This is a true story. Names and countless other details have been changed to protect the innocent. Personally, I'm worried that this might not be enough. Read on. And do post comments, no matter what your opinion might be.
This all started one day on a forum that I happen to be a moderator on. It's a forum on finance generally.
What is relevant about this forum, is that you don't need a password or a user ID to access it. Anyone can comment on any thread. Anyone can read it. Various posts come up in search engine listings. It is as public as you get. I won't be linking there today, though for a number of reasons:
- You won't need to see the forum in order to get the general gist of this post.
- Various topics discussed and certain comments made will bore you silly.
- Other sundry reasons too mundane to go into
A good buddy of mine in meatspace, who we'll call "James", is a regular poster to these forums and can be counted on to always dish up something interesting. And you know, James can also be counted on calling me on some of the rubbish that I come out with.
Regular readers of this blog probably know exactly the type of chit-chat that I'm referring to here. I talk a lot of shit.
And, just before I continue, readers of this blog who have been here a long time will note that I occasionally quote from discussions with a friend of mine who I chose to call "Bob". I wish to advise that I will no longer be calling him "Bob" as I have a regular reader, Bob who he might get confused with. His next appearance will be under a different name.
"James" is not the same person as "Bob".
But back to the story. Somewhere down the thread, I chose to illustrate a point in one of the subsequent comments with a throwaway comment about someone. We all know about this type of comment. It usually starts with, "This bloke I know reckons..." or "Some say this. I happen to know this one girl who..." or even "I know this person who said to me just the other day..."
Prior to me coming out with this, James had made the following point:
You know, a lot of people think that charting is an effective way for deciding between shares of a similar nature.Don't get me started on charting. I'll leave my opinions about charting and technical analysis generally for another day and another post.
So I responded to James' comment with the throwaway "There's this mate of ours..." line:
James, I really don't like charting. You know, there's this friend of ours who bases his whole investment strategy on charting. He told me the other day that BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are such similar companies that the only way you can split the difference is to use charting on them. Even then, he said, they track roughly similarly, so it really doesn't matter which one you invest in. Of course, I had to ask the question, "Mate, do you ever read a company's financials?"Now this might sound innocuous or it might not. I'll let you be the judge, but read on.
James quickly followed this up with this:
Hey Dikkii, you know perfectly well that that particular friend of ours is a former lecturer in fine art. It makes sense that he prefers to see stuff graphically rather than wade through reams of numbers.We'll call this friend of ours "David".
While I was reading James' comment I must have put my moderator's hat on, because I actually considered deleting James comment. I had used David as an example, anonymously, to illustrate a point.
The reason that I considered deletion was that I felt that James had crossed a line in effectively outing David. Although most other regulars at the forum wouldn't have known who we were talking about, anyone who knows James and I would certainly know that we only know one person who used to be a lecturer in fine art.
David also knows that I talk a lot of shit. But unlike James, David never reads this particular forum. And why would he? None of it is of any interest to him.
My next comment voiced my displeasure and confusion as to why James chose to out David (amongst other things) but I left it at that. I don't know if James has read my response, as he, to date, hasn't left a response of his own.
Anyway, the next day, I'm having a chat with another friend of ours, who we'll call "Rob". Rob said to me, "Hey Dikkii, I was chatting with David last night and he mentioned something about comments that you and James made about him at your online forum."
The only way that David would know about these comments would be if James had told him.
I instantly got a very bad feeling, so I asked Rob what he (David) felt about them. Rob said, "He didn't say much, only that he was 'over it'. I couldn't tell if he was pissed off or not. He didn't seem upset with James."
I said to Rob, "Well if James has told him, I suspect that I'll end up looking the bad guy."
So to date, I don't know if David is annoyed at me or James or whoever.
But this did raise a few questions, which I'd like to pose.
First of all, should I have sought David's approval to offer his circumstances as an anonymous "I have a friend who..." to illustrate a point? This seems completely unfeasible to me. David is not the first friend who I have turned to for one of these references, and he certainly won't be the last.
Secondly, if David is annoyed with me and not James, how and why? I don't understand what I could have done wrong here.
Lastly, should I have gone ahead and deleted James comment? I would have left myself open to claims of censorship.
As it happens, I am not annoyed with either James or David for this. I know I will be with James if it turns out that when he told David, he neglected to inform him that it was James who outed David. That's a missed point of biblical proportions there.
And "David", if you're reading this and you're upset with me, I do apologise. Email me if you would like the offending comments removed and I'll consider their removal.
Edit (27/03/2008): Survey removed. It had to go sometime.
Edit (29/02/2008): Upon re-reading this, it's clear that I did James a bit of a disservice with one of my remarks to Rob. Whilst I don't recall the actual words, I've edited it to read more correctly like what I would have been more likely to say. I also needed to add the following text:
Disclosure: This blogger owns shares in BHP Billiton Ltd.
Standard but necessary disclaimer: This is not advice. Only a complete idiot would think that any of this constituted advice. It's not even vaguely reasonable to consider this to be advice. If you are in any doubt as to the content of this, see a good, independent financial adviser immediately. They do exist.