I’m a little behind on the liblog reading, as usual, so I only just came across K.G. Schneider’s redacted rant about having to write up her talk for NASIG. I happen to know a bit about the behind-the-scenes circumstances that lead to her post, and I should note that there’s a lot more to it than what her readers may think. However, that’s not the point I am going to make here.
Reading her original post, such as I could find in some serious Google archive searching, reminded me that NASIG is not always a well-oiled machine. Annual membership fees are $75 (raised from $25 two years ago — the first such increase in over a decade) and they cover things like the website hosting and listservs; we have no paid staff. Everything is done by volunteers who have full-time jobs and families and all that. So, it’s not uncommon for something to slip through the cracks, or for assumptions to be made, as in the case of Schneider’s write-up for the Proceedings.
The Proceedings editors do what they can to ensure that presenters are aware of what is expected of them, from the contract language to reminder emails to a speaker’s breakfast at the conference where it’s all reiterated. They do what they can, but sometimes it’s not enough.
How different is this from any other large organization? Even organizations with paid staff sometimes make mistakes, miscommunicate, or seem to have poorly chosen policies. I’ve been known to rant a time or two about them. However, I’m starting to step back a little and think about how it feels to be the target of a rant. I’m pretty sure that Schneider didn’t have me in mind when she wrote what she did, but as a Member-At-Large of the NASIG Executive Board, her words stung no less than if I was personally named.
Criticism is not necessarily a bad thing, but in order to be positively effective, it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t put the other in a defensive position. The anonymous commenter on Schneider’s post expressed much of what I was feeling, and I don’t blame them for choosing anonymity after such a pointed attack on their professional organization. In my not so humble opinion, Schneider could have gotten her point across about deadlines, contracts, and expectations much more effectively had she chosen to be less angry and abrasive about it.
And maybe I could do the same with my own occasional rant. There is something to be said about self-censorship. Sometimes it can be the difference between having a constructive conversation and simply pissing off the person you are trying to communicate with. The latter may win you some kudos from the angry-ranty crowd, but in the end it doesn’t help the situation.