Others commented to me in person and in posts, and so this summary includes some of those perspectives, but I'm sure I'm not going to get everything. However, I hope this gives a flavor of what happened.
Also, thanks to Dave for inviting me to lead the session. I think this was my favorite speaking event, mainly because the attendees were so engaging and we exposed some interesting personal examples of edge cases and interesting issues which we all grapple with in the blogosphere.
We started out with a rule: if you mention your personal value system, that you relate it to the topic at hand, and if you go on too long about it, I might have to redirect the session to the next topic. But I was very lucky to have such a thoughtful, smart group of folks to discuss this issue, and the rule never was invoked.
I read the first couple of the items in a list (at bottom)... folks commented sharing their experiences. Periodically, I would throw out another issue. Many other issues came up from the discussants: online trust, reputation, why we care about transparency. Because people shared different needs they have as they write or read blog posts, it became apparent that different value systems come into play, and we need different levels of transparency. In reaction to some of this, people suggested either legal or technical controls. I feel that controls like this are often heavy-handed and I prefer community moderation, but didn't want to say that. I wanted to see if people would come up with that on their own, and within a half hour of discussing various control scenarios, among other things, and sharing values and the subtleties of face-to-face interaction verses online interaction, people began to express that legal and overbearing technical controls to reduce unsavory behavior felt bad. They wanted to use the community interaction to ferret out bad behavior, discuss it as it comes up, and then moderate it down. And a couple of folks expressed that they feel this currently works in the blogosphere. This is often what I see in online behavior with groups. I watched our discussion take on really interesting issues and decide that trusting the community to moderate behavior, trust and the value of information was better than heavy handed centralized controls.
We also talked about how our social norms might shift as the blogosphere grows, what it means to feel cheated by someone apparently giving their own opinion, after which we find out they are being paid to write. We want disclosure and the chance to evaluate the biases people have. We want more subtle ways to understand bloggers we don't know than simple inbound link counts, and I pointed out that top 100 lists don't mean very much to me. There was a request for a categorization system for blogs similar to DMOZ, so that we can more easily find people talking in smaller communities.
We talked about whether the values we were discussing applied to the whole web, as the title suggests, or what aspects might just apply to the blogosphere. We talked about finding new voices and how power laws might be disrupted. We also noted that with podcasting, there is a need for more than just metadata to search, so that more than just highly linked or known authors can be found based on content and topics, if the author is not known already. We also talked about the internet as a place (metaphor) verses as a delivery system for content that includes the metaphor of shipping reflecting the old analog content system, and why the place metaphor may need more thought and integration into the digital.
We described why anonymity works in some situations, and why it doesn't work in others, and why it's very necessary in some circumstances. We talked about the assumptions we make, based on certain social and informational cues online, and whether these assumptions make sense. We agreed that relationships are very important, and behind them are various kinds of trust about the person and the information, and we need trust, good information and reputation to varying degrees to maintain our online relationships well.
At the end of the session, we made a list of things we value:
Transparency – disclosure
Knowing who people are
Things we devalue:
Power law economics
Lack of Attribution
Links for money
I was very pleased that afterwards, some folks commented that it was a meaty discussion and they would need some time to think through the issues. I also really liked that at least half of the 80 or so people in the room were not folks I knew, but could enjoy finding new voices, as I do online in the blogosphere. Other folks said they hadn't spent any time with other bloggers discussing these issues and so very much appreciated the chance to share experiences and values around them.
Here is the list I worked from, throwing out these ideas one at a time for comment through the session:
1. transparency of relationships and motivations for writing and linking
2. transparency of identity, including pseudonymous writing
3. excellence of content—by which I mean writers honestly writing what they believe, even if it turns out to be untrue in the iterative process, versus publishing known untruths
4. editorial independence
5. linking to attribute ideas
6. systems and behaviors that encourage new voices...
-- how to deal with rankisms, like top 100s, power laws, etc.
-- can we have that for context, but have other ways to find and value new people.... to make more democracy and bring new voices out...
-- to trust others...
7. link trading? what does it mean?
One other thing: for my room -- the smallest one that seated 60 and had about 20 other people, with two microphone guys, where I could send them both to a current commenter, and get the second mic ready for the next comment -- worked well and was pretty efficient. However, in the big room, I think it might make sense to have three mics, and have speakers line up the mic runners so that things run more efficiently and smoothly. I also really appreciated having a mic, because I speak softly, and it allowed me to be calm while still moderating and not yell. Several people commented to me that they liked that quality because it felt like the discussion was never going to get out of control.Posted by Mary Hodder at November 7, 2004 10:06 AM | TrackBack