Possibly the Internet’s most valuable contribution to society is it’s ability to foster dialogue. Unfortunately that dialogue is frequently not constructive. Among the least constructive techniques is the “attack and run” method, because there really is no way to control another person’s ability to communicate. The attacked person merely opens another channel. This is a case in point.

Earlier today, the nameless writer behind a seemingly useful site, http://www.space.gs/, known as “Astronautics” (formerly “astrospace”) on Twitter, decided to communicate information about a mail server security problem. He or she posted several tweets on the subject (many now absent). This is the remaining one:

Astronautics: JSC mail server may have been hacked. If you get an HSFNEWS email from NASA check that the urls in the email are not Chinese

Then some time later, this tweet:

Astronautics: I lost many followers making that public service announcement – it’s strange how so many people have no sense of duty.

I thought I’d offer an explanation. Honestly I thought I was polite:

alan_langford: @Astronautics You assume all your followers are affected and/or can’t recognize spam. You flooded twitter with what amounts to noise. Not good

Just in case, I added (fixed a typo):

alan_langford: @Astronautics I happen to think your “regular” feed is interesting enough to tolerate the odd lapse, but obviously not everyone else does.

The public response was:

Astronautics: I do my duty and make public service announcements. I make a difference. I will not bend to court popularity.

Which is all well and good, but it seemed to me that the author was trying to understand why many followers left, which is unrelated to one’s sense of duty. Maybe it was my sense of duty to try to offer an explanation in the first place. Then I got this rather shocking direct message:

DM from Astronautics: It is not a ‘lapse’ and I do not care what some loser like you thinks. I am a professional journalist with a sense of DUTY. Go to hell.

The individual subsequently blocked me, removing the opportunity to respond as well as depriving me of his “journalistic” feed and forcing me to respond in a public way. I suppose in hindsight that’s not much of a loss.

So here’s my response: this person is clearly using a definition of “professional” with which I am not familiar. Maybe I’m out of touch. If anyone has a link to a credible reference that lists name calling, not identifying yourself, and telling people to “go to Hell” as professional, please send it to me. Considering the increasing meaninglessness of “professional” when attached to “journalist”, I am now questioning the credibility of anything on this site. That’s too bad, because credible news on space and astronomy would have been a good thing.