Have a Pet Peeve? Take It Online

If bad driving, shouting into cell phones and unruly kids drive you crazy, advice columnist Amy Alkon is your ally. She is one of many frustrated observers who are taking their complaints about rude behavior to the Web.

Amy's pet peeve is people who shout into their cellular phones in public.

"You cannot go into a restaurant or café or pub without being forced to join into someone's life and in the most boring way," she said. "No one ever tells you anything you want to know."

Instead of just blogging about loud talkers and bad drivers, Alkon actually "outs" them on her Web site, advicegoddess.com. With her digital camera at her side she snaps pictures of ordinary people committing offensive acts. Call her the manners paparazzi.

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She caught one mom changing an infant's dirty diaper on a restaurant table and took a picture of another woman who drove right through a stop sign.

But Alkon doesn't stop there. She'll post nearly any information she can get about the offender. When one man spoke loudly on his phone at an L.A.-area Starbucks and relayed his telephone number to the person on the other end, Alkon jotted it down on a pad. She later called "Barry" to warn him to be more considerate next time.

"People need to understand that they're in a shared space," she said.

Not everyone appreciates her advice.

"People are terrible sometimes," she said. "People will say, 'Well, it's a public space,' and I say, 'Yes, it is. That means you share it with other people, so you have to be mindful of their needs too. If you're at home you can shout and be rude as you want."

Unlike years ago, when a gentle reminder to talk quietly would provoke a sincere apology, people today are likely to respond with a nasty retort, she said. Alkon sees it as her civic duty to change people's behavior one incident at a time.

"Just to say to someone, 'Careful you could kill someone,' they're like, 'Yeah, whatever,'" she said. "But once I put their picture up on my site, it's not just you I'm deterring from that behavior again. It's other people."

There are dozens of other Web sites dedicated to frustrated people eager to vent. No offense is immune. The sites cover every possible infraction, including bad parking, neighbors who use leaf blowers in the early morning hours and nudity.

"I've seen more of my neighbor's a[--] than I care to see," writes a blogger on the site rudepeople.com.

On hollabacknyc.com, New Yorkers post pictures and often graphic tales of sexual harassment.

One blogger wrote, "Last year I used to have to walk to my high school. Right across the street there is always a huge group of guys just standing there. At first they didn't bother me when I passed them, but after my first few days they used to whistle at me and one of them even grabbed my ass. It was disgusting and I felt so violated."

After barely avoiding five car crashes in a single day, Mark Buckman knew he had to do something about the dangerous drivers he encountered on his daily commute to work.

Last year he quit his job as a computer programmer in Northern Virginia to devote all his time to his Web site, platewire.com, which gives frustrated commuters a place to vent. Buckman's site encourages drivers to post license plate numbers of so-called bad drivers. So far he has nearly 58,000 subscribers who have paid $2 to join.

The postings are both mundane -- "Your headlight is out" -- and humorous.

"This moron likes to come dangerously close to your rear end," writes one platewire blogger about a driver with California plates.

Yet Buckman says he is not out to harass anyone.

"I'm just trying to offer them a medium so that people can communicate," he said.

He hopes that his site will help save lives.

"Even if I can capture a minimum of 5 percent of all drivers and get them to take a better look at their own actions on the roadway … I think we'll be making a safer roadway for all," he said.

Kelli Wilkinson blogs on platewire at least once a day. She says the outlet helps her cope with her daily commute.

"This is a way to yell back gently and to not fuss and create a scene, to not engage in road rage, to not ram a vehicle into somebody else," she said.

But can these sites actually change behavior? In some instances, yes.

One Santa Barbara, Calif., man used to steal neighbor Tim Halberg's morning newspaper until he was caught on videotape by Halberg himself. Halberg posted the video on youtube.com and the stealing stopped.

But critics ask who has the time or the energy to tattle so thoroughly?

Alkon said, "If you don't like what I'm writing, read 'The Economist.'"

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