Two worlds today exist today on the web. One of trolls who bait others into flame wars and one of active thriving conversation and community. A few months back I shared a post with a good friend. We have an ongoing conversation about web communications. He is a successful business consultant and like most executives participate in a healthy balance of value questioning and actual participation in social online communication. Most of our conversations come down to one simple rule; good practices of communication and relationship work offline as well as online. One observation of his continues to dig at me. As he read through the comments on my blog he pointed out obvious civility, thoughtfulness and intelligence of the community. To be honest I had never thought of it before. So what was the differences he noticed? Yes I would love to think I attract the smartest and civil people. I think he uncovered something more though. It is a result of two worlds of the web.
As I thought about it more I realized that because of my web habits I often never see the other world where web trolls entice arguments and sometimes even worse as in the case of Mitchell Henderson (see NYT article on Trolls and Henderson’s death). I mostly read a collection of blogs and articles related to my interests and profession with an occasional news article. I rarely enter into any conversation in a comment section where anything but civil arguments are being conducted. You can easily find these darker conversations though. Look up any comment section in a local online newspaper. A recent article written in Kotaku.com about a conference I helped coordinate now has over a thousand comments, most just a volley game between trolls in a flame war completely off the article’s topic.
Whenever I see these darker conversations occur I have an instinct to jump in a set things straight. I have found the best practice is to take what I can from the original content and go back to the places that have valuable conversations. Luckily I have more than enough of the good. You see it comes down to where you look and choose to hang out. By the way, thanks for making me look good and contributing the one side of the web that adds value. I think I will hang out with you instead of the trolls.