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Civility?

Here's a proposal, put forward for comment and for the consideration of the bored.

I don't think there's any conflict between free, open, unrestricted legitimate debate about audio equipment and ideas (on the one hand) and complete civility, no matter how forced (on the other).

"Free speech" and "censorship" are not the issue. It has nothing to do with the first amendment. This forum's management, like any newspaper's editorial page or any magazine's editor, has a right to decide what gets posted and what doesn't. A principled management will take this obligation seriously and endeavor to be even-handed while also enforcing standards. I suspect this is what the bored already tries to do.

Why not simply put direct personal criticism completely off-limits, and enforce respectful discourse? "I, personally, have never found the reviews written by Reviewer X to be helpful. Clearly, our tastes are different." No problem. "Despite what Reviewer Z wrote in his/her review, I've found this component to perform very well." Excellent. "Reviewer Y is an idiot, and is obviously on the take." Not okay. "All reviewers who work for audio magazines are on the take." Not okay, even, or especially, when only implied.

Posted by a representative of an equipment manufacturer: "Though I'm sure it's all a miscommunication, so far we have been unable to recover, after X months (or years) our Model X2345 preamplifer that was loaned to Reviewer Z for a review in Magazine A." Very courteous, even if the courtesy is forced, but it's blunt, names names, and gets the point across. BTW: the same post by a third party with no direct, reliable information--or who is unwilling to name his or her source--would NOT be okay. The acused has a right to confront the accuser. No manufacturer's rep would make such an accusation lightly, and they shouldn't.

I've used the Internet since before it was public, and participated in news groups almost from the first. Before that, it was electronic bulletin boards. And I've moderated a number of email discussion lists and Web-based discussion fora. From the beginning I noticed a tendency for people interacting electronically to speak, or write, uncivily, saying things that they would never say in person. Anyone who has spent much time interacting via electronic means is aware of this phenomenon.

The only way to avoid gutterization, I've learned, is to enforce a high level of civility. Anyone can write anything, as long as they meet their obligation to maintain a substantive, courteous, and civil discourse. "Moderation" is an appropriate term to describe the role of overseers of discussion fora.

Best Regards,
Jim Austin


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Topic - Civility? - Jim Austin 06:19:28 05/14/04 (24)


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