They are not going away any time soon and every response to their vitriol just further serves their cause. Efforts of being reasonable, polite, humble and displays of self-deprecation will be in vain. They are fueled by insecurity and doubt, and their tank is full.
Who are they?
They are the keyboard warriors who tuck their tail and run at the sight of their own shadow in public — but behind the computer screen, their imaginary dominance and power rule the day. Their method of operation is to disrupt, attack and offend. They offer nothing of value. The excitement of creating havoc augments and emboldens them because it’s the only game they excel at. They pontificate from the hilltop as if they are the second coming.
There’s only one way to beat the trolls and the internet tough guys.
They go out of business if you don’t respond to them. Offer trolls radio silence and, eventually, they’ll return the favor. Sure, you can try convincing them they’re misguided, but that’s exactly what they want you to do. They depend on your engagement. Without it, they’ve got nothing. To paraphrase someone far wiser than I am — true power is knowing you can, but don’t.
I’ve felt the brunt of their derision on HVAC websites, hockey websites, baseball websites and, of course, social media. At first, and by first, I mean the first 10 years I had an Internet presence, they got to me. As Sean Connery said in “The Untouchables,” and I’m paraphrasing, “You send one of ours to the hospital. We send one of yours to the morgue. It’s the Chicago way.”
I wasn’t very good at backing down, but the older I get, the less energy I have for things that aren’t necessary or important. And they are neither.
Not long ago, I had an encounter with an individual on a new heating website, where I used the word pump instead of circulator. For as long as I’ve been in the industry, we’ve used the terms interchangeably. But here, I was told that anyone who refers to a circulator as a pump isn’t worth his salt and shouldn’t be making any comments or offering advice on anything to do with hydronics.
I’m all for people having their own opinions, but that was quite a snap judgment based on one word. My response was somewhat measured as I said, “Can you imagine Gil or Dan saying, ‘Circulating away from the point of no pressure change’?” It was my very first post there.
My second post was about the importance of clean control wiring in which I shared a picture of a wire trough I used on one of my jobs. Holy smokes! Did I ever get lit up on over one single image! Guys one third my age and with fewer years living than years I’ve had with an electrical license were making all kinds of comments about what the wiring “probably” looks like inside the trough and the various pump relay enclosures.
That’s when I knew a moment of clarity if you will — I’ll never win that fight and getting my Irish up over their comments doesn’t do me any good.
I don’t frequent sites like that anymore. I prefer hanging out at places with a sense of decorum and purpose, mainly to help and be helped. They usually have rules in place to keep the site professional and respectful, and if you can’t abide by those rules, you’re gone.
The immature, insecure and baiting types don’t last long at these establishments. Racists need not apply either. Yes, I’ve witnessed that kind of blatant behavior on some hydronic sites.
Guys like me — the ones who have been in the industry for a long time, have been fortunate to have gained a wealth of knowledge through proper training, improper training, asking questions, reading books, monthly trade magazines, making mistakes, learning from mistakes, seminars and teaching others — realize that we all start somewhere. And that somewhere is at the bottom and it takes many years to get good at your craft.
When I had five years of experience, I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. By the time I had 10 years of experience, I was the Tinman and I could make just about any sheet metal fitting you could dream up. I was on top of the world. At 20 years, I was six to seven years into hydronics, so now I was not only making drop cheek y-branch sheet metal fittings, I was also pumping away. Wow.
At 30 years, I started slowing down a bit, surgeries for repairs were becoming a regular thing, and I began to realize there’s a whole lot I don’t know. Today, at 40 years, the body is shot, the brain still works relatively well, and I know with absolute certainty that I could live another 30 years and it still won’t be enough time to learn everything I want to know in this industry.
Today, I am humble and my thirst for more and more knowledge is unquenchable. I want to help those coming up who are at the 5, 10 and 15-year mark — and learn from them as well. We don’t help ourselves, our trade partners or the industry by tearing others down. Try helping them with a tip, a suggestion, an idea.
Sometimes it may not be appropriate to do so on the forum or site itself. That’s what private messaging is all about. It’ll feel a hell of a lot better helping someone grow their skillset than throwing them under the bus in front of everyone. That’s not cool, so don’t do it. Be frosty. If you want to learn how to do it the right way, visit Heatinghelp.com or Taco’s forum. Civility rules in both places.
I took some liberties with a Teddy Roosevelt quote because he, like everyone, faced critics who had no right to criticize him. Here ‘tis:
“It is not the Keyboard Warrior who counts; not some random guy who points out how the pipefitter stumbles, or where the Wrencher of Fittings could have done them better. The props belong to the man who is actually in the Boiler Room, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who lays it on the line every day; who screws up now and then because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does strive to get the job done as best he or she can; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid trolls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Be like Teddy.