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From The Mail Bag

(October 11, 2005) Thought you'd enjoy this exchange.

-----Original Message-----
From: Debbie McGrath
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2005 6:51 AM
To: johnsumser@interbiznet.com
Cc: lou@adlerconcepts.com; david@erexchange.com
Subject: Yesterdays article - re Lou Adler

Hey John
What happened to your new resolution on trying to be nice to everyone?
Yesterdays article was a bit harsh for both Lou and for David. Unlike your publication,  David is actually a consolidator of content. He does not own any of the content himself, he lets other people use his platform and audience to publish content. To say he agrees with everything on his web site would be a real bad assumption.
Lou, although you may not agree with everything he writes this is his opinion and every one has a right to an opinion.
Now that being said I think we all should look at doing what is right to
1)       Help educate the industry
2)       Help grow the industry
3)       Help increase awareness to the industry
4)       Some stories do not need to be told… if they do not do 1-3..
On a side note the controversial articles  are much more interesting to read and would be a great place to have a blog around it where people can publish their opinions.  
Debbie McGrath

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for your very thoughtful note. I think it deserves a thorough response. As you know, I am a terrible correspondent, I hope this makes up, in some small way for the notes I've ignored.

You may be interested to know that I received 46 pieces of mail on this subject. All but three were positive in nature. A common response was "it's nice to hear a voice of reason".

The three negative pieces came from you, David Manaster and Hank Stringer. I'm afraid that I ignored David's response. He really got into name calling and lost me. Hank's criticism had to do with the idea that lying might be understood as a part of a developmental process. We agreed to disagree.

Your note raises a number of interesting issues.

Let me start off by restating the case I made in my article:

Advocating lying as a technique is unacceptable and damaging to our industry. Mr. Adler condoned lying in his article because he made a mistake in his logic. The terms "stealing" and "poaching" are used figuratively in our business. Since people can not be owned, it is impossible to "steal" them. Mr. Adler, however, said that it is hypocritical to avoid lying if you are already stealing. This is a bad judgment based on a fundamental error in logic. The error is a common one that stems from our culture's racist history. It used to be illegal to "steal" people because, back then, they could be owned.

HR professionals should be extremely sensitive to that dynamic.

By offering five specific techniques for lying in the process of doing business, Adler not only had an opinion but facilitated the bad behavior.

While I am all for free speech, I would find it equally inappropriate to publish the details of hacking an Oracle/Peoplesoft installation in order to acquire payroll and salary information.

Simply, Adler was dead wrong and publishing his material was an act that was far outside the demonstrated boundaries of discourse. I can think of a host of other inappropriate conversations that would deserve as intense a response. For instance a discussion of the use of sexual harassment as a way of producing productivity might be an interesting opinion in the theoretical. It has no place in our discussions online.

We represent our industry and have a responsibility to ensure that it stands for something. I will react very strongly to any suggestion that lying, discrimination, sexual harassment, ageism, stealing, treating people like objects or intimations of slavery are somehow appropriate in our business. There are, as you note, lines that should not be crossed. When there's an infraction, it is our shared obligation to act swiftly and decisively. This is the arena in which intolerance is appropriate.

The second issue involves business models and responsibility.

Let me start by saying that I would love to use a blog to publish. My problem is twofold. First of all, we are advertising supported. There is currently no method for ensuring ad revenue in a blog publishing environment. As you know, interbiznet is quite small and modest variations in cash flow are riskier for us than larger operations.

We are extremely productive, reviewing over 500 articles a day to publish the Bugler and concentrating fully on a relevant issue of the day for the ERN. The additional overhead of embedding a community in the work, though extremely desirable, is unaffordable at the moment. Again, we're small but have huge output. Someday, we may get there.

For David's part, I won't give him the same "pass" that you are willing to on this issue. Just as surely as he would certainly censor racism, overt ageism or online sexual harassment, he'd better have a position on whether or not he'll publish "just anything". Adler's article advocating lying as a tactic and prescribing five methods of deception was well over the top. Manaster did not perform the slightest bit of due diligence on the article before publishing it. He should have caught it.

Now, there's one other nagging issue. Somehow, you (and David), have the perception that my article was personal in nature. We scrubbed the article for anything that we considered personal. Several times. While it was certainly strong, we made no characterization that could not be supported by the written material. We underlined fallacies in logic and their consequences. We used the visible written record as the basis of any criticism. We demanded accountability for a major error in judgment. None of that was personal.  My definition of making it personal is "impugning motive". Observable writing and behavior are fair game.

Sometimes you can not be nice. That doesn't mean it's personal. This situation demanded a loud a clear opposition. I offered that.

I really appreciate the time you took to write and the time you took to read this.

I may publish you letter and this response if that's okay with you.

John Sumser

Don't forget to check out the blogs on bert.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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