Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 22 Oct 00 18:03
Thanks, John. Appreciate the cross-fertilization.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 22 Oct 00 19:21
"asynchronous online discussions among people who never meet face to face is not the best way to try to put together a constitution or by-laws." I think we'd both agree (because we were both directly involved with the governance issues at eminds) that the community council approach was related to a misperception of the character of the type of social organization we were dealing with, that we were applying a community governance model to an interactive environment that is more like conversation. Obviously you don't have to elect a council and create a bureaucracy in order to have a conversation. However it's just as obvious that conversation spaces like eminds or the WELL need structures for dealing with problem users, topic drift, and that sort of thing. Can your recommend a set of guidelines and/or best practices for social interaction online?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Sun 22 Oct 00 19:28
You mean governance or rules regarding participant behavior, Jon? In both cases, it would depend on the nature of the group. Generally, setting up clear expectations regarding behavior at the very beginning -- registration -- eliminates most problem users. Electric Minds was way too vague and wishy washy about what you had to do to get thrown out. I've come to value the people who are reluctant to participate when they see abusive behavior more than the principle that censorship is bad. Perhaps a more sophisticated reputation/filtering system than Slashdot would make it possible to cut down on the crap you gotta read to get to the good stuff, but that still doesn't address the reluctance of the less-than-thick-skinned to poke their head up in a firefight.
Katie Hafner (kmh) Sun 22 Oct 00 19:58
You said it. Even when things are relatively calm, I've been too intimidated to post in public/private/any conference on the Well for most of the eleven years I've been on it. Not sure why this is. It started, though, with all the posing and strutting I noticed during that Harper's forum on hackers back in '89. Couldn't get a word in edgewise, and walked away wondering, "why bother?" I've since come to appreciate the magic you can find in many corners of the Well, but am still pretty much too scared to post anything...
John Payne (satyr) Sun 22 Oct 00 20:15
>Topic 18 [vc]: The WELL of the Future >#455 of 542: email addiction at work (choco) Sun May 14 '00 > > John, I saw this today in Frederick Noronha's "Bytes for All" > newsletter and thought of you... It is beyond the scope of a Well > project, but... > > OPEN SOURCE DEMOCRACY: A Dutch-led research consortium has put in > a bid for European funding to develop non-proprietary, open- > source software for large-scale democratic debate, potentially > supporting discussion by more than a million participants at a > time. > > The ISSUE consortium, led by the Dutch new media company Spirit, > has entered the proposal under the European Commission's 5th > Framework for research and technological development, which > includes a specific programme for a user-friendly information > society. > > The proposal includes plans for industry-led technical research > and development combined with research by social psychologists > and political scientists; test beds in Rotterdam, Belfast > (supporting the peace process), Nuremberg and Vienna, with a > working prototype planed by year two of the project; and all > research to be 'open source' and Linux-based (although some > business prospects are also expected). > > A spokesman told E-Government Bulletin: "We feel that there is > mileage to be had from getting people sharing ideas, experiences > and software to counter the inevitable attempts by proprietary > software developers to control this market. ISSUE will have an > impact on professional lobbyists, on pressure groups (one is > never certain if they have the public backing they claim to > have), and on the discussion about referenda." See: > http://www.issue.spirit.nl [Courtesy Dan Jellinek <email@example.com> ] > > From: _/ B y t e s F o r A l l --- http://www.bytesforall.org > _/ Making Computing Relevant to The Common (Wo)man MAY2000 > _/ Editors: Frederick Noronha (India) Partha Sarkar (Bangladesh)
John Payne (satyr) Sun 22 Oct 00 21:14
Technical note...Engaged-style referencing _does_ work between Inkwell and Point.vue over the public interface. See <point.vue.23.10>, which contains such a link pointing back at response #6 in this topic.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 22 Oct 00 23:11
I was thinking governance & rules both, if you want to go there. (Just an observation: Definitely agree that it's important to define for users the kind of behavior that'll lead to expulsion. That helps when you've got some users calling for an expulsion, but others opposed to it, as we've seen happen...someone can be undermining one conference but contributing well in others.)
Jeffrey Field (fattymoon) Mon 23 Oct 00 01:27
Thanks for your informative response, Howard. I believe your body of work is 100 percent non-fiction? When are you going to produce some fiction?
Paul Terry Walhus (terry) Mon 23 Oct 00 06:14
Katie: "still pretty much too scared to post anything..." What would it take to lower these barriers to your expression? Thoughts, Howard?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 06:39
I've been over these issues so many times that I'm probably seen as a crank. The WELL isn't going to change in that regard, because there are a sufficient number of people who fiercely defend their right to be nasty -- and sometimes cast dissenters to the hazing rituals as "nice police." Building a norm of welcoming would be my goal, if I was trying to get more people like Katie -- thoughtful, smart, knowledgeable, but not willing to get into flamefests -- to participate more. I know from my personal experience and my experinces creating other communities that there is nothing as effective as replying personally when someone makes their first post, reading their bio, suggesting ways they could participate. It's not really a matter of rules, it's a matter of norms. And it's always important to note that such norms do exist in many conferences -- writers and parenting come to mind. Old-timers who remember when I used to post a lot, and my statements about why I stopped posting so much, will recall that the words "why bother" are central to my experience.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 23 Oct 00 07:46
Re. "getting into flamefests" - isn't that a line both fine and blurry? Some of the best, most lively conversations may include elements of flame or may be interpreted as flame by some sensibilities...?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 08:16
I guess this is just one area where intelligent people disagree. Over the years, my opinion has evolved to a belief that there is never really any reason for calling someone an idiot. You can demonstrate that their claims are false, their logic faulty, their mode of communication confusing, that they contradict themselves, that there are counter-examples that render their statements idiotic. Heated disagreement does not have to mean personal insult or ridicule. IMO. Here are two data points: Katie and I say that many of the times we have thought of posting on the WELL, we don't get past the "why bother" barrier. I can't answer for Katie, but I've put in my time with flamers, snipers, clueless kibitzers. For years, I put up drafts of my columns before I sent them to my editor. I was open to all criticism, and was often convinced that my wording or reasoning or premises were wrong. I'm not someone who faints at disagreement or strong disagreement. But my years online have led me to do automatic triage -- if a conversational venue, whether it is a message board or chat room or listserv is a place where name-calling and character assassination are tolerated, then I spend my time elsewhere. I know that this is not a popular view here. I suggest that a kind of darwinian selection might be taking place. If Salon goes down and the WELL as a business is put in a situation where more money has to come in than goes out, it might be necessary -- I don't know the numbers -- to cut down the churn. In that case, the ongoing health of the WELL might be more directly connected with whether people who peek in decide to stick their neck out by staying and posting. Please don't misconstrue this. I like to read flames on occasion. I wouldn't dream of trying to make Usenet less free-wheeling, or to insist that a universal niceness policy prevail. I'm saying that there are people who might add to the value of the WELL and other online venues who are hesitant to participate because they perceive insults and character assassination.
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Mon 23 Oct 00 08:26
There is probably a happy medium to be struck between "being willing to argue" and "being willing to walk away from an argument" when it comes to optimal community participation. Howard, I hope the revised book reflects corrections of the errors I pointed out in Books 597.30 et seq. I think the book is valuable, but I still run across journalism about EFF and other matters that gets dates and other facts wrong, and one can usually tell that the errors origined in VC.
Undo Influence (mnemonic) Mon 23 Oct 00 08:35
Er, originated. (I want to note also that my regard for Howard and for VC is sufficiently high that I had him put on the witness list for ACLU v. Reno.)
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 08:47
Mike, I sent the list of corrections that derived from your criticisms to the MIT Press editor. First books arrived yesterday. Haven't checked. Indeed, I sent those corrections to HarperCollins when the paperback was published. And again, I was surprised to learn of those errors after sending the MS to Mitch Kapor to check. I learned from that to check with multiple sources.
Nancy White (choco) Mon 23 Oct 00 08:52
Re: intimidation/welcome/civility.... The Well is a wonderful and interesting place, but today it is only one instance of online "places." FWIW, I found my experiences online shifted when I moved out of my first online "nest," (which I probably _loved_ too much :-) and experienced more types of online interaction. The variety helped me feel more comfortable in "moving on" when one or another space started to be more flames than not. At times it has also made me more cynical. Sigh. What was very important was that I had the chance to experience groups of different sizes, types, purposes and duration. This reinforced for me that, just like offline, "it all depends!" So it becomes harder and harder to make statements that work across a variety of online environments! As "virtual community" matures as an idea and experience, it becomes less of a thing unto itself, and more an expression of a way for people to interact. Drift alert... One more cross link to follow up with <satyr>'s pollinization effort. I was introduced to yet another online community building effort this mroning, and I thought it very relevant to the conversation here. I also appreciated the intro which provided the visitor a number of options of how to learn more. Yay! This stuff gets me jazzed! http://www.funredes.org/mistica/english/project/ MISTICA Methodology and Social Impact of the Information and Comunication Technologies in America) is a two year project with two objectives: * strengthening of the NICT social actors in Latin America and the Carribbean * experimentation of an articulated methodology for communication within virtual communities
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 23 Oct 00 10:18
Just in case anyone is wondering, the initiative of the WELL staff has been to call on hosts to refrain from name-calling and being abusive, since that group has a special relationship to the biz, as it were. That's been the official response to this dark side of "what it is is up to (the tougher of) us," and it leaves room for gradual change, choices and a variety of personalities. The rules are more strict on Table Talk, the other Salon.com community, though you don't have to give a real name there. There is less actual name-calling at TT though people can still annoy each other to the point of insanity. TT has no volunteer hosts, but has distinct community and subcultures. The comparisons are interesting. Both TT & The WELL are rich expressive environments. Howard, I will take another stab at my difficult question. I know the term "virtual community" has limitations, but embracing it: Is it virtual (is it like the social groups you describe) because it is computer mediated? Because it happens over a distance? Because it overlays another community for each participant? Because unlike older media like the phone and letters, it's many-to-many and text-based? Because unless you act to express your emotions you are cloaked and secretive, so it is potentially lacking in authentic involutary expression? What is the defining element of a virtual community?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 11:30
In my new chapter, I explain that I might have avoided all the discussions about virtual and community by referring to online social networks. In trying to get the bigger picture about the relationship between communication technologies, I referred to Elizabeth Eisenstein's work on the social history of the printing press, in which she pointed out that printed broadsides turned news from a ftf community event to a private individual event, thus diminishing an aspect of local village community life. At the same time, the printed word brought many people into contact with the Protestant Reformation. Would you call the Protestant Reformation a virtual community? In Wellman's work on social network analysis, he pointed out that the telephone radically changed the size and proximity of people's social networks. Online social networks can include teams, support groups, fan clubs and other affinity groups who have a common task or interest (lately, Wenger et al have been writing about communities of practice, some of which use online communications). For many years, the correspondence-based "invisible colleges" of science and scholarship have been discussed. They are also a kind of social network. As I also discuss in the new chapter, "community" is a fuzzy term, loaded with connotations, some of which are nostalgic or utopian or illusory in other ways. But I'd say that you don't need to be a community to exchange lore about configuring networks or following your favorite pop star, but when people in the conversation begin to care about and affect each other's lives, whether or not there is a large or any face to face component, then the social network takes on some characteristics of community. The early conceptualizing and analysis, including my own, was rather more like a broadaxe than a scalpel. Now that we have the advantage of knowing about some of the tools that critics and commentators used to critique my book and other aspects of cyberculture, I'm for a finer grained analysis. Until very recently, there has not been much of an interdisciplinary community of researchers, although there certainly have been many pockets of research in different countries, institutions, and disciplines. Recently, in the VC conference, Jon posted a brief report by David Silver about a cross-disciplinary conference of Internet researchers. From what I know of those who attended, it's a fine start. Smith and Kollock's book, "Communities in Cyberspace" is a good one, as is Steven Jones' "Virtual Culture."
Runcible Spoonerism (bryan) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:08
"Community" seems to have become a commercial buzzword now, and thus has lost a good deal of its meaning.
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:09
Get yer redhot community solutions right here!
Runcible Spoonerism (bryan) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:11
Community in a Box for Dummies
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:21
Pre-seeded Premium-demographic Hosted Vertical Communities
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:30
The "content, commerce, community" model is unfashionable these days.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:46
What do you see as the main reasons that has shifted, Howard?
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Mon 23 Oct 00 12:55
The glib answer is that the fashions among venture capitalists shift every six months, no matter what. A slightly less glib answer is that the model isn't really old enough for many communities to have grown. It doesn't happen instantaneously. Content and commerce both have their problems in relationship to the kind of burn rates that startups have been exhibiting, and community is certainly the fiscally weakest of the three. Community is not a profit center. It might multiply revenues from traffic or commerce, extend a brand, create a means for rapid feedback from customers, provide a service for a company's stakeholders (like Cisco's support community or Sun's Java developer's community), provide an important social element in training. There are other things that online discourse can do to benefit a business. But they are indirect, not easy to quantify, and certainly aren't instantaneous.
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