Why “Cross Referencing” Helps in Forum Discussions

Background

ChainLink Logo

There are lots of features I like about WordPress. Among my favorites is the Related Posts function. The reason this works is because whether it is Blog Entries or Comments in a forum there are often patterns that emerge which if the software is sophisticated enough can be demonstrated.

Forums are often a bit like that old game of “Telephone” you played where a sentence was given to the first person who was to attempt to repeat it verbatim to the next and so on until all of the players had heard the message and the last person in the line was then to repeat it, verbatim. And of course it usually ended up being a bit jumbled (at best) and in the worst cases it was hammered beyond recognition.

Forums like the ChainLink have an ethos that is often present and recognizable if the members are paying any attention. It can be identified by watching the kinds of replies to salient topics that appear and more importantly to the responders themselves. There are the ones who always come up with a clumsy attempt a humor to try and either defuse a heated argument or to belittle the intentions of the original poster (OP).

But there are people who in one thread are the attackers of those who disagree with the OP and in a similar thread become the defenders of the OP although the messages being discussed are essentially the same. Here is the response left by notoriousDUG regarding a pushback comment I left when I complained that he/she had failed to remain consistent on the topic of airing incident reports.

In one thread titled “Reckless Driver on Milwaukee near California” he like most of the respondents felt free in essentially casting an observation of a confrontation between a motorist and a cyclist as evidence that the motorist was the party at fault. Supposedly the motorist was an off duty policeman and that sort of scenario can bring outrage from the ChainLink membership. In fact on the sister thread the original poster owns one respondent simply responded “I hate cops. I just do.”

That sort of response was more or less the tone of the ChainLink version on this topic. It underscores the fact that if you have trouble with Authority Figures you are likely to come away always believing their participation in a not so delicate officer-citizen situation is because the cops are the “bad guys”. It has led to problems when the citizenry decide to film or video tape confrontations between officers and citizens who feel emboldened by the presence of video cameras or smartphone. Enough so that the Illinois legislature has gotten pushback as described in the following article “ACLU Declares Victory In Police Recording Case: A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois’ eavesdropping statute does not apply to police performing their duties in public“.

The essential problem with the groups response was that it might (if the issue was brought before a review board). The OP stated “I plan to call their Internal Affairs office.” Now it should be said that citizens always have the right to call into question the behavior of the folks entrusted with public safety and protection. No argument there. But the manner in which this takes place is the issue. If ChainLink members begin to “pile on” the situation gets ugly.

“I don’t think it matters in the other thread and it is not my job to stop people from talking about what they want to talk about. Personally I think what was said in that thread will have zero effect on any disciplinary action against the officer in question; in fact I doubt there will even be an investigation. Secondly it was not my story or my thread to complain about that in.

I think the two situations are different and you are tying to compare apples to oranges. That was a call out to find witnesses and information on an incident involving a officer of the law in order to better round out a complaint. This is a thread with a person giving a detailed account of an accident that may, or may not, end up in court or arbitration where any differing accounts by the participants in the accident or their representatives can cause damage.
People jumped on the details in this thread because it is something preached by every attorney out there when it comes to getting in a accident. It is sound advice and I stand by it and question the competence of any person claiming to be an attorney who does not agree with it.

Either way, no matter how you see the issue the fact of the matter is this: THE APPROPRIATE THREAD TO DISCUSS THIS IN WOULD BE THE ONE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH!

I don’t assume people who disagree with me or ‘push back’ are idiots; I assume people who disagree and push back about an issue in a unrelated thread or inappropriate venue to be an idiot.” — notoriousDUG

So what happens if notoriousDUG is on the side that is getting “piled upon”? It is important and is the reason you need to look back at previous threads to contrast his/her behavior in the discussion with that of the current one. Let’s take a look.

Fortunately a thread titled: “A Quick Warning: The Bike Shop in Glen Ellyn“. The essence of the OP is that a bike shop in Glen Ellyn is stashing bikes behind their premises in what he feels is an unsafe manner. The contention his is making is that theft is possible and that alone should be enough to get the shop to change its protocol.

His initial message is as follows:

“Went there with a friend today who got a flat and didn’t have a tube. We went around back cause he was going to just have them swap it. They wanted $10 to put in a tube so we just bought it our selves and installed it. While we were back there we noted two bike racks. They appear to be customers bikes waiting to be worked on.

There were two REALLY nice bikes there, easily $1000+. Sitting in the rack on the back, no cameras, no locks, nothing. Just sitting out there. The area isn’t even viewable from the area, I know Glen Ellyn is different than Chicago and it’s probably fine. But, if it was MY bike and I knew they were storing them out back with no locks or supervision, I wouldn’t be happy. At all

To be fair, these could have been the shops bikes. However, judging by the fact that they told my friend to put his bike there when they thought they’d be working on it, i was rather certain they are customer bikes.

*UPDATED* Molly, a mechanic from The Bike Shop has informed us that they are now locking the bikes in the back! Great to see a bike shop take a bit of criticism and resolve the complaint! Two thumbs way up!” — TehDoak

The ChainLink response is varied to some degree. Among the first respondents is notoriousDUG. And I would assume that as a bike shop employee he has a bit of a bur under his saddle when anyone tries to nitpick other bike shops. Listen to the tone of his response:

“Oh dear, they were going to charge you for working on your bike; what jerks!

I am reasonably sure that those bikes were more secure than you think they were. No bike shop is going to leave customer bikes where they can be easily stolen.

This entire post stinks of sour grapes and I am betting that there is more to this story than we are hearing here.” — notoriousDUG

This is vintage ChainLink are whenever the inner circle of denizens finds a topic they really can’t abide. He/she goes on later to say:

“If you have no issue with the cost of the flat fix why even mention it?

Do you really think that a bike shop would leave customer bikes were they could easily be stolen?

These were inside the store; not outside somewhere, right?

Are you aware that most bike shops have customers bikes stored in the back somewhere with no lock on them?

I’m confused as to why you feel this is such a big risk; wouldn’t a potential thief had to go past an employee to get the bikes out of the store? Or at least past an employee to get tot he bikes to take them out the back door?” — notoriousDUG

And of course one of those folks who wants to prop up their inner circle buddies comes over the top with the equivalent of the “+1” response favored by forum goers:

“i agree with dug this thread is a waste of bandwidth.

BTW – the reason they chargef $10 to replace a tube : there is a thing called economics and supply and demand set prices (tounge planted firmly in cheek). people in GE have money and pay for things they would rather not do (and many casual riders have no idea how to do it anyway).

ALSO – the mechanic that changes the flat is very skilled and trained and can probably overhaul a bike and fix most anything; so in other words; he (or she) is valuable to the shop. Would you ask a porsche trained mechanic to add windshield washer fluid to your car ?? hell no. only a total moron would do that.

just my $.0200003 (adjusted for inflation)” — Dan Brown

The idea behind this response is no doubt to belittle the person making the original statement enough that they will cease and desist with their arguments. But thankfully some pushback arrives in the form of the next message:

“I think the OP was more than clear that he started this thread to let others know about the lack of stewardship for customers’ bikes at this shop, not to complain about the cost of gettiing a tube replaced.
Re-read?” — h’

Now what happens next is truly worthwhile to witness. Someone contacts the bicycle shop and their representative comes onboard to wage battle with their critics:

“Hello All, Thank you for your comments.

I’m one of the mechanics at The Bike Shop Glen Ellyn. I’ve worked in the industry for some time, including working at shops in the city, and can tell everyone that theft is pretty much non existent in the ‘burbs.

I’d still like to address the legitimate concerns of the original poster, as he is incorrect in a few details concerning our “bikes in back” policy. Yes, we do have bike racks in back of the shop which we use as a work queue for the day, however they are not out of sight. The back door is open 99% of the time so we have constant view of customer and employee bikes.

The bike fit studio is located directly next to the windows showing full view of the rear bike racks as well. We can also see everybody approaching the rear racks through the windows from the front register.

The back is not some hidden away, dark, or dank alley. We share the back space with a restaurant, plumbing company, and three apartment dwellers we know well. In the ten years we’ve had this set up, we’ve had (1) bike stolen and the customer got a free upgrade for the inconvenience.

On behalf of the shop we’d like to thank the poster for bringing attention to what has worked well for so many years as a flawed system or an easy target for thieves coming from the city. For everybody’s peace of mind we’ll now be cable locking our bikes still in full view, installing a hidden camera and instructing everyone who comes into the shop who leave their bikes in the back to remain vigilant as there is now an online thread letting everyone know what shop is supposedly easy to steal from.

Thanks for reading,” — Molly Shough

Just think how much better the “bad cop” thread mentioned above might have been had anybody bothered to contact the officer in question and allow him to respond in the same manner as did Molly. I for one would have enjoyed hearing what he had to say. But when you demonize the folks who are either in Authority or with whom you disagree there is precious little chance that you might want them to appear on a thread to offer an explanation or a defense of their actions.

But there are still some folks who are courageous enough to “stand their ground” and pushback by asking the hard questions:

“I understand getting upset over a critical comment about the shop, but this sounds like a valid concern. I know I would be reluctant to leave a bike in that situation. Even with things visible in the window it only takes a few seconds for someone to silently ride off on an unlocked bike. Growing up in the suburbs, there is less theft than the city, but it still happens. ” — Liz

Now the next respondent is a suburbanite like myself. Much of the problem with the entire thread is that there is a definite difference in expectations between those who live in the city limits of Chicago and those residing outside it:

“So this will be implemented at the owner’s expense to remedy a risk that has manifested itself only once in ten years because a bunch of people in Chicago are so outraged that such a condition could exist in a town they couldn’t find on a friggin map.” — Chris C

The shop owner’s representative is gracious in her response to Liz:

“Thanks Liz,

I get it, I really do.. It took me a couple times of “are you sure it’s okay to leave my bike unlocked?” to feel comfortable with it. I guess I forgot about that as it was so long ago 🙂

I leave my bike out behind the shop all day long, which is a lot longer than the other bikes of course.. Coming from the city I wouldn’t leave my bike unlocked or (free locked for that matter!) anywhere if I felt it would get nabbed.

I understand that crime and bike theft can happen anywhere but it tends to be more common in denser more populated areas where someone can see thousands of people daily without talking or knowing any of them which is hardly what I’ve experienced in G.E.

Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to try and clear the air.

Hopefully there’s no lingering hard feelings for my knee jerk reaction response concerning these legit concerns of bike storage safety. — Molly Shough

A bit more of the flavor of the disconnect between those who are inner circle members and those who are less so:

“Have you read this thread through? There was no serious intent expressed to lock the bikes or install cameras. Describing the concern expressed here as “outrage” is just shitty.

If you’re going to be superior it helps to be right, too.” — h’ (reply to Chris C)

You can always tell when a true ChainLink denizen has been hurt because they lapse into an alliteration of four letter words. It seems that the social mores of this group are not unlike those of high school aged internet bullies who love to “pile on” whenever they are smelling out their prey. It could be the fat kid or the LGBT kid who has come out and are threatened by that act.

The original poster withstands the criticisms and applauds the change in protocol:

“Molly,

As the starter of this thread, I’m very glad to hear that the bike shop will now be locking bikes back there. I’ll update the first post (if i can, if not maybe the mods can update it) that the shop heard my concerns, listened, and has taken action to correct it. I know I’m just a city guy who will probably never visit your shop again, however, the fact that you guys are able to take a little criticism and be proactive in protecting your customers bikes speaks volumes of the quality of your shop.

Thanks for listening!” — TehDoak

Now all of these respondents had valid issues and viewpoints. But some of them resorted to ridicule and belittling techniques when experiencing pushback. Sometimes the folks pushing back want to call you an “idiot“. Sometimes they write me nasty emails using the word “Nigger“. But I understand this mentality having taught Junior High School for a decade. I have seen most of what small minds have to offer and will deal with it.

Conclusion

Whether notoriousDUG wants to admit to it or not he/she does provide pushback when it is in his/her self-interest. And that is what is important to note. Being consistent in your views is difficult when it affects your self-image. But looking at more than one thread is the only way to see that subtle change in viewpoint and to understand that all the bluster is just that, bluster.

If you find a cop who you think is behaving badly then follow through on your threat to take it to the Internal Affairs board. What is not fair however is simply ranting and raving about a cop who is not present to defend himself and then deciding after all the heat has passed out of the conversation to “let it all drop”. If you are outraged enough to bring the actions to light on the ChainLink then please have the decency to either follow through on your threats or better yet ferret out the truth and enlighten everyone.

I think a golden opportunity was missed by not having this officer be part of the conversation.