Why Forums Suck (for debate) Part One: Human Nature

February 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

People have been  complaining about the quality on-line discourse since the beginning of Usenet in the early ’80s. Many people’s first reaction is to blame the users. This is probably a fair criticism as anonymity has been shown time and time again to have a troubling effect on people’s behavior, on-line in particular. He wasn’t the first to say it but Gabe over at Penny Arcade summarized this best in a comic stating “Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total F*&#wad”.

Not that people are good a debating in real life either. The endless screaming we see on the point/counterpoint TV shows serves as testament to that. In our everyday lives it is considered impolite to bring up politics and religion and for good reason. Nobody wants dinner to turn into an episode of Crossfire.

So on-line debate has two strikes against it: its on-line and its debate but I believe there is hope. The people of the Internet have done pretty well creating things in a collaborative environment. Wikipedia and the Linux kernel are examples. The question is whether quality content can come about as the result of competitive behavior. I believe it can if we find the right rules to referee the game. What are those rules? … Well I’m working on that part.


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