While most people are fascinated by the power of social networks, we need to keep in mind that this power can be destructive and abusive. Jacek Rutkowski, who made some particularly nasty personal attacks against Russell Beattie, is now facing an angry mob, one that spans the globe and do permanent damage, thanks to search engines and implements of the blogosphere.
While I think Jacek deserve some punishment, I am increasingly disturbed by the lack of device for control and the nature of the damage being compounded. Jacek's name is now in ruin and, as a respected collegue recently fantasized while he was angry:
…nobody in their right mind should consider hiring, or doing business with, or dating, this person.
I have little sympathy for Jacek, but I think there is too much power and too little control. We all know we have this power to ruin another person on the blogosphere. We covet it like Kim Jong-Il covets his Atom bombs. And we act as if we are being generous by ignoring insults and attacks. I can ruin that person's life forever but I won't because I am a nice guy.
Frankly, I don't know what the answer is or even whether there is an answer. Russell tried other alternatives and clearly had no other options than to write a blog post. Jacek abused the medium he had at his disposal and did much of the walking into the ring of pitchforks himself. The net result is the abusive power of one against that of many, the sharp end of a social network.