Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Internet Police State

The Internet is a strange, borderless medium.

People often publish their most intimate thoughts on blogs and forums and probably have no conception of how widely these are read, or for how long.

Opinions, observations and gossip, ricochet around search engines and are picked up sometimes years later by a surfer looking for something totally unconnected.

A fellow blogger, Mort Bones writes a regular article in Canal Boat magazine, every month.

This has been going on for a while, but in the last edition, a reader wrote in with a scathing and quite rude attack on Ms.Bones. The magazine published the letter.

It's not clear whether Mort gets paid for the articles, but one often needs a thick skin to publish articles and be able to take the flak with a smile.

The Duke of Wellington once said "publish, and be damned" when informed of his lovers' plan to write her memoirs, which presumerably included details of him.

Pete A.K.A Pickles No.2, another blogger, was recently told by readers posting comments on his blog, that a photograph was out of date.

He replied "I have many detractors, least of all the bunch of interfering busybodies who read this blog. I've changed the picture on the top header thingy just to please the 'ne'er do wells' who seem to think that the previous picture was out of date. I will not be criticised on my own blog and only changed it out of good will and because I'm a nice person. Sod off back to Granny Buttons if you're not happy".

I was once told "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". Good advice, but it wouldn't make for an interesting blog now, would it ??

Most people don't like to be criticised. Publishing your thoughts on an open medium like blogs or forums often encourages unwanted criticism.

As well as writing the "Revelations" blog, I also moderate on a waterways forum, Just Canals.

Forums are slightly different to blogs, in that they specifically encourage feedback and discussion.

It's usually the moderation in forums that sets the tone of the discussion. Little or no moderation often encourage forum dwellers to push the envelope to see how far they can go.

Spammers and trolls often inhabit forums to advertise products or just cause trouble.

Some canal forums allow quite a lot of latitude in the way that contributors are allowed talk to each other. Debates often gets quite up close and personal, before moderators close a topic or discussion thread down.

This usually incurs the wrath of forum members - not only do people not like being criticised; they don't like being edited or deleted either.

The canal forum, Canalworld recently deleted a whole topic because the moderators didn't like the way it was going. Their action received a wall of protest from certain members, who felt that they were being unfairly censored (and that the baby had been thrown out with the bath water as valuable information pertaining to a missing boat had been disgarded).

Other forums assume a more dictatorial line and react more like a landlord in a traditional British pub - leaping over the bar and in between the verbal pugilists before things flare up.

On "Revelations", I like things to be pink and fluffy.

For this reason, I vet all comments prior to them appearing on the blog.

I don't expect people to praise and be full of compliments about "Revelations", but to echo Pete of Pickles No.3, "I will not be criticised on my own blog".

I can get enough of that in daily life.

At least I'm up-front about it !!!

If the comments are not nice and friendly, I don't print them - just like any good internet police state.

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