November 5, 2007

I would like some feedback on a phenomenon that I think is more dangerous than helpful: the prevalence of anonymous comments in social media. I wholeheartedly believe in strong opinions and useful (even sharp) criticism, but I believe that feedback should be attributed, period. I find that allowing anonymity in blogs and other media leads almost inevitably to abuses that might not happen otherwise. Today I was reading a communication blog where a blogger posted a piece criticizing a bad editorial job from an in-house publication. The politically correct squad turned out in record numbers to criticize him (and not without reason in some cases). What really bothered me, though, is that half of the responses to this person’s writing were anonymous.

Then, immediately after reading this exchange I came to Dave Snowden’s blog today and saw his comments about the anonymous edits to a Wikipedia entry.

Now I recognize that accurate attribution on the Internet is often difficult to achieve, but I also know that the most useful sites are those where people take responsibility for their communication. I predict that in the very near future, the blogs that will be the most read and respected will be those that require attribution.

Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote on the communications blog:

“I find the quality of dialogue in social media is substantially lowered when people do not have to take responsibility for what they say to or about others. A long list of preachy, ad hominem, or acerbic comments is no substitute for useful ideas shared by colleagues. I am a big fan of constructive criticism, but have little use for hearing from people who don’t criticize courageously.”

What do you think?

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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