Friday, April 30, 2010

The Next Web – Timothy Ferriss

First speaker on the last day of The Next Web was Timothy Ferriss, author of the ”4-Hour workweek”.
I don’t know what I was really expecting from a guy who preaches the 4 hour philosophy at a conference for people who probably work more like 80 hours per week. So expectations – luckily – were not that high.
Ferris presentation was a strange and somewhat narcissistic confession on how to deal with “haters” when you have become so incredibly popular that everything you do or say will attract thousands of reactions and comments. Not really relevant to the average person working in the Internet business, but OK – maybe relevant in the cases where your blog, your website or your project attracts a certain amount of interest beyond the ordinary.
Ferriss’ philosophy was basically Stoicism rewritten for the 21st century. Quoting Seneca, Ferriss was saying that you should seek to “avoid excessive responses to things outside of your control”. True indeed! But not something you couldn’t have read in any other run-of-the-mill self-improvement book.
Ferriss went on to talk more specifically about how to respond to comments and discussions on the Internet, and this part was definitely more relevant to the crowd at The Next Web. Ferriss described two options for possible reactions to people who write negatively about you on the Internet:
  1. Starve the post of oxygen. In some cases – especially cases where the content of the post is something you would like to keep unnoticed – you should at any cost avoid to comment back or link to the post. Absolute silence is the preferred strategy because any reaction will just create more content and more links, which will improve the Google ranking of the original post. So if you really don’t want attention to the post – ignore it!
  2. Pour on Gasoline. This strategy is relevant if the original post doesn’t exactly harm you, and you can use the post to get positive attention to your own writing. Pouring on gasoline will inflame the discussion and attract more visitors to the post.
This is definitely relevant advice and good strategies for dealing with public debate on the Internet. The only issue is that Ferriss seems to think of public debate as only extensions of his own personal brand (although he claims that he has no interest in personal branding). It seems like he forgets that debate on the Internet is also the foundation of qualification of knowledge. A free and open discussion will – in most cases – result in more true and more interesting information and knowledge.
Sometimes you should throw Google caution to the wind and throw yourself into discussions with trolls and haters – even if this may damage you personal digital brand. It is simply more fun and more honest to the way that the Internet works – but it definitely will require that you spend more than 4 hours per week…

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