Lately I have been thinking a lot about the bystander effect (syndrome) and how it can be applied to the Internet. I am not referring to the darker side of the Internet, I am talking about a typical website/blog that is designed for commercial e-commerce or business to business (B2B), personal/informational blog, news, government or a non-profit organization promotional site. Our society has been talking about the bystander effect for almost 50 years, and yes I know it is usually applied to life and death emergency situations, not unlike the Good Samaritan that died in New York City on April 18th.
But back to the Internet and the bystander effect. I started down this path about six weeks ago when I saw a tweet from Chris Brogan which said basically: “People of earth, I know my site has been hacked.” I think this was Chris’ urgent way of telling his 135,000+ Twitter followers to stop sending him messages. I am almost positive that Chris really appreciated the first few tweets or emails from his followers, because one might be a fluke but multiple messages validate the condition, and besides I think Chris would do the same if he came across something that was broken (my assumption, but his stated principle to “be helpful”). I think Chris is lucky that so many people want to help him. More often than not, a site viewer will see or come across something that is broken or obviously incorrect and yet they won’t take the time to tell the site owner, whose very livelihood might depend on this “head’s up.”
Let me give you two current examples, both involve $1,000,000:
- On May 21, Zappos.com announced that their sister site 6pm.com’s pricing engine capped all prices at $49.95 for six hours. It cost them a loss of $1.6 million dollars. Is it possible that over the course of six hours not one regular returning customer of 6pm.com took the time to send a message to say “Hey, something looks screwy on your site!”? I hope you will read the whole article, because you will see that it was a programming error that resulted from bad code. Read all the comments about pricing engines, 6pm.com took the high road, but I would love to know if they received that one email that alerted them. (I learned about this story from Jodi Henderson’s blog )
- On May 29th, I read a tweet from Jorja at Beyond the Pale that said: “RT the lonely world of blogging, comment anyone, anyone, buehler? comment, anyone?” and it linked to Savor the Ride (be sure to read all the eventual comments on this post, it will allow you to see how the story unfolded). I decided to see what this blog was all about. Guess what? The blogger, Ridgely Johnson, was offering $1,000,000 to the first commenter, as her last 20 blogs had received not one comment. A few tweets went back and forth between Jorja and me, finally I sent an email to Ridgely which said: “I happened over to your blog because @beyondpalegal (Jorja) tweeted about you. Not that I expected to win $1,000,000, but I cannot figure out how to leave a comment on any of your posts. I tried in IE8 and FF…no place to comment. Am I missing something, maybe this is why no one is commenting?”Today is Memorial Day. It is a solemn day, but I thought that maybe I could leave you with a scene from the wonderful 1986-1993 television series “Designing Women.” This YouTube video is dedicated to Dixie Carter (Julia) who passed away April 10, 2010. Julia asks the proverbial question: “Why didn’t somebody tell me?” Watch the whole episode, you won’t be disappointed.
Over this Memorial Day weekend, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have been writing about “frames and assumptions.” The stand out message is this from Julien: “Always be testing. Never stop questioning things you think are true, no matter how solid they may seem.” This, of course, applies to all aspects of our lives, but particularly to our websites/blogs. Things happen, hacking occurs, links break, you hit a wrong button and you disable comments, no one tests your site in varied browsers (can look great on an Apple in Safari, and scream “Help” in IE8). Many bloggers are not technical and they cannot afford on-going technical assistance, so don’t assume they know about a problem with their site. Don’t be a bystander, speak up! Remember this is social media. Be social. Help a “friend.”
I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this.