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Hypergene MediaBlog » Not allowing conversations is immoral

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Thursday, 09 Mar 2006

Not allowing conversations is immoral

Thankfully, Nat Torkington has posted his notes from Clay Shiky’s talk at ETech yesterday.

Clay echoed some earlier ideas and added some great new insights. One line especially caught our eye:


(Jean-Jacques) Rousseau wrote later that might is not right. Leader must support subjects, and subjects have right to agitate against leader if they’re not being well served.

This is the direction that the conversation around social software is taking. (Thomas) Hobbes would say that Dave (Winer) had the right and all was good. Rousseau would reply, “no he didn’t, software systems that don’t allow the users to fight back are immoral.”

We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters… But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right.

It sounds like an ethic that hits the bullseye for a news site. Yet, in recent years, many major news sites have been reluctant to incorporate comments or message boards. Some, like CNN, have removed them altogether.

Trying to actively engage an audience into conversations should be a primary goal for news organizations. It’s what a democracy needs and what news organizations are meant to support.

Newsvine has put conversations and user-contributed content at the center of its news experience. It hasn’t been without a few problems, but that’s OK. We’re all experimenting here trying to figure out what works.

The reality is that social applications will always tend to be messy and chaotic because they’re, well, social.

Posted on Mar 09, 2006 | 5:55 pm EST
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