With people who are looking to advertise something, specifically, there seems to sometimes be this notion that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

Heck, maybe advertising on this community is alright and the post will be met with warm regards. Or, even if it’s not, maybe the staff will miss it and members won’t care. Worst case scenario, the post is removed, you get admonished, but you can still apologize and everyone will be cool. Right? … Right?

The Meaning of the Quote

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” is a quote generally attributed to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

In my reading of it, I take it to mean that in situations where a good idea or a greater good can be served, that would otherwise be hampered by, at best, red tape or, at worst, complete disapproval by those in charge, that it is better to try and have to apologize if it doesn’t work, than it is to try to get permission and, seemingly, waste time in doing so.

We see this play out on one of my favorite TV shows, “24,” where lead character Jack Bauer is simply the man in every way and has instincts that are other worldly. He’s went against authority countless times and is generally proven to be right when doing so, because he’s Jack Bauer and he’s awesome.

Why This Doesn’t Apply to Forums

Big problem: there is only one Jack Bauer. And you are not him. And forums are not the U.S. government or one of it’s branches. They are a different beast.

Structured communities generally have their own system in place. They have guidelines and moderators or an administrator. If they don’t have guidelines, they virtually always have someone who is “in charge” on the site. It’s generally pretty easy to send these people a note, whether through a contact form or a private message, to ask them if what you want to do is OK. Of course, in asking, you risk them telling you no.

Maybe in some cases, if you go ahead and post your advertisement and it’s removed, you’ll be warned and you’ll then have your chance to ask forgiveness. Of course, your image will be tainted by you doing such a thing in the first place.

But, every community is different. On some forums, you may not even get the chance to ask for it because you’ll simply (and rightly) be banned.

Building Your Business on Corpses

I’ve never been a fan of “let’s do whatever we can to build a business and then when we make it big, we’ll go legit.” That’s a poor, unethical way to do business. That’s the way Sports Legends Challenge was going. One might also consider YouTube and many music start-ups in this vein, too.

You want to have a solid history and a foundation build upon solid practices and respect. Well, at least I do. This is the importance of respecting someone else’s space.

When it comes to online community, operating under a strategy of “act first, ask questions later” is dangerous. It’s like building on top of an ancient burial ground. Maybe you’ll be OK, but there is always the chance that, one day, you’ll wake up with a zombie standing over you.