We become part of the stories we discuss on our blogs. We mold, change, and affect the public’s perception of the people, places and events we talk about, via Google’s lasting, aggregating lens.
More and more evidence points to Jeneane Sessum being unfairly connected to the matters I posted about yesterday and her good name has been drug through the mud. That mud leaving trails all over Google.
As Jeneane says:
There are layers and layers of important issues that intelligent people can tackle and use to make meaning out of this. I hope that effort moves forward.
So while folks are discussing the code of conduct suggestions over at Tim O’Reilly’s, I’d like to remind folks of The Citizen News Network and Center for Citizen Media project – Principles of Citizen Journalism, and think about that first principal – Accuracy – before passing on information that isn’t proven again.
As Scott Karp says, this entire episode illustrates “Why Journalism Matters”:
I have been watching in silent horror for days as this drama has unfolded – horror not only at Kathy Sierra’s traumatization, but over the total unrestrained free-for-all in the blogosphere. This is a case study in hearsay, innuendo, rumor, defamation, libel, jumping to conclusions and every other negative consequence of unrestrained publishing that the principles of journalism are intended to prevent, and notwithstanding some notable failures, generally do prevent when applied with some seriousness of purpose.
I read dozens of blog posts on this incident, and I still had NO CLUE who might or might not be guilty of what. Each new post I read tangled the web further, layering misinformation on top of disinformation. There was precious little “WHAT do I know” and a whole lot of “WHO do I know and how do I feel about them.”
Then I read this article by a JOURNALIST at the San Francisco Chronicle. I can’t say for sure whether all of the fact here are straight, but this is the only place I came across that actually attempted to ascertain through a coherent process what the facts might be or to lay out a coherent sequence of events. AND, you’ll notice that the only names of those (alleged) to be directly involved in the incident that the article mentions are Chris Locke and Kathy Sierra, both of whom the journalist interviewed and quoted. In the blogosphere, naming names was all about shoot first and ask questions latter.
Update: Anyone can commit acts of journalism. With this story, the fact is, few of us actually did. And the consequences are no good for anyone.
Update: There should be a “Clay Shirky rule” for social software discussion threads…
First person to make a connection to a Clay Shirky piece gets props or insults or something like that….
I bring this up because so much of this series of events recalls an old Clay Shirky piece worth revisiting: “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”:
…We’ve had social software for 40 years at most, dated from the Plato BBS system, and we’ve only had 10 years or so of widespread availability, so we’re just finding out what works. We’re still learning how to make these kinds of things.
Now, software that supports group interaction is a fundamentally unsatisfying definition in many ways, because it doesn’t point to a specific class of technology. If you look at email, it obviously supports social patterns, but it can also support a broadcast pattern. If I’m a spammer, I’m going to mail things out to a million people, but they’re not going to be talking to one another, and I’m not going to be talking to them — spam is email, but it isn’t social. If I’m mailing you, and you’re mailing me back, we’re having point-to-point and two-way conversation, but not one that creates group dynamics.
So email doesn’t necessarily support social patterns, group patterns, although it can. Ditto a weblog. If I’m Glenn Reynolds, and I’m publishing something with Comments Off and reaching a million users a month, that’s really broadcast. It’s interesting that I can do it as a single individual, but the pattern is closer to MSNBC than it is to a conversation. If it’s a cluster of half a dozen LiveJournal users, on the other hand, talking about their lives with one another, that’s social. So, again, weblogs are not necessarily social, although they can support social patterns.
Nevertheless, I think that definition is the right one, because it recognizes the fundamentally social nature of the problem. Groups are a run-time effect. You cannot specify in advance what the group will do, and so you can’t substantiate in software everything you expect to have happen.
Now, there’s a large body of literature saying “We built this software, a group came and used it, and they began to exhibit behaviors that surprised us enormously, so we’ve gone and documented these behaviors.” Over and over and over again this pattern comes up. (I hear Stewart [Brand, of the WELL] laughing.) The WELL is one of those places where this pattern came up over and over again.
Well worth reading if you never have, or re-reading if you did a long time ago.