Thank You for the Civilination Help

Before people gamed every post for “Content Marketing” optimization, people used blogs to converse, including expressions of gratitude. I guess I am old school, so forget Google. It’s time to thank folks for their help last week with the Punish Geoff Fundraiser for Civilination.

In all we raised almost $3,000 together for online civility.  Though we came short of the $5,000 goal, but did some commendable work to change the online conversation for the better.

Unfortunately a $2,000+ shortfall does mean that we will not be “Punishing Geoff” by making me dress in drag for a full day of work.  A couple of private comments did come in that suggested this punishment may be uncivil in the eyes of GLBT community, so perhaps it’s for the best.

Civilination founder Andrea Weckerle has raised more than $1,000 independently.  You can still donate here, as Andrea’s larger efforts will continue for another two weeks.  Before I thank folks individually, I did ask Andrea to say a few words:

“Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and contributed to Geoff’s CiviliNation’s Indiegogo campaign fundraising last week! It was wonderful to see people tweet messages, leave comments discussing the importance of creating the Academy for Online Conflict Management, and making financial donations to the campaign. Thank you so much!”

Shout Outs

So many of you donated to the fundraiser, and I greatly appreciate that. In that old school way, I’d like to offer a little link love. In alphabetical order here are our donors. Those of you that did donate $100 or more are noted with an asterisk, and will receive an autographed copy of Exodus when it is released.

David Alston*
Jay Baer*
Randy Bowden
Leslie Bradshaw*
Heather Coleman
Shaun Dakin
Kaarina Dillabough
Ric Dragon*
Paul Duning
Lisa Gerber
Kerry O’Shea Gorgone
Jason Konopinski*
Ananda Leeke
Andre Mirkine
Allison Mittlestadt*
Debbi Morello
Rogier Noort
Jess Ostroff
Ellis Pines
Tammy Portnoy*
Patrick Riccards*
Mayra Ruiz-McPherson*
Lauren Vargas*
Andrew Waber
Zena Weist*

In last Wednesday’s blog post The Waste Bin of Mindfulness I promised five commenters a copy of Andrea’s book. She has agreed to autograph and send them to the recipients. They are Joe Abusamra, Gloria Bell, Michelle Spear, Brian Vickery, and Marc Zazeela. Congratulations!

There are so many people to thank for spreading the word publicly, as well as private back channel encouragement, it’s impossible to thank them all. Needless to say, you all stood up and made a difference, and I appreciate it.

I want to thank two that shared in particular, Brian Solis and Chris Brogan. Not because they are A-Listers, but because they have been on the receiving end of so many uncivil remarks, including some from me. They deserve better. Thank you for your support, gentlemen.

And Chris, if you read this, I did want to reaffirm what I said on Twitter last week. You received a ton of grief about Google+ from me and others. Like so many early adopters, you received hell for making a bold statement, and in the end, the proof was in the pudding. Today Google+ a force to be reckoned with and a must for any content marketer, even if only for search purposes. You were right. My hat is off to you.

Thanks again to everyone who helped Civilination last week! Cheers.

Life with a Scarlet Letter

This blog post is running in support of my Punish Geoff Fundraiser: CivilinationPlease consider a donation to support better online conversations. At the time of publishing, we have raised more than $3,000 for the Civilination Academy.

Long-term readers know I have attempted to evolve my language to become more mindful of others. Part of that reparation is learning to live with that negative reputation publicly — my proverbial Scarlet Letter — and handle new disagreements.

At SxSW two different people informed me how a person was telling everyone what an A&^hole I was every time my name came up. It’s no coincidence that this person is someone I wrangled with on here and elsewhere. He’s not the only one. So the damage continues long after the matter passed.

The way I see it, I have two paths; one is to leave the interwebs, walk with some shame, and live a quiet life as a marketer behind the scenes. As entertaining as that seems many days, this path lacks courage.

Part of  acknowledging the problem for me means moving forward in the face of it, and continuing to exist in the ecosystem, albeit in a more productive fashion. I have things to say, and can contribute to the larger conversation.

To do that, I have to accept the repercussions. For me, that means openly acknowledging my mouth, and acting more responsibly. A tainted reputation means you have history. You can’t run from history. You can only openly acknowledge it, make your amends, and live with the outcomes.

I counsel clients who have public errors to do the same. There is no pushing issues under the rug. In fact, that exacerbates the problem.

So you own it, and accept your scars. You let your new actions speak for themselves, good or bad.

New Disagreements

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While I have stopped taking people’s name in vain, so to speak, I do still have disagreements. And you know what, sometimes I feel like I’m right, and I won’t yield.

I’m not going to hurt someone’s reputation directly, but I won’t openly encourage folks to engage in negative actions towards me just to people please.

I was wrong in the past. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in becoming a public or private punching bag as a penance. Change necessitates a more moderated approach, not a complete pendulum shift.

Instead, I choose to detach, distance or ignore. I suppose I have become colder, and less passionate or emotionally invested in issues. I’d rather not feed the negative, instead walking away and turning to a more productive activity.

People that receive this cold distant shoulder can easily say, “Hey, he is the same guy.” And that’s fine, it’s part of living with the scarlet letter. I have to take those hits. Folks can say what they want, but believe me, all parties are living easier without my proverbial cannon locked and loaded.

It’s the path I choose to walk so I can stay public and look myself in the mirror with comfort. As time evolves, I am sure my approach will change, too.

How do you handle the impact of your past errors?

Featured image by ErinJane7284

The Waste Bin of Mindfulness

This blog post is running in support of my Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination! Please consider a donation to support better online conversations. At the time of publishing, $240 in matching donations remained.

I often come up with blog ideas and then scrap them. They’re too pointed, petty or pedantic. So in the name of mindfulness, they get tossed in the Waste Bin.

But rather than just delete the posts altogether, I kept a running list of titles for [censored] and giggles. Here they are:

  • The Machiavellian Guide to Managing Personal Branders
  • Stop Whining About Facebook Privacy. PLEASE!
  • I Don’t Want to Read Your Rough Draft
  • If I Had an Office, There Would Be No Chairs
  • You Can’t Replace Courtesy with Social Updates
  • Worthy A-Listers
  • Author: Why Is Being Underpaid and Poor Cool?
  • Real Authors Don’t Brag About Trade Books
  • Read the Dictionary
  • What Being in the Top 1% of Influencers Gets You

So what does this list tell you?

I still think like an [censored]. I’ve just developed a three second pause in speech, and the good sense not to publish inflammatory posts. Maybe one day, I’ll get to the point where I think more lovingly and with less snark.

It does feel better to not publish these things. And as a result, I think we can all agree this small corner of the world is more civil.

So what do you think? Should we restrain our own speech in the name of civility and mindfulness? The best five comments will win a copy of my former colleague Andrea Weckerle’s new book Civility in the Digital Age.

A version of this post ran originally on Kaarina Dillabough’s blog. Featured image by Steve Brokaw.

Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

My former colleague Andrea Weckerle is organizing a fundraiser to build a Civilination Academy for Online Conflict Management. She asked me to help, given my past history, and of course I am delighted, so welcome to the second Punish Geoff Fundraiser: Civilination!

I have struggled with civility since I started blogging in 2006, and began openly discussing the matter over the past two years. For the most part I have overcome my mouth, though there is always progress to be made.

I don’t want to preach. So the above video tells you why I made the moves, mostly out of a desire to become a better man, but also a result of consequences.

Below I explain why I am supporting Andrea’s cause and think you should, too. And last but not least are the incentives, a $1000 match, and the yet to be mentioned punishment for reaching my goal of $5000.

Why an Academy?

A lot of people think civility means the nice police, and I have said as much in the past. However, I now realize this is not at all true,. It’s more of a rationalization that I used to justify hard shots.

Civility, just like civilization, is derived from the Latin word, civilis, which means of or pertaining to citizens or public life. While civil conversations are polite, it is because they are for public consumption in larger communities.

In my mind, discourse of opinion should be waged without assassinating character. Frankly, rough characters assassinate their own reputations well enough without the help of name calling and vigilante muckraking. A skilled communicator should be able to make a point without a Howard Stern shock jock style.

It took me a couple of years, but I learned how to levy points without calling out names or smearing wholesale belief systems. I wage public discourse using pause mechanisms when I am angry, by thinking through points on a greater level, exiting conversations that become too toxic, and frankly by insisting on additional editing to work through harsh points.

The Civilination Academy is intended to be a resource for everyone online, everyday Internet people, family, friends, business executives, experienced professional communicators, as well as social media and online community managers who are often at the forefront of managing online disputes. Civilination wants to build a library to help people learn how to handle the various misunderstandings, clashes, and reputational hits that occur online. God knows all of us who work online deal with these situations regularly.

I love this idea, and wish such a resource had been available to me when I made my decision to become more mindful in my speech.

OK, What’s the Punishment?

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When I first came up with Punish Geoff, it was a sideways acknowledgement of my civility issues. Today it’s to champion mindfulness, and I am quite happy about that.

During the original fundraiser, I ended up dressing in drag as a punishment. And after asking my Facebook community, it seems folks wanted a redux, not just for a 30 minute hangout, but for a full day.

Well, a full day in drag and endless photos published on the Internet that I will never be able to live down is going to cost you. If we raise $5,000 in your donations by the end of the week, I will go to work a full day in drag. Yeah.

In addition, I will personally match the first $1000 in donations. Finally, anyone who donates $100 and emails me the receipt to geoffliving [at] geofflivingston [dot] com will get an autographed copy of my first novel Exodus as soon as they ship. These incentives are in addition to Andrea’s rewards for various donations. That same $100 will get you a second autographed copy of her book, Civility in the Digital Age.

So what are you waiting for? Donate now and PUNISH ME!

What Kind of Bystander Are You Going to Be?

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The following is a guest post by my former colleague Andrea Weckerle, the founder of CiviliNation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting online hostility and character assassination. Her book Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies, and Other Jerks was released in February.

Every single day we see example after example of online attacks against individuals and organizations. It’s as though people have forgotten, or possible never even learned, the art of disagreeing with another’s position or point of view without devolving into personal or reputational attacks against the other side as a means of expressing their displeasure.

What’s interesting is that when we think about online attacks, we often focus exclusively on who the people or companies in dispute are. Identifying the public-facing attacker and the visible target or victim is relatively easy, whereas we tend to overlook the behind-the-scenes or hidden disputants who are represented by the visible ones.

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The Devolving Civility Situation

Social Media Tensions

This post was almost titled “Eating Kawasaki,” but the issue extends beyond Twitter behavior and influencers. The general state of online conversation continues to devolve into a snarky, nasty tar pit, in turn impacting the outside world by destroying real relationships.

That should not be a surprise, people who exist online interact in real life. As bad manners become the norm online, they inevitably affect their real life relationships.

A recent study reported by Reuters and Marketing Pilgrim, showed that “78 percent of 2,698 people reporting an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person.” The above infographic shows more factoids from the study.
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