Less Complaining; More Doing

I wasn’t able to go to TAM 10 this past summer, but Dr. Pamela Gay‘s talk was one of the ones everyone seemed to be talking about on Twitter. After watching it, it’s east to see why:

There are two separate parts worth listening to (though the whole thing is pretty good):

At 11:40, she talks about Internet trolls and the abundance of people who love to complain without offering anything of substance in turn.

That should be a new rule on the Internet: If you don’t like what someone else is doing, complain all you want, but you have to make an alternative suggestion along the way.

Don’t like the phrasing on a billboard? Offer a better one.

Don’t want to sign a petition because it’s “useless”? Ok, but tell me what you’re doing instead or your complaint will carry little weight.

Less complaining. More doing.

Also, at 26:00, Dr. Gay talks about personal instances when she was sexually harassed at conferences. Not flirtation, not something that could be misinterpreted, but actual, physical harassment. If nothing else, listen to those last ten minutes to get a better understanding of what women have to deal with, not just at our own conferences, but damn near everywhere. Powerful stuff.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    “That should be a new rule on the Internet: If you don’t like what someone else is doing, complain all you want, but you have to make an alternative”
    There wouldn’t be much of an internet then.

    • http://twitter.com/JonelB Jonel Burge

      Wrong!
      90% of the stuff I’m interested in is the people offering better alternatives for things. It’s most of the websites I frequent.

      • LesterBallard

        That’s one ;-).

  • Ronlawhouston

    What you want me to think and come up with alternatives?  Mr. Principal can I transfer out of Mr. Mehta’s class?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    How did someone who grew up with “Neverending Story” not know the “Our deepest fear” meme?  It’s a quote from Marianne Williamson.  The crazy thing about it is that back in the late 90s, it came out as being from Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech.  And try as one might to correct people, they generally ‘corrected’ it by saying that Nelson Mandela was quoting Williamson.  When in fact, it was not any part of his speech.

    Edit: and of course the quote continues “You are a child of God.”

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      oh, wait, I’m complaining but not offering… um, ok, if you’re not sure if a quote attribution is correct, put some of the less common words into google and get some other opinions.

      Oh.  :-)

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

     Definitely picks up in the latter half.  And I don’t mean that to belittle the first half, but the message builds.

    Thanks Hemant. 

  • rg57

    At 11:40, Dr. Gay does mention that “no good deed goes unpunished”, while failing to mention that “good” is a poorly-defined,  subjective and relative term.  I didn’t watch the whole video, but she doesn’t seem use the term “troll”.  She is correct not to use that term, because trolling is not complaining.  It’s not helpful to conflate the two.

    Your rule fails the “shoe on the other foot” test.  Rather than complain about complainers, why not actually address their complaints yourself?  It’s absurd to expect a person claiming to recognize a problem to also know the solution.  Aside from that, it is essential that people within and outside the community are free to complain, so important issues are not swept under the rug, and failed solutions aren’t touted as successes.  This value aligns with freedom, and with the scientific method, against censorship (self and otherwise) and suppression.

    I don’t know which second point you refer to, as you post seems to have been cut off midway.

  • Kodie

    Observing/hearing complaints is a good way to gauge whether something actually needs to be done, and complaining often persuades someone to do it. 

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    Dr. Gay’s personal experience with being harassed begins at the 26:25 mark.

    I haven’t yet had the pleasure of attending a skeptic/atheist conference but I did read here and there about the harassment kerfuffles and the disagreements that ensued when someone brought it up. Now I can’t help but notice a parallelism between “legitimate harassment” and Akin’s “legitimate rape” mentality. Food for thought.

  • YaronD

    “If you don’t like what someone else is doing, complain all you want, but
    you have to make an alternative suggestion along the way.”

    Say what now???
    Obviously we agree that making stupid and bad suggestions isn’t a good idea, right? And people who don’t know a lot about something complex will rarely be able to make good suggestions, right?

    And obviously just a “don’t do that” isn’t an alternative suggestion, since it’s
    pretty much implicitly existing in any original complaints. It would be extremely hard, if at all possible, to write a complaint that doesn’t include a clear “don’t do what I complain about exactly how you’re doing it now”, so of course the rule can’t consider this or we won’t need a rule.

    So basically, I should never complain about any economic issues without first getting a few degrees in economics?
    Never complain about work/employment issues without some degrees in finance and management and law?
    Never complain about a badly written book before getting my literary degree and some serious writing courses? Or at least without giving a long treatise on alternative writing styles and plot building advice?
    Or say, just a completely fictional example, if I read that the Catholic Church is paying off a priest that molested children, I shouldn’t complain unless I can come up with a better idea for them on how to hide the problem and preserve their public image? Because, remember, “this is bad, don’t do that” isn’t an alternative suggestion, and would be just a plain complaint.

    Is that the point you’re trying to make?

    Mind you, I’m asking, not complaining, since honestly I don’t have any good alternative to a new rule on the internet. Not enough background in social studies, psychology, and inter-personal communications to feel that I can reliably suggest a genuine new rule on the internet that I can feel confident could actually function well as an actual rule.

    I’m not particularly clear on why exactly I can’t say that your new suggested rule is bad unless I have a better idea of a different new rule myself, but, well, that’s what the rule requires, yes? So I’m not complaining.

    Sorry if this comes up too agressive, especially from someone who doesn’t usually bother to show up here and comment, but the whole concept of not commenting/complaining if you don’t have a better idea has been running around, pissing me off in it’s basic ridiculousness, for years now.


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