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Never Play Dirty.

March 20th, 2010 by shawn · 1 Comment

I’ve learned a few things in my life. Some things – things you’d expect me to have learned a long time ago – I’ve only recently come to actually understand and integrate into my way of thinking. The lesson I’ve most recently realized has become a part of me is one of those simple and basic concepts you’d think any child would know: never play dirty.

It was probably two years ago when something happened that taught me this lesson; I supposed I would have agreed with you (before that) had you told me: “Shawn, never do things that are under-handed. Playing dirty is unacceptable.” I would have said, “Yeah, you’re right; ok.” But I’d never had to experience what that really meant. Until one day, at my new job.

Someone, somewhere, a person who wouldn’t reveal themself, was harrasing my boss and the employees. We were receiving mocking, critical emails about our websites. We saw intrusion attempts on other sites we ran. We looked for evidence, and we found a suspect in a previous unhappy (“disgruntled” I think is the word most often used for these people) employee who was fired.

I won’t go into how we knew…but we knew. Too many things pointed to this specific person as the culprit. This person even emailed one of our people to ask how a website was doing, as if a website needed checking-up on. That website was the same one we found compromised a short time previously.

So naturally, I was incensed (“pissed” is a word often used for how I felt). I looked up this person, and found a blog entry that attacked my place of employment and, on a personal level, attacked my employer. So…I decided to go black hat on ‘em. I spammed the search engine results every which way, and knocked him out of the top ten for his own name.

I thought it was kinda funny. My coworkers couldn’t believe it. My office had no idea such a thing was even possible. And then I felt bad about doing it.

It turned out that the “victim” (depending on how you define or look at the situation) also noticed, and through some luck of his own found out who I was. I let it go, having pulled the brakes on the industrial-strength torrent of new search results I had introduced a few days previous, and the thing corrected itself.

He had his search results back for his name in a few days.

But all did not end well: I ended up pissing off (even further) someone who had shown evidence already that he was at least a bit unstable and/or vengeful, and I had sullied my own reputation. I had made an enemy, whereas I previously had zero enemies. I’d done something that made me feel awful – regardless of who knew or didn’t know about it.

It wasn’t worth it, from any angle.

Thinking about this recently, it came to me as a clear lesson: never play dirty. It’s a simple rule, but until you’ve learned it firsthand…you might not really understand it. In other words, there are reasons for this rule.

In business, this is abundantly evident. I saw how it played out in the eco-system of my city and its tiny website community and the people who are a part of it. And I learned why we shouldn’t do things like that. Good thing, too – because “business” is just a small version of life. The way we run our businesses and work with others is a microcosm – a small version – of the way we live. You can’t separate the “business you” from the “real” you by very much.

Are you a “dirty” person? Hopefully not. No one wants to be labeled that way. If you’re not, then do business in a clean fashion. It’s a reflection of who you really are.

Never play dirty.

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    1 Comment

    2011-09-02 10:07:53

    I think we all have shares of “playing dirty” one way or the other. Most of the time it is because of anger or jealousy. It’s never going to end well (as you have experienced it) for both parties. Maybe the best thing we can do is to make a stand but never stoop down to their level.

    Awesome article, really loved your story. But that guy really had it coming.

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