies who hack with their articulation not with sickles and scythes.

I agree wholeheartedly that living in a world that is only a reflection of ourselves is an echo chamber. I agree as well, that policing differences of opinion out of our line of sight is a sure path to only listening to ourselves. And I certainly agree that diversity is key to both community and creative changes in how we think.


I’ve come to the realization that diversity does not include hate. Diversity does not include supremacists. And communications does not include those whose only intent is to disrupt and attack others personally.

There is a line, sometimes fine, sometimes not, between discussions around civil differences of opinion and a street fight.

And I/we need to decide when to draw the line.

I want to give Disqus some credit here for stepping up and helping communities do this. I say this even after being a strong critic of them in the past for not kicking Breitbart and other hate mongers off their platform.

I am applauding them here for creating two tools that are really helpful.

One is the easy ability to clearly post how your own definitions of what is acceptable behavior on your blogs. Making it front and center is an asset as it is your community and you have the right and the responsibility to make your world as you see fit. I’ve been remiss and am posting mine today.

And the other, is the ability to block users.

To be clear, after a decade of building, writing and participating in blog communities there have been only a few times that I’ve erased comments as inappropriate.  On our own blogs this is easy to do.

But community and our markets now exist cross communities, cross the web. You, your brand and your stances follow you around. And the issue of what to do when not on your own properties is a real one.

For the first time, last week I used the block feature which hangs off of this box on the right side of each comment.



It allows you to report and remove users. They become invisible to you. As if they don’t exist—which in effect they don’t.

I struggled with this at first, running through the litany of whether this is right.

No more.

Life is both a wonder and a challenge. Communities are what makes the world and our businesses turn. And to those whose only intent is to disrupt, so be it.

Need to say having these ugly trolls out of site, is just as it should be, a pleasure and an opening for more productive discussions.

Who really needs this shit?

In real life, we surround ourselves with those we want to, where conversations are useful and challenging. We choose to buy or not from companies as we want to as well.

Now online, to some extent, this is possible as well.

As it should be.


These posts by Fred Wilson and Nick Grossman on adjacent topics with quite different opinions are well worth reading.