An Open Letter to Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson of RoadSnacks: Please Remember People Have Feelings

Dear Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson,

A week or two ago your article, “These Are, Undeniably, The 10 Worst Places To Live In Texas” caught my attention.

Initially, it caught my attention because I teach Texas History, and I always look for various lists like this to get student to discuss present-day Texas and all of the ways in which it is viewed, studied, and classified.

Then, it caught my attention because Freeport is 10 minutes from where I live. Some of your information resonated with things I know to be true. Freeport is far underfunded by the state.

Then I kind of forgot about the article, until I saw a link, something to the effect that Freeport responds to being labeled worst place to live, a couple of days ago. (I have not read this article, thus far.)

Then I went back and read your article and realized you have made “The 10 Worst Places to Live” articles for a number of places.

Presently, I am left disturbed by your article.

Please allow me to explain: 

I have known and still know a number of people who live and work in Freeport. People in Freeport are good people. Just like people everywhere else. Sure, Freeport has its problems, like any town, but Freeport is in no way automatically better or worse than anywhere else. People don’t need to be in a big town or in a big home to give and receive love. People make homes, not buildings and money and stats.

How would you feel if your hometown or present home came up on a viral list as among the worst places to live? Especially, if you didn’t have the means to relocate or make things “better” (a subjective state)? Imagine the 5 year-old or the 45 year-old sitting in front of the television or computer hearing that their home is among “the worst” places in Texas? 

Where and when people are born is an accident of time and place.

Don’t confuse geopolitics with real problems. There are certainly a number of places in Houston (a gigantic geopolitical area), for example, far “worse” than Freeport in terms of crime, food deserts, and underfunded, overcrowded schools. 

Additionally, your list, likely not intentionally but the effect is the same nonetheless, embodies and perpetuates racism. It could cause business to avoid areas where such business could really be needed in terms of jobs and services provided. 

Instead of attacking and demonizing the people who live in Freeport, why not attack the structures–the institutional structures–that keep those racialized as Hispanic, Black, Asian, etc and those without the same access to wealth from having the same opportunities and support via state and federal monies as those racialized as White? The status quo is what needs to be called out. 

I also find the rhetoric of your images and stats important and worthy of comment. Below is the image and information from your article: 

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 10.06.46 PM

Clearly, this is just one small section of a much larger city, but you picked a specific image, and it embodies it own messages. From this picture, Freeport looks small, semi-abandoned, with older buildings. A one-second Google Image search, shows a variety of other images (example here) with a very different idea of what Freeport is. Other images could show children happy and playing at a crowded swimming pool or football field. 

Also, please note that Freeport is largely the home of chemical industries, such as DOW and BASF, and a spot for people wanting to play at the beach or dine at sea food restaurants. Where is this information in your blurb of stats?  

Your research and information is important, absolutely and thank you for caring about the world, but how its framed is most important.

And, yes, we need lists of rankings because they help us know how to improve, but again its about frame and delivery. And a list saying the United States is ranked so-and-so below x number of countries (a very abstract idea) is very different than saying your city is “the worst.” 

And once more, please do remember that people have feelings. Freeport is home to people. And has a rich history. 

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, 

AJP 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Think I will visit Freeport next time I am in Lake Jackson.

    Freeport and Lake Jackson may be similar to Odessa and Midland.

    Pawpaw

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Andrew, You are by no means alone in your feelings about Christopher Kolmar and Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson. Thank you for taking time to call them out on their immature and cruel behavior. Here is the link to the post: http://www.marybakerart.com/newburyport/?p=4500 which also links to this article. All the best, Mary

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And Molly also wrote a blog post quoting you: “In Defense of Small Towns” http://www.makeitworkmolly.com/in-defense-of-small-towns

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are a lot of people who feel the way you do Andrew. Here is another one (and I put a link to your blog post in my comment) http://www.kinston.com/article/20150727/NEWS/150729137

    Like

  5. Haven’t been to Freeport lately, but I have met over the years many really nice people from there. I have heard of some good, small seafood restaurants in the Freeport area and hope to try one some day. Keep on tooting the horns of small towns everywhere. Being a small town is the one thing a bigger town can’t offer!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I saw a different list about cities in Ohio and was curious about the methodology used to rank them. When asked to provide it, roadsnacks said “No”. Even polls show how it was conducted so the results can be evaluated, but not roadsnacks. The truth is that they try to make readers believe their rankings are based on some data but, in reality, it is not. They just like to trash people and places. They deserve pity for their hatred and bias.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, Steve. I worked directly with both Nick and Chris when we all worked together on the blog of Movoto Real Estate. If they are using the same methodology we used when ranking cities for Movoto, then they are absolutely using real data from verifiable sources. Frankly, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t continue to do so.

    In a broad sense, it was a Moneyball methodology. If you can plug each player’s statistics in and boil it all down to a single score, you can get a sense of that player’s true value. This was an attempt to do the same thing using published rankings of cities and states.

    Just to give you an idea of what we would do, we would use things that we assumed most people would agree upon (e.g., low crime is a good thing, a high education ranking is a good thing), we would add a few items that are debatable (e.g., a low population density is a good thing), and then, depending on the area and what we were ranking for, we might use something extremely arbitrary.

    For instance, if the ranking had something to do with “Unhealthiest Cities,” we might use a criteria like “access to fast food,” and use the number of fast food restaurants per square mile as a criteria for the rankings.

    We would then assign a certain weight to each category (Chris is a legitimate mathematical and statistical genius, and he devised an algorithm for doing this easily), and we would get a ranking for every city of a certain size within the state, region or country.

    Again, I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t be using the same methodology as before. We never published information regarding the algorithm at Movoto, although we usually posted a 1-10 ranking criteria used in the overall rankings.

    In the end, it was a matter of using real data to get a somewhat subjective ranking depending on how much stock the reader wanted to place in the data as a true representation of what places were “best” or “worst.”

    For the record, I’m from Detroit, and Detroit frequently got buried on almost every ranking we ever did involving Michigan. It sucked, but that didn’t stop me from loving my city no matter how it was ranked by our algorithm and somewhat subjective selection of criteria. I think anyone who lives in a city is far better real-time arbiter of the good and bad of that individual city, so I just shrugged and didn’t take my city’s ranking personally.

    Honestly, I have nothing but good things to say about Chris and Nick on a personal or professional level. They were both fantastic to work with, and I learned a ton about SEO/SEM, marketing outreach, content generation and management from each of them. The Movoto Blog team was a unique and deeply talented crew, and being in San Mateo with them represents a great time of my life.

    In the meantime, these articles are all highly subjective, are intended to provoke discussion, and aren’t meant to cause hurt feelings. I’m sorry you were offended by anything they published online, but I sincerely doubt anything was posted with malicious intent.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. In Defense Of Small Towns - Make It Work Molly
  2. According To The Website Roadsnacks.Net Lehigh Acres Is The Third Worst Place To Live | Lehigh Acres Gazette

Please Comment While You're Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: