Given my YouTube channel and blog writing, I have a public profile. This leads people to reach out to me. I appreciate when people thank me or let me know they enjoy my work. Unfortunately, this also leads people to cross boundaries. I am fairly certain people would not behave this way face-to-face. But since I’m just some guy on the internet, it leads people to inappropriate behavior. Here are a few situations that stand out.
Person A sends the usual long unsolicited email explaining a detailed problem, including CAD images of models and drawings, requesting my advice and guidance. (Side note: your company does not want you sending images from your CAD without an NDA in place.) This happens a few times a week. I have a Technical Support Policy on my website that explains (1) I am a professional who is compensated for the value I bring to product development organizations, and (2) I do not provide free technical support or consulting.
Person A responded, “I thought you were just a person who enjoyed helping people.”
Allow me to clarify things. I am a person who enjoys being able to pay my bills. I am a person who enjoys being compensated for my knowledge, skills, and experience. I am a person who prefers people not make assumptions about my motives.
Simple solution: ask someone before you assume it’s okay to send a long email soliciting help.
One morning I wake up to an email from someone I do not know asking if we could connect on LinkedIn. That was the extent of the information in the email. Sure, I respond. LinkedIn sucks, but I will connect with anyone who wants to connect with me.
The person responds that I need to send a connection request to them because LinkedIn will not allow them to connect with me.
There are multiple engineers on LinkedIn with his name. He lets me know which company he works for. I identify the correct account and send him the connection request.
He sends me a message on LinkedIn. “Thanks for connecting. If I have any Windchill questions, can I send them your way?”
“Please don’t,” I respond. I thought his connection request was for networking. Instead, he was trying to establish a channel for free technical support.
Simple solution: networking is for mutual benefit. Do not connect with someone just to try to get something out of them.
Veiled Free Consulting
Another connection on LinkedIn – someone I do not know but whose connection request I accepted – sent me a message. He had read my one of my blog posts on PTC’s website. He asked if we could have a call and “talk shop” on a list of topics.
“Talk shop” usually implies a mutual exchange of information. Given that he didn’t explain what he was bringing to the table, he had a list of topics he wanted to talk about, and I had nothing I wanted to know from him, it was a veiled request for free consulting.
Simple solution: be honest about what you want.
Work for Exposure
There is a company that I have worked with in the past. Since then, my public profile has increased. My YouTube channel has almost 15,000 subscribers. I delivered the keynote at the PTC/User conference. I have presented at virtual conferences during the pandemic, moderated an online panel, conducted an interview for an online conference, and co-hosted a session for the Creo 8 rollout.
This company wants to boost its YouTube channel, so they thought, why don’t we reach out to Dave? They asked me to create videos for their channel in exchange for… exposure. In their eyes, this was a “win-win.”
When someone offers “exposure,” they mean there is no compensation. My channel has literally a hundred times more subscribers and views than theirs. I’m pretty busy with high profile public opportunities. I do not need their exposure.
Simple solution: if you are a company, never ask someone to work for free under the guise of “exposure” or “experience.”
Making Things Better
How do we move forward? How do we make things better?
Remember basic concepts like consent, honesty, and openness.
Have respect for others’ time.
Compensate people for the value they provide to you.
Behave online the same way as if you were speaking to someone in-person.
It really goes back to the Golden Rule: treat people the way that you want to be treated.