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Civility, Profiles on Newspaper blogs



This week’s Media Report (Radio National) is on ensuring civility on blogs and social networks.

The question we were asked to address was this: how do you encourage civility between commenters on your blog?
Margaret Simons starts with a Taxonomy of Blog types.

1. Pamphleteering
2. Digest
3. Advocacy
4. Speciality, niche
5. Exhibition
6. Gatewatcher – media watchers
7. Diary
8. Advertisement
9. News blog – sourcing real news.

I think she missed a couple. The Event based blog (short term, for a specific event or ritual, such as a wedding). Education or course blogs with an index and activities, such as my How To Blog course. Splog (spam blog). Fake blogs – flogs?
and then the panel discussed the core question of ensuring everyone has a voice, doesn’t get shouted down etc.

George Megalogenis (link on civility)
Journalist and blogger, The Australian

Laurel Papworth (me, you dummies!)
Social network strategist

Andrew Bartlett
Blogger and ex Senator

Ignore the “working journalist” slight jibes – a working blogger (me!) pointed out that we have the same needs as journalists when discussing stuff, and I don’t want another real journalist vs amateur blogger debate on here.

Here’s the core thing as I see it.

Heritage media, mainstream media, however you want to call it, build blogs, not community. There’s no implied criticism there, just fact. Blogs are about locked down content (commenters can’t delete or edit the main story), the Blogger is King (or Queen in my case) and we run a one-to-many channel. We set the tone and agenda for the discussion and we expect you to share our purpose (you wouldn’t read it, if you weren’t interested) and some of our values (discussions within class, education and socio-economic group). But of course the internet is full of people who aren’t like us. Maybe they swear a lot, in their everyday life. Effing this and effing that. Maybe they are rootin’ tootin’ beer swillin’ pig shootin’ guys who are leaving a comment. I don’t know many of them in real life, but hell, the internet seems to be full of them.

Blogs are not social networks. Social networks can happen around blogs, but the tools required (profiles for each participant, friends/enemies lists, community roles of welcomer, cop, pioneer, leader, swarms/subgroupings) happen natively on blogs but not supported by the blogs function. Most blogs do not allow you to see all comments made by a commenter for example, or who their friends are.

This severely limits MSM like Fairfax from managing their commenters. Blackbanning is hard, or ineffective. Rewarding good behaviour with leadership roles, or badges, or additional features, or events or whatever, is impossible.

Note that George says he doesn’t want community moderation as the community may choose to mute a voice simply because it is inarticulate or doesn’t share their values, yet is happy to post-moderate himself. Voting down a comment doesn’t actually delete a comment, it simply empowers the reader to choose. On Thottbot (World of Warcraft commenting system) I frequently read the negative scores because, they are, well, funny as well as rude. But I choose to do that. I do think community moderation (where the comment is not removed but simply scored low) is preferable to the Blogger exercising God-like moderation abilities. But that’s because I get lazy deleting spam, rather than because I believe in free speech. Heh.

Read my READ FIRST: Rules of Engagement before commenting please.

Other links: Sean the Blogonaut.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

11 thoughts on “Civility, Profiles on Newspaper blogs

  1. Laurel,

    Thank you for the link.

    I think I prefer to not know too much about another commenter. Then all I really have to go on is their writing/their argument/point of view.

    I post frequently on blogs that have topics that are political/religiously orientated.

    If I knew extra information about another commenter i.e. their political/religious affiliation I might start to incorporate biases that cloud my thinking and response to them.

    Maybe it would be better to incorporate an “report abuse” so that hate speech etc could be moderated, but I think popularity voting may suppress dissenting views.

    Specific social networks are a bit different, they are like clubs where it’s more aspects of personality that affect our like/dislike of a person.

    What do you think?

  2. I downloaded the podcast and am listening even as a I type…

    As a personal observation, I think the requirement of blogs that individuals must read them has remarkable implications for the kinds of individuals who frequent blogs and the feedback they leave (typically in the form of comments).

    I contrast my my personal blog with my YouTube Channel. Many more people seem to prefer to ‘watch’ a video than ‘read’ a blog entry. While I have a core audience on YouTube, my videos get stumbled upon randomly by people largely ignorant of me and my other content. Their comments are typically more reactionary and less considered on the videos than when compared to feedback to the blog.

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  9. The first shocking insight here is how little has changed in mainstream media. An evergreeen post is a marvellous thing. Hello 2008 interesting to look back.

    Blogs are now quite popular on many online papers here in NZ but all of the traffic is in favour of that media. There are no links back of any kind which reduces the credibility of many of those comments.

    A local paper here does now group all comments together by author. As someone who comments almost everywhere EXCEPT newspapers that feature can help me decide if the a particular viewpoint is worth extra reading time but except in rare cases difficult for readers to verify authorship from outside.

    I have worked on projects we we tried the gamification pathway and will do again to reward community building. However so many of the comments I still see on MSM are equivalent of rotten fruit throwing in the old twon square although I suspect that might be more fun for the throwers – for readers – not so much.

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