The Yellow Bittern Threads - Analysis of a Blamestorm

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: The Yellow Bittern Threads - Analysis of a Blamestorm
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:44:38 +1000

Speaking as an online researcher of Australian birdwatchers, the Yellow Bittern 
threads provide a useful example of social group dynamics and a reminder of how 
things can blow up (bushfire metaphors are quite appropriate for this subject).

The first thing is that emotive language and finger pointing create a fuel load 
that is easily sparked into a blamestorm.  Naming and shaming has a righteous 
feel to it, but it has to be accurate and measured.  It can easily develop into 
a lynch mob mentality and result in law suits.

The second this is that sweeping statements tend to confuse the situation and 
make things worse [throw away lines have a tendency to blow up in people’s 

In the case of the Yellow Bittern we had "Due to the selfish and careless 
actions of these few anyone wishing to view this bird has now had that 
privilege denied.  …. Birders are now asked to refrain from visiting this site.”

The identification of the irresponsible birders as photographers exposed a 
fault line and the claim that people would not be able to see the bird set it 
off.  While the post gave the impression that birders were supposed to refrain 
from visiting the site, the reality was that birders shouldn’t stray onto the 
golf course.  Being a public place, the Wallaroo Ct pond was never off limits.  
Due to the urgency of a rare chance to see a mega, people got worked up.  
Feeling they were being picked on, birders with cameras got their backs up ...

The initial reactions of people to a problematic post can determine whether 
things are sorted out amicably or it blows up.  Beware of making quick 
judgements and strong assertions.  Above all, think twice before adding to the 
fuel load or creating a strong wind current.

Regards, Laurie.
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