Why do Aid Bloggers get Snarky
Posted on April 29, 2010 at 10:38 am
I will admit to having an occasional snarky post and a few uber-snarky tweets that I usually end up regretting and deleting later (unfortunately now they’re immortalized in the Library of Congress). Yet in real life I’m not a particularly snarky person. So where does the snark come from? Tales from the Hood, Alanna in a UN Dispatch post, and Texas in Africa have all hit on many of the reasons for the snark. But in general it comes from frustration and the need to get your point heard.
The 1 million shirts debate is the perfect example of this problem. I have blogged about the problems of donated goods repeatedly over the last year. In fact my very first post ever was about donated sports equipment. I have written about problems with donated medicine, baby formula, and shoes. I’ve even held a contest for the worst in-kind donation and created a set of questions to ask before donating goods overseas. I have linked to industry standards as well as the recent PSA contest. And I’m not alone in these efforts. AidWatch, Blood and Milk, and Tales from the Hood have all posted repeatedly about the problems with donated goods.
My articles on donated goods have been linked to on CNN, The New York Times – twice, Foreign Policy, Money Sense, and The San Francisco Chronicle, just to name a few. I’ve also blogged about donated goods for The Huffington Post. I have written about the problems of donated goods so many times that it’s almost physically painful to have to sit down and write about them one more time.
Yet, despite all my time and effort spent calmly and reasonably educating donors and impromptu aid workers about in-kind donations, none of this has had the impact that a few snarky tweets and a blog post from Tales from the Hood has had on the public dialog. What I failed to do in 13 months of calm and reasonable dialog, J. managed to do in one day.
And this isn’t the first time that snark sparked conversations on aid problems. I wrote a calm and lengthy blog pointing out the bad donor advice that Nickolas Kristof was presenting to readers/donors. No response. Several months later I write a short, snarky post dissing his proposal for Teach for the World . From this I got mentioned in tweet from Kristof as well as a response on his blog. After trying several times to reach the Huffington Post on problems with their Impact section, I finally got fed up and wrote a four page annotated diatribe about all the misinformation in the Impact section. Because of this I was invited to blog for them.
So if we aid bloggers sometimes get snarky please realize that it’s not because we’re callous and don’t care. We’re actually getting snarky because we care so much. And no, we don’t think snark is the best way to change someone’s
opinion. But thus far it seems to be the best way, and sometimes the only way, to get the conversation started.