Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Blog’s Eventual Demise?

Since the end of anonymous posting via comments to posts I’ve been wondering whether this is a good thing or not. It is good to not have to wade through some of the online garbage generated by a few anonymous posters. On the other hand, it is possible that it will lead to the Blog’s defacto demise.

While getting rid of the electronic garbage that many spew at their managers, co-workers, the Lab and World at large is unabashedly good. One also needs to recognize that it may have a downside. Many of the best posts to the Blog were in response to the other posts. This was the wonderful side effect of having one person’s ideas spur others to considered thought. Sometimes the considered thought was in direct response to the garbage. It was worth not paying attention to the posts that had nothing but venom to get to these hidden gems. Many if not most of these voices were anonymous. While the anonymous mechanism is not dead, it is short-circuited. It takes more effort to make a post now and this will drain some of the energy from the Blog.

One might propose that now we will only the well-written and thoughtfully considered postings. I think many of the best posts were part of the interaction between people that now has some new barriers to overcome. It is basically a friction placed in the communication channel that will effectively filter out some of the positive posts along with most of the negative posts. The negative posts have had two principal characteristics: manager A is not doing a good job, or is incompetent, or made a bad decision, and the ad hominem attack where manager A is a bad person therefore their decision is also bad. Most negative posts were the former. As a result bad managers and bad policies came to light. The end result has been positive for the Lab most notably in helping to show Nanos the exit. I am concerned that many of those posts may never be made under the new rules. The attack on Todd K. that precipitated the change in the Blog rules was uncommon, but not uncommon enough.

Is ridding the Blog of these unfortunate posts worth effectively filtering out some of the other useful posts? On the bright side, it will be an interesting experiment in how online communities function. We might ask the question of whether the negative energy is necessary for the community to flourish? What is the critical point where the Blog will fizzle? Of course forces external to the Blog could also take advantage of this, most notably the Lab’s Public Affairs Office.

The Blog began in response to the Lab’s inability to engage in a constructive dialog internally. The Blog has more than filled this void. Recently, the Newsbulletin has improved its reader’s forum. The Blog also became one of the sources for unfiltered news about the Lab with links to news articles about the Lab regularly posted here. I have noticed that the Lab Newsbulletin does not consistently put articles in the “LANL in the News” portion of the LANL homepage. This is especially true if the article is negative. In my daily reading of the news online, I visit both the Lab Homepage and the Blog. For the last year, the Blog has almost always been more informative. It has become my source of news about the Lab in the same sense that the Newbulletin used to be.

My main observation is that the energy level of the Blog is already noticeably diminished. Whether the community at large adapts to the new rules and the Blog returns to its former vitality, only time will tell. If this does not happen, the Blog may ride off into the sunset.

Bill Rider

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