Dogs and the web

Frankly, the content of most dog related internet forums is enough to make one question the wisdom of the first amendment. Like many things internet, there is it seems, a tendency for people to think their opinions; perceptions, experience, questions, have some inherent merit... now. Now that they can be put in print for all the world to see. As if all the world might be reading ?

By the same token be well aware that the first amendment has no bearing, as all canine forums are privately owned, and subject to the censorship whims of the owners. More often than not one is getting a slanted perspective on any given site, a decided dose of group think. And as a general rule I’ve found that those people with the least to offer, logically enough, have the most time and interest in doing so. I suspect this is a characteristic of most “public” internet forums, irrespective of topic.

At the same time never before has a person been able to find and communicate with dog people all over the world, on any given topic, easily, and at no cost. The problem inevitably arising is they are all still…. people. And despite incredible potential, and all the bickering one might be tempted to regard as a diversity of opinion, most forums ultimately end up reflecting the old adage- birds of a feather flock together.

In my estimation the Internet, on many levels really, is the revenge of the nerds. From forums to web sites, everyone has a chance to re-invent themselves. They are then free to slander, opine, preach, praise, misinform, regale to their geek hearts content. All of which without consequence; always out of arms reach, and often even anonymously.

As a result, though it can be an incredible learning tool, one might also argue it’s the last place and ignorant should go for education; probably better to get a good book. To put it in the simplest terms, the bullshit exists on an epic scale, much of it is well cultivated, and often sung in chorus. It can be incredibly time consuming to sift through, even for those who know dogs, much less the public at large.

Web sites in particular tend to reek of marketing dung. From eye numbing graphics, to unabashed self-promotion. From white washed breed descriptions to outright lies. Talk is cheap, typing likewise, parrots are plentiful, rhetoric becomes content, cut and paste propaganda the norm.

The world of web sites is a place where breed specific altruism abounds and hardly a less than sterling dog has trodden. There is no limit to the largess of intentions, superiority of product, or nobility of purpose. And I would go so far as to say the loftier the claims, the more likely it’s bullshit, pure and simple.

As such, I think a very good rule of thumb is follow the money. Of course nobody in dogs cares about money, but follow it just the same. Look at who stands to gain or loose it in any given circumstance. Ask yourself; is there any financial incentive to a given person's web site, forum, presence here, opinion, statement, etc. What you will find is more often than not, there is. Usually some attempt at elevating one dog, breeder, kennel, or breed over another; in the imagined reading publics eye. Even if only by demoting the competition.

The typical dog forum, for example, is organized around a specific breed, or class of dogs. It caters to some principle; working dogs, show dogs, band dogs, board pet owners of a given breed, etc. Forums have flavors, if not agendas; built in biases, personalities if you will. And for the most part, though there is sometimes healthy debate, the rule of the crowd tends to prevail. And a crowd, by its nature, is rarely very thoughtful. Mostly it’s a matter of agendas, unsubstantiated opinion, undisclosed loyalties, cheer leading, and miscommunication. Yesterday’s newbie is often tomorrow’s expert.

And dog people in general, I think it’s safe to say, are not people people. The Internet is a logical place for people with social issues to “congregate” from their respective places of solitude. And the written word is very easily misinterpreted sans eye contact, intonation, and such. Add to this the undeniable fact that there tends to be little love lost between breeders and much competition between them. Plus the overriding temptation for cowards to say things they would likely never say in person, and what you have really is a perfect cyber storm. I generally can’t rationalize the time, better to write it all once, and do something else. That's my model. And I intend to try and access the marketplace of social media, with as little distraction and time spent as possible.

Internet wide, it's the same story. It does not matter what registry or breed. Nor does it matter to what end; show, work, etc. The politics and dog politicians transcend all realms and reason; the feuds, fragmentations, and smart asses, are a constant. And what typically happens on any given forum is that no matter the breadth of possibility, they become more a less a social club, or a marketing tool. That is, the same handful of names tend to dominate, by sheer volume of typing mostly. They in turn come to know one another well while building the party line or feuding lines, albeit often subconsciously. And newcomers and strangers have no idea what ground rules, loyalties, or groupthink they walk in on.

Having said all that by way of warning to those who may not have gone there yet. Let me also say there is nothing like it. And for rare breeds in particular, it is rather difficult to imagine having to do without it. Personally I have found it immensely helpful, but I’ve been fairly adroit in leap frogging the idiots outside the gates and finding the knowledgeable, connected; or at least like minded, in a variety of breeds, on a variety of continents.

Just know that it is all out there, and pearls will forever be hard to find amongst oysters. Some people’s words will ring true, but it may be more important to know people, than dogs, in finding your way. Good luck, and don’t believe everything you read.