Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
We need to talk about civility
Yesterday I read an opinion piece on a local news site that was just one long, scathing attack on the writer of another opinion piece on the site. No substance at all. You don’t have to go far on the web to see that kind of behavior. There is something about the false sense of anonymity provided by web sites, blogs, and comment sections that just bring out the worst in us.
Don’t get me wrong — I love disagreements. I believe that an essential quality of a good designer is the ability to balance his or her confidence in their proposed solution with an openness that they might be wrong. But we don’t disagree online any more, we just attack. I’ve often thought that new users of the Internet should be forced to read Paul Graham’s How to Disagree before they’re allowed to go any further. When it comes to online discourse we are, for all intents and purposes, locked in an Eternal September.
It is with these types of thoughts on my mind that I wrote a talk about how I think we can do better. I also turned the talk into an article for Smashing Magazine, which was published today under the title Making A Better Internet. The summary:
In this essay, I’ll weave together a story about the current state of Internet discourse. At the end, I’ll tell you how I think we can make it better. And then, we’ll most likely all go back to what we were doing and forget about it. Despite the probable futility of this exercise, I’ll carry it out anyway, because I love the Web and I really don’t want us to destroy it.
I don’t know what the reaction to this piece is going to be. I’m quite nervous about it, but we’ll see how it goes. If you’d like to see the slides from the talk, which I gave at a recent Cape Town Content Strategy Meetup, they are embedded below: