Filtering SpacesAugust 7, 2009
For any internet discussion space, there is a spectrum. On one end sits the most awesome, creative, intelligent space beyond your imagination, on the other end lies an endless page of spam porn and Timecube Birther rants in an unholy Esparanto of Zalgo and lolspeak. The second law of Internet thermodynamics states that all discussion spaces are headed toward the latter end unless active measures are taken.
As stated before with Designing Spaces for Design Discussions, it takes work to make sure you get the good side and not the bad side of the spectrum.
Places like the Angry Black Woman blog has both a set of rules for discussion and a required reading list. This is really important if you’re running a forum or otherwise expect to encounter a lot of newcomers that you -want- to bring up to speed.
Generally, I’ve found, though, that people who just want to troll don’t care about whatever good-faith rules or requirements you put up, and, at best, simply use them to better camoflage their way into acting as concern trolls.
For the most part, public rules work better as education tools for good faith participants and to establish a chain of policy for banning/moderating, which is excellent in forums or spaces where more than one person has to share authority about moderating space.
The way I filter here, though, is actually more advanced.
There’s three things I’ve found common in people capable of good faith discussions- a willingness to self educate, not assuming authority irregardless of being uninformed on the topic at hand, and a lack of aggressive (“defensive”) posturing. Having these 3 qualities are necessary for meaningful discussion which is not locked into privilege based blinders.
I usually only let a few comments through which violate those principles, in order to show -how not to behave-, which you can find in a few other posts in the past. Long-time readers pick up on this, though trolls and folks who are more focused on speaking their own rather than dialoguing never do, probably because they’re not really reading. (Again, it’s a filtering tool).
Part of what makes this very effective is that most people imagine the only purpose of online discussion is to make oneself popular and well-liked (even if all you do is toss out hateful rants)- so the idea of disregarding large portions of the internet populace as irrelevant to discussion, even unto being an asshole and ruining your “online cred” (OH NOES!), it’s completely beyond them.
People who can grasp the point of the discussion space operate just fine, people who can’t show themselves out very quickly. Though this is less of a group discussion space, it works as a teaching space in it’s own way.
Whatever way you go, filtering is all about keeping true to the purpose of your space and who you serve. Filtering is the way to make sure it stays that way.