A former colleague of mine who went into freelance writing a few years ago has scored a significant career success: he has a new semi-weekly column in the Sunday New York Times business section. The general topic is technology and innovation. I admit to a twinge of envy: what a great gig. That’s small of me. My former colleague (MFC) has worked very hard to move from doing niche technology stuff and writing about things he didn’t have a lot of interest in to establish himself and then move beyond it to where he is now. Maybe I should just say “way to go” and shut up.
But that is not my way. Here’s something that MFC does in connection with his column that sort of annoys me: He spams me and I don’t know how many more of his acquaintances with an alert to each new column. The messages are more than, “Hey, everyone, check out my new article.” They’re written with a bit of a hook; this week’s, for instance, has the subject line, “My new NYT column is about … You.” Yeah, I’m vain enough that I looked just in case he had found some aspect of my life or career scary enough to serve as a cautionary tale for his readers. But no: That was just a come-on, and it ended with a nudge to spread the word about his column to others.
If this is a sin, it’s venial, not mortal. What bugs me, though, is that one, I didn’t choose to join this email list; two, getting off of the list requires me to do something that feels rude: “Hey, there, great to hear about your column, but please don’t send me any more email about it” (is writing a post about it less rude?); and three, MFC acts as though his circle of acquaintances is just another group of marketing targets.
Yes, sure: When I recently had my little Las Vegas article published, I broadcast that fact in a blog post and offered a link to the piece. I think the difference is that visiting this site and partaking of its sublime smorgasbord of observation and wit is a voluntary act; I’m not pushing anything out to anyone, and the only people subjected to my profundities are those who come looking for them.