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.