Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New ADV Riders, Don't Listen to Keyboard Warriors

Alright let me begin with a disclaimer... in the following blog post I sound really, REALLY negative. when I wrote this, I'd just been barraged with a whole lot of hate for posting a few tips that I found helpful for distance ADV riding and felt a bit maligned when sticking my neck out there to offer suggestions to new riders. When reviewing the following post, I realized I got a bit out of hand and came off as really arrogant. I'll leave the original post below, but wanted to let you know the core of what I was trying to say... just during a moment when I was pretty charged up.

The summary of the article is this: Be kind, help others, make the ADV community a place where new riders, old riders, seasoned riders, and budding adventurers feel welcome. Too many times I think people get scared away from ADV riding because there can be a lot of drama and complication. Setting up for a long ride and getting out of your comfort zone can be really frightening, and going into a hostile forum or group can make people run away from, not to, this amazing hobby of ours.

Evaluate the reasons why you're replying to a comment or thread. If it's to boost your ego, mock somebody, pass judgement on things you don't have experience with, or even to boost your cred by getting another "post" under the column... then hold off and rethink it. If it's to help somebody, offer credible advice, be objective, be encouraging, and/or make friends... then you're building an amazing community and are a wiser person than I am at many times.

As I'm 1/2 of the way through a 3 week "dip the toes" adventure through the West Coast of the US, though it's quite a limited perspective, I have found that adventure motorcycling is far more than scenic views, epic rides, magnificent bikes, or amazing foods... it's the people, camaraderie, and relationships that make adventure riding so fantastic. It's also what can make the online ADV community either amazing or appalling. Let's make it amazing. Let's welcome everybody and shun nobody. Let's help guys like you and I fulfill dreams and check off bucket lists. Let's help the introverts break comfort zones, let's help lurkers be inmates, and greet everybody we see on two wheels with a smile.

You wouldn't pass a fellow adventurer out in the world who was stranded or stuck. I'd wager you'd probably stop, help, and even become good friends after a bit of wrenching. And we'd NEVER stop next to somebody who needed help and mock them for their choice of bike, choice of oil, choice of tires... whatever... So why do we do that in the digital world? Let's be a true brotherhood and sisterhood. Let's leave the exclusive, elitist, condescending stuff out, and be the most welcoming, friendly, give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back travelers in the world.

So if you're in the mood to read a very long-winded rant fueled by some extremely negative and condescending comments, then continue reading this post... maybe you'll get a laugh... but really, you've already read the important bits.

Reader... continue with caution:

Whether it's a blog, a YouTube channel, a post in a forum, or even a comment to any of these things... you will undoubtedly come across the highly qualified and omniscient keyboard warrior. This is the guy who--no matter what you post or how you offer to share your life, give advice, or entertain others--will undoubtedly show up to show you and everybody else how he knows more, is vastly cooler, or tell you how you're stupid because he knows everything and does everything correctly, every time, without fail. He is the safest, fastest, smartest, cheapest, richest, most mechanically inclined, farthest travelling, most ADV man in the world.

He's the guy who--no matter where you've been, what your ride, or what advice you have to offer-- will show you how stupid and worthless you are to everybody else on the forum by tearing you down without offering anything useful or conducive.

That's right, when you create any kind of motorcycle-related content on the web, the keyboard warrior will be there with criticism and how to "do it best"... yet lack any kind of photographic, video, or GPS evidence to back up his claims of superiority. Hence he has earned the title of "Keyboard Warrior", because the only evidence of his apparent amazingness comes from what he can type.

When you encounter the keyboard warrior, don't fear. Take any tidbits that might be useful or logical, and then disregard everything else.

If you are worried that you may become a keyboard warrior, there are things you can do. We've all been keyboard warriors before by knocking somebody down to make ourselves look cool... but these tips should help build communities and friendships around ADV motorcycling:
  1. Think about whether your response to comments, videos, or posts is constructive and will provide service to the community, or whether it will only benefit your ego to show how awesome you are.
  2. Will your post, comment, or reply help to get that person out the door on an adventure, or will it discourage them?
  3. Will your post, comment, or reply make the person feel welcome in the community, or will it drive them away?
  4. Is sharing what bike you ride, the adventures you've taken, or the experiences you've had relevant to the conversation, or are you just sharing these things to, again, show how awesome you are? Let's say somebody posts, "I hear a sort of "clack clack" when I reach high RPMs on my KLR, is that common?" Lending credibility to your comment (ie. "Hey, I used to ride a KLR! I might be able to help you fix that,") is helpful. Showing off, (ie. "You should ditch the KLR and get a real bike like a KTM 990, then go around the world blindfolded and live off of only wild berries like I did because blah blah blah . . .") is not helpful. 
  5. It's not helpful to launch into what products you swear by when others work just as well. (Tires, oil, etc). This often "hijacks" the thread. There is a constant battle between schools of thought in the motorcycle world: expensive versus budget, staying light versus being prepared, red versus blue versus orange versus green versus yellow... just remember, different strokes for different folks.
  6. Be moderate. See other people's points of view... but when something may be unsafe, or looks sketchy, or is just different from what you do or prefer, offer sound advice when you've had first hand experience with both sides of the coin. (ie. Don't tell somebody their bike sucks if you've never ridden one like it.)
In closing, this is an open letter to the keyboard warrior in all of us (especially me).

Dear Keyboard Warrior,

We're sick of you and your ilk. We know you have an inferiority complex and have to prove how awesome you are, but you and the other one-uppers who try to make others feel inferior for taking "less-worthy" adventures than you scare off new ADV riders and people who take to the web to look for help with their adventures.

You're not helping, you're hurting. Your minuscule self-confidence and burning need to tear down other people's advice or offers of assistance to make yourself sound awesome not only make you look like a tool to other adventurers, but those who haven't encountered you or your type (and aren't yet aware of your complex) are easily driven away from the joys of Adventure Motorcycling and its many amazing groups and forums because you have to be a fargin' know-it-all.

If you're going to offer to help, then offer to help. Give tips. Give advice. Help others be practical, safe, and have fun... but don't be such a condescending bag of stale dog crap and make it a point to belittle other adventurers or their points of view when they go out on a ledge to share what works for them. Don't tell people they're stupid for asking questions or trying to make the ADV world better with their ideas. And for the love of all that is holy you don't have to tell everybody how you're so incredible because you are more ATGATT, or harder, or safer, or went farther, or ride a better bike at the end of every. single. comment.

Your advice is always welcome. Your condescending remarks are not.


The Entire Frickin' Motorcycle Adventure Community