I wasn’t going to commit no newbie gaffes. No sir—not me!
I was determined not to make seasoned Kossacks roll their eyes at my posts. I wouldn't say things that spurred pootie pictures or Troll House Cookie recipes. I wouldn't get troll rated, ostracized, stomped on, mocked, or warned. No one would feel compelled to remark pointedly about my UID!
I wanted to be a smart, contributing Kossack. I wanted to hit the ground running...or at least, without breaking my ankle. I lurked for months, doing research. I read FPers and diaries and comments. I studied the FAQ, all of ek hornbeck’s invaluable diaries for newbies, many Ask a Kossack diaries, and every resource for newbies that those august authors recommended. I even read troll diaries, looking for anti-patterns. (My favorite: ErrinF. Awesome.) (I know, I know: tf, get a life!)
Finally, I was ready. A few weeks ago, I signed up. Those weeks have been uneventful, and also undistinguished. I wrote my first IGTNT diaries, which just broke my heart and left me with such profound respect for the absolutely fabulous people who write and support that extremely special series. I was deeply honored to make my first appearance on Top Comments. I "met" some wonderful, amazing Kossacks. I started to gain a bit of confidence and lost a bit of the caution. And then...
Yup. The universal sound of a DKos newbie sticking their foot in it and sinking in the muck.
I'm not here to critique the incident or point fingers. It was entirely my fault for being ignorant. Moreover, it was a nothing incident, especially in comparison with some of the Real Deal Brouhahas I've seen. An experienced Kossack probably wouldn’t even have noticed it. (I know, I know: Grow some skin, tf!)
But I learned something from it that I didn’t find in the excellent newbie resources: exercise caution when participating in candidate diaries. Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that people avoid candidate diaries. I've read many excellent ones—diaries that focus on one candidate's strengths, and that make a compelling case for that candidate's viability without attacking other candidates. These diaries are a real service to the DKos community. But there's another kind of candidate diary: one that tries to uplift one candiate by denigrating others, or by "capitalizing" on the mistakes of others. Well-considered, constructive criticism is fine, of course. I was really disturbed, however, to see what I took to be people effectively poisoning other candidates by holding the candidates' mistakes up in the worst light possible. Particularly at this time, it's too early to know who will be the Democratic nominee for President. Do we do ourselves, as a community, a service by making any Democratic candidate toxic? For all we know, that candidate might become the nominee. How will even we be able to support them if they've been poisoned by us?
So I naively thought when I put my foot in it.
Chastened, I went to Ask a Kossack (a really valuable weekly resource, especially for a newbie with questions about life on DKos) last night and sought assistance. The angelic, wonderful noweasels offered curative hugs. (Thank you, noweasels!) The wise bhudydharma provided a guardian pony and told me to apologize, learn, and move on to the next screw-up. How right he is. We all screw up. You don’t live your life in fear of failure, so why treat DKos any differently? (Thank you, bhudy!)
And the other lesson I took away is this: when you enter a candiate diary, figure out quickly what kind it is: positive promotion or negative promotion. If it's the former, read and discuss freely. If it's the latter, unless you support the diarist's candidate, your comments probably won't be welcome, and you may end up with a bad taste in your mouth about a candidate you may eventually feel compelled to support, so proceed with caution.
Experienced Kossacks undoubtedly will roll their eyes (sigh)—they all know this. It's not really diary-worthy. But I decided to write about it because I didn't find this issue covered in any of the truly excellent newbie literature (which could hardly be expected to anticipate every situation a newbie might face!), and with primary season heating up, others may run into similar problems.
Words of wisdom from all Kossacks are welcome (yes, even including the dreaded eye-rolls, mocking, and anti-troll recipes)! And to my fellow newbies (or even former newbies): have any good adventures to share from your voyage to Real Kossackhood? :-)