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  •  It's a scale issue (none)
    it is possible to marginalize/minimize the impact of obvious trolls simply through discourse - it's the honest, open, above-board way

    That doesn't work beyond a certain scale. Here is why: (copied from the dkosopedia entry I made)

    Think of it like this:

    In an isolated small town, where everyone knows everyone, people will stop at the intersections and courtesy will be enough to let people pass.

    As a community grows, police are necessary to control the flow of traffic.

    When the community becomes a sprawling metropolis, hand-waving and courtesy don't work anymore. There aren't enough police to monitor every intersection, and people driving through downtown don't know each other.

    That is why you have traffic lights, flow analysis and (ideally) anticipatory urban design.

    Norms work in small, close communities. Moderators work in medium-sized, homogenous communities.

    Neither work in large-scale communities.

    The equivalent of traffic lights are community management tools and technologies and efficient traffic flow requires deliberate design.

    The above should not be taken too literally. One danger is assuming that what works in "offline" communities works online. That is not necessarily so.

    a) Online communities are potentially much more vulnerable to disruption by destructive individuals. A determined, hostile individual can perform much greater harm to an online community than an offline community.

    b) The barriers to destructive behavior are lowered in online communities. Behind masks of anonymity, people feel less restrained, and faced with other anonymous masks, people feel less empathy and tend to be less sensitive to the consequences of their communications. There are far fewer of the cues (visible, auditory, and other sensory) that humans have evolved to rely on beyond pure content to enhance and evaluate communication.

    c) Online communities, because they are not limited by physical geography, and because of the nature of their many-to-many discussions architecture, end up involving much larger numbers of people in continuous conversation than is feasibly sustainable offline, and often more diverse membership, in terms of the personality types, social norms and standards.

    This is a wonderful thing, in and of itself. Text is a great equalizer, and offers the opportunity to evaluate the merits of a thought without the prejudicial filters that affect us offline. However, it also means that people, who are used to mostly engaging with people they get along with offline, have to learn to interact with people online who may not think like they do, interpret things as they do, or behave as they do.

    All of which means that a different "architecture", and a different set of management tools, may be appropriate for online communities. Thus "traffic lights" doesn't really map to an online community function; rather, the relevant analogy is the shift from trust-based systems to (benevolent, yet) authoritarian systems, and ultimately to self-sustaining systems and, most importantly, to intelligent anticipatory design.

    "The problems of today will not be solved by the same thinking that produced the problems in the first place" - Albert Einstein

    by galiel on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 11:08:03 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

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