Losing Your Way Inside A Maze of Arrogance And Disdain

Background Reading

Summary

Sometimes you doubt that your slant on things is realistic. But every now and then you get confirmation that the messages you are discerning, as you read between the lines, are not ones you alone can see. Todd Leopold has written an interesting piece that helps explain some of the apparent madness that has gripped the internet social scene on a nearly universal basis. In a recent CNN article he writes:

Much of our unruly, name-calling digital culture means never having to leave junior high school behind.

Much of our unruly, name-calling digital culture means never having to leave junior high school behind.

Remember when you were 12 years old and you’d pass notes in class, making snide remarks about members of the opposite sex?

Remember the electricity that shot through school when word went around that there was going to be a schoolyard rumble?

Remember the rollercoasters of emotions, the whispers of gossip, the crying because your best friend betrayed you, the molehills made into mountains?

If life is just like high school, then the Internet might be an age group lower. Much of our digital world means never having to leave junior high school behind.

Sure, the Web has plenty of mature, resourceful people who create clever online projects or crowdsource solutions to global problems. But some experts also believe it perpetuates childhood.

Now this might sound a bit “over-the-top” but it is frankly not to far from the truth. But my personal experience tells me that it is quite relevant and may not indeed be a harsh enough critique of the internet.

What Exactly Are We Critiquing?

Almost 30 years ago I ran something called Beezodog’s Place BBS. BBS (Bulletin Board System) was a precursor to what we now think of as Forums. The ChainLink Forum is one dedicated to the service of the Chicago Online Bicycling Community. It uses a software engine known as NING. NING is a bit different from most forum software in that it is designed to be hosted on specific servers. So in essence you are running what is essentially a service which can be customized to your purposes but its speed and feature set are essentially governed by the hosting service. It is expensive in that you are really paying for the service and not simply getting a copy of the software which you can then install anywhere you might like. This is essentially a “captive audience” environment. Should you ever decide to use something other than NING you have to start from scratch to rebuild your archives.

Products like WordPress are quite different. It can indeed serve as a forum but frankly is more of an online weblog (or ‘blog) that provides for feedback through a comments section. Technically it is exactly like the Forum but in practice it is a bit less efficient in terms of its use. Forums are optimized for textual interchanges, weblogs are designed to handle both. But most importantly the “typesetting” quality of a weblog is richer than that of a Forum.

It should be pointed out that software like Facebook fills a niche market somewhere between these two. In exchange for a far more limited feature set than NING you get instant access to a worldwide community of users and it is all FREE. Facebook is the wave of the future. Weblogs will continue so long as people need to present only documents that are visually pristine and can be carefully typeset. Each environment has its strengths and weaknesses.

But aside from the technical stuff there are the interactions between individuals that are the essence of all three of these types of software communities. Here in the 21st Century we have become more interconnected than ever, not less. Back in the day there were areas of the country where people shared a single phone line and when a call came it rang on every phone on that line. Anyone picking up heard the operator ask if so-and-so was available. Polite folks hung up if the call was not for them. The more nosy types stayed on the line and listened. These were the first lurkers. And yes these were known as party lines.

Facebook is now the party line of the world. You can get to listen it on the conversations of just about anybody. Of course to offer a modicum of privacy you can as a member of Facebook limit the conversations to just your friends and family. But something like the ChainLink is really unable to adopt this approach very effectively because its lifeblood is drawn from lurkers. Lurkers are if you will potential customers. And if you want to replenish your user base you need to allow people to silently listen to conversations until they feel like joining.

When a lurker joins then they get the ability to interact with others who are responding to the various threads that appear on ChainLink. Each member can limit the access to their private account areas (in much the same way as you can on Facebook) but the forum area itself is pretty much a wide-openfree-for-all” and therein lies the problem.

Like Democracy a Forum relies on the politeness of its members to “succeed“. In a Democracy you debate issues and you vote. The side that wins the vote gets to elect officials who enact legislation to the liking of their constituents. That includes not just the legislative branch of government but also the executive and judicial. How many folks you can get placed into these various arms of the government will determine its future direction.

But if any one faction decides to take up arms because it did not like a law or a ruling or an executive order then chaos would result. There would be civil strife (remember the Civil War) and eventually the government would have to be constituted (if the ruling group lost). We see how little gets done around the world when there is either a absence of Democracy or its failure.

When A Movement Goes “Wonky”

Movements are social constructs which are generally organized around a central aim. For instance the Civil Rights Movement was essentially about the right of a person living in a Democracy to have equal access to every aspect of the social life of the country we know as the United States of America. The heirs of the folks who kept the Jim Crow policies (essentially racial segregation and/or discrimination) “alive and well” are those we know today as the Tea Party.

Blacks in the era of Jim Crow could not vote. They were denied that vital element of participation by all manner of ruses. There were supposed tests and taxes and other strategies used to simply deny the voice of a people who share one common characteristic, their ancestral lines contained at least one African Slave. By denying them the right to equal access to education and housing they were kept in subjugation to a ruling class whose only qualification was that none of their ancestral lines contain anyone who was an African Slave. It was that simple.

The Cycling Community like the Gay Community is struggling to be included in the social fabric of this nation. Cyclists unlike gays do not have to hide their membership in their community in order to be accepted. What distinguishes cyclists is that their choice of transportation is considered more of a pastime than a serious mode of transportation. And for that reason municipal codes did not provide protections for users of bicycles when injured during rides on their roads. The Boub Case was a pivotal one in that it established that:

The cyclists were ruled permitted but not intended users of the roads in the state of Illinois.

A black person would have easily understood this approach. It was the basis for every Jim Crow act in the South. Yes we were “freed slaves” and could live in houses, own property and be educated. But the tax dollars we paid into the system were not used to provide “equal” accommodations. They were indeed separate but “not equal” and there was no intention of ever providing equality. Many blacks were able to climb the ladder of economic success having earned degrees at prestigious universities and created viable business. But they could not join country clubs, buy homes in exclusive communities or marry who they loved because of the Jim Crow laws in this country. They were in essence “second class citizens“.

Cyclists who were not children were tax payers just like everyone else. The fact that their mode of transportation excluded them from recovering damages when traveling on the very streets they had helped pay for was as obvious a bit of discrimination as helping to pay taxes as a black person in a community for a public water park but then being denied the opportunity to use that same park.

But there is a sequel to this story. Cycling is currently on target to receive “intended user” status is virtually every community in the country. But old resentments have surfaced that are not unlike those between whites and blacks in the Jim Crow era. Only this time the resentments are between cyclists and motorist and cyclists and pedestrians and cyclists and cops and cyclists and Segway users and cyclists and rollerbladers and cyclists and cyclists. And the ChainLink Forum is simply of evidence of this resentment on just about every thread where someone wants to air their complaints about treatment or abuse of their rights or the violation of their lane space.

It is an awkward time for just about everyone. And as with Race in America the conversation is less of a true conversation than it is a shouting match. And frankly shouting matches would be preferable to what really goes on which is a concerted effort on the part of both parties to simply ignore one another. It took the election of a Black President to force the conversation out into the open. After all if you simply refuse to refer to the POTUS as Mr. President then we are at a road block that will have to be dealt with at some time and certainly some level.

The ChainLink Is Our Cycling “Chat Room”

As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

Benjamin Franklin

Now the term “chat room” sounds rather innocuous. One gets the idea that tea and crumpets are being served and polite conversation occurs where voices are never raised and everyone presumably leaves with their dignity in tact. But this Chat Room that we call the ChainLink is sometimes anything but. It is more aptly pictured as a “Bathroom Wall” at its worst. And the one universal behavior that characterizes it at its worst is what I term the “Lord of the Flies Treatment” for those who manage to defy the Inner Circle. Things can get ugly.

There are three kinds of people who frequent the ChainLink:

  • Lurkers – They seldom post anything and prefer to sit and listen.
  • Bullies – These are part of the group that posts 95% of all the negative stuff that you read on the ChainLink Forum.
  • Pollyannas – These are sometimes either very new people to the forum or just the kind hearted ones who see the best in other people all the time.

The problem is that the Bullies set the tone for the forum most of the time and it is decidedly negative. The Pollyannas will not be persuaded that there is a problem because they are conditioned to see the positive side of things in virtually every instance. And this is where things get dangerous. If you allow the Bullies to be themselves you risk losing the very soul of the Cycling Movement.

The quote from Benjamin Franklin above is important. Sitting silently and saying nothing only encourages the bad behavior. You need to speak up often and loudly. Being a Pollyanna is fine for most occasions. It however is deadly when your Jewish neighbors are being carted off to the gas chambers in work camps.

The Underbelly of the Beast

Here is a very recent discussion on of all things purchasing bicycles:

Pro’s and con’s of expensive vs. inexpensive bicycles.
Posted by Douglas Iverson on March 27, 2013 at 1:33am

OK, I didn’t know the subtle difference between a road vs. cyclocross bike. The more expensive a bike is the less it does because it is specialized for one task. Where is the happy medium? You can dis my Huffy or anyone else all you want but please don’t dis a fellow Chainlinker. At least I participate. There are those that have been members for years and haven’t posted anything or participated in an event. I hope to meet h’ and notorious DUG and ride with them as well as the rest of the regulars but since we don’t wear username tags I don’t see this happening. Could it be that manufacturers take advantage of bicycle buyers by putting expensive price tags on a bike that costs a fraction of its price tag to produce? DO you get what you pay for? Did you know Motobecane built bikes for Huffy and some Reileigh bikes were built by Huffy? There are a few frame manufacturers that build frames for all brands. Murray sucks because all their bikes are fixie cruisers. I’ve seen 24″ mountain bikes with front and rear suspension at K-Mart for under $200. Back in the 70’s everyone had a component audio system and a console with a record changer was not acceptable. You must at the very least have a turntable that will track at 1 gram and have adjustable anti-skating so the stylus tip (needle) stays in the center of a grooveless record without moving (skating) either way or risk destroying your records. High end audio is dissappearing because people are happy with the compressed hollow sound of downloaded music on a iPod, the “Huffy” of musical quality and the cheap quality USB “Close ‘N’ Play” turntables. Department store sound systems are marginal. Do high end audio manufacturers take advantage of consumers? How about five and six digit figures for amplifiers, turntables, speakers, etc. Which is better, an amplifier with .8 Db total harmonic distortion or one with .08 Db. It doesn’t matter because our ears can’t detect + or – .5 Db so why pay for what you can’t hear. I recently attended Audio Expo North America. Monoblocks with water cooled tubes the size of office water cooler bottles and two are needed for stereo. An amplifier with 40 output tubes that puts out 200 watts per channel which is odd because the EL34 output tube puts out 17 watts apiece (40×17=680) watts. Check this out axpona.com Have audiophyles and bicyclephyles been brainwashed? Here are some websites about inexpensive vs. expensive bicycles.

Reply by Fran Kondorf yesterday
The real ‘pro’ of my inexpensive bike is peace of mind as it’s less likely to be stolen and components are widely available.

Reply by Gene Tenner 22 hours ago
A bike is expensive if it does not meet your needs.

Thus far the interchange of ideas has been Chat Room-like in nature.

Reply by dan brown 4.4 miles 21 hours ago
I know the OP is not a troll; but this sure looks, smells, acts and tastes like troll bait.
What is the point of the OP’s question ???

sheesh…you could substitute a number of other words in the original subject line and it would
be the same debate/answer : “Car”, “House”,”Clothes”, “Tools”. Am I the only one that doesn’t
get the point of this post ?
(and the fact that it was posted at 1:33 am ? no – I am not discriminating against insomniacs; I used to be a member of that club)

Now one would have to ask why the hostility? Why not simply keep your anger to yourself and simply move on to the next thread? Bullies in the Cycling Community love “fresh meat“. There is an element of the “prison house” that wafts through conversations from folks like this.

And now the “Lord of the Flies Treatment” begins:

Reply by Will G – 10mi 21 hours ago
Totally agree. I read this thread this morning, thought “Yeeeeeaaahhhh…..troll” and left.

Reply by Tricolor 21 hours ago
I think it’s a gesture of defiance against middle school English classes.
Just don’t be a dick and it doesn’t matter what you ride or how you dress.

Reply by spencewine 21 hours ago
+1. It’s attention deficit disorder in writing.

Reply by David crZven 10.6 20 hours ago
Is this really the case? My old rule was always park next to a better bicycle with a worse lock. But Bike thieves are really not that bright. In fact, since they sometimes sell bicycles for scrap, wouldn’t a heavy old Murray be preferable to some ultra light modern bicycle?
Yes, it is true that a bicycle that does not meet your needs is “expensive” at any price, but some of us do compromise. I ride an older bicycle (some might even characterize it as a BSO) but it serves my needs. I can get it up to a good speed on flats, I can climb hills of the kind I meet in Chicago with ease and I can handle the downhills. Its a 20+ old Trek triple front with 21 theoretical gears. In practice, its
double front as I never need the granny in Chicago. It cost me $60 plus the parts and time to rebuild it.
Its predecessors were similar — a Lotus Centurion and a Raleigh Aleyska. I got the Alyeska up over 60 mph on a down hill in the drift free area of Wisconsin. I have ridden centuries on the BsO’s and I keep up with many.
Would I love to have a state of the art $1200 bike for commuting? Sure. Would my commute be “better”? Probably. Would it be faster? Probably, but not a lot faster. Do I have to have one? Nope.
Although I guess I should start going to the Swap-O-Rama on Ashland. It looks like lots of nice bikes with a few angle grinder marks on them end up there…

OK. Enough with the arrogant types who are basically “Bullies“. Let’s listen to what the original poster (OP) has to say:

Reply by Douglas Iverson 20 hours ago
I don’t understand “troll” other than a doll or dragging a lure behind a boat. What do you mean by substituting words? As far as being an insomniac I am retired and I have to help my 89 year old father with household chores and watch over my 81 year old invalid mother with Parkinsons disease and memory loss. We can’t afford a nursing home. So the most convienient time for me to go online is after 10:00 PM. The basic point of this thread is to emphasize the fact that, in the words of P.T. Barnum there is a sucker born every minute as is proven by TV commercials. I have no doubt that there are expensive bikes worth the money but with human nature being what it is who’s to say that a bicycle company overcharges for a bike because the consumer won’t know that there are parts advertized as hardened tempered steel when in fact it is stamped steel. This is known as cutting corners to increase profit. They want expensive bikes then we will reciprocate, charge them up the ass and skimp on workmanship. This is less likely to happen with a cheap bike. And Duane, at the audio show I saw a pair of earbuds with a $4,495 price tag. Who’s yanking who’s chain. I have learned to be cautious and not immediately take things for face value. One thing about posting a thread in early AM is the fact that with little or no activity it won’t get shoved off the list of recent posts. NO DISSING FELLOW MEMBERS! We are all here to learn from each other and ride together by sharing a common interest. This is not Facebook or Twitter.

Actually, it would be better if it were like Facebook or Twitter. The backgrounds of your friends and family are likely to be a great deal wider (as a whole) than the rather incestuous mongrelization of the ChainLink. This is a group that views itself as part of a Movement and it has as its mission to “teach” (or as they like to term it, “educate“) the rest of the world on how to be better people. By that you may take it to mean that they are hear to ram down your throat anything they deem fit to use.

This is the result of an environment that accepts arrogance and disdain of non-cyclists, let me change that to read “non-urban cyclists”, as requisite ideals for membership in this exclusive club. And now enters the Enforcer:

Reply by notoriousDUG 19 hours ago
I will take this bait…

First off you need to check your sources better. Motobecane did not build bikes for Huffy and Huffy never built bikes for Raleigh; Raleigh built bikes for Huffy and they are some of the few decent ‘Huffys’ out there. You are also, once again, doing the apples/oranges thing again because all but precious few of the decent Huffys were actually built by other companies, I think Carlton and Serotta built their team bikes, and really don’t count because they share nothing in common with the average department store Huffy you usually see. It’s like saying that all Chevrolets are fantastic performance cars because the Corrvette is; see where the logic on that falls apart?

Did you even read the stuff you linked to? One is a thread where people explain how much better a decent bikes is than a crappy one. They all said that while a cheap one works a nicer one will ride nicer. The other one is a comparison of production bikes to custom bikes, the ‘cheap bike’ in that comparison is a Salsa that has an MSRP of over a grand; how does that have anything to do with you trying to defend shitty old Huffys?

The difference between a ‘cross bike and a road bike is not subtle if you know much about bikes. Stand them next to each other and it is pretty obvious which is which. And if you ride them back to back you will find that they also feel different on the road. Mind you there is nothing wrong with not knowing the difference between the two, everybody has to start somewhere knowledge wise. However if you cannot tell the difference between to common types of bicycles you may want to refrain from giving people advice on choosing a bicycle…
I think it is interesting that you are singing the praises of Huffy but putting down Murray. You do realize that the two companies built almost the exact same types of bikes, right?

It amazes me how little an understanding you have of the actual argument here. I am not saying there is anything wrong with your Huffy, if you like it and it serves you needs that’s great. There is nothing wrong with riding a cheap bike, one of my commuter bikes is built on a cheap Schwinn LeTour frame that is pretty junky but also probably never going to be stolen. Cheap bikes have their place and I would rather see somebody on a crappy bike than no bike at all.

However that does not mean that advising people looking for a quality bike to commute on or ride around town that bikes like that MotorBacon from the other thread are over priced is good advice. If somebody is looking to make a daily commute or take long pleasure rides that Motobecane, although more expensive, is going to make it a much nicer experience. It’s going to be lighter, more responsive and just ride better all around compared to a 30 year old Huffy. If somebody can afford it and having a better experience on the bike is worth it to them why is a six hundred dollar, or even thousand dollar, bike not a superior purchase to a bike that will not preform as well? Do you honestly believe that your Huffy rides the same as that Morobecane? Have you even ridden a modern bike like that recently?

I’m sorry to be rude but you really have no idea what you are talking about with this stuff and you need to stop giving advice on the subject until you actually know what you are talking about.

What has begun and will continue is the ChainLink version of a “gang rape“. But there is more, much more:

Reply by notoriousDUG 19 hours ago
An old Trek is light years away from an old Huffy. I would not consider an older Trek to be a BSO in the slightest. The ‘Bike Shaped Object’ thing really only applies to the worst of the worst out there. If your bike originally came from a bike shop chances are it is not a BSO.

Reply by dan brown 4.4 miles 18 hours ago
doug you are a better man than me. I am biting my tounge trying to be nice here and will move on to another thread or a whole ‘nother forum…..

Dan

This is rich. The first person to draw blood has offered to “move on“. That is what he should have done without ever having made the first negative comment.

Reply by Douglas Iverson 21 hours ago
First off I have always lacked the insight to make sure what I say doesn’t offend others and I assure all of you that this was not my intention. If someone asked you, for example, “how do you like my new car” people would respond kindly but if you think it is not a good car responding kindly to avoid hurt feelings would be lying to that person. I would give my honest opinion. I read the links I sent, that’s why I sent them. Did Huffy build Motobecanes. Comparing apples to oranges they are both fruits (bikes). Comparing fruits to vegetables is like comparing bicycles to motorcycles or CD’s to vinyl. It is hard to tell the difference between a road bike and a cyclocross on a tiny monitor except for a well trained eye but a cyclocross has a beefier frame, wider tires and is a bit heavier. I put down Murray because I inherited a womans Murray from my aunt. I use it to avoid getting salt on my regular ride and my regular ride is effortless but I can feel the effort riding the Murray. BTW, be careful using the phrase “light years away.” A light year is a measure of distance, not time. A light year is about 58 trillion miles which would mean a seperation far greater than the solar system. I got my bike at the Arlington Heights Bike Swap. It was the only conventional bike there. Although the AHBS lacks flea markets it far surpasses the recent Chicago swap which surprises me. At AHBS there were bikes as far as I could see.

Trust me the OP has said nothing which deserved this treatment. What he is experiencing is a group of “jailed prisoners” who are circling “fresh meat” with no intention of using a condom:

Reply by notoriousDUG 20 hours ago
It’s not that what you are saying is offensive it is that what you are saying is stupid. You need to take a step back here and admit you really have very little idea what you are talking about when it comes to bikes and stop trying to give people advice because you have no idea what you are talking about. There is a difference between giving your honest opinion and just spewing nonsense and poor information.

Huffy did not make Motobecanes, the two companies have never had a business relationship I know of why do you think there ever was one?

It is not hard to tell a cyclocross bike from a road bike, in fact it is really obvious to somebody who knows about bikes. In fact your comparison shows just how little you know about those bikes you seem to feel qualified to comment on. A ‘cross bike is often made of the same size tubing as a road bike. A ‘cross bike will not have caliper brakes like a road bike but cantilever or v-brakes. A cyclocross bike can weigh less than a road bike depending on the frame and build of each bike.

The effort it takes you to move the bicycle along in your Huffy vs. Murray comparison may have nothing to do with the quality of the bikes involved. Are they geared the same? Do they weigh the same? If not then how the bike feels on the road effort wise has nothing to do with the bike but with the build.

Just stop trying to give advice to people about bikes, you haven’t a clue.

I’ll stop the tape from playing at this point. The CNN journalist is correct:

If life is just like high school, then the Internet might be an age group lower. Much of our digital world means never having to leave junior high school behind.

But to end this blog I will quote that world famous philosopher and songwriter who knows a bit about having someone dump on you in public:

Be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
— Taylor Swift

And if you cannot follow her suggestion then just remember that I am still here and my keyboard is more than up to the task of exposing the hypocrisy, arrogance and disdain of the Urban Cycling Movement.