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When commenters attack!

When commenters attack! published on 2 Comments on When commenters attack!Purchase print

When I posted this on ReadWriteWeb a year and a half ago, I got into a back-and-forth with someone that got my back and my dander up, which I don’t have to tell you completely distracted me from actually posting it here. So, at long last, here’s a coveted LOST NOISE TO SIGNAL, sure to be a collector’s item.

No, it’s not all commenters on Digg. Or on YouTube. Or, or, or.

But a whole lot of them seem to be lying in wait to sink their teeth into the nearest virtual pantleg… or exposed jugular. The culture of vehement attack and merciless ridicule is still virulent in a lot of places online. (The whole “You Suck At…” meme is only the latest example.) (See? Proof that this was a long time ago. –Rob, 2012.)

I’ve heard the advice that the you deal with that kind of attack by growing a thick skin, having a sense of humour about it, and generally hardening your heart and pretending it doesn’t hurt. It’s the same advice we used to give bullying victims before we discovered it just encourages jackasses to become bigger jackasses.

Anyone building or managing an online community has a responsibility to keep the oil slick of aggression out of the conversational coastal wetlands. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lively or even heated disagreements, but that users aren’t aiming to actually wound each other. And that responsibility isn’t just to users; it’s to the business or organization behind the community, because that kind of toxic behaviour rubs off on their reputation.

I won’t pretend it’s easy, especially with the entrenched culture of an established community. But civil behaviour ought to be the expected norm of online community, not the welcome exception.

Did I just say that out loud?

Did I just say that out loud? published on 1 Comment on Did I just say that out loud?Purchase print

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

In a week where U.S. news coverage was dominated by an inappropriate tweet from a congressperson’s Twitter account, maybe it’s worth taking a moment or two to think about your own personal social media policy. (Alex has a great post about family social media policies, by the way.) What are you doing to avoid landing in the same soup that Rep. Anthony Weiner has been sloshing around in for the past several days?

For instance, do you consciously avoid tweeting or blogging after you’ve had a few drinks? (I’ve had an idea for a smartphone breathalyzer. Blow anything over 0.08%, and it wouldn’t let you tweet. Or, optionally, it switches you over to a special Twitter account you’ve created that consists only of drunk tweets.) Do you have a policy of running anything that seems iffy past a trusted colleague or a loved one?

Do you ensure all of your social media profiles are protected by secure, complex passwords? Disable all post-by-email functionality? Require background checks and kill-chip implants for anyone who ever touches your logged-in devices?

Or is the occasional I-can’t-believe-my-elected-representative-just-tweeted-that (or I-can’t-believe-my-favorite-clothing-designer-just-tweeted-that) the price we pay for a free-wheeling, spontaneous Web?

140 characters without possibility of parole

140 characters without possibility of parole published on No Comments on 140 characters without possibility of parole

As 2010 dies down, a lot of us are looking back over the past year. This cartoon was inspired – indirectly – by one of the year’s less-reported stories: the collision between the informal, off-the-cuff culture of Twitter and the rigid world of law. That conflict runs the gamut from totalitarian regimes to liberal democracies:

True, China has long repressed dissent – often brutally – and airports around the world are notorious for frowning on even casual jokes about explosives, violence or hijacking. But Twitter brings a new combination of persistence, reach and spontaneity that we haven’t really grappled with yet.

No matter which you think needs to adapt more – the law, or the way we use social media – we enter 2011 facing a new level of accountability for our spontaneous comments. And the kind of idle conversation that could pass without comment in a pub is now part of the permanent, searchable record.

By the way, this cartoon is part of a 2010 year-in-review I’m putting together. Look for it later this week… and in the meantime, remember to get your Noise to Signal 2011 wall calendar, free for the downloading. Happy holidays!

Please retweet me, let me know

Please retweet me, let me know published on 5 Comments on Please retweet me, let me know

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

The etiquette around Twitter is hotly disputed. Questions range from “Do you have to follow everyone who follows you?” to “Do you automatically DM people when they follow you?” to “Were my tweet’s from last night’s food-poisoning incident TMI?”

But I’ve seen near-fist-fights break out over this one: “When is it appropriate to ask for a retweet?”

I’ve heard answers including:

  • Never. It’s too needy. High-quality content doesn’t have to ask to be retweeted.
  • Whenever you want. You’re just being open and transparent.
  • Only occasionally. You’re drawing down your relationship capital, so ask prudently.

Where do you come down?

Oh, and if you see a tweet about this cartoon, would you mind… um… that is, if it isn’t too much… oh, never mind.

Just between you and me (and the entire Internet)

Just between you and me (and the entire Internet) published on 5 Comments on Just between you and me (and the entire Internet)

Are you finding the same thing I am? Where you’re having a casual conversation with a friend, and you’re in the middle of saying something… well, not exactly secret, but not the sort of thing you want shared with the world… and you stop dead, suddenly worried that it might end up in their Twitter stream?

When I’m talking to someone with a blog, a Twitter feed or even a Facebook account (which, these days, means nearly everyone), I’m often just a little guarded. I have my own guidelines and boundaries when I’m dealing with other people’s information – basically, if there’s any ambiguity, I ask permission before I share – but I know other people draw the line differently.

Sometimes they’ll reveal a confidence but change a few details to protect identities. Or maybe they’d never do that, but they’ll readily tag an embarrassing party photo of you on Facebook.

While some people lay down hard and fast rules about the new online etiquette, the reality is things are still a lot more fluid than many of us realize. You’ve just had lunch with a potential client; do you tweet that? You shot a hilarious video at the company picnic; do you upload it? And do we all just assume we’re all on the record, 24-7, until and unless we agree otherwise?

Several years into the social media revolution, we’re still only making baby steps toward some kind of shared understanding of the terrain we’re walking on together. And in some ways, netiquette seems as nebulous a concept as ever.

Beating a hasty retweet

Beating a hasty retweet published on 6 Comments on Beating a hasty retweet

In the spirit of Twitter, I’ll make this brief. If you’re running a Twitter contest or promotion, then please – I beg you – have entrants do something more useful, more conversational, more interesting than just retweeting a link to your latest sale item or a message about how fabulous you are.

I thank you. Your participants’ followers thank you. And at the end of the day, your brand reputation will thank you.

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