How Do You Blog A Complaint?
One front page story at Philippine Star a few days ago involved four students of the Quezon City Science High School (a government-run science-oriented institution) being suspended due to several blog posts being severely critical of the school’s administration, particularly its principal.
Officials of the Quezon City Science High School (QCSHS) recently suspended four students who allegedly posted a blog that criticized the school’s principal.
The concerned blog … contains articles and photographs against Sadsad’s policies and person as well as the students’ gripes over irregular lunch hours and required subjects, among others.
The personal attacks against Sadsad in the blog even included violent declarations such as “Sadsad must die.”
While much of the students’ blog postings are on locked Multiply accounts–meaning they not for public consumption, but rather accessible to friends only–the Star cited another Multiply account as subject of the controversy.
I’m not taking sides on this issue yet. For all I know, the students’ gripes might be valid. But i usually get taken aback when people overdo it when they air their gripes online–especially if one resorts to personal attacks. This often results in a knee-jerk reaction, which can similarly be personal in nature. As bloggers, are we becoming a community of whiners? And because of this, are other people becoming overly defensive and over-reacting whenever they are attacked online? And why do we resort to ad hominem attacks?
On some forums and sites that I manage, I have experienced being on the receiving end of personally-directed attacks, too. Some are through private emails, some through public comments. Sometimes the argument gets lost in the midst of name-calling, swearing, and typing in all caps (probably the worst of ’em all, eh?).
Then again, there’s a difference between launching an attack on one’s person and the recipient’s taking a valid argument too personally. But whether it’s one thing or the other, the perception of people reading rabidly-written complaint blog posts might not be too good.
Perhaps it’s the impersonal nature of blogs and other online media–not being a face-to-face medium–that emboldens us to write with the impression that we can get away with anything. So it’s still best to watch what we write. Think if what you’re writing would be appropriate if you were to say it to another person’s face. I’ve written a few complaint letters and blog posts in my life, and so far I’ve tried to apply what I learned way back in consumer ed.
First, you introduce or identify yourself. This would help put your complaint in context. You don’t have to explicitly state your real identity, particularly with anonymous blogs, for instance. The important thing is you establish why you are being negatively affected by the product, service, or persons you are griping about. Instead of saying Acme electric shavers suck! you can perhaps say something about your personal experience
Hello folks, I’ve been an avid user of Acme electric shavers for ten years. But when I bought the latest model this weekend, its performance left much to be desired.
This way, folks who read your blog post can identify with you, or at least sympathize. Hey, this guy’s been a loyal customer, so this should put some weight to the argument.
Next, share some specifics about that thing you’re griping about. You can’t just say Acme is a stupid company that sells stupid products. For all you know, you could’ve bought a lemon, and not all their products are bad. So how about this, instead?
The shaver I bought was Acme model XYZ 2000, which was a rechargable, portable model. I bought it at the Acme store at the mall last Saturday evening. It was supposed to be portable and rechargeable, and I have a habit of shaving while driving on the way to work (bad habit, I know). But my shaver’s batteries died out inexplicably even if it had been fully charged the night before. And I had to come to work the right side of my face unshaven, much to my embarrassment.
Next, propose a solution or a compromise. Instead of just shouting out for your money to be returned, or for the people responsible for the product or service to fix things, do propose a constructive solution.
I need a shaver, and my old one gave out after ten years of faithful service. I really like the Acme XYZ 2000’s features, except for the fatal battery flaw. But if Acme can replace my unit with one that can work as promised, I would gladly agree to an exchange. Otherwise, I would rather be refunded the amount I paid. I will most probably switch to another brand, and report the incident to the better business bureau and tell everyone I know about my bad experience.
Get in touch. Most of these complaints would perhaps be best addressed directly to whoever it is you are feeling bad about–whether through email or talking to someone who can help you. I would usually only blog about a bad experience if there were no other recourse, and so I can warn other potential users or customers. But I don’t have an assurance that the company or service I’m complaining about would even read, let alone respond to my blog post. So it’s still good to directly get in touch with someone who is in a position to do something about your issue.
I guess my examples mostly referred to a bad product or service. But of course, this can also apply to just about anything else. If you’re complaining about your school principal’s (or government’s) policies, then perhaps you can raise your argument in this way. I’m for constructive criticism and helping each other out!
J. Angelo Racoma is a technology journalist for CMSWire and TFTS. A former editor at Splashpress Media, The Blog Herald and Performancing, he now does consultancy work through WorkSmartr.com. Follow him at racoma.net and on Twitter.
They’ve been taken off suspension a few days ago. But I’m pretty sure it took an uproar in the Philippine blogosphere for that to happen.
And I’m also quite sure that the lack of a dialogue between the school administration and the students led them to protesting online in the first place. Suspension for blogging? Come on.
Granted, ad hominem is taking things too far, but you can just glean from their negativity how demoralized and dissatisfied they are about what their principal, Dr. Zenaida Sadsad, has done to their school. Who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow once you learn she took away their school paper(s), choir, varsity, and participation in interschool competitions?
Anyway, what’s really sad, again, is that it had to take a suspension of the students for it to reach the media. They’ve been in misery for so long now.
Finally, this is just one of several examples as of late that show how little many people understand the internet.
I’m sure it was the death threat that the school took very seriously. With all the school shootings these days that is something officials do not take lightly.
In so many cases, attempts at discussion are quickly derailed by people who only know one tactic…the ad hominim attack. It seems that a large majority of the population are convinced that their viewpoint is the only right viewpoint and the ideas of others are not worth consideration. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons that it’s so hard for the politicians in Washington to make any progress on anything.
We, as a society, seem to have lost the ability to engage in civilized discussion. We are turning into a close-minded, opinionated, selfish population with no capacity to learn from the experience or reflections of people with an opposing or alternate point-of-view.
In my opinion, the student’s didn’t deserve to be suspended. But the students could have been more creative than to post that their principal “must die…”
I think that the principal should have herself a blog c”,
Oh my, what a little blog could do…
Kids do not understand how powerful the Internet is.
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