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My hypothesis is that on any interesting or particularly controversial blog post or facebook update, it will devolve into an utterly inane foodfight within 6 comments.

2 Responses to “Six Degrees of Separation”

  1. Harry says:

    This is a similar principle to the one in the game Telephone, where the message gets garbled after the sixth person.

    I hope Wintercow is not complaining about his readers. I will back off if asked. He can, of course, censor at will any inappropriate comments about the solar picnic table.

  2. It is why the good Gen. Henry Martyn Robert in his famous Rules of Order specified that all comments are directed to the Chair. I just googled several parliamentary seating plans. In the UK the members face each other in two bodies. Most everyone else faces the Chair. Most parliaments are divided by party, which might seem reasonable enough, but I suggest that members should be allowed by seniority to choose their desks. You might get seniors from all parties clumped together with juniors in packs based on other allegiances entirely. You never know…

    Anyway, the point is that these computer forums allow that devolution in content which a formal meeting prevents. The chair calls on members and members who speak off-topic are out of order. (You can sneak in a point of order, or personal privilege, or other, if you are clever, and say what you want. ) See Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for an application of the rules.

    I will tell you something else, too, about consequences.

    Back in the 90s there was a maillist from the University of Northern Iowa for numismatics. Coins@Cobra.uni.edu always had pretty much a decent kind of patter, as it was a moderated list. When it went to Usenet, things opened up… way too much… On Coins@Cobra there was a constant complaint about Accugrade being an inaccurate grading service, but opinions were mild and left as opinions. When it went to Usenet, all hell broke loose. Eventually, Alan Hager tracked down the email addresses and sued the individuals (twice). His cases were thrown out, but for him, the price was worth it; and he was able to pay, whereas these people were faced with thousands of dollars of expenses fighting in state and federal courts. Even the ANA got into the act and the PNG took a hand, both on the sides of the defendants. Hager sued them both, also, and lost. However, he made his point.

    Myself, I have had my share of problems with sysops, since the days of BBSes. (I just went around with Dr Peter Klein on O & M over Murray Rothbard’s academic dishonesty.) Back in the late 80s, I wrote an essay for Loompanics about hassling with sysops. I grant fully that the property owner has a right to control his guests. I questioned the need to control.

    But since then, having worked these last ten years in private security as a guard, and having added a university degree in criminology and another in social science, it is clear to me that social conflicts begin with the internally conflicted. And that is a different problem, entirely.

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