Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The risks of discussion

It's only been a few weeks since I reopened comments on this blog. I've been happy with the feedback; I've been pleased with the chance to speak more with readers.
But I remain wary. When I was at About and Primedia, monitoring chat rooms and discussion threads was a constant hassle. Folks tended to get nasty, and civilized discourse was often hard to find.
The Ventura County Star has been suffering from this of late, but moved quickly to contain the problem.
Today Vin Crosbie reminds us of Godwin's Law, which says that given sufficient time all online discussions will deteriorate into name-calling foolishness. (Thanks to API's CyberJournalist for pointing me toward Crosbie.)
So I urge B2B publishers to proceed with caution in this area.
On a more optimistic note, the B2B audience tends to be smaller, older and more educated than that of the mainstream media. That makes it less likely that we'll see the sort of ad hominem attacks that plague mainstream media discussions.
Another problem has emerged as feedback functions have grown more popular. Spammers have taken to littering discussion threads with garbage.
It is possible to reduce both spam and fury by requiring registration. Certainly many B2B publishers and bloggers will choose that route. In the meantime, I remain hopeful that the desire of the B2B world to share and learn will outweigh the risks of opening ourselves to feedback.

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