Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,


K, an old friend, got back in touch after a few years yesterday, and while composing my reply to him I googled him and his wife, E, to see what they have been up to recently.

I discovered that they had had a bizarre and unpleasant experience a couple of years ago at the hands of a blogging advice columnist. It seems that E was on the phone to her optician in New York while sitting in a cafe in California, and talking too loudly for her neighbour's taste. The blogging advice columnist, rather than saying this directly to E, wrote up the incident in a blog entry including E's full name and phone number, suggesting that readers might like to call her and ask how the new glasses are going. The blog entry, published on a slow news day, got picked up by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

This is Not Cool. E made an unconscious mistake, quite possibly with mitigating circumstances of which the advice blogger is unaware (and indeed with one mitigating circumstance - not wanting to leave a small child on her own - which is obvious even from the advice blogger's account). But the lesson the advice blogger gives us is not "don't talk loudly on your mobile phone in cafes" but "it's cool to publish the names and phone numbers of total strangers and urge others to mock them".

You might have thought that rule #1 for any advice columnist would be that two wrongs don't make a right. Obviously not.

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