A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

FI actually got some help.

I was slowly becoming a non-believer in the value of online DJ forums, but I got some much needed DMX help from a fellow DJ this week and a little bit of my forum faith was restored.

DJ forums. Our own little online dysfunctional bastions of bitchiness. I don’t know much about other industry online forums, but among the DJ community it’s well known that you better have a thick skin to even request to join one of these snark societies. The order of any given day seems to be for DJs to swim around the forum feed pool until they smell blood in the water – someone posts a newbie question or photos of their set-up – and then they strike, going in for the kill:

“Why don’t you go & comment on something you know about”

“…can we ban this troll already? How many times are you guys gonna let this guy post the same crap just to stir the pot?”

“I along with many others here on this forum are really getting disappointed with the vicious attacks and the constant ridiculing of peoples gear, setups, and business methodologies”

These forums are so full of chest thumping and just plain bullying one wonders what would ever possess a DJ to click into one. Oh sure there are some useful threads here and there where people are helpful, but that seems to be nothing more than a lure. When an unsuspecting DJ follows a link to the latest scrim debate or “what to charge” thread, the Venus Flytrap of nastiness snaps shut and DJ becomes dinner.

So much of this forum fodder seems to follow the thinking that if you put down or insult someone else’s intelligence, it will elevate you in some way. Yes, if you look hard enough there is constructive criticism out there, which most of us not only are OK with but actually want. But more often than not there’s not much constructive about any of the criticism, although those that sling around the forum poop always try to wrap their vitriol in “constructive criticism” toilet paper. The forums are rife with examples, here are just a few (the names have been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent):

“Constructive criticism should always be welcomed for anyone who wants to better their craft. No one wants to be torn apart for something they may be proud of…there are a lot of us who have knowledge to offer, but when you do offer and some know-it-all argues, debates, contradicts just to be a d**k, then we stop offering.”

“How come every A$$%^#@ whines about free speech when they are asked to be polite and not be a F&*% head?”

Right on the heels of the gangs of hoodlums lurking in the darkness of forum alleys, are what I like to call “Infomercial Chicken Littles”. Sometimes I’ll sit and watch in bemusement at TV infomercials screaming that the sky is falling to pitch products to solve problems that don’t exist. You know the ones: “Are your forks too heavy? Try Lightfork!” or “Is your water too wet? Call now for Aqua-Dry!”. Sometimes I see the same phenomenon in DJ forums. I realize that what may seem trivial to me may be very important to someone else. For example, I certainly do realize the importance of developing eloquent, professional announcements. But just how big of a problem is saying “Ladies & Gentleman” one too many times as an MC or referring to clients as “The Newlyweds” vs. “The Bride & Groom”? These are real (and common) thread subjects. Outsiders looking into our forums (and believe me, open forums definitely do have special event voyeurs who see things that do nothing to help elevate our profession at all) may find it hard to believe that there could be a 3-page thread about such things, but believe it they should.

I would like to think we scrutinize each other and bring up useful questions to challenge each other. Unfortunately it feels like a more accurate description is that some forum threads are posted by people who are poised to justify their existence by being the expert on said subject. Woe to those that might have a different perspective. Or worse yet, suggest that it’s a moot point (when it really is) or a problem that doesn’t exist (when it really doesn’t). Who needs lighter forks or dry water?

While some of the forum “problems” we invent may not exist (at least not to some), the vitriolic nature of the forums themselves certainly does.

But why?

My theory is insecurity. Our industry is essentially unregulated and open to anyone regardless of any professional training or credentials. This often means the floodgates are open to any and all. This sounds like a warm and fuzzy notion, but “any and all” can include some less than refined characters whose interests rarely consist of more than making enough gig money for a case of Old Milwaukee and a child support payment. This makes the rest of the forum community nervous – even paranoid. These infidels are seen as threats – gig gobblers who take away our jobs for chump change and rape and pillage the DJ trade. So the self-proclaimed forum sentinels close ranks. With fangs and claws bared they descend on the unsuspecting DJ who was foolish enough to post a question. But this is an overreaction.  We all know bottom feeders exist. But more often than not, the DJ asking the question or posting the rig picture is a perfectly professional, upstanding person with legitimate questions and viewpoints. A person we would like to see as the future of the business. One that we should be supporting and training. And unfortunately, one that we may just have chased away.

So imagine my surprise when I got a helpful reply back regarding a DMX question I had. I was pretty sure mine was a basic question and so I steeled myself for the patronizing tone of responses I’ve read on so many threads based on what others perceive to be common knowledge. When I got his helpful reply, I actually did a sit-com double take and had to squelch my instinct to pound my keyboard trigger and fire word bullets back at him out of habit. Instead, I re-read his response, smiled and typed “thanks so much. That’s a big help”. Then I looked over my shoulder for a huge man-eating Venus Flytrap.  Nothing was there.

I was reminded of the usefulness of DJ forums and the wealth of knowledge and experience most of their members hold. I just wish we all could admit a little more freely that we don’t know everything. That we should be open to doing things differently. That we should consider the perspective of new comers. That it’s OK to ask a “stupid” question but that it’s not OK to call the person asking it stupid. Survival of the fittest suggests that the trolls and troglodytes will weed themselves out. The rest of us should be too busy trying to elevate our profession and each other to notice.

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