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June 24, 2004

Echoes and amplifiers

Mark Bernstein argues that the immediate-response nature of comments and trackbacks contributes to duels and mob mentality amongst webloggers, and suggests that the cooling period introduced by waiting for a centralised distribution service is beneficial.

Mark is obviously too young to remember the glory days of Usenet. Between propagation delays and the intermittent habits of dial-up users, Usenet threads were typically spun out over weeks or months. And yet Usenet became a byword for flamage, feuding and noise, and rightly so. Clearly rapid response mechanisms are not the problem, and forcibly deferred gratification is not the solution.

Could the problem be that some people don't get on, and/or that some people are griefers (aka killers), and that in a very very large group these small percentages add up to a large number? You know, like, a social problem rather than a technical one? Oh, perish the thought. Because, you know, that would be difficult to solve.

June 24, 2004 in Weblogs | Permalink


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I thought the point was to stimulate debate?
Pretty fucking boring if we all agree.
Bring out the pitchforks!

Posted by: Marianne at Jun 2, 2005 12:38:36 AM

It's not a question of suppressing debate. Usenet was big on debate, controversy and pitchforks. And one thing it *never* was was boring.

But as it grew, the screeching howler monkey minority grew large enough to destroy debate and controversy, and replace it with mindless flamage and abuse. Mark seemed to be concerned that the same was happening to the weblog world, and was mistakenly blaming it on immediate-response mechanisms.

Posted by: Ivan at Jun 2, 2005 7:53:06 AM