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Internet Ettiquette: A Lesson in Good vs Bad

or "How TheOatmeal.com used obscenities to teach a moral lesson the effective and painful way"


This should become required reading for young aspiring entrepreneurs, MBA students, and for those who fancy themselves something better than a corporate drone.

With our country's moral and family values going to crap in a hand basket, we need to recognize, learn and demonstrate what is good and true, and this collection of links and commentary shows one aspect of this truth.  What the heck am I talking about?  Waging war against original creativity.


I have long been a fan of Matthew Inman's TheOatmeal.com, and I am now a fan more than ever.  While I don't use the explicit language that the site uses in daily life myself, that is irrelevant, as the story unfolds here.  I am not re-posting this as a way to gain traffic or fame, but rather because it wasn't as easy for me to piece the story together and I wanted to pull it together to make it easier to consume from beginning to end -- plus I wanted to share my thoughts about the whole ordeal.

Take the 20-or-so minutes it takes to read all these articles/letters/etc. in order and understand what is happening.  Don't worry, you will enjoy the read!  The Internet is kerploding (yeah, that is a word, don't tell me it isn't!) with new content, and there are plenty of people popping up that want to steal from you and try to make a profit.  These are the bottom feeders of the internet... the people who try to capitalize on disasters and tragedies, the kind of people you don't want to be associated with.

Here is the chronology I've pieced together.  I will amend/correct this as any errors or omissions are brought to my attention.
  1. TheOatmeal posts a public statement about the discovery that FunnyJunk.com is hosting and monetizing unlicensed content 
  2. FunnyJunk responds with a public message, false accusations and fails to remove all the unlicensed content 
  3. TheOatmeal responds in typical fashion: 
  4. FunnyJunk's lawyers respond with a threat of legal action 
  5. TheOatmeal lays out a planned response, including a fundraiser for the National Wildlife Foundation and the American Cancer Society: 
  6. FunnyJunk's lawyer, Charles Carreon, sues TheOatmeal, and includes all parties involved with the fundraiser, including the beneficiaries
  7. Carreon decides to make it all personal
  8. Finally, the payoff: winning of hearts and minds, in profoundly humorous fashion

So now that you have digested all of these articles, it is quiz time!


So what actually happened here? 
  • _________ stole content and tried to make money on it (even if users upload the content, you are still liable for hosting it and having an ineffective screening process).
  • _________ took the moral high road (with lots of obscenities) to make a point that stealing is wrong, and turned it into something good (donations).
  • _________ was embarrassed, got offended, made it all personal, is waging war on multiple fronts, and is digging his own grave while hurting innocent bystanders (beneficiaries).
This wasn't originally a quiz, but I figured I'd let you fill in the blanks so that I don't arbitrarily get added to a lawsuit for sharing my opinions.

Observe, students, aspiring entrepreneurs and those with a desire to grow:  Certain principles of life are true, plain and clear.  They hold true in business as well.  Hone your conscience so that when you make business decisions, think these through first.
  1. Don't steal.  And don't build a website that encourages people to steal.  Not only is it wrong, but, well, keep reading...
  2. Don't make a living on the misfortune of others.  If your decision hurts innocent parties or bystanders, you won't escape public scorn and it won't end well for you.
  3. What goes around, comes around; You reap what you sow; Payback is a b*tch.  Take your pick, three ways to say the same thing, all from different people, times and places in life, all equally true.
Some people are original thinkers, like Matthew Inman.  Original thinkers will attract other original thinkers and quality workers and doers. 

Don't be fooled: Stealing, no matter how creatively you do it, is not an original idea.

If you are not an original thinker, that is perfectly fine.  Entrepreneurs that are not original thinkers who believe they can or should exploit the hard work of others to make money without bringing anything original to the table don't belong in business -- not because it is difficult or impossible to accomplish, but because it is wrong.  Deep down they know it but cannot reconcile their inability to bring original creativity to the table.

Maybe if we can weed out the bad business people then silly laws like SOPA and PIPA won't threaten what we love so much about the Internet.

FunnyJunk and their Lawyer have now found a place on my Wall of Shame

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