Messageboard Posting Practice

Big Media To Squeeze Anonymity 
Forum Moderation Reform

A growing number of commentators are complaining about the levels of vulgar abuse in online messageboards and blog comments. And all hidden behind the carefully selected Username, chosen for whatever idiotic reason.
Replace these identtifiable, masthead usernames with randomly generated thread-specific ID numbers, and most of the moderation issues would disappear like mist.
In spite of the big media consensus, too much online anonymity isn’t the problem, vendettas and prejudice and tribalism are the real problems. And removing them, and changing the way people interact isn’t as easy as asking them to be nice, or urging them to get training. But it is as easy as removing the identity they fight to protect. Which means an end to the Egotistical Username. Without it, diehard enemies might even find themselves in agreement.
So more anonymity equals a more productive, less sectarian, less defensive forum.

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Guardian Site Update

Guardian Fogeys Go Ape

‘From buses to blogs, a pathological individualism is poisoning public life.’ – Madeleine Bunting

Anonymity.

‘Cyber-Disinhibition’

danielgoleman

Fascinating stuff. We are only beginning to see the effects of the medium on the online persona, and the individual.
Nevertheless, a word about buses.
I was on a bendy bus travelling through Peckham on Monday at 4.20. It was packed. Children, families, old and young.
This will sound like fantasy, but the majority of faces were smiling, and there was even a quiet sense of partnership in managing to share such a small space so well.
No-one was pushing and shoving. Prams and packages were regularly helped off and on. In fact there were twin daughters of one family ‘surfing’ the pivot of the bus to general hilarity. When I got off, I felt like saying “Goodbye and thank you for a lovely trip”. Perhaps I should have.
The more I I travel on buses, the more convinced I become that far from being bearpits, they generally show the human being at its mundane best.
In fact, buses represent one of the few remaining unpoliced social spaces where kids can develop voluntary social skills.
Also, as I remember, the rush to pack on the school bus was, if anything, worse when I went to school than Madeleine Bunting describes.
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EXTRACTS FROM ONLINE DIALOGUE. [to be edited someday]

posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 4 Days Ago
You have to look at what messageboards are.
And the nature of being a poster.
And the nature and dynamics of dialogue.
The forum for dialogue alters the nature of that dialogue.
When a dialogue takes place at Hastings between two armies, we call it a battle. When it happens between two people at their deepest level we call it love.
Messageboards are somewhere in between, and no-one knows quite where yet. But some posters still seem to think that their contributions have the same kind of reality and relevance as a newspaper column, or a letter or a telephone conversation. And therefore adopt the same stylistic conventions, and persona, and respond in the only ways they know.
It is possible however, to see a post as a much more disembodied statement, which people respond to or not on its own merits, and which does not have to suffer the inhibitions of time or place. Which takes to an extreme the same law of dialogue adopted by the house of commons when distancing the two front benches at least two swords lengths apart to enable frank opinions by defusing any possibility of intimidation.

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Message posted by dandygreyrusset
I am disappointed at the way serious issues degenerate into point scoring and personal abuse on this board. I thought it would be a place to exchange views with mature individuals who want to hear what others think.
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Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
And never, ever give any clues as to your age, sex, qualifactions, marital status, race or any otheer personal information.
Someone will use it as a stick to beat you with on the strength of their extra six months experience, or extra child, or higher grade GCSE or whatever it might be.
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hermajtomomi (U2692623) , 3 Days Ago
“And never, ever give any clues as to your age, sex, qualifactions, marital status, race or any otheer personal information.
“Someone will use it as a stick to beat you with on the strength of their extra six months experience, or extra child, or higher grade GCSE or whatever it might be.”

We haven’t always agreed, LRJ, but this time you are spot on.
I would also add, as I have recently found to my cost, never express an honest opinion or recount your personal experience of a controversial or emotive issue for fear of being branded bad or mad by one of the self-righteous trolls lurking out there.
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Message 67 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
And, converseley, hearing personal testimony and details develops an unhealthy sympathy which can be a barrier to objectivity. It helps create cliques.
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Message 68 – posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB (U8215269) **, 3 Days Ago
Little Richardjohn,
You seem to approach the MBs as some serious tool to some serious goal.
They are mostly not anything like that. People mostly visit them to have some fun. Some people may see fun in insulting others and showing them how much more intelligent or moral they are, or just winding them up. Others may see fun in friendly talk and developing a virtual friendship, a clique if you will. Others come to share their troubles and look for a solution.
There’s nothing bad or unhealthy in sympathy with others and their fates.
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Message 69 – posted by petal jam (U1466691) , 3 Days Ago
Tue, 06 Nov 2007 14:30 GMT, in reply to Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB in message 68
Petr I think you’re right. What’s more I think the key is that most posters will use all the different modes of discourse from formal argument [of the letter writing kind] to the familiar and conversational. So long as we recognise the switches in tone according to topic or general mood we’re okay.
LRJ what you say about bringing the personal into the conversation – or even throwing it in to make your argument for you – is interesting, and I suspect there are many facets to this. As susie pointed out somewhere, maybe another thread, the shared or illuminated experience is firmly part of women’s history [lots of reasons relevant to this board.] Yet far from curdling the discussion into cliques on an MB it can sometimes put distance between posters who otherwise find common ground. IME the use of biographical detail as rationalisation by people who are otherwise anonymous can overwhelm the sketchy picture you have of them.
The essential element surely is *respect* as the thread starter says. I may know for instance that a poster contributing to a discussion on the current wave of house building is an architect or a civil engineer. Their knowledge of the properties of concrete is thousands of times more valuable than mine.. or is it? The reader also knows that not all architects agree, that a town planner or the parents of a young family weighing up the size of the mortgage against space and soundproof walls will equally have valid views.
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message 70 – posted by hermeline (U4006263) , 3 Days Ago
When a topic comes up for discussion, some of us may be well read on the chosen subject but most of us probably aren’t.
Therefore we only have our immediate opinions on subjects which are often backed up by personal experience, things we might have read or seen on the telly and the experiences of friends and aquaintances.
What else have we got to go on?
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75 Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
The problem with getting chummy is then of reacting objectively to any surprisingly obnoxious post by your new buddy. Or anything in between. And when it happens en masse, the effect can be deadly to a thread. Inbred Dibley deadly. Inbred Dibley THREADLY deadly. So better safe than sorry.
Writing posts on a messageboard is one way of finding out what you think. But in my opinion, this isn’t helped by certain factors and practices, as outlined above. Neither do they seem to encourage conventional ‘dialogue’. Whether you influence others is both irrelevant and indecedental.
The fact is that as a medium of expression, the messageboard post is relatively young. We know that every other prose form has developed its own specialised conventions and experiments, and that the structure of any medium has an effect on the nature of the content. The messageboard post is a definite species of expression, defined not only by the technology delivering it but also by a range of other factors.
So the way it is different from, say, a letter or conversation or newspaper column deserves some consideration, as does the most apporpriate conventions to adopt. As many people seem to spend a lot of time discovering their opinions on forums, I’d assume there would be a wide range of experienced testimony to draw on.
Tease whatever ‘goal’ you like from that lot.
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posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB
Little Richardjohn,
You seem to approach the MBs as some serious tool to some serious goal.
They are mostly not anything like that. People mostly visit them to have some fun. Some people may see fun in insulting others and showing them how much more intelligent or moral they are, or just winding them up. Others may see fun in friendly talk and developing a virtual friendship, a clique if you will. Others come to share their troubles and look for a solution.
There’s nothing bad or unhealthy in sympathy with others and their fates.
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Message 76 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
There is a thread running at present by someone who says they don’t want to live.
I’m not sure I hadn’t been dreading something like this for a while, but it has happened, and therefore part of the growing fabric of the internet. The poster seems to be getting some serious support, and will at least have that. All well and good.
But if I now go to another forum and see the same poster spinning some extreme racist line – substitute your personal anathema – what am I supposed to do?
This is the extreme case, but illustrates the principle.
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Message posted by hermajtomomi
“And, converseley, hearing personal testimony and details develops an unhealthy sypathy which can be a barrier to objectivity. It helps create cliques.”
As Hermeline says, what else have we got to go on?
Does it mean that, in order to maintain objectivity, we can only really debate issues we have merely read or been told about about rather than experienced first-hand? I hope not.
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Message 77 – posted by Polly (U2130296) , 3 Days Ago
Dear RJ,
‘Chumminess’ is happy and joyful. There is really no harm in it. We can all be chums. If a so called ‘chum’ then lets one down(by way of a disagreement here), no matter. It does happen here, just as it sometimes does in the real world! Love is far sweeter than anger (although there is one pl….r on these boards who has made a few dreadful, and cruel, comments, and real boo-boos, and really annoyed mewhistle).
So lets pull up the couch nearer the warming fire, make a pot of tea for all of us here(the cups are below), and just be nice. Some of us actually need to be ‘chummy’ for reasons best known to ourselves.
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Message 78 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
You’ve put your finger on it. This isn’t the real world. I thought that was the point.
People who want to be sociable have chatrooms and the like. Surely this is a different animal entirely.
I’d say it was important to have a place where you can have enemies. I didn’t say there was any harm in it, only that it would end up creating inhibitions where there shouldn’t be any.
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Message 80 – posted by hermajtomomi (U2692623) , 3 Days Ago
“- what am I supposed to do?”
Maybe keep out altogether or at least stand back and see how both threads develop.
Who knows, the racist rant may merely be a symptom of deep despair. On the other hand, the desperation might arise from the feeling of alienation when others have (rightly) pulled the poster up on his/her bigotry.
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Message 81 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 3 Days Ago
Not easy, is it?
I’ll try and think up a more credible example – even though that one was based on fact.
And the effect would be cumulative. The thin end of a slippery wedge.
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message 82 – posted by Polly (U2130296) , 2 Days Ago
No, no, no, RJ! Real worlds, and cyber-worlds, do collide. Chat-rooms? Perish the thought. Here we can sample cynicism, anger, love, disappointment, fear….but not have to meet-up at some time! erm
Do come along and get your tea. I promise that if you ever really annoy me anywhere here, I shall ‘say my bit’, poke you in the eye, and then put the kettle on again.
Hob-nobs anyone?
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Message 90 – posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB (U8215269) **, 2 Days Ago
The point is that knowing previous posts of a poster makes me anticipate what can be awaited from him/her, but doesn’t change my agreement/ disagreement with the point he/she is currently making.
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Message 91/4 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 2 Days Ago
Sez you.
I think there’s a strong case for different identities on different threads. in principle it would cause less prejudgement if posts were allowed to stand for themselves, without any baggage or previous.
People have scores to settle, and that way vendettas can start. And look what happened to Sicily.
Likewise ‘buddies’ can be too sympathetic.
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Message 95 – posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB (U8215269) **, 2 Days Ago
Little Richardjohn,
Though we may agree on some minor points, I see that we can’t agree in general.
Message boards are not the real world, but they are still a part of it. Would you prefer that your work colleges came to work under a new identity everyday to eliminate prejudgement?
And yet, work environment is surely more important than message boards.
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Message 96 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 2 Days Ago

“Would you prefer that your work colleges came to work under a new identity everyday to eliminate prejudgement?”

No, obviously not, because the work environemnt is the real world, with all its drawbacks and benefits, few of which apply here, where ‘relationships’ are meaningless, or, at best, not understood yet..
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Message 99 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
What if it does make more damage? We’re talking about here, where only ‘ideas and the approach to life’ as crystallised in the form of a post should count – not previous experience of the poster, or any status they proclaim.
If examining the nature of prejudgement here changes the way we deal with it in the real world, so much the better.
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Message posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB
But than prejudgement (as you see it) can make more damage in the real world than here, cannot it?

Relationships are built based on sympathy, both here and in the real world.
In a way, you have less to come out from here, but – on the other hand – it’s ideas and the approach to life that counts more here, as one is not diverted by the external appearance.
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Message 100 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
But you must agree that relationships are altered by the medium they are conducted in.
In which case, what is the difference between a relationship conducted on the telephone, and one established onto a messageboard?
Is anything which happens here real? I don’t think so. I think that for the purposes of impartiality it is preferable to deal with posts as completely dismebodied fragments of thought, rather than try to assign them to a person of your own imagination, which might be prone to all kinds of over-compensation.
And when you say that people relate true experiences, aren’t you perilously close to saying that ‘It Must Be True, I read It On The Web’?
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Message posted by susie
LRJ, every message on a MB comes from an embodied person, with a history, and an outlook on life that is informed by experiences of various kinds. The messages that are posted are from real people, about real life. Relationships are the way in which people interract, whether it is on a forum like this, in person, on the phone, whatever….
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Message 101 – posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB (U8215269) **, Yesterday
OK, prejudgement can possibly do more damage in the real world, but you don’t mind. You wouldn’t exchange it for contacts with phantoms with no history.
But those are also real people posting here.
They have their history (both here and outside) and their experience from which they draw.
Whether you believe the things that people claim or not is totally up to you, and it’s their posting history that can finally show whether their claims were false or true.
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Reply to this message
Message 102 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
I judge everyone on a post-by-post basis – what they wrote in the past should not have any relevance. No more than an accused person in court should be judged on their previous convictions.
Or I try to. And would make a much better job of it without interferecne from intimate personal detail, alleged qualifications, or any other form of pigeonhole.
It is quite possible to distill your experience into a post and make the same point without an enclosed CV.
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Message 104 – posted by Petr x(*_*)x tPMdeB (U8215269) **, Yesterday

“I judge everyone on a post-by-post basis
… Or I try to. And would make a much better job of it without interferecne from intimate personal detail, alleged qualifications, or any other form of pigeonhole.”

Perhaps you do, but I wonder why you think everybody SHOULD be like you and why people shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with you method by any personal detail, etc.
After all, we are each different, and you have no judge’s gown to decide for others.
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Message 105 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
I don’t. What makes you think that? I’m saying that certain problems would be eased if certain basic rules were observed. And as this is still a new medium, we are writing the rules with every post.
I’m saying that certain factors interfere with objectivity. Which is a truism.
The whole point is to be able to judge a post as objecyively as possible on the basis of the words, and not end up judging the poster on the basis of their persona or history or baggage.
The reverse of what you are accusing me of.
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Message 106 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

“posted by petal jam
Wed, 07 Nov 2007 18:15 GMT, in reply to Little Richardjohn in message 102
But would anyone read it?”

Would anyone read it? Yes, trust me.
How much abstraction is digestible?
A fair amount. And the peck of grit that’s required still doesn’t have to be personalised.
It is the accumulation of stark personal detail, building up a picture of the poster’s life, which I find a barrier to economic, clear honest exchange of ideas.
It’s only human nature.
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Message 108 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **
We all judge, but when personalities become involved, clear judgement of issues becomes clouded. My understanding of the messageboard medium is a judgement of it. You can do what you like with that shred perception, it doesn’t alter the fact that you are merely a collection of pixels dancing on a screen, and so am I, with few of the significant restrictions imposed by real life interactions.
So I am trying to establisha position which reduces the amount of unconcsous judgements (pre-judgements) I make. You don’t seem to think you are prone to them. You are mistaken.
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Message 113 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
That doesn’t mean that your interpretation of a post is improved by abandoning any attempt at objectivity.
You have to deal with the content, not the personality of the poster, surely. That means either making a significant effort to ‘forget’ anything you knew about the poster before reading their post, or not knowing anything much in the first place. I prefer the easyier route. The great democratic advantage that the messageboard has over other forms of exchange is that opinions can’t be swayed by appearance or bearing or anything but prose style, thought and whatever the poster chooses to confess.
Why make it easier for others to judge you? That is the question. And confessional detail does do that, however ‘subjctive’ you think everything is.
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Message 116 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
There is no difference between a conversation in a pub and an exchange on a messageboard?
Come outside and say that. If you understand my meaning. Or rather, if you don’t – but then ..
See what I mean. The same laws simply don’t apply.
The same laws of interaction don’t even apply between different pubs, let alone between different media entirely, let alone between an alcohol fuelled flesh and blood one, and a fisticuffs-free zone of the internet.
You may try to adopt everyday modes of address and intercourse, but they are always modified by surroundings in real life, so why should the same rules not apply here?
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Message 118 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
And judging a post by its poster, as you appear to have no probelms with, is the ultimate form of disrespect to the post and the poster.
Which brings us back again to trying to understanding why making it easier to be objective is important, and how to do go about. Simply pretending that messageboards create the same kind of interaction as real life gets us nowhere. They obviously don’t.
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Message 135 – posted by JeanHartrick (U2756124) **, Yesterday
I think the mistale LRJ makes is to assume there can be such a thing as pure objectivity. Opinions are of many different sorts, and the validity of many of them depends on a poster’s prior experience, qualifications, any amount of baggage.
It’s true of course that there is no means of checking whether the extra information a poster gives is true or not.
I also find odd LRJ’s posting on MBs in order to discover what s/he thinks about something. Certainly formulating your thoughts in writing focuses and clarifies them, but if that’s all tyou wand to achieve, why post them anywhere?
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Message 140 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday
I don’t. I just value it enough to recognise that it can be easily compromised and that can cause conflict and the unpicking of threads.
Where do I say that there is anything like ‘absolute objectivity’?
You are misrepresenting my argument entirely.
Let’s agree that objectivity is important first. The rest will follow, including all the diversity of opinion you could ever want.
There is not much diversity of opinion on display when a dozen structural engineers spend all day waving their CVs at each other in an argument over the collapse of the WTC. Which is the kind of thing which can happen when people start dragging their (unconfirmable) private lives onto threads.
If you don’t subject your thoughts to scrutiny, how are they to be challenged and what inspiration can you get for furher thought?
Of course publishing your thoughts helps to clarify them.
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Message 142 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

“Message posted by Roxy

It’s nonsense to confuse MB’s with reality
Quoted from this message
I don’t agree ET – it’s A reality, a version if you like, but it’s real. I agree it can take a long time to work out an individuals personality.”

A reality of its own, with structural rules and conventions beyond the Mod Laws. We just haven’t pinned them all down yet. That is all I am really saying.
But if you think you can ever deduce a poster’s real life personality from their onboard persona, you are ignoring the medium and its effects.
By its nature, any medium is capable of releasing a different side of any individual. Or creating a new one. That partly what any means of expression is for.
And why would you want to attach a dubious personality to a post arguing the case for or against reducing the time-limit on abortions anyway?
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Message 144 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

“posted by Polly
What was this particular thread called? ‘Respect on the MB’s’? yikes
There is a particular person on these MB’s who I have always got along wonderfully with. But, some months ago, he/she posted a disgraceful message. I pulled the plug on it. And I also told this person that I had, and the reason for doing so.
We are still good friends on the MB’s. He/she might feel the need to do the same to me one day. But we shall still be ‘MB mates’.
So one can be honest, angry, shocked….., but remain friendly and kind at the end of the day.”

So maybe you have reached the ultimate state of MB enlightenment, when all antipathies become resolved and we all live happily ever after.
The fascist shall lie down with the human being – and all that sort of stuff. Maybe this is a new definition of ‘friendship’ Who knows?
As you don’t say just how disgraceful, It’s hard to know whether you have reached that state of grace yet.
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message 150 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

AquaticNickster
However, it requires a great deal of discipline, it seems to me, and I can’t imagine how you could get tight enough House Rules to make it work. Probably only a few people would sign up, and for the first few months every thread would probably end up being about the Rules.

I don’t think it would need any extra rules – in fact, it might make a few of them redundant – but it does deserve a workshop of some kind which would be available for reference.
I also think that it is much harder to seperate personalities from issues than to do the Other Thing. Trained journalists and politicians and other professionals can manage it, as they had to when opinions required some capital to be disseminated. But I would guess that hardly any posters here are trained in that skill.
But then, the ex-specialists of the media are not trained in messageboard skills – whatever they are.
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Message 155 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

“by susie
Methods of communication vary and there is no ‘right’ way.
Journalists and media whatsits are acting in a professional capacity when they write ‘objectively’ (that is debateable anyway), whereas people on a MB are writing as themselves, from their own POV usually.”

The fact that trained professional have problems with this only proves my point.
Now where do I talk about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of expression? Again, you are trying to depict an investigation as a proscription. This is a gross misreading of the case.
And how do you know whether the persona you divine from the post is anything like the real person in real life? You don’t, because the freedomns the format offers and are unique to it, and not found in real life. So the way people express themselves will be altered. They certainly say things which they would not say in real life, and only express those opinions here or discover them here first.
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Message 160 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

posted by susie
I agree that some posters choose to adopt different persona’s – one can only take their persona at face value and respond to that. Some of the men who come on here to goad women with derogatory comments for example may say that is not who they are really, they do it for a laugh, but to me that tells me something about them.

A sonnet is not a novel or a play. It’s not a question of choice. That’s the point. I don’t mean the conscious choice to play a specific role. Which can be fun or a pain in the neck.
It’s a question of your ‘cyber’ personality, to put it crudely, expanding to fill the space available. The way the medium effects the message. Every medium has limitations which define its content to some extent.
There must be general differences between other modes of expression, confined as they are by a range of factors, and this one, which offers the potential for ideas to associate in a flash – instantly stimulating new directions of thought, and further expanding your personal understanding of an issue. No other written medium has that feature as standard. But there must be an optimum strategy for exploiting it. A way of making it more fun, and more respectful, even.
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Message 161 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

Message posted by aquaticNickster
LRJ, I’m all for having both kinds of forum, crudely characterised as the-message-is-the-message, and the-medium-is-for-conversation. What this thread is demonstrating, and some others have, is that you can’t really mix them.

I’m not quite sure what you mean. But I’m for having a million types of forum, and a million types of post on each.
This really isn’t about creating rules, but about understanding how the damn thing works. About getting under the bonnet of the format and seeing what does what.
I know one thing as a fact. When a group of posters get pally online, a set of unwritten rules and injokes CAN develop. A club, which others are then admitted to or not, and which can be mobilised as a claque in any argument.
You may say this is online democracy in action. But to me it looks like the natural self totalitariansim of any self-selecting anarchy. This kind of parochialism does not help diversity or honest exchange on MBs.
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Message 166 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, Yesterday

osted by susie
Well, for some that ‘expansion’ can be negative, but positive for others. Your cyber personality is an extension of your RL one IMO.
Am optimum strategy for expanding one’s personal understanding of an issue will differ between people I think. But if as you say, the point is to ‘expand one’s personal understanding of an issue’ why discount hearing personal experiences as part of that?

An extension is not the real thing though.
The physical world is an extension of your personality in one sense, so that gets you nowhere except into the black hole of philosophy. I’ll wait for the TV series in that case.
I didn’t say personal experience was irrelevant, I said that personal details were a distraction. And that personal testimony doesn’t have to be personalised on the post anyway – especially as there is no real verification process. People can say what they like, it’s the creative use of whatever evidence they have to offer which is interesting. Haven’t we already done this one?
This is not about a colourless characterless rarified zone where only the highest level of interaction is allowed to exist, but finding out what are the possible stylistic pitfalls and blind alleys in a medium which is still very new and terribly powerful. Thise pitfalls (and opportunities) are not a matter ‘for the individual’, they are something all users of the medium are vulnerable to by definition.
Just as all film directors are subject to the pitfall of two dimesions but presented with the opportunity of depicting motion and sound.
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Message 188 – posted by Little Richardjohn (U1244517) **, 22 Hours Ago

“No-one can stop posters from adopting artificial personae of course, but neither can anyone stop them from posting as themselves – nor can other posters ever be prevented from making their own deductions about which is which.”

So what? Who said or implied they couldn’t? The point is that ascribing a personality to a post is futile and does obstruct any clear assessment of their point of view. If they happen to be particularly incoherent, I suppose it may help in ascribing some kind of meaning to the post. But apart from that rare case, to pigeonhole a poster by ascribing them a personality will inevitably end up in sterotyping at some point.
And nobody likes to be stereotyped, and it is the enemy of rational appreciation of an argument.

“But if what you say in the bit I quote first is true, how do you know this?”

Because all media alter the content in some way. Like it or not.
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  1. I liked your post #75 Richard. You seem to think that posting is less real than any other form of communication though. I wouldn’t agree with that. There’s a range of differnt sorts of people posting same as you’d meet anywhere. There’s limitations to writing, there’s advantages too. Reading a message board makes for more of an enhanced/coherent exchange than reading a transcript of an argument generally would.I keep myself private within reason, but keep it real as much as possible. I wouldn’t go blabbing out too much personal information to somebody at a pub either.There’s a capacity for making genuine friendships on message boards; especially at a site like the Guardian where you keep running into the same person on disparate topics that you share an interest in. There’s one person who I spend an hour or so a day chatting to and playing online games with. We’ve done that for two or three years at least. i reckon we know each other as well as it’s possible to without telepathy. I find it a bit sad that issues like I/P fall into the same intractable positions that they do in ‘real life’. I wish more toime was spent exploring human commonality than pushing rigid propaganda lines, but there you are. I like people like germaine greer who I’m sure is more concerned with provoking people to think than being right. Grey

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  2. Let’s use another set of terms apart from that old trickster ‘real’.How about ‘unconstricted’. By any threat of Two Lovely Black Eyes, anyway.

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  3. You can be constricted by many things, including the law of the land and also… Gender, the presence of kiddies, environment(Pub, Parliment, On the Oprah Winfrey show). And nobody ever said letter writing was ‘unreal’ or even looked upon a ‘penpal’ as indicative of deviant behaviour. It’s ALL different, I don’t posting defined as especially different.

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  4. Except that there are fewer contrictions than in any other dialogue between people. If it is a dialogue.In every other form of exchange or publishing the identity and even the location of the participants is known. Which makes intimidation a possibility.Without some really determined, pathological hacking, tracking down a poster who gives offence is not possible.

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