Thursday, 21 January 2016

Like You Said Rick Mercer

Thank you Rick Mercer for bringing light to something close to my heart.  I too remember when the Internet "happened", and the idea of a virtual debate was first suggested.  I was part of it, helping to make it happen. Online comments were never suppose to be this way.

I remember long discussions with my fellow web youngsters about the possibilities associated with the concept of the virtual debate.  Greater cooperation, knowledge sharing, education reform and on and on we went, with feel good outcomes to this new media world.  But 25 years later, those outcomes haven't materialized all that much.

Sure if you do some digging, the Net can be a tremendous resource.  I contribute to message boards and engage in discussions as they relate to software usage or coding.  I've had tremendous knowledge sharing within these discussions, and I've learned most about coding from these same sources.

But here's the thing.  Those discussions are a few more mouse clicks away.  A little harder to get to. And Neanderthals, like TunnelSnake87, will likely never stumble onto them.  And if they do, they have to create an account before contributing.  I think this "distancing" holds part of the solution.  As does Rick's suggestion that anonymity is being misused and generates hate messaging.

Article comment sections are super easy to get to.  And as a developer, I like that ease of use.  But most comment sections currently allow contributors to have their say with nothing more than a Twitter/Facebook account or email address for credentials.  Of course you're going to attract abuse when you make it that easy to use while maintain anonymity.

Combine "ease of use" with "anonymity" and you give a platform to the last segment of society anyone should be listening to.

In many cases the comment sections have been removed entirely from a website due to this very problem, and that's a real shame.  It's "Throwing the baby out with the bathwater", and it can be avoided.  Either loose the anonymity option, or give the "webmaster" better tools to manage the abuse.

The Internet is still a maturing entity, and we are still learning how to properly use it.  As a society we've historically overlooked many obvious dangers when it comes to learning new activities.  (Goalies without face masks and hover boards come to mind.)  Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have been under the microscope for years regarding their publishing policies. Some are taking steps to try to gain some measure of control, but I feel this is a fleeting effort that will not result in any meaningful change.

Don't wait for Facebook and Twitter to change.  Make the changes at your end.  For any organization trying to engage their audience, the solution is to take matters into your own hands.  There are ways to engage without opening your organization up to a Neanderthal attack.

My hope is that Rick's Rant on this subject will help the business community recognize that the online community is not just filled with TunnelSnake87 and the like.  There are tremendous benefits when engaging with your audience.  Relationships are built, knowledge is shared and on and on.  You just need to have the right tools, and people in place who know how to use them.

I'll keep doing my part in this ongoing effort to Stop the Inspamity, and continue to spread the word to organizations , provide them with my Open D application, and share a few other best practices I've learned over the years.

Thanks again Rick. It's reassuring to hear this issue bothers you too.

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