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Just some troll

Just some troll published on 2 Comments on Just some troll

There is no shortage of hot-button issues to yell at other about on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. (Maybe less so on Pinterest. The comments seem a lot more civilized there.) And it’s really, really easy to decide the other party in a shouting match is a troll, because nobody could seriously believe the outrageous crap they’re spouting, right?

Enter Alexandra Samuel’s “How to Survive an Online Sex Scandal,” spurred by a recent Canadian controversy. (To my American friends who think that’s an oxymoron, how dare you?!)

It’s not, as the name suggests, a reputation-management handbook. Instead, it’s a survival guide for those of us who don’t want to get swept into acrimonious online disagreements over highly-charged issues. There’s a lot of wisdom in there to digest, but this passage in particular jumped out at me:

But the most powerful tool, and the most fundamental protection, is simply to recognize what’s going on when we explode online. We explode because we come to each of these debates with different ideas about the social media spaces in which our conversations unfold, with different ideas about who is in our online community, and with different levels of investment in the issues at hand.

Often, a troll isn’t a troll at all—at least, not in the classic definition of someone who’s just trying to stir up sturm und drang. Often, Alex points out, they’re just coming to the table with much different expectations and assumptions: “If you’re approaching a conversation as a citizen journalist, and I’m approaching it as a therapeutic process, you’re likely to get frustrated, and I’m likely to get hurt.”

Add to that the fact that we’re all notoriously awful at judging each others’ motives in conflicts, and it’s a recipe for degeneration into shouting.

There are genuine trolls out there, of course. There are also abusive bullies and people who’ve never learned to have a disagreement without waging total war. But I’m going to take a few breaths in my next online dust-up. And even if I can’t see things from the other person’s point of view (which, honestly, we usually can’t), I can at least try to identify the assumptions and expectations they have coming into the conversation. It might lead to a more productive discussion—or at least a shorter one.

P.S.—Longtime readers will know this already. Disclosure: I’m Alex’s husband.

One troll looks over another's shoulder at a mobile device and says "Pick that! It looks nasty." Caption: New theory - there must be an app that tells trolls where the latest online crap-storm is happening, so they can pile on.

Where are the Billy Goats Gruff when you need them?

Where are the Billy Goats Gruff when you need them? published on No Comments on Where are the Billy Goats Gruff when you need them?

I like to picture the two trolls as Thurston Howell III and Lovey. “Oh, darling, we must join the mob.” “But what does one wear to a pile-on? And where is my solid silver pitchfork and torch-holder?”

And in case you missed the last episode…

Previously on N2S: With the laboratory in ruins and the virus now live, Morgan had to make a heart-wrenching decision… leaving control of the Bureau of Nine in the hands of the one woman Vasily truly fears, Candace. But when Natasha springs Darius from the Sanctum, nobody — least of all the Arundel Contingent — understands how this plays into Adriana’s master plan. Scuttling the Misanthrope turns out to have been a mistake, though, when Akinyele discovers not only the Yellow Team’s diary but the second piece of the cipher key. Forced to move up his plans, Min-jun activates the orbital android bases — prematurely, it turns out. That leaves only Mayor Subramaniam standing between Earth… and total annihilation.

(man on talk show tells host) I got famous the same way everyone else does these days: my Reddit IAmA got turned into a blockbuster summer movie.

IAmA Cartoon. AMA

IAmA Cartoon. AMA published on No Comments on IAmA Cartoon. AMA

If you hang out on Reddit, then you’re probably well acquainted with the phenomenon of the IAmA. It stands for “I am a…” and usually ends with either “AMA” (“ask me anything”) or “AMAA” (“ask me almost anything”).

It’s also one of the most fascinating things the web’s offered in a while – which, given that it’s entirely text-based, is pretty remarkable.

The concept is simple: someone steps forward, identifies something remarkable about themselves to the Reddit community, and invites questions — for instance, “IAMA former DisneyWorld employee… AMAA“. And then the questions and answers start to fly.

The results are often glimpses into worlds we often don’t see; as I write this, an IAmA from a man who “was in a BDSM 24/7 total power exchange relationship for 3 years” is having a frank discussion with a few dozen Redditors (including a few admirably measured responses). Or maybe you might have enjoyed “IAmA Nerfer – I mod Nerf guns for enhanced function and occasionally alter appearance for costume pieces.” Or “I am youtube user Cotter548, AKA the inventor of the Rickroll. AMA.

It’s not all wonderful. Some IAmA’s don’t catch fire, and most get their share of dumb comments and idle banter. But the actual conversation, particularly from the subject of the IAmA, is often riveting.

Sometimes the appeal is voyeurism. Sometimes it’s the chance to open up to someone who shares some deeply personal pain of yours.

But mostly, when it works well, it’s because IAmA lets us connect with another person on some of their most interesting terrain, or broadens our understanding of a phenomenon of the moment. I was one of those who was blown away by Zach Wahls, the 19-year-old whose articulate, powerful defence of his two mothers became a viral rallying point for supporters of marriage equality. Coming across his IAmA was a little like actually getting to meet the guy. (And it happened thanks to Sushubh Mittal, who pointed me to it on Google+… and thus helped to spur this cartoon.)

We get very taken with technologically intensive ways of making digital conversation more appealing and engaging. But it’s worth remembering that some of the most compelling interactions we have — whether they’re in tomorrow’s 1080p 3D video with aroma-enabled augmented reality, or the kind of extended plain-text comment thread I could have read 30 years ago on dial-up — are the ones that let us share a little of each other’s authentic lives.

Online offences

Online offences published on No Comments on Online offences

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

Today is election day in Canada (and to any of my fellow Canucks thinking of giving the ballot box a miss this time, maybe give Derek Miller a read).

Most of the discussion I’ve seen online has been relatively polite, even muted, with only a few lapses into Godwin’s Law territory. The same holds true, for the most part, for the campaigns; none of the relatively little mud being flung has stuck. (Arguably, that’s because the worst of it was thrown in the months leading up to it.)

But one place where passions have flared has been Canada’s law barring the publication of election results from one part of the country before the polls have closed in points west. In years gone by, that prohibition has been relevant only to the broadcast media. But in the social media era, suddenly anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account is subject to those same restrictions… and a lot of them don’t like it.

Elections Canada has said that tweeting election results from, say, St. John’s, Newfoundland before the polls close in Nanaimo, British Columbia would contravene Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act (a provision dating back to 1938). That would expose them to a fine of up to $25,000 — but not, as some overheated news reports have suggested, jail time. The only Internet user ever convicted under that law to date, a blogger, was fined $1,000.

All of this has caused a flurry of tweets under the hashtag #tweettheresults and pledges to challenge the law by tweeting early returns on Monday night. (Full disclosure: my wife Alexandra Samuel and our friend and colleague Darren Barefoot have created a site aggregating those tweets,

Supporters of the law (including the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of the unfortunate aforementioned blogger) point out that there’s an important public policy reason for it: to ensure that people in all parts of the country vote on a level playing field. West Coast voters shouldn’t get discouraged when elections are already decided before they’ve had a chance to vote, and nor should they have more information about the likely composition of Parliament before deciding which party’s candidate to send there. And they suggest that tweeting the results before 7 p.m. Pacific Time is a pretty self-indulgent, frivolous thing to do.

I actually agree with the first point. But not the second.

Conversation about election results, in real-time, as they start coming in, is more than just kibbitzing about who should have won at Regionals in Glee. This is about a shared experience, discussed and hashed (and hash-tagged) over. We talk about those results and what they might mean to us because they matter… and to anyone who has become concerned over the decline in people’s trust of electoral politics over the last decade or two, that has to be an encouraging sign.

Instead of supporting the legitimacy of the vote and its outcome, banning them as a topic of discussion — at the very time when they’re most salient to people — can only undermine it.

And in a real-time world, saying you’re suspending freedom of expression for just a few hours doesn’t cut a lot of ice. Yes, of course we’re a long way from police officers busting down doors and demanding you step away from your Android with your hands above your head. But it would be a mistake to think that’s the only level of infringement that matters.

With that in mind, here’s the special Canadian 2011 Federal Election version of the cartoon:

Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building community on your blog

Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building community on your blog published on No Comments on Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building community on your blog

Originally posted at BlogWorld

This one’s from a great session by  Darren Rowse, co-author of Problogger, looking at building community on your blog. The ideas were coming far faster than I could capture them; I’ve tried to capture the highlights here.

Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building your blog’s community

Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building your blog’s community published on No Comments on Toonblog: Darren Rowse on building your blog’s community

Originally posted on BlogWorld.

This one’s from a great session by  Darren Rowse, co-author of Problogger, looking at building community on your blog. The ideas were coming far faster than I could draw them; I’ve tried to capture the highlights here.