Saturday, September 13, 2008

Forums and Blogs

Notes on Forums:

I can't in good conscience recommend any forum as an example of community. Seems to me that a meesage board is just that. Just like a mesage board in a laundromat or supermarket. Is a message board a community? I suppose so if people hangout around the message board but then that would be something like the old days when people hung out in a barbershop. I can extend the term "community" to message boards and forums only as "kind of a community".

Such forums, like supermarket bulletin boards are managed by the owner or manager of the supermarket. Online message boards are more like malls in that it is a public space that is privately regulated. I cannot concieve such a standard for real community. Can a community be privately held and still be a community? Probably not, not without gross distortion of all aspects of traditional community.

Typical forum organization is topical. The topic is divided down into it's constituent parts. This might be a good structure for people who are just socializing around a hobby such as Dolls or Automobiles. When it comes to forums that focus upon the expository mode, I think that temporal and ordinal form is more suitable as they are the natural extension of this mode.

As yet, I know of no forum that has managed to achieve this type of organization. Probably because there is no comprehensive material to guide people. First people need to become aware of the great benefits of using these forms in a coordinated manner. People also need to recieve training in the application of these forms.

I am currently developing a complete training program in communication and leadership for democratically organized community called The Discussion Workshop to be administered by an elected membership of a constituted society.

Notes on Blogs:

This blogging experience is great because it puts more control into the hands of the contributors. However, I am already experiencing an ethical dilemma. I set the blog to a fully open circuit. I chose that "anybody" could post. I see others have chosen that setting also. The conflict for me is the "moderating" part. Since I have invited the public into an open circuit, what grounds are there for "moderating" them? I can find none. If they spam or "troll" my blog it's because I chose to leave it open. If there is a problem user, I can just elect a membership of myself and the other users into another blog. This one could just become an advertisment for the other. The circuit can be closed and rational and the members can use a traditional form to elect new members.

My ethical dilemma runs deep. As a blogger, I see myself as an operator of a communication machine. I do not view it as my right to moderate the behavior of the public to whom I have extended an open invitation. Since I am operating a machine, I rather view it as my responsibility to yield the right of way to pedestrians.

So I am thinking of how this principle might be extended within a platform? I think that there should be rules made according to this formula:

No rules for the public

Few rules for members

The most rules for administrators

Because a discussion must be fair and democratic, we must ensure that equality rules. If I come to the discussion armed with edit and delete buttons, I am not equal to the other participants. The rules must restrict the behavior of administrators so as to achieve equality among all of the contributors.


  1. Hi Artie,

    First off I'm making a couple of assumptions about what you mean by certain terms. For example by "open circuit" do you mean posts are publicly visible and anyone can leave comments?

    That said, I think a blog's moderation policy is a very personal decision. I've seen some people devote elaborate posts to outlining the moderation criteria and rules (so readers understand what's expected of them) - but this seems to be more the exception than the rule.

    I think most people operate on a case-by-case basis, though some people require approval before comments appear. My blog is set to require approval in the first instance, but once approved any comment from the same person after that is immediately displayed.

    If you're using the blog in the context of an business, organisation or school though things are a bit different, and you might find local policy applies somehow. But given how new blogging is as a process/activity relative to other things it's equally likely that no such policy exists.

    Personally speaking in the 3+ years I've been blogging I don't think I've ever had to moderate a comment - or at most once. Trolling and flaming does happen certainly, but it hasn't happened to me. I think it's a matter of how we interact with people we disagree with as much as anything. The more civil we act, the less likely we are to incur someone's wrath.

    Then again, even if that does happen there is always the delete button :)



  2. Why do you need to delete a post?

  3. Hi Artie,

    When you said "I chose that "anybody" could post." you actually mean real posts and not comments? I had assumed the latter for some reason. I didn't realise you could even do it actually. What have your experiences been with it so far?

    As far as why do you need to delete a post, I have on a couple of occasions when I completely lost the plot and ended up making no sense by the end of it.

    That said, I think most people believe that posts are snapshots in time that should be preserved because they show a bit about who we were and what we were thinking at a point in time. So inevitably when I talk about deleting posts at least one person will say "no, you should never delete them."

    So don't just listen to me on that :)



  4. I meant "comment". I choose the option that anyone can comment. I just don't get the ethics of inviting the public into open circuits for these so-called "discussions" and then disciplining them or needing to somehow maintain order. If you and I were in anyway bothered by anyone in this blog, we could form our own private society and elect into it anyone we felt was qualified.

    Why does everything have to be public? Why does everything need to be preserved? I am not going to go back and read any of these posts I've made. They are just thoughts off the top of my head. They might serve as drafts for a series of web pages but most of the content would be unusable.

    I once kept a running recording of all my conversations with people. I also carried a recorder and kept notes of my thoughts. It was not reviewable. It was impossible to review and make anything out of it. Of the some 20+ posts here, I may be able to use a very tiny percentage of it for a web page.

  5. I have an open comment policy but do request that people are polite, even if they do not agree with my post or resulting comments.

    I got myself into a nasty flame war earlier in the year and swore I wouldn't do that again. I haven't needed to moderate but would if people were being nasty, inappropriate or used bad language. Having said that, I have found the best way to deal with 'trouble makers' has been to ignore them. The only posts I have ever deleted were spam.

  6. "First off I'm making a couple of assumptions about what you mean by certain terms. For example by "open circuit" do you mean posts are publicly visible and anyone can leave comments?" Mike

    Mike, I mean that the forum or blog is relatively open (versus closed) either technically (settings) or socially.

    Sarah, I don't understand the concept of opening the doors to the world and then picking on the public for being "troublemakers". Why not start a private society?

  7. Say I belonged to a F2F community & I went to a meeting. A person got very abusive with me, attacked me and really upset me, I would not want to continue engaging with that person (call me a fragile flower, I don't care :) ).

    The same applies with my blog. If someone comes along & behaves in a way that is offensive, then I make no apologies - out he/she goes! Its my blog; I don't have to put up with people's crap. Having said that, I have never needed to do that.


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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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