Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a link to "The United States of America, According to My Racist Aunt" on a somewhat well-attended community web site called Metafilter. From my limited experience with this community site, it seems that maybe many people visit it but only a small, loud minority account for the bulk of comments and dialogue.
The link was obviously meant to be funny, but I was pretty surprised at how quickly the user comments turned both inward ("let me tell you about my experiences with racism.") and, stranger still, deathly serious. ("this is not funny. we must not tolerate the racist behavior of our 94 year-old grandparents for one moment!") There were almost immediate accusations and counter-accusations of racism posted by the Metafilter community and it made me feel sad because all I ever wanted was for people to see that map and pronounce, "hee hee. now back to work."
But it's somewhat foolish to complain, or wish feedback/interpretation could be guided by your own wishes. I was speaking with a friend about this, and sort of arrived at the conclusion that, if you're interested in having your work (whatever that may be) exposed to a bigger audience you have to accept this basic truth: once you let something go, it's not entirely yours anymore. You have to share ownership with an unknown number of people, including many whom you'd never give a sip of your Diet Dr. Pepper to.
I heard a great line recently that carries this point to its natural conclusion. I can't remember the source (was it the seinfeld documentary?), but the quote was something like, "You wanna know how to tell when you've really failed? When you start blaming everyone else."