bluefluff's blue fluff

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Online peanut galleries are incubators for kibitzing"

Or so it says here....

Page 331 of Virtual Communities, & the first time I'd been completely defeated by one of Rheingold's statements. I expected him to make me think, to throw up new names & new concepts, but not to use English in a completely inscrutable way. I couldn't even hazard a guess from the context.

According to Worldwidewords, a peanut gallery is C19th American slang for what we Brits would call "the gods" - the cheapest upper tier of seats in a theatre, so called because their occupants tended to express their unruly displeasure by hurling peanuts in the general direction of the stage.

Bartleby defines kibitz as To look on and offer unwanted, usually meddlesome advice to others. It sounds yiddish, & it is.

So, putting that together, Rheingold believes that online discussion groups open to all & sundry tend to encourage unhelpful heckling.

Educational stuff this reading, innit?


  • At 05 December, 2005 23:08, Blogger kat said…

    Is that just a statment or is he making a distinction or a comparison re on / off line? I don't understand the context.

    Any discussion group open to all & sundry is likely to attract unhelpful heckling, isn't it? ( Online or off). We can't really throw peanuts from here though can we? - I could but they would bounce off the screen. :-)

  • At 06 December, 2005 07:08, Blogger Bill said…

    In an online context I think this can be true as people are far less inhibited online and more likely to say things they wouldn't say face to face. In my view, this is because of the online environment rather than whether a discussion group is open or closed.

    But this also leads on to how we perceive each other online - sometimes an over-zealous attempt to offer advice could be perceived as unhelpful heckling.

    I'm not sure that heckling is confined to just open forums - depending on the dynamics of the group and approach of the moderator, small closed groups can also be susceptible.

  • At 06 December, 2005 10:51, Blogger kat said…

    I think this can be true as people are far less inhibited online and more likely to say things they wouldn't say face to face.

    I read this time and time again but I am afraid I can't understand or believe it. I think it only applies to a few. It only seem to be said online or in print. With so many people not daring to contibute or participate online at all, how can we say that people, in general, feel less inhibited. I know far more people who are likely to say something to my face than they are in print. I think the number of hecklers is in about the same proportion online of off but that is only in my view and my experience.

  • At 06 December, 2005 12:28, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Kat - he is reviewing (in 2000) how online communities had changed since the almost wholly optimistic 'pioneer' days when he wrote the original book. One negative aspect he has become more aware of is how unmoderated public boards can easily turn into what he calls "hellish juvenile flame-zones".
    In places like FirstClass we're relatively insulated from that sort of thing. But a quick glance into Usenet these days will show the sort of thing he means. People hurl abuse at each other in a way they almost certainly wouldn't consider face to face (except maybe at pub chucking-out time).

  • At 06 December, 2005 13:01, Blogger kat said…

    unmoderated public boards can easily turn into what he calls "hellish juvenile flame-zones

    Ah well! I don't go in those sort of places. :-)

  • At 08 December, 2005 00:01, Blogger Nogbad said…

    I don't think Rheingold's warning is any less valid now but I do think the range of areas in which this peanut throwing can occur (or be avoided) has grown. I wonder if the growth in blogs and Wikis marks a change in the way we communicate online? There are still "blog wars" where people are flamed but not to the extent of news groups and the voices on blogs are different too. Idle thoughts.

  • At 08 December, 2005 03:50, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Blogs offer a kind of security, in that the "owner" has control over who posts & what they post. If somebody slags me off in my own blog, it's an easy matter to delete the comment. On Usenet, it would linger forever....

    Then again (being more philosophical) maybe that sort of "privatised" security runs counter to the openness the network paradigm makes possible? A cosy little world where we can put up walls & ignore anything that offends?


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