What is an “Open” Conversation on the Web?
Posted by Allison Fine on March 17, 2009
I read Clay Shirky’s reflections on the state of newspapers the other day with great interest. The piece is terrific, but when I reached the bottom I noticed that instead of a long slew of comments there are only pingbacks, or links, to other blog posts.
I didn’t think more about it until I saw a tweet from Susannah Fox, the Associated Director of Digital Strategy for the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life, yesterday. Susannah wrote, “meant to credit @cshirky with no comments, yes pingbacks, yes Tweets (own your opinion, he and we will see it)”
I tweeted her back and asked her to expand on her thought. She responded, “@Afine Anonymity breeds trolls; if you have something to say, say it out loud so everyone in your network can hear it. Also, I think @cshirky isn’t building a destination (silo danger) but a honeypot: dip in for insights, propagate in your own space.”
I appreciated Susannah’s speedy and thoughtful reply, and it got me thinking about what are open converstaions verses closed ones.
Holly Ross, the ED of NTEN, has thought about this tension and last year wrote on her blog, “your audience may not be ready to have the conversation that social media enables. That’s because social media does not just enable conversations. It enables PUBLIC conversations.”
Clay certainly wants a public conversation about his post — but what lengths should he go to to ensure that those comments and discussion are civil? Susannah’s point was that the pingback strategy required that bloggers “own” their comments and can’t hide behind a wall of anonymity and be uncivil in Clay’s space. But this automatically restricts direct commenting of Clay’s post to established bloggers and tweeters and other digitally savvy folks. So my mom can come and read but she can’t comment on it or talk about it to other interested folks online because she’s not a blogger or tweeter. Is that an “open” conversation?
For most of us, our traffic and the threat from trolls is low enough to manage manually, we simply moderate the comments on our sites or ignore rude tweets. I imagine that Clay gets an huge amount of traffic and that he doesn’t have the time to moderate all of the comments on his blog – better to just throw the conversation out to other blogs. And certainly for anyone who has had a searing experience with trolls, maybe, hopefully, not on the scale of Kathy Siera, but on any scale, it is frightening enough to warrant closing a few gates.
But for most of us, and particularly those of us interested in catalyzing discussions about social change issues, I’m wondering if it’s better to have a discussion dispersedmthroughout the blogosphere or to start with one concentrated conversation on one site that travels elsewhere?
A lot of this thinking happened last year and before when we were getting used to the new toolset and passiosn were high around the election. I’m wondering how it is evolving now, wehther tools like Twitter that are just beginning to experience spam are on the same trajectory as blogs and, most importantly, whether and how all of this is hurtling us towards more open or closed conversations?
This entry was posted on March 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Clay Shirky, Holly Ross, Kathy Siera, NTEN, Paul Harwdick, Pew Center on the Internet and American Life, Privacy Digest, Susannah Fox. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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