How mean is the blogosphere…

This is a topic that keeps reappearing like a bad penny.

A few months ago, a female technology blogger in California faced a lot of on-line harassment, including death threats. She suspended blogging, although she was a popular blogger. And it prompted Tim O’Reilly to propose a draft code for bloggers. Yes, you read that right. Bloggers are troubled by some readers, and we propose a code for bloggers to follow. Just like in Britain, you can go to jail for hurting a burglar who enters your property to steal from you… Anyway I had almost forgotten that I had written about it then.

Until of course, the other day, a friend pointed me to this article in the IHT: Online ‘hooligans’ cast a dark cloud over the blogosphere.

All bloggers have had their fair – and not so fair – share of readers, who do not just disagree with them but also express that disagreement through words that you “never heard in the Bible” (thanks, Paul Simon) and through argument that you will never hear if the discussion were to remain rational.

For instance, soi disant random comments hurled at Indian bloggers, working or living outside India, include ‘you are a second rate citizen wherever you live’, ‘you must face a lot of racial discrimination’, and ‘you must be one of those who think a westerner can say or do no wrong’. And this is just my experience. I am sure a few million people of Indian origin are blogging and a larger selection of random pot-shots can be seen if you choose to trawl through the web.

Fed up with anonymous comments, which are irrational, irrelevant, slanderous, otherwise intended to hijack a conversation or undermine the discussion, or plain rude, many bloggers are now actively taking steps to manage the menace. Some are moderating comments; some, like Loïc Le Meur, are outsourcing the monitoring of comments.

But then some people are excitable and emotional; they may have varying degrees of knowledge, experience and the capacity to comprehend, analyse and counter arguments; they may suffer from low or fragile self-confidence and self-esteem; they may have political ideologies that drive them and agendas that they drive, and above all, they may be blessed with less smarts than we may credit them for. And that is just the real world. On the Internet – where nobody knows you are a dog, as the famous cartoon went – all this is just amplified, aided by a cloak of anonymity.

All things considered, when discussions in the blogosphere go sour, I always remind myself that there indeed is such a thing as bounded rationality, even in smart people.

Irrationality, on the other hand, knows no bounds.

13 thoughts on “How mean is the blogosphere…

  1. This vehicle takes the approach “Freedom of Speech” beyond the realm of reality. And yes you do open the door and invite the not-so-desirable to participate. But it only exposes the level of compassion currently held by a limited few. Most that contain some since of character just turn and walk away. Others feel its their “right” to unleash some hidden agenda only because they have an ability to speak….

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  2. This vehicle takes the approach “Freedom of Speech” beyond the realm of reality. And yes you do open the door and invite the not-so-desirable to participate. But it only exposes the level of compassion currently held by a limited few. Most that contain some since of character just turn and walk away. Others feel its their “right” to unleash some hidden agenda only because they have an ability to speak….

    Like

  3. John: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You are right. The web does multiply things beyond our earlier experiences and with all ensuing problems, of course. As I mentioned, it is an unresolved debate. Moral and acceptable behaviour boundaries in emergent technologies cannot be sorted rapidly or in a manner acceptable to all concerned, so it is mostly wait-and-watch.

    Thanks again.

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  4. John: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You are right. The web does multiply things beyond our earlier experiences and with all ensuing problems, of course. As I mentioned, it is an unresolved debate. Moral and acceptable behaviour boundaries in emergent technologies cannot be sorted rapidly or in a manner acceptable to all concerned, so it is mostly wait-and-watch.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  5. Hi, I have written several posts on this subject and was curious to read yours. Came here from the Indian Economy Blog).
    My own personal experience has been that some people object in strong and rude language any kind of view they do not agree with! I write fairly mild stuff but the reactions are often vitriolic and even crazy! Ofcourse I delete such crazy comments. I mean I have a right to my view and no one has a right to shout it down! Said in a polite way, I welcome all views. In fact I love a debate, but these guys don’t want that. They simply want to yell and scream. In the first few months of blogging I never moderated comments but now all comments are on moderation because suddenly a crackpot turns up!
    Almost every couple of days I get people whose language is shocking and their logic twisted.

    Like

  6. Hi, I have written several posts on this subject and was curious to read yours. Came here from the Indian Economy Blog).
    My own personal experience has been that some people object in strong and rude language any kind of view they do not agree with! I write fairly mild stuff but the reactions are often vitriolic and even crazy! Ofcourse I delete such crazy comments. I mean I have a right to my view and no one has a right to shout it down! Said in a polite way, I welcome all views. In fact I love a debate, but these guys don’t want that. They simply want to yell and scream. In the first few months of blogging I never moderated comments but now all comments are on moderation because suddenly a crackpot turns up!
    Almost every couple of days I get people whose language is shocking and their logic twisted.

    Like

  7. Nita: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.

    Some blogging platforms make it easier to moderate or to delete post-facto, while others do not. I see a design issue here.

    Encountering people with a range of views, sometimes oddball views from my perspective, whom I may not have ‘met’ had I not been blogging, has given me a handle on how screwed-up the world really is! 🙂 I still do not suffer fools gladly but I do know now there is an awfully large populace of them out there.

    As I said, irrationality knows no bounds. I stay within the bounds imposed by rationality.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  8. Nita: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.

    Some blogging platforms make it easier to moderate or to delete post-facto, while others do not. I see a design issue here.

    Encountering people with a range of views, sometimes oddball views from my perspective, whom I may not have ‘met’ had I not been blogging, has given me a handle on how screwed-up the world really is! 🙂 I still do not suffer fools gladly but I do know now there is an awfully large populace of them out there.

    As I said, irrationality knows no bounds. I stay within the bounds imposed by rationality.

    Thanks again.

    Like

  9. Exactly. I too would never have met these people if I had not been blogging. One only read about such things… and I wondered if such irrational people actually existed. Now I know!

    Like

  10. Exactly. I too would never have met these people if I had not been blogging. One only read about such things… and I wondered if such irrational people actually existed. Now I know!

    Like

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