- Currently Listening to:
- Depeche Mode — Policy of Truth
The web today is a-flutter with calls for new “standards” to fight back against the increasing problem of hostility in the world of blogging. This comes on the back of a spate of unpleasant, unprovoked attacks on various bloggers because of their politics or views on seemingly harmless topics.
Tim O’Reilly and Jimbo Wales have jointly put forward a proposal to tag websites with somewhat quaint badges, showing what level of discourse you can expect to see. This idea seems doomed to failure to me, despite the big names that are pushing it through. As they stand, the draft “Code of Conduct” has a number of problems. For example,
We do not allow anonymous comments.
We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.
Identity spoofing is ridiculously easy at the moment, so this recommendation just can’t work. At least until initiatives like “Identity 2.0” and OpenId take off.
On the badges, Jeff Jarvis writes:
[The blogosphere is not a medium.] It’s a place. And when I moved into the place that is my town, I didn’t put up a badge on my fence saying that I’d be a good neighbor (and thus anyone without that badge is, de facto, a bad neighbor). I didn’t have to pledge to act civilized. I just do.
Indeed. I posit that the big win here will come from improvements in policy enforcement, rather than up-front policy declaration. Everyone already knows they’re not supposed to act like a jackass.
The NYTimes article linked above notes
A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive.
The problem here is that deleting moronic or venomous comments does nothing to stem the tide of trolling that a particular post is going to attract. It merely hides the problem under a rug for a short time, before someone, on finding their comment deleted, decides to write something even worse, perhaps in a place where the original poster doesn’t have such sweeping editorial control.
Online discussions are entropic, and it only takes one misinterpreted or snide comment to transform the complexion of a thread into a chaotic flamewar of no merit. Chaos begets chaos, and maintaining the quality and order of a discussion requires both time and vigilance.
A few years ago I saw an interesting approach by Sam Ruby, very nicely illustrated through an anecdote here by Mark Pilgrim. The theory:
In social sciences, there’s a theory called the “broken window” theory. It states that a little ongoing maintanence — like fixing windows as soon as they get broken — can have dramatic effects. It also states that the smallest sign of destruction, if left untended, tends to bring about more destruction. Even in a “good” neighborhood, where normally people wouldn’t dream of being randomly destructive.
This is powerful thinking, and the most effective way to deal with the problem that I have seen. Passages in comments are selectively marked as “flamebait” by the site’s owner, which then appear as text with a strike-through to anyone reading the comments. This allows a site owner to Bowdlerise a comment in line with their site’s own (stated or no) comments policy, and leaves a tangible signifier to anyone else thinking of commenting that there is a single voice patrolling the comments and keeping order.
Things could be so different now
It used to be so civilised.
- Five by five - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Five by five is the best of 25 possible subjective responses used to describe the quality of communications. As receiving stations move away from an analog radio transmitting site, the signal strength decreases gradually while noise levels increase. The signal becomes increasingly difficult to understand until it can no longer be heard as anything other than static.
- Marco.org - The telephone was an aberration in human...
The telephone was an aberration in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. It was never okay.
- Will iPhone 4's Audio and Video Chat Finally Break the Voice Calling Scam? - iChat - Gizmodo
As I've said before, voice calling and SMS are both just part of the data stream, and don't deserve special treatment. Now, when there's a well-designed unified iChat client presenting an alternative to traditional calling and messaging, those old systems will become inconveniences. If Apple manages to do this right, and that's still a big if, they will finally provide a more human way to communicate: Pick a person, and reach out. The "how"—whether you use text, voice or video—should be of less importance than the "who."
- BBC - h2g2 - The Columbia Disaster - Death By PowerPoint [Peer Review version]
So how could NASA have made such a terrible decision? The accident investigation report spells it out. The engineers' doubts and concerns were not adequately communicated to NASA management, and one link in that communication chain was the reporting tool.
- Social Media and the Twitter Backchannel at CHI2010 | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM
A major trend this year is the use of Twitter as a backchannel for information distribution and commenting during and after the talks. People are also following the conference from afar using the #CHI2010 hashtag . Conference attendees are using room designations to report on specific activities in different parallel tracks, and using it to decide whether to hop over to a different session. Interestingly, they're also using it to comment on the talks and to spread these comments. For example, when Ben Shneiderman made a particular heavy remark, it spread amongst the attendees .
These practices are enabling conferences to be less about one-to-many lectures on the latest research and more about peer-to-peer interactions.
- Creating Passionate Users: When only the glib win, we all lose
Let's face it--the clever, witty, glib talkers can make the non-clever, non-witty, and non-glib sound like slow dolts. Slow-to-articulate is mistaken for slow-in-the-head. And as the world speeds up and decisions have to be made right frickin' NOW, it just gets worse.
So there's the heart of the problem--if you're not able to explain your thoughts, ideas, and concerns quickly and articulately, you are often at a disadvantage. I've been there. I am there. I'm capable of thinking (some would debate that), willing to do the research, and reasonably articulate. But I need time! I have never been one of those think-on-your-feet types. With the exception of those few things in which I have a lot of expertise and experience, I pretty much suck at having to explain, defend, or promote something in real-time.
- Ambient Signifiers - Boxes and Arrows: The design behind the design
To daily commuters, the station melodies augment the existing ambient landscape (going through tunnels, turning corners, large landmarks, etc.), so despite not necessarily paying attention to the visual cues around them, travelers subconsciously start building up a “landscape” of their journey based on these audible inputs. They quickly learn the melody of their final destination terminal (it is played incessantly as they wait on the platform for their return journey), and soon recognize the melody of the terminal that precedes theirs. After long-term use of the same route, commuters build up a unique chain of melodies that accompany them on their way home. Without necessarily realizing why, they begin to establish a familiarity with these sounds, and can quickly discover when they have overshot their destination by hearing an unfamiliar melody that indicates a strange place.
- Auto Smiley – Computer vision smile generator | F.A.T.
- Twitter Blog: @anywhere
When we're ready to launch, initial participating sites will include Amazon, AdAge, Bing, Citysearch, Digg, eBay, The Huffington Post, Meebo, MSNBC.com, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, and YouTube. Imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo! home page—and that’s just the beginning. Twitter has proven to be compelling in a variety of ways. With @anywhere, web site owners and operators will be able to offer visitors more value with less heavy lifting.
- Print Roger Ebert: The Essential Man
Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can't remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn't happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn't as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz's ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren't they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.