Could This Scandal Change us for the Better?

    March 27, 2007

I wanted to add a non-personal comment about the impassioned scandal rocking our community, the best way I could think of to improve the silence. 

This is a real test of the blogosphere.  Our culture and openness.  We don’t know all the facts, but there is enough to be disgusted.  We do know that part of this involves real core and dedicated bloggers.  We do know that this involves trolls, there will always be trolls, and we all have them.  We do know that some speech is illegal for a reason, and sociopaths run against society, but there are slippery slopes in all directions from the hill we think we have climbed.

There are core issues at stake:

  • Being safe is something most everyone can agree is a right.  Most of this is governed by laws in our respective jurisdictions and our jurisdictions tend to respect each other when it comes to violence and threats, where there is the rule of law. Being safe is the lowest common denominator for why we have government, and however, it can slip into degredation of our civil rights.
  • Being anonymous on the web matters.  Some believe it shouldn’t be a right and we should embrace the panopticon.  But this is an undeveloped tangent of how the web meets the world.  Whistleblowing can help, security maelstorms can hurt.  Pseudonymity may indeed be needed, say to protect the real world identity of the editors of Wikipedia pages on topic of conflict.  But trusted brokering of these identities is, again, underdeveloped, in communities, the private and public sector.  Today one with means can attain anonymity, but others with means can reveal, such as a law enforcement officer with an ISP search warrant or more empowered agencies.  The rule of law does draw the line for certain abuses of identity, but it is completely undeveloped for protecting your most basic identity.
  • Being open on the web matters.  Transparency is good.  Society values it more every day and it the underlying force field of the blogosphere.  But it is rare to hear horror stories of being too closed, and frequent for being open.  Maybe being to closed makes you unheard to begin with.  Maybe it means isolation which is our greatest fear.  Maybe it also means corruption when conspired.
  • Being free with speech is both what makes us great and makes us go too far.  Not only do we each have speech as a widely understood right, but the power to publish that we don’t understand. When speech crosses over into action, or the threat of it, rules are largely in place.  But it is societal norms that govern the grey area.

Which is why I’m blogging this.  It turns out that it is personal, in that I want to bring attention to Kathy’s post.  And that I need to blog this help sort out my own feelings.  Part of me wants to scream F*** YOU to the people who have assailed our norms.  Part of me wants my community to sustain, to find what is common and what is wrong — to feed back the hate without breeding hate.  I want this blogosphere to surround and comfort, not harden a reaction to an extreme by institutionalzing an even worse extreme.


UPDATE: Frank Paynter, Kathy Sierra responds, Jeanane Sessum, Doc Searls, Rage Boy