Sunday, December 5, 2010

today's netiquette question

I'm teaching a class on research and one of our topics is technology and the book we're reading for that is steve johnson's everything bad is good for you. johnson has an excellent, if dated, take on the changes the internet and technology is pressing on us, not all of them bad, and it's a refreshingly positive view of my students' generation.

one of the things we're renegotiating as a culture is netiquette (if that term hasn't already fallen out of use), how we behave when we're no longer face-to-face or one-on-one but interacting with multiple others and sometimes not interacting but expounding into the ether. the question I'm wondering about at the moment is this: do we say something to a blogger whose posts we read and generally agree with; but then there's that one post that goes beyond the pale and whose something we simply can't abide. do we call him on it? does it matter that she won't know us except as one of dozens or hundreds or thousands of readers? what if everyone chooses not to call the blogger on this post and as a result he or she never knows that at least one person found its message callous?

I want to give the example in as vague a way as possible since I don't want to either direct traffic to the offending post or single that person out as if he or she is the worst example. this person relates his experience with a homeless person asking for a handout and turns the handout request back on the homeless guy in a glib, albeit clever, way that refuses to take into account the power dynamic of the response. at the end of the anecdote nothing is different: the blogger has learned nothing new, the homeless guy is still homeless. if anything the blogger's self-regard is greater than it was because he's managed to make a homeless guy feel guilty (at least so he imagines) for asking for a handout.

I've got a lot to say about that, having been on both sides of that equation. what I might say about it isn't in question. what is in question is, do I say anything about it? and if I did, would it make a difference beyond, maybe, leaving me feeling a little better about myself?


  1. blogging to me, it's just a public journal or even a magazine/newspaper. People can read it and take what they want front it. If it offends people then comment, but just don't get caught up in being trolled. Just like in a magazine, people who write an article that might be controversial or piss you off, they get in lots of angry letters to the editor/author and what not, and there are people who read it, get mad, and just don't respond.

  2. is a great site for netiquette rules.