The darker side of social media

My first entry as guest weblogger has appeared at Corante’s Many to Many. A brief excerpt:


What a unique out of body experience. You can take the voice out of the body, but you can’t teach it manners.

Take a good long look at this rather frivolous first entry, because I can guarantee you that the other entries will not be light hearted, safely intellectual, or funny.

Too much about the genre of social software – the weblogs, file swapping, IM, discussion groups such as MetaFilter and Slashdot, user groups such as those enabled at Yahoo groups and Usenet, the collaborative environments, digital identities, and copyright freedoms – has been about the utopia we’re building with these new technologies. We make grand claims to ourselves as well as others about our replacing professional journalism, stopping wars, increasing both artistry and productivity, giving voice to the individual, finding truth, and ultimately, building communities.

However, as others have discovered in our past, when building ideal societies, there is no true utopia – there is only a fragile hope based on undiscovered lies.

It’s time, past time, to look at the ‘dark side’ of social software.

Social Media Technology

Editing Comments

Archive including comments found at Wayback Machine

Yesterday’s jury duty was very dull. I was almost called in once, but a settlement was reached at the last minute. However, when they sent us home last night, they said we didn’t have to be in today. This is lucky because I’ve been out of sorts the last few days, including a deep ache in my joints, even in my hands. Since I had the day off anyway because of the jury duty, I was able to stay home, trying the alternate heat pad, ice pack treatment. No computer work, either, except for reading the weblogs, which sometimes isn’t a great idea at the best of times.

I went against my better judgment and walked into another RSS discussion today. What can I say? I can no more ignore these conversations than Dorothea can walk away from a discussion about grad school.

Today’s RSS debate began with a discussion associated with Dave Winer’s new PSS ‘idea’, the creation of which is the best reason I’ve seen for moving RSS and other weblog interoperability technologies to standards control. Or to another country, whichever comes first.

As I said, I went against my better judgment and made a comment about PSS in Sam Ruby’s weblog. This discussion degenerated as these discussions always do, and yes, I contributed my part to the degeneration. I slammed, was slammed in return. This isn’t unusual and wasn’t necessarily a disappointment — what I expect with a conversation around RSS.

What was the biggest disappointment was when Sam Ruby edited my comments.

I can’t think of anything worse than to edit other’s comments. I can see deleting abusive comments in weblogs, or editing them on the request of the person who wrote them, or banning someone who’s abusive — but not editing comments without permission. I’d rather all the words be deleted.

Changing the font to create strikethroughs, changing the words or the order—these are unacceptable. By any standard. To do so is to manipulate my words to work against me, and there is no honor in this. None.

I won’t comment at Sam’s weblog. I won’t read Sam’s weblog. And I’m very disappointed at both Sam and others who accept such actions without batting an eye.


edited comment