Case in point: what's going on in one realm of the blogosphere right now. I'll use two examples to make my point.
Last night on Twitter, I learned that prominent blogger Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users has received death threats on her blog. Vile and horrible things were written by members of a site called MeanKids.org - things that are totally inappropriate to write in blog comments, not to mention that they are in violation of federal law. Kathy has canceled all of her speaking engagements and is now afraid to even leave her house.
And Shel Israel over at Global Neighbourhoods has banned two readers from his site, going so far as to call one an insufferable a**hole. A war of blogs has ignited. You have to wonder how this affects the reputation of the individuals involved, not to mention that of their agencies / businesses.
I'm speechless. To think that this tightly-knit community is getting ripped apart - by itself, no less - is...well...I was going to say is unbelievable, but actually: it's human nature.
Second Life = Second Helping of Human Behavior
I witnessed similar happenings in Second Life:
- A friend was roaming around and saw another avatar try to steal belongings from a house
- At a group gathering, individuals were advised to leave their knives and guns outside
What to Do About Off-Color Comments
One of the tenets of social media is transparency, which manifests itself in bloggers turning on the comment function and comments being left by readers. But in some platforms, readers are given the opportunity to post anonymously; this is supposed to encourage participation. This leads me to ask: if transparency is required for bloggers, shouldn't it also be required for commenters? In seems only fair.
I seem to constantly have the debate with clients regarding the requirement of registration for things like white papers. They typically want to require registration - and a lengthy one at that - in order to know who's downloading their material. They sometimes miss the point that readership will rise if they lift the registration process. The same could be applied to blog comments.
So, what's the answer here? Robert Scoble has stopped blogging for a week and PSFK chides him for doing so. Brian Oberkirch is feisty about it. Aside from giving up and laying down the keyboard, what actions can be taken? Certainly the perpetrators can be tracked down by their ISP (although if they're really professional, they can probably find a way to mask it). But beyond that, are these bloggers supposed to shut down comments or require a more stringent monitoring and approval process? It takes some of the spontaneity out of the equation.
While it may create a little more bureaucracy than necessary, this is probably a good opportunity for a group (the Social Media Club? Blogger/WordPress/Typepad/VOX?) to join forces and create a comment policy that prohibits such lewd and disgusting behavior. Maybe one already exists, I don't know.
Is the price we pay for being so connected? We wanted to listen in on the conversation. We wanted to take part in it. While there's no excuse for some of the trash that's spewed out there, we probably shouldn't be all that surprised.
After all, it's human nature. Some people are just jerks.