2 July 2008

Transparency and control

Over the past week, there's been a blog fight of sorts (BLOG FIGHT!) between BoingBoing and Violet Blue. From what anyone can tell, Boing Boing silently deleted a long history of guest posts by Violet Blue from their archives (see "That Violet Blue Thing"--beware, 800+ of comments, large page ho!--for BB's summary and apologia). They gave no explanation until the ...-osphere sussed them out and gave a collective What The Fuck?!? considering BB's lauding of openness, transparency, and ... well, those two are probably enough to bring up the oddities of such a silent attack on someone who had been a BB pal. Violet Blue's befuddled reaction is her article "when transparency does not equal erased". By the unpersoning of VB on BB, her Google pagerank--and subsequent cross-pollination from BB readers--is sure to take a hit. Browsing the writings of both sides, with the impetus still unspoken, BB comes out looking like asses, especially with Xeni Jardin's snarky defense of their silence: Blog fights are stupid.

I had my own fun with blog censorship a while back when a certified wack-o started posting heavily (relatively) to one of my posts on morgellons. She was a shrill troll whose posts had the appearance of fanaticism and paranoia. After a few rants and attacks, I deleted her very last comment (a repeat of previous rants) and blocked her from posting further. She was generally troll-like, and so I was pretty justified in cutting off her microphone. I'll chat with all comers, but my tolerance has a limit when noise outstrips signal.

The issue of whether you should be able to publicly criticize the president came up in drunktalk recently. One person had the position that it makes us look weak and therefore vulnerable to attack. This is a similar situation of transparency and control. If the government effectively controls the discussion group and can censor what it deems to be unpatriotic speech, how free is our speech? Should our government be more open than, say, the Chinese government, which regularly imprisons those who criticize them?

Finally, going further afield, I've often encountered a certain type of "secretive" co-worker. When you have public repositories of documentation and data, hiding your code or documentation or proposals is little more than an act of self-censorship whose purpose can be only to control the expectations of others. This reveals a different drawback to concealment: hiding information inhibits growth. Working within a group who shares information, the people who withhold information hold back the group. First, the knowledge they could have shared with others remains hidden and only for their own benefit. Second, the mistakes they hope to conceal remain uncontested and therefore inhibits their own growth and the chance for them to make a greater contribution to the group.

[ posted by sstrader on 2 July 2008 at 2:34:33 PM in Culture & Society ]