Many “BlackBerry-centric” web sites exist on the Internet. These aren’t sites owned by Research in Motion (RIM – makers of BlackBerry), but rather third parties who run Forums which double as “news” sites. There is a lot of competition among these sites and when one of them get’s a scoop, the others immediately jump into action, trying NOT to be the very last site to post the scoop. The goal of these sites is to make money, obviously. The income can be generated from advertising dollars if they get enough traffic or, if they are lucky, from an online store where they might sell BlackBerry Applications, BlackBerry Accessories, etc.
The list of these sites goes on and on: They include, but are not limited to, BlackberryForums.com, Driphter.com, BlackberryOS.com, EverythingBerry.com, PinStack.com, Berryreview.com, BBGeeks.com, and the grand daddy of them all – Crackberry.com. And trust me, this is a short list.
BlackBerryandBeyond.com is a new web site created recently and owned by Tom Evans, John Hodges, a guy named “Jeff” who goes by the call sign “Shimmyshine”, and one other individual who goes by the name “wraithwatcher”. To demonstrate how these sites rise up, seemingly overnight – the “owners” of BlackberryandBeyond.com used to be contributors to BlackberryOS.com. There were personality clashes and accusations of poor management, so the 4 horsemen decided to go off on their own. The site’s official opening isn’t until late February/early March, but they are well under way now.
A few months back, BlackberryOS.com was looking for contributors. I showed interest in writing for a Blackberry web site because I had spent so much time on My.BlackBerry.Com (a user forum site run by RIM), and had worked with users to solve technical problems as a fellow BlackBerry user. My experience comes from running a BlackBerry Enterprise as part of my job. I noticed that many visitors who submitted questions to My.BlackBerry.Com were asking the same questions over and over and over again. So I wanted a change of pace. I’m a decent writer had developed some standard wording in plain language to answer common BlackBerry questions. When I approached Tom Evans, he was familiar with my work at My.BlackBerry.Com. In two months I posted almost two thousand responses to forum visitors who requested help with a Blackberry Issue or Problem. Mr. Evans told me he knew of my work and wanted me to write for BlackberryOS.com. The problem at the time was that they wanted me to commit to posting one article every day on their site. I did not feel I could meet their expectations and did not want to promise something I could not live up to. So in the end, I did not take the “position”.
I use the term “position” loosely. These sites don’t actually pay people like me to write. You have to be an owner, and insider, or work you way up. I wasn’t getting paid to write, although I would have been called a “staff” writer of some sort.
I heard through the grapevine that several people from BlackberryOS.com had left to start their own site – BlackberryandBeyond.com. I approached Mr. Evans again and asked if there was a place for me in his organization either in Moderating or Writing. I actually wanted to do both. I like working with the end-users, but also enjoyed writing; focusing on “How-To” type articles. Mr. Evans and I had one discussion about where I might fit in. I was clear that I wanted to play both roles; a moderator and a writer. Mr. Evans was eager to get me on board. I had the chops, and the talent, and he knew I would be a good “get”. He suggested I start as a writer. I thought that was acceptable. I had no experience or knowledge in contributing to a web site before. I immediately began contributing articles to BlackBerryandBeyond.com. I didn’t sign anything or agree to anything specific number of articles – I just wrote when I could.
When I became a “member” of the group, I was added to their BlackBerry Messenger group. For those that don’t use BBM or the group function, it’s like Instant Messaging but in group format. There were about 12 individuals in the B and B group. Anyone who posted a message into the BBM group had it read by all other members of the group. It’s an effective way to communicate with everyone at once, especially when big news is breaking, like a new Operating System release, or our web site is down – stuff like that. Again, the primary players of BlackberryandBeyond.com spend a great deal of time monitoring all of the other BlackBerry forum sites to see what they are posting, so they also spend time trying to get the “staff” to write similar articles so we don’t look like we’re not on top of things. To me, it’s a strange way to run a “business” – no direct news sources of your own – always playing catch up with what others are posting.
On Friday, February 4, 2011, RIM announced a new BlackBerry trade-up program. It was announced by RIM and every single BlackBerry Forum site wrote the same basic article. I was asked to get something up a quickly as possible. We didn’t want to be the last ones with the same news as everybody else. God forbid.
On Sunday morning, February 6, 2011, I was at home. I could hear my BlackBerry “pinging” away. I have a tone set to make a sound when people are posting to the BlackBerry Messenger Group for BlackBerry and Beyond. What I saw was a bit disturbing to me. I had become accustomed to this group of “guys” making crude sexual comments and grammar school “jokes” about sex, and women. It was so unprofessional to me, but I tried to let it just roll of my back. But on the Sunday morning in question I had enough when I saw them making “gay” jokes. I didn’t want to be “that guy” who causes problem when they don’t exist. But I couldn’t stand by any longer and keep my mouth shut. Here is the conversation I watched go by. The initials indicate the person “speaking”:
FM – “Steelers. +1”
R – “Packers here….by 14”
JSS – “I can’t vote for gaybay. Lol”
R – Lmao
FM – Steelers. 24-21 I think. I can’t root for the packers. Ever. I’m a bears fan. Hey shimmy, you a lions fan by any chance?
JSS – Nah, I’m a tampa bay shittyeers fan..
JSS – They both suck sadly.
FM – Lol. Bucs had a chance this year…
FM – Hodges is probably still sleeping. But since he is gay he’ll probably root for the packers
I saw where this was going, or had already gone. After watching them talk about wives and girlfriends and “cialis” earlier, I was not about to let this conversation go where it could easily go. In 2011, the “innocent” gay slur or misogynistic comment just isn’t cool, it isn’t acceptable, and it isn’t appropriate for a “business” conversation. After all, BlackberryandBeyond.com is a business. They may act like it’s a junior high locker room, but it’s a business.
So I spoke up – and this is what I said:
“I really didn’t think I would have to say this in 2011, but I don’t appreciate the gay slurs. If you want to act like 12-year-olds in private messages, that your prerogative.. But in a group chat? You should be ashamed of yourselves. I am gay. If that’s a problem for anyone, then you let me know right now, and we’ll take it from there. This is not an LOL or LMAO or any of the other terms this group overuses. This is for real.”
The reason I said the part about LOL and LMAO is because in the 14 days or so that I was a member of this group, I watched as comment after comment after comment is posted the BBM group about all kinds of things, and everyone ends or begins their comment with LOL, ROFL, LMAO, as if EVERYTHING is so damned funny that their all rolling on the floor in stitches. It’s childish and nothing more than verbal filler because these people have nothing important to say to each other. I should have seen the writing on the wall then.
After my comment I got a few responses. The first was this:
R – ….no one meant any offense at all. Everyone in this group except a few, yourself included, have been friends for quite some time. As such we tend to lose sight to the new people in the group. I’m sure it won’t happen again.
That was the right answer. Just acknowledge that things got out of hand, that no offense were meant, and let’s move on. I had absolutely no problem with that at all.
But then, THIS, from one of the “owners” – verbatim:
H – I was driving when this msg came in (name redacted) I’m glad u commented to play off what you said. Yes (name redacted) you are correct this is 2011 and as fucked up as the world is its unfortunate that there are still people in this world that feed of society.. However on the other side of the coin I myself am not a homosexual but I am half black half puertorican and I have been called every racial name under the sun.. At times it was meant towards me and at times it was in a joking manner.. You have to know when to be able to decipher the two.. Its obvious these guys weren’t talking negativatly towards you or anyone in the gay community.. As rick said we are all friends my friends call me a nigger all the time but its funny and in a joking manner just sayin”
This above is a comment from John Hodges – Owner of BlackberryandBeyond.com. Instead of acting like an “owner” and responding with “hey no offense – and guys, he’s got a point, let’s keep our conversations a bit more elevated”, John Hodges basically said – “I’m called a nigger and it doesn’t bother me – so don’t be so sensitive”.
Is that any way for the Owner of a company to respond?? Not to mention that Tom Evans, another Owners, who is NEVER not listening to what’s going on in the group conversation, was in complete radio silence. Nor did any of the other “Owners” weigh in on the subject.
We had one female member of our group when I joined. She resigned unexpectedly and nobody would tell me why except that it was personal. I can only glean that if she reacted to the misogynistic “talk” the way I reacted to the gay slurs, she had way more reason to be pissed off than I had. What they said about gays, in comparison to what they’ve said about women, is tame. And I admit, I don’t think anyone was intentionally trying to gay bash, I just decided to speak up before anyone took it any further.
For the Owner of an organization to defend the actions of the group by saying he’s OK with being called a “nigger” once in a while, is repulsive. And for the other owners to not say a word about what happened is indefensible.
I deleted all of the articles I wrote for BlackberryandBeyond.com. They are my intellectual property and I didn’t sign any agreement with them.
I am now looking for somewhere else where I can write – with and for adults.