Sunday, August 20, 2006

On Building a Civil Community

There are lots of experiments going on in creating online communities. One problem with communities is that there are always a few people that get obnoxious and drive off other more productive people. Think about the neighbors that insist on partying loud at 2:00 am. We've commented before that the example of Wikipedia demonstrates the need for an authority to make a community work.

Brad Warthen, The State's Editorial Page Editor, has written a blog for some time now. While most of the comments by others are good and constructive, a few people are shrill and insulting to others. To combat this, Brad has instituted some rules: Civility III (draft): Here's what I'm gonna do, for now.

From now on, Brad will let commenters say pretty much what they want if they put their name to it. Since there are legitimate times things must be said anonymously, he will allow anonymous commenters, but they will be subject to censuring to keep down the anonymous flame throwing. That makes sense, but some people will chafe at any authority, whether it's the referee of a basketball game, the administrators at Wikipedia, or the editor of a blog.

We can learn as much from Brad's attempt to build a civil community, as we can from the community’s comments themselves.

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