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The Dark Side of "Me Media"

JonKatz posted more than 13 years ago | from the -the-Balkanization-of-ideas- dept.

United States 178

Collaborative filtering and comment programs are all the rage these days on the Net, a symbol of empowerment, choice, freedom, self-policing, even protection. Thanks to automated software, and to addictively-gamelike moderation systems, media are becoming increasingly personalized: "me media." But as usual with things technological, people are sometimes drawn to neat stuff without spending much time mulling the consequences., an important new book by Constitutional scholar Cass Sunstein argues that there is such a thing as a citizen -- and that filtering programs may undermine citizenship and a democratic culture. According to Sunstein, software is helping us talk only to ourselves. This will be heresy to some, but he's got a point. (Read more).

Most people online cherish and support the freedom to control their information environment, to evaluate sources of information, to block spam and obnoxious intrusions. Reader moderation (and even higher-order filtering systems) represent the first meaningful efforts to control the epidemic hostility, spamming and chaos that overwhelm public spaces online. This self-policing in media is a radical and powerful idea -- but it isn't that simple. It also permits people to eliminate opposing points of view, promoting a new kind of fragmentation.

Those who moderate comments on Slashdot, Kuro5shin and other community-based weblogs may downgrade content they don't find worthwhile in a genuine effort to express their thoughts as readers and participants -- a freedom no newspaper reader or television viewer has. One person's new freedom is another's' censorship, though. Congress has required, for instance, that schools and libraries who want to take advantage of lucrative e-Rate funding for their networking projects employ content-filtering software. The same basic mechanism (content is chosen before it reaches the viewer), but with very different motivations. As various methods and reasons for content filtering spread, they bring with them some dark clouds.

In, University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein argues that through its filtering and moderating systems, the Internet may be Balkanizing speech and thought, and thus weakening democracy, by eliminating the public spaces that traditionally offered common ground. Sunstein asserts that the age of mass media is ending, that radically de-centralized and intensely individualistic forms of information are not only emerging but becoming dominant. But he believes that certain elements remain essential for a well-functioning system of free expression, and that filtering and moderation software may endanger them.

People living in democracies, Sunstein maintains, should be exposed to ideas they might not have chosen themselves. Unplanned, spontaneous, unanticipated encounters are central, though they "often involve topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating." They are important, nonetheless, he says, partly because they protect against fragmentation and extremism, a predictable outcome when like-minded people communicate only with one another."

Sunstein also cites the impact of collaborative filtering programs like those used by Amazon and other sites which collect information on past use and preferences, and allow people to pre-select from a menu of subjects and books they are likely to like or agree with. Clearly this is a customer service, but it's also a way of filtering out ideas and subjects people don't want to hear. Browsers in a store are nearly guaranteed to come across unanticipated or new ideas. The users of collaborative filtering systems will see far fewer.

Sunstein believes that citizens should have a range of common experiences. Without them, any heterogeneous society will have a much tougher time addressing social problems. People may even find it hard to understand one another. "Common experiences, emphatically including the common experiences made possible by the media, provide a form of social glue," he notes.

Sunstein's imagined -- but very plausible -- world of innumerable, diverse editions of the "the Daily Me" is the furthest thing from a utopian dream; it will, he claims, create serious problems. Sunstein offers several possibilities for reform. He suggests "must-carry" rules in the form of links imposed on the most popular websites, designed to produce exposure to substantive questions. He even advocates "must-carry" rules, also in the form of links, for even the most highly partisan websites, designed to ensure that viewers learn about opposing views.

These interventions into Net content are provocative, but a bit of a shocker coming from a Constitutional scholar. Should sites really be forced by law to carry view points that are abhorrent to them, to mimic the press's deadly habit of balancing every single point of view with an opposite one, creating eternal arguments and stalemates that turn civic discussions into WWF matches? In a democratic culture, isn't polarization as much a choice as consensus?

Such requirements, he argues, aren't rooted in nostalgia or reactionary love for the past. Nor is Sunstein taking a position for or against technology or its value. He wrote the book, he says, in an effort to explain what makes freedom of expression successful -- a question little considered online, or even in the United States Congress, which routinely enacts censorious, anti-democratic laws in the name of patriotism and morality.

But hardly anyone in high-tech, contemporary America engages in face-to-face, participatory democracy in their town parks and streets. If they do this anywhere, in 2001, they do it online. The Net is the new public space; does that mean it needs those same constitutional protections, and are Netizens obliged to keep at least some of this space open and unfiltered?

Sunstein doesn't fall into the obvious trap of romanticizing the era, blessedly over, when three TV networks controlled much of the news and offered Americans bland, incomplete mirrors of the world. But he has a point when he says that for all their flaws, TV broadcasts had vast audiences and had the quality of a genuinely common experience. One of the central accomplishments of the American Revolution was the crafting a political process that peacefully absorbed different points-of-view. It has worked astonishingly well, longer than almost any previous democratic political system.

In the last 30 years, though, the networks have lost about a third of their audience, or 39 million viewers. The most highly rated show on any current network has fewer viewers than the fifteenth highest-rated show of the 1970's. Sunstein doesn't suggest that all our new choices -- the Net, Web, cable -- are bad. "My only claim is that a common set of frameworks and experiences is valuable for a heterogeneous society, and that a system with limitless options, making for diverse choices, will compromise some important social values. ... if we believe that a set of common experiences promotes active citizenship and mutual self-understanding, we will be concerned by any developments that greatly reduce those experiences."

People who care about the Internet ought to be concerned. The tech nation may be a collection of brilliant, creative, outspoken people, but it defines the notion of being politically disconnected. The legislative system which nominally represents Net users passes laws from the Communications Decency Act to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to the Children's Internet Protection Act that directly impinge upon our freedom of expression. But there is little organized response, or even much awareness.

The truth is that people who increasingly turn to filtering programs (including ready-made portal sites) become accustomed to censoring ideas they think they may not like. But they can't ever really be sure, since they have no idea what they're not seeing, or how the person or ideas they are blocking might have evolved.

Just ask Jeffrey Pollock. When Pollock ran for Congress last year, he posted campaign information and position papers on a campaign web site. Among others things, he declared his support for Federally-mandated use of Net filtering programs to block porn in schools and public libraries. He was amazed to learn that his own site was blocked by CyberPatrol.

If there is a flaw in Sunstein's arguments, it is that the information winnowing he decries has become more and more necessary due to the sheer volume of data beamed at individual users. In a sense, the moderation advocates are correct when they say they are preserving people's freedom to think and make information choices.

The volume of hostility and junk communications coming off the Net and Web is now staggering, itself a threat to a democratic culture. Moderating systems can also identify leaders and spokesmen, and make it easier to find intelligent or responsive comments. They take some power away from the hostile and disruptive. And they have quickly become valued communication tools: "I personally love the moderation and meta moderation system," e-mailed one advocate of this site's tiered approach to moderation, "self-policing while at the same time adding a degree of competition and ego-feeding."

Sunstein offers no meaningful solutions for dealing with flamers, or professional lobbyists who flood people with spam.

His argument also seems to pre-suppose that common spaces won't evolve on the Net without help. But just why not? Wouldn't a democratic model hold that eventually, when enough people want such a space, they will create and participate in it? And if they don't want such a space, isn't that also their choice?

Perhaps these spaces won't be like the old TV networks, but they could conceivably be big and open enough to host the civic functions that streets and parks used to serve. After all, television networks themselves act as a giant filter, as does much of Big Media. They picked a handful of stories -- fires, celebrity gossi$presented them as a picture of the world. They were inadequate and incomplete, and people abandoned them in droves the first chance they got.

"If an individual freely chooses to join a service that moderates or filters some source of information according to criteria that are fully disclosed to the joining individual, even if those criteria are the 'whim of the moderator,' then the viewer has expressed his inalienable right to listen only to what he wants," writes Shawn McMahon (himself a moderator) in an e-mail to me. "Nothing," McMahon adds, "could be more democratic."

He has a strong point. Don't people have the right to choose the information they want?

But that doesn't make Sunstein's questions any less valid, or his book less significant and compelling.

Look for another viewpoint on this book in an upcoming reader-submitted book review.

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Re:On the money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#337341)

I agree. In fact i wish there was a way to cap the level of posts you see. I have no desire to read some long winded "+5, informative" karma whore that isn't a real persons thoughts just a reiteration of slashdot collectives view. Seriusly anything above +3 i really don't want to read. I already know what the slashbot hive mind thinks, i don't need to read it everytime a new article gets posted, i'd rather read a real persons ideas.

Re:Huh? (1)

pod (1103) | more than 13 years ago | (#337342)

This is definitely a wordy way of saying 'why don't we let people do their own content filtering.'. Well, duh!

David Brin wrote about this... (1)

InThane (2300) | more than 13 years ago | (#337343) his book "Earth." Admittedly there wasn't much dedicated to it - one of the characters, Jen Wolling (IIRC) had a program written for her by a hacker that randomized her news input so that a certain percentage of her news would be drawn in from random sources, as opposed to her preselected resources.

Said hacker was in jail at the time for doing this for a bunch of other people, without their consent!

What? (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 13 years ago | (#337348)

So, once again, some moron thinks that the government should mandate what can and can't be on the internet. Sounds great. Slashdot-style moderation systems work only because there's an option to browse at -1 for those who don't want to be told what they can and can't see. As soon as [insert governing/controlling body here] takes that control away from the users of the information service, a large portion of that information service's users go elsewhere. That would be a terrible thing to do to the internet.

Now, if we could just find a way to run the stupid people away instead... :)

Moderators, what is wrong with you? (1)

Zico (14255) | more than 13 years ago | (#337349)

First off, how can anybody mod up a post which has a sentence ending with "of this there can be no argument."?? Please tell me that you're using your own accounts to mod yourself up.

The precise moderation mechanism used here might be a first, but the concept isn't.

Moderation is no more a right-wing thing than political correctness is. And a right-wing attitude would be to hold people responsible for their actions, so I'm not sure how you come up with the opposite.

What would go a long way toward moderation here would be to get rid of the "Overrated" category, maybe replacing it with more specific negative mods (like "Factually wrong"). "Overrated" has basically become, "Well, you presented your argument in a perfectly reasonable manner, but I don't like your opinion. Zap." Seeing stuff at 2 or 1 get moderated down for being "Overrated" is just cowardice.

Anyway, you've gotta be having a good laugh at the people who modded you up, because there's no way in Hell that you wrote that in any sincerity.


But your comment got modded up... (1)

CaptainSuperBoy (17170) | more than 13 years ago | (#337351)

I think it's pretty clear that a large portion of /. readers would disagree with your comment. Doesn't the fact that this comment was modded up show that opposing viewpoints can make it here? No system's perfect, of course, and the /. system does tend to encourage people to go along with the crowd.. does this mean moderation systems in general should not be used?

Personally I disagree with your comment, but I would still mod it up. Sure, it could be a troll - but does this change your message? Should the poster's intent, as opposed to the actual content, matter? I will also respond to your arguments.

Your comment is flawed from top to bottom by the assumption that all media is, or will be controlled by corporate interests. It is true that corporations control a great deal of our media today, never mind in 20 years. This control does influence our culture more than any other factor. But did /. start out commercially? You seem to be assuming that no other moderated forums will ever pop up after /. and k5.

When enough people are fed up with corporate influence of one site, a new one will be created. Unless free speech on the Internet is stifled (I guess this could happen, though) there will always be a place to speak your mind and hear others' views without being subjected to countless trolls and links.

I am assuming that since you disagree with moderation, you browse at -1 and hide the scores on comments. As of this post, your comment is at 4. Like I said, while I disagree with your views I would never mod your comment down. Remember that moderation is a work in progress and is in its infancy. As long as the goal is to promote civil discussion without silencing anyone's viewpoints, moderation systems are really the only good solution.

At the bottom of any Yahoo! news story, you can "discuss" the story with your fellow netizens. Please visit a story there, preferably on a controversial or incendiary topic, and see what people are "discussing" there. You will find name-calling, racism, and downright ugliness in EVERY discussion you look at there. This, folks, is what we would have if not for moderation.


Re:Moderation=Fascism (1)

rde (17364) | more than 13 years ago | (#337352)

In 20 years time it will be the geeks here that created the moderation system moaning about it in YRO articles. This is, yet again in the geek community, hypocrisy.
You seem to think there's an ideal solution; one that will please - if not everybody - then at least the 'right-thinking' people.
You've given a compelling argument for kicking off abusers; the argument against it is the oldest argument in free speech debates, and still the most potent: who decides which posts are trolls? I'd be willing to accept the will of the good Commander, but that's here. Twenty years hence, will I be as willing to accept the word of VA Microsoft, as they eject all posts that complain about MS Linux being a monopoly?

Moderation should not be used. It shouold be a free for all, with the irresponsible forced to face up to what they do.
Again, who decides what's irresponsible? If you're willing to accept one man's[0] decisions on who is responsible, you're courting disaster.

[0]You know what I mean.

Re:Thesis doesn't make sense... (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 13 years ago | (#337353)

Pay attention. "The same goes for ideas...the pre-digested pap can be replaced by discussion, collaboration, and exploration." quoth my original post.

Hooray for opinions I agree with! (1)

jet_silver (27654) | more than 13 years ago | (#337354)

If your opinion is not like mine you are morally defective anyway.

So what was your point, Katz?

Re:What a wacko theory (1)

topham (32406) | more than 13 years ago | (#337355)

Actually, this is one of the few of his stories I appreciated.

I agree with you that choosing the types of stories I want to see, etc. But, I've intentially chosen wide so I would be exposed to more than an extreemly narrow range of topics.

It is the synergy of otherwise unrelated news and information which can bring new ideas. How many people do you think fail to see this and instead severly restrict the type of news (here, or elsewhere) that they are exposed to?

On the other hand, if I never see another sports score I'm sure I'll survive...

More Not Less Choice (1)

mperrin (41687) | more than 13 years ago | (#337356)

I recall reading a study on this very topic, which was done a while ago by I think one of the major online news sources - WashPost or NYTimes or somebody, but I forget precisely who.

Their research showed that people who get their news online frequent *more*, not fewer, sources of news than their offline counterparts, and are exposed to a broader range of topics as a result. Furthermore, nearly everyone checks one or two "general news" sites like NYTimes or CNN, and sees all of the "front page" headlines there. The most common scenario is someone who checks a major site like CNN regularly plus a variety of sites on more specialized topics. Furthermore, the net allows much greater coverage of those specialized topics than would be possible in a print media. So the long and the short of it is, no, there is statistical evidence out there that people don't put blinders on their eyes and only read narrow slices of the news; the vast majority of people in practice chose to combine the narrow and the broad.

And I dare say the average person who gets their news online is better informed than the people who only watch the 6 o'clock news! TV news is all sound bites and no substance; text on the net has more details, more bite to it.

I really wish I could remember the name/source of this study. Anyone help me out here?

- Marshall (Reads WashingtonPost,, slashdot, bottomquark, and fifteen different AP newsfeeds from ClariNet. Yes I'm a news junkie. ;-)

Re:Moderation==moron filtre (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#337357)

> Moderation has been used for years on alt.sysadmin.recovery. I pity the fool that does a "all your base are belong to us" over there. :)

Not even an article moderation approval header referring to Cats? Damn, you guys do play hardball! ;-)

Re:Moderation=Fascism (1)

mass (65691) | more than 13 years ago | (#337358)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that punishment (holding someone accountable for their actions...) was a conservative/right-wing ideal, whereas implementing systems to work around the "badness" (ignoring it, giving people freedom from it) was a liberal/left-wing ideal. Anyone else?

Re:loss of perspective (1)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 13 years ago | (#337359)

But it's not the government's prerogative to force carriers to link to opposition (Should, say, B'nai Brith be forced to link to Stormfront? Should FDR's fireside chats have been followed up by the latest from Tokyo Rose?), nor to require that people read them.

And who decides admittance to the club? Should every fringe philosophy automatically be entitled to the same consideration? If someone were to post the meanderings of toddlers from a classroom, should they carry the same weight? I doubt it...

People have a heavy dose of confirmation bias. That's normal. But the proper place to fight that is probably in the schools, where critical thinking skills can be critically assessed.

Re:Moderation=Fascism (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 13 years ago | (#337364)

Moderation is good, why?

Mainly because, while most people will mod the crap down, it is still there to be read. Sure, I don't really care to read "first pr0st" but sometimes valid viewpoints can be found in the dregs of Score 0 or even -1 sometimes.


Back in the days of yore (ok 1997) I used to frequent a CCG manufacturers BBS, they had a closed form of moderation that basically meant if you start flaming or being an idiot you'd get your account pulled and your IP blocked (and all yon offending threads would disappear), this was all fine and well until politics got involved. Suddenly people who didn't share an absolute devotion to the company's ideal BBS content started to disappear (read: "the latest release of the product stinks, here's why" would qualify as flame). This at first wasen't a big deal, until more and more users and threads started to mysteriously "disappear". After a while the crowd filtered out to just people who had "nice things to say", what was once an ideal forum for real discussion provided by the company (free market research!) had turned into the "do as we say" BBS where, in order to keep your user account you had to be careful what you said and thought.

So I ask you, is it better to have a form of moderation that is justified by the people, for the people and keeps all content alive (at least while its active). Or is it better to have "someone" choose what content is good for you, and punish those who generate "unwanted" content by giving them the boot, or otherwise restricting their acces? (I, of course, assumed this is what you meant by punishment)


But... (1)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 13 years ago | (#337365)

What Katz fails to realize is that the moderation systems here on /., or K5 [] are completely voluntary. If somebody does not want to moderate on either weblog, they are not required to.

Or are they? It seems to me that peer pressure, brought on by Meta-Moderation here on /. or "Truster User" status on K5 seems to imply that people have a sociological need to moderate other people. People enjoy being lazy, by their very nature. Look at the U.S.A., for God's sake. Just give us our Whoppers, a La-Z-Boy and some XFL football and we're happy for the next 2 hours until we fall asleep and droll all over ourselves.

Television is still going to be the most efficient way of communicating with the masses. People hate to read, write, or do anything constructive. They want the information fed to them. Katz can scream about the "New World Order" of the 'net, but in the end, this is doomed just like all adventurous tasks; there's too much thought involved and people are turned off by thought.

That's just the way it is

People have always filtered (1)

soboroff (91667) | more than 13 years ago | (#337368)

The one thing Sunstein seems to miss is that people have always filtered information. How many newspaper readers just go straight to the sports page? Whenever I go into a bookstore, I don't browse all the books, and even walk right past the new releases and bestsellers since I know what I'm likely to want to buy.

The fact of the matter is that there is too much information; there certainly is now, there always has been, and will continue to be. As the 'net allows much greater freedom and ability to make ideas public, the issue will only become more pronounced.

How will the Sunsteins decide what information will be mandatory? I don't even mean this question at the Orwellian level: there is just simply too much information to choose from for any possibly democratic organization to make the decision. TV decides what you can watch, and they can do this because (a) it's expensive and complicated to make a TV show, and (b) they control the stream and can thus make whatever programming decisions they want. But the 'net can't be like this, since neither is true.

I think filtering (collaborative or otherwise) is crucial in this day and age, but even if you don't use a computer to help you filter, you do it anyway yourself. The key is to be wary of the ethics and indeed tractability of filtering for someone else!

Huh? (1)

cybercuzco (100904) | more than 13 years ago | (#337372)

And you posted this article on what is arguable the poster child of "me" media sites because....

Id like to moderate this article as a troll.

American History (1)

Godai (104143) | more than 13 years ago | (#337373)

One of the central accomplishments of the American Revolution was the crafting a political process that peacefully absorbed different points-of-view. It has worked astonishingly well, longer than almost any previous democratic political system.

I love Americans. Good people. But a wonderfully rose-tinted-glasses view of their own history (it may be Katz saying this, but I find it true of most Americans unfortunately). Personally, I think the Civil War is a great example of not 'peacefully [absorbing] different points-of-view'. Not to say America hasn't done a pretty good job of it, but I think that might tarnish 'astonishingly well' just a little.

Wood Shavings!

JonKatz is.... (1)

cecil36 (104730) | more than 13 years ago | (#337374)

...actually talking out of his mouth. What I have to comment on is what was said about the moderation system here. I've had my share of positive and negative moderation, from a "First Post!" (which I have done twice, almost had a third for this discussion)and all of my off-topic posts, to all the on-topic stuff that people may consider reading and debating (like my proposed question to Rep. Bucher). Though most of my posts go un-noticed, it's nice to know that there is a moderation system in place that allows the members of the /. community to earn their recognition among the rest of /. Who knows, maybe I could post something and have it modded up to +5 (informative) each time I post.

Re:Democracy means freedom to choose (1)

1024x768 (113033) | more than 13 years ago | (#337376)

Democracy means freedom to choose Nope. Democracy means you have to choose what Katz-like leaders of the mob demand you choose. A constitutionally limited republic (such as the USA) means freedom to choose. Words mean something, as much as Mr. Katz would like you to believe otherwise.

Re:Choice is bad?? (1)

cleetus (123553) | more than 13 years ago | (#337378)

'Common Framework' sounds suspiciously like 'Group Think.'

This is a foolish characterization. By common framework, the author is referring not only to shared experiences derived from entertainment and the media (e.g.: "where were you when Kennedy was shot?" or the last episode of MASH), but also, and more importantly, to simple acts of citizneship, like voting, school board meeting attendance, and volunteerism to name a few. If that is "groupthink," I am proud to be in the group.

Moderate this down... (1)

SpanishInquisition (127269) | more than 13 years ago | (#337380)

and you will be doing a crime against democracy, you bastard!


Re:The Dark Side of "Me Media" (1)

Galapas (155864) | more than 13 years ago | (#337385)

I hate it when I hit submit instead of Preview... -Galapas

Re:Moderation=Fascism (1)

wren337 (182018) | more than 13 years ago | (#337391)

I appreciate your sentiment.

At the same time it's not possible to listen to all of the many voices, here or elsewhere. Moderation is one tool that helps you locate the voices that your peers find interesting (or informative, or alarming). It has less potential for abuse than, say, handing control to an editor at a privately held, for-profit news center. It is direct democracy for information.

spam? (1)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 13 years ago | (#337392)

People living in democracies, Sunstein maintains, should be exposed to ideas they might not have chosen themselves. Unplanned, spontaneous, unanticipated encounters are central, though they "often involve topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find quite irritating."

So is he giving that old line that opposing spam is unamerican? Or is he just supporting political spam? One of the things I like about democracy, at least in theory, is that I can choose to not be involved with any of it, live alone and secluded, and not HAVE to hear anyone's personal propoganda. Of course I would have no expectation to be able to complain about the state of the system, but that may be my choice.

Not a good idea (1)

guinsu (198732) | more than 13 years ago | (#337394)

You can't force people to look at stuff that opposes their view. Well, maybe you can but I wouldn't expect the results to be very good. People have ALWAYS been able to shut themselves away from opposing views, by living in a neightborhood of people like themselves, working in jobs with those people, only reading newspapers or magazines that reinforced their views instead of challenging them, etc... The web is an extension of that, and these proposals only look at curing the symptoms not the disease (that is if you think of people only seeing one side of everything as not good, like I do). If you really want a populace that is open to new ideas, even those that conflict with thier own deep-seated beliefs you've got to raise and educate them to be open minded. Forcing people to see opposing material when they are not open to it will not fix the underlying problem and people will just tune it out.

And now for something completely sarcastic (1)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 13 years ago | (#337398)

Those who moderate comments on Slashdot, Kuro5shin and other community-based weblogs may downgrade content they don't find worthwhile in a genuine effort to express their thoughts as readers and participants

Exactly! These moderators have no right preventing the proper attention due to the endless expressions of fp,, Natalie Portman, status quo JonKatz flames, occasional manifesto, ad nauseum...

Same as last week? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#337400)

Isn't this article about the exact same topic as last week's? Who does Katz think he is, some kind of freedom fighter for the Net? Does he think he's John Quincy Adams on the Net? Jeez, John, there's nothing to fight. Democracy on the Net never has existed, and probably never will. Deal with it.

Re:Choice is bad?? (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#337401)

, to simple acts of citizneship, like voting, school board meeting attendance, and volunteerism to name a few

But even that, I should be able to filter out. I don't personally care about any of that crap. I pay my taxes, I have roads to drive on, and that's all that I want to know about my government. If I don't want to participate, I shouldn't have to. The US is about being able to live in the woods if you want to. I don't want to have any kind of democratic bullshit shoved down my throat.

Re:Choice is bad?? (1)

TekkonKinkreet (237518) | more than 13 years ago | (#337402)

Yes, choice is bad. Ever try to argue with someone who geot all their news from Rush Limbaugh? But a survey of dedicated listeners who rejected all other news sources showed that they considered themselves more, rather than less informed than the average citizen.

The old saw goes "everyone is entitled to his opinion." But I would argue that I am entitled to my opinon only if that opinion is informed. By choosing to listen only to the news I agree with, I am abdicating my responsibility to inform myself. Therefore I am not entititled to my opinion. So I listen to Marketplace on NPR, even though, or perhaps especially because I find its slant on the news disturbing.

An interesting thing about Slashdot is the occasional reminder you see to read at -1, newest first. I think you'd have a hard time finding a traditional news source which even occasionally reminds you "hey--don't trust our filtering." That message is the first thing that tends to get filtered out.

Current press is CENSORship at its finest. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 13 years ago | (#337403)

Yes we should have the right have some choice in the information we want. However, Americans are very used to having their information filtered. It is done daily and with their consent, its called newspaper.

Newspapers already do everything that filtering software claims it will do. The difference is whose message is filtered and that is the key to the who shebang.

See, newspapers, news magazines, and most news shows are controlled by left-wing liberals. This is easy to prove (just watch CBS's Dan Rather constantly attack Bush while claiming BC was the second coming). See the story about the poor gay guy killed in Wyoming get national coverage with nearly 3100 stories, yet when a gay couple does the same thing (and worse) to a teenage boy in Arkansas there are less than 50 stories. When Palestinians kill Israelis the coverage is a hundred times less than when the Israelis do it. Heck, if the Palestinians bomb a bus its always the act of an individual, but if the Israelis bomb a building its the whole damn nation which as fault.

So Jon, yes we have a right to information, the problem is that the liberal left is very afraid that average citizens will actually get to choose what is filtered compared to the scenario in place today where the liberal left decides what is and what isn't newsworthy.

Six degrees of separation (1)

Martin Spamer (244245) | more than 13 years ago | (#337405)

SOUNDS very plausible, however ...

it ignores the Theory of six degrees of separation between even the most distant nodes in an optimal network.

Therefore, I'm only need to follow six hyperlinks to find the antithisis of anything I consume, or to find the 'Anti-Me'.

Forced feeding? (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 13 years ago | (#337409)

Here's an interesting question: What does the Constitution say about our freedom of impression? We have the right to express ourselves, but what do you do when the amount of information becomes so enormous and so broad that someone HAS to choose what you allow in to your senses? I think that end-user controlled systems like this one here at /. are the only reasonable answer, particularly since anything else is censorship by definition.

Ignore the notion of someone limiting their own experience and input and thereby harming themselves...that is such a non-point it is ridiculous. Time and time again, lawmakers, courts, and groups like the ACLU have repeated one of the most understated fundamental precepts of the Constitution: government is not supposed to try and protect people from themselves. We are entitled to the chance to screw up and close off too much information.

nice flame, now read in context this time (1)

fibonacci8 (260615) | more than 13 years ago | (#337410)

It's ok, take a deep breath and read my reply again. Notice the quotation marks this time. I was pointing out something that looked amiss.

Opinions = bad (1)

fibonacci8 (260615) | more than 13 years ago | (#337411)

Summary of the article:
Getting a limited view of the world and forming your opinions on that view is wrong.
People should be obligated to get a broader view of the world to form valid opinions.
"... Should sites really be forced by law to carry view points that are abhorrent to them, to mimic the press's deadly habit of balancing every single point of view with an opposite one, creating eternal arguments and stalemates that turn civic discussions into WWF matches?"
^-- By this argument shouldn't content blocking sites be obligated to have [] links?

Democracy working? (1)

skwirl42 (262355) | more than 13 years ago | (#337414)

I'd tend to think that this "balkanization" is as a result of democracy. Democracy allows people to go off and do their own thing, because it matters less. Their voice is smaller, by being one in several million.

I would like to step out on a limb and say that democracy is hazardous for the long-term health of society, since it encourages these sorts of breakdowns.

The most effective system for community/society building is one based on consensus, not vote. It's about actually coming together, instead of "it's my vote, I'll do what I want with it."

How can we possibly hope to achieve any kind of great things as a society by being hundreds of smaller societies only co-existing for resources?

Oh great, bring that up. (1)

El Camino SS (264212) | more than 13 years ago | (#337418)

C'mon. American stereotypes are so passe. Geez. The civil war. Yeah, a great example of America's violent past. Fighting over slavery abolition and liberties... those bastards. As I recall about that time that the rest of the world was trying to conquer indigenous tribes and make them speak French at gunpoint... Or better yet more recently, put people in ovens or make them work as slaves making weapons to destroy their own people. WE saved both sides from killing others or being killed in WWII, because we are friends to freedom. We do care about the rest of the world, despite whether you call us capitalist pigs or Imperialists. We send our sons to Bosnia to get shot at because it is the right thing to do. We are the only country that actually still believes the ideas of liberty brought up in the French revolution, and follows them the best we can. The USA is the only country keeping NATO and the UN propped up, no matter who the American bashing president is. Don't be jealous that we are happy and proud to be Americans, it requires a lot of effort other countries people aren't willing to give. We make websites that worry about our freedoms, to let foreigners speak their minds against a flawed but good country (although we certainly wouldn't be able to speak our mind somewhere else on a personal level), and agree with their take on our history when they're correct. Its just in this case, whoever posted that stuff bringing up the civil war was not correct. Check the record, because America is trying to be everyone's friend, no matter how bad a friend the rest of the world is back.

Deny it if you like... (1)

Mister Black (265849) | more than 13 years ago | (#337419)

but you know it's true. With this Balkanization now we can see/hear/read only the things we like or find appealing. Take /.: try saying something bad about linux or good about M$ and the moderators here will censor you into oblivion; now all of the others (who only read at +3 or above) can safely read only the good and happy things that a) they already know or b) are ideas they are comfortable with. e-masturbation at its best.

fight censorship: read /. at -1

Mister Black

Re:American History (1)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#337420)

I have previously posted about America's sorry history of ending debates violently, for instance the Congressman who was beaten unconscious on the floor of Congress over slavery -- but I rather suspect we have done much better at keeping debates civil than most countries. I am quite sure of that with respect to France, England, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Re:Beats the alternative (1)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#337421)

The real problem is that the mass media usually "balance" views by presenting two views out of many, and usually two veiws that are quite close together. They'll debate what a gov't agency should do, not whether it should exist at all...

Pantywaist bravado (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 13 years ago | (#337425)

He even advocates "must-carry" rules, also in the form of links, for even the most highly partisan websites, designed to ensure that viewers learn about opposing views

And is he volunteering to decide what view, overt or hidden, a forum is pushing, and what consitutes an opposing view, and what links best represent that opposing view? Or does he at least propose an oversight mechanism for deciding who watches the online watchmen?

Slashdot has already answered that question. We're all watchmen, and we all watch the watchmen. Seems to be working OK. ;)

And "filtering" is new? (1)

inonit (309889) | more than 13 years ago | (#337426)

We had Communist Party USA members on the street corners during college. I made up my mind about Communism before college, so I ignored ("filtered") them. Did the fact that I heard them say a few words before merrily walking past them somehow enhance my civic experience?

We always had the choice to filter. The Internet gives us the choice not to filter.

In other words, if nowadays I want to hear raw, unfiltered viewpoints, I can. Balkanization? I can look up stuff written by the various sides in the original Balkans and think about the issues of the region myself! Or, I can decide it's all just propaganda, and not look it up. But the choice not to hear some group's ideas was always there, even in the town-crier-style democracy much cited by the nostalgists. The ability to hear those ideas anytime, anywhere is new, and I have a hard time seeing how it's a negative.

Common Ground? (1)

Tsar cr0bar (310803) | more than 13 years ago | (#337427)

In Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, John Percival Hackworth, a distinguished nanotech engineer, gets his daily 'paper' as a dynamically generated composite of articles that suit his interests. As the story went, this was not true of the highest upper-classmen who all read the same newspaper printed on an actual dead tree instead of delivered electronically.

The idea was, the higher class you were (the more money/power you had?), the more consistent your media consumption should be with that of your peers. It seems to me that if someone is already arrogant, exposing them to new ideas won't make a scrap of difference. Those who are open-minded (my what a jaded term) will continue to use the information systems to their advantage and edification. The real issue should be censorship in our libraries, not people with customized slashboxes =)

Re:Moderation=Fascism (1)

wrero (314883) | more than 13 years ago | (#337428)

IMHO.... Moderation really isn't fascism... not having some form of moderation could be considered anarchy.

Taking input from the original post, it seems that maybe we should take a look at what happens outside the net to determine what kind of moderation system would work best to keep the net a democracy.

For example, take a look at a business or tech convention. I would consider this to be "average" moderation.

In order to get a real "space", you have to be relevant - you have to be selling a product or service or have a viewpoint relevant to the topic at hand. You may also be screened to verify your product's or service's relevance; You may not be allowed space if all of the space is taken. You may have to pay to get the real "space" (a booth). When walking around the convention, you may run into people that don't have a real "space", and you can have meaningful discussions with them about irrelevant topics; you may see a booth that's crowded and you decide to stay to find out what the fuss is all about; or you could walk by an empty booth which has something you personally find cool or interesting in which no one else is interested.

To apply this analogy to /. (just as an example): Some of this already exists, some of it doesn't. You can't just post a new story to /. You must submit your story, and if it "deserves" to be posted it will be. This is the first level of moderation and it's similar to getting a "booth". Now the analogy "falls apart", and could be analyzed much differently than what I'm about to say. Since the original article is a one-time show, the crowd breaks up to discuss it. Some people just walk around and listen to various discussions, some start saying their points of view. Some of the audience will in and of themselves attract a crowd, some will be ignored. As a member of the audience, you are free to hear the viewpoints of all - regardless of whether or not the viewpoint is relevant. You might choose to walk over to the big-crowd, where there's a heated, on-topic debate. This democracy could be applied to /. in a variety of ways... Maybe EVERYBODY should get a few points per story (the points could be considered equivalent to time at a convention), and you can apply your points to any post or posts you want. The posts with the highest score could be filtered just as they are now on /. You might choose, while browsing at a convention, to listen to the big crowd, or you might choose to listen to someone who is off-topic. You might be able to bring some other people into the off-topic discussion if you "applied your points" because you thought it was worth it... I could continue to analyze this analogy but in the interest of time (mine) I'll end it there.

Another real world democratic system to analyze would be a city square. I would consider this to be "little" moderation.

Anyone can get in and get space, for free, without moderation, but you can't set up a big booth (but you might have a megaphone and a soap box). Your discussion doesn't have to be relevant to anything. It DOES have to be legal - the cops will throw you out if it isn't, or if you're too obnoxious (this is the first level of moderation), but if you're basically law-abiding, and the space isn't already full, you can have your first amendment rights to free speech. Again, you'll attract a crowd if people are interested; and while walking through a city square you might see a crowd and want to know what all the fuss is about.... Or, you might walk past a beggar ignoring them - it's up to you. I won't try to apply this to an online environment, but again it could be related to /. or any other online community.

One last real world example I'd like to mention is the radio talk show. I would consider this to be "extreme" moderation.

First, the talk show topic is chosen by the producers of the radio station. Secondly, (at least for most radio talk shows) all callers are pre-screened for relevance. Yes, a caller can get in by claiming they are relevant, and then go wildly off-topic, but then they are frequently disconnected by the host. As far as a listener: Although you could look up what's happening at a given time on a given station, or you may know because of advertising or a regular schedule, may listeners simply stumble upon a discussion randomly, and listen if they like it. The producers try to keep some consistent format so that they attract a specific listenership - this is the only real democratic part of the process. If no one listens, the radio station won't exist (for long).

I will leave it up to you to consider where you think /. falls - or where any other forum on the internet falls.

Are these "real world" scenarios fascism?
Are these "real world" scenarios democratic?

I like that point at the end (1)

Claric (316725) | more than 13 years ago | (#337431)

When I get to work in the morning I browse 5 websites: User Friendly, Dilbert, Slashdot, Freshmeat and Yahoo UK. Four of these sites tell me what I want to know. Guess which ones. I now only glance at Yahoo because the news headlines generally include some useless celebrity news. I really hate all the celebrity gossip that it presented. Unfortunately, TV and media are aimed at the interests of the masses and public celebrity obsession is huge in the UK when compared to the USA.

Celebrity-bashing aside I think that to get the most out of 'me-media' you need to clearly define 'me'. Dilbert, User-Friendly, Slashdot-et-al is 'me'. Broadsheet (as opposed to tabloid) newspapers are 'me'.

Finding a 'me' on the internet is easy if you know what you are doing and what you want. At least with the internet everything is tailored for.

On the topic of moderation, I think that it is a fair enough process although a more detailed reason for moderation could be considered. People should not take moderation too seriously, after all, it's a pretty subjective view. But then again so are comments you publish on such sites. Put together it's a discussion where everyone can give their own view and be heard. This is important for free speech.


PS. I apologise that this comment is slightly all over the place, too many views, too little time.

Common Freedom Experience? (1)

jimlintott (317783) | more than 13 years ago | (#337432)

"My only claim is that a common set of frameworks and experiences is valuable for a heterogeneous society,

This strikes me as an oxymoron

and that a system with limitless options, making for diverse choices, will compromise some important social values.

How about the social value of freedom of choice?

... if we believe that a set of common experiences promotes active citizenship

Wasn't this how the second world war got started?

and mutual self-understanding, we will be concerned by any developments that greatly reduce those experiences."

Slashdot and others like it do provide a common social experience. A far greater social experience than sitting at home alone reading the newspaper or watching TV.

I guess some people just don't like change.

When you go to a site: (1)

CrackElf (318113) | more than 13 years ago | (#337433)

You go to a site to hear a particular area of interest. Thus repressing material irrelevant to the subject is essential. Because I want a particular focus. Just as I do not expect to hear about the elections on the sci-fi channel, I do not expect to hear about brittany spears on slashdot. I think that is natural, and expected.
Besides, if i were to receive every post from every person on every subject, my computer would scream in terror, flip upside down, shut off the dsl modem, and stage a coup, then commit suicide.

We should be able to mod down articles as 'flamebait', not just posts :)

Re:Democracy working? (1)

latency (320521) | more than 13 years ago | (#337435)

You say "Their voice is smaller, by being one in several million", but doesn't that serve to ensure that by voting, we guarantee that a decision is arrived at by 'consensus', that is a general agreement. That agreement might not be one that we all arrive at, but that a majority of us will approve of. You also said that "The most effective system for community/society building is one based on consensus..." However, that's much too broadly stated to be applicable. How do you arrive at the consensus? How do you determine when something qualifies as consensus? Do you hold a vote to determine if most people approve of an idea? I disagree with your statements only because they haven't been substantiated, and they don't explain how consensus is anything other than the results of a vote. I think we HAVE achieved a kind of great thing by being hundreds of smaller societies co-existing within the same nation state.

Mindless droning is deafening (1)

mamsfan (409946) | more than 13 years ago | (#337436)

Hmmm, so far we have in the comments:

Americans are stupid
America is stupid
Katz is an idiot
Anarchy rules
Governments and anyone in power sucks

Well, all we need is Microsoft suckx dood! and we have all the thoughts for 95% of the readers..

I have an idea. When you read something, think about it, don't just post the same thing that is always posted. Do you think flaming (see everything above) is original? How about you analyze what you read and try a form your own opinion.

At least Katz makes you think, maybe even get a little mad. But will you do anything about it? No, you will not. You will go back to you l33t hacking and buying your bawls from ThinkGeek becuase the name makes you snicker.

And BTW, Microsoft makes a few good products, America has at least a couple really cool people in it, you wouldn't be able to spout off and show your ignorance if it wasn't for governments and Katz at least gets a response from you dullards..

Think on that.. PLEASE!

Disclaimer: I am not American, do not work for Microsoft nor the government.

Flawed it may be, but still better than before (1)

StarPie (411994) | more than 13 years ago | (#337438)

OK, let's say you wanted the world to hear your voice. How would you do that? By trying to get print, radio, TV, or other "traditional" media to distribute your message, either by paying for it, or being newsworthy enough to get it for free. Certainly that is a much more difficult barrier than submitting to on-line moderation. With a site like slashdot, there is less control than an editor has over his newspaper, or a producer over a news broadcast. But there is still control. It's a necessary evil in a world of flamers and spammers, hot grits, goatsex, and whatever else.

Well there are some people I don't want to talk to (2)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 13 years ago | (#337442)

For example I don't want to talk to the people who are trying to tell me because I am an observant Jew I am going to go to hell for not sharing their faith. When they come to my door I don't open it when they send me email I delete it. As far as I am concerned there are some view points which I do not want hear. (Missionaries, hate, holocost revionism etc) I admit that they have rights too, but not the right to harras me.

I don't see why I should have to have this stuff shoved in my face.

(Want to bet someone is going to accuse me of censorship here?)

The more things change... (2)

sterno (16320) | more than 13 years ago | (#337447)

Think about where you get your information from in a given day. Every single bit of it that you didn't experience first hand is filtered. Even what you experience first hand is filtered through your subjective mind, instilling impressions of what happened that may not match reality.

If you get the news from NPR instead of ABC, you get a different perspective. How is the Internet making this any different? The only difference I see is that you get a number of sites that specialize in certain kinds of information within certain types of communities (slashdot for geeks, etc). Is it really somehow better to have your news filtered by some faceless editor in a news corporation, or have it filtered by like-minded community members.

I mean, when I go through my day, the vast majority of the real news I get about the world comes from NPR. I get my geek news from Slashdot and I go to other sites to discuss what I've read and I share my ideas. I know the type of information that I get and the overall quality of it for each information source. I intentionally seek out news from many sources so that I can get as accurate a perspective on the world as possible. I'm aware of how each outlet filters their news and I take that into account. When I attach validity to the information. Slashdot is notorious for overreacting on stories so I take any news from here of somebody's rights being trampled with a huge grain of salt.

People who wish to remain oblivious to what's going on in the world have been able to do that for a long time without the Internet. Look at the gated communities in the distant suburbs. Do you think these people keep in close touch with the reality of poverty in the inner city? The Internet isn't some huge new threat, it's just another aspect of the same problem that's always been there.


Your right to speak. . . (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#337449)

. . .does not translate into a requirement for anyone else to listen.

Moderation, while not perfect, is a useable technology for making sense out of chaos, whether it be here on /., on USENET, or on another medium.

Failures of moderation make a given medium less and less useful over time. Lack of moderation at all allows takeovers and spam. I've seen that numerous times over the years: the "Meowers" were one fairly well known example that spanned numerous groups.

Moderation is not anti-democratic, instead it is the only way **I** know of to prevent the so-called "Tragedy of the Commons" online. . .

So what else is new... (2)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 13 years ago | (#337452)

>People living in democracies, Sunstein
>maintains, should be exposed to ideas they might
>not have chosen themselves. Unplanned,
>spontaneous, unanticipated encounters are

I hate to say it, but if want to eliminate the tunnel vision of people's views, you should start at the universities, not the Internet.

We are seeing an increase in the trend of people being allowed to suppress Free Speech because of such abstract and subjective (and whiny) reasons as "taking offense" or "hurting my feelings" or "intellectual harassment".

This is where the true danger lies.

What has happened in this country is that many liberals blame the conservatives for being close-minded and intolerant (and many are), while being blind to their own close-mindedness and intolerance.

The problem is "Diversity" is a code word for supporting the minority and attacking or suppressing the majority (particular when morality is concerned). "Diversity" should mean treating all views and opinions based on logical merit, but we all know of public figures (*cough*Jesse Jackson*cough) who cry racism (or some appropriate other -ism) in response to someone's heinous unAmerican crime of disagreeing with them. I'd like to see a little more judgement of people on the content of their character, and their ideas on the content and logic of their words, but that would mean having to be honest, hard-working and most of all, not a Victim.

There is no doubt that /. is, in many ways, its own insular little world (ask someone on the street about Open Source or "All Your Base" or DeCSS and you will most likely get a blank stare), but the real problem is the lack of open discourse and tolerance for divergent opinions in the centers of higher learning (or more accurately, Political Correctness Indoctrination Camps) that are generating the current and next generation of industry, cultural and government leaders.

Bollocks (2)

Rupert (28001) | more than 13 years ago | (#337454)

How do you propose I manage the information that comes to me, then? I can't read all of it. I could ignore the internet entirely, as half of Americans and most of the world do, and get all my information through people I meet IRL and from the "corporatized" TV & radio networks. Or I can filter it in some way.

Filtering can be done automatically based on rules, like spam filters; it can be centrally mandated; or I can choose a group of people who I trust (in aggregate) to make the same kinds of decisions I would make. I choose the last.

I hear plenty of opinions here on slashdot that I disagree with. Gun control, parenting, Microsoft: all are divisive issues with informative and insightful people on both sides.

Jon, if collaborative filtering really meant you only saw positions you agreed with, how did you ever find out that people were pissed at you stealing their Hellmouth posts?


Re:Dumbing up. (2)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#337456)

> With "Me Media" I can point a microscope at one story, and delve far beneath the surface. In doing so I've aquired an understanding about a particular topic, not just been exposed to a dozen one-liners that will all be forgotten the next day.

Amen. And it frees up time.

My mental killfile: All reality TV. Anything to do with Hollywood - who's fucking whom, who's making what movie, who's wearing what at the awards. 90% of sports broadcasts. 100% of the weather report, 75% of the time. Commercials. Routine (i.e. current levels of) fighting in the Middle East and the Balkans. School shootings. Mainstream (i.e. network news, not CNBC, which rules!) business news coverage.

Out of a typical 30 minute nightly newscast, that leaves two or three minutes of actual content. Basically, I used TV news last week to see pictures of space station chunks falling into the Pacific.

I get the news I care about (New CPUs, new space probes, daily reports from current space probes, technological advances, biotech, business) from the 'net.

I then use specialized news broadcasts (CNBC, PBS' Nightly Business Report) to "catch" any business news I missed, and other specialized news broadcasts (PBS' McNeil-Lehrer) to get caught up on issues I haven't been following closely (e.g. who's blowin' up whom in some brushfire war that the media have forgotten about).

I watch the same minutes of TV every day, but the S/N ratio is improved by a 10:1 margin.

Re:Good points, but... (2)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#337457)

> I make a point of switching back-and-forth between the most liberal radio station in my area and the most conservative,

Ditto. I don't do it with radio, I do it with web sites - reading both and

What I like about doing it on the web is that I know I'm getting biased coverage - neither site pretends to be objective. With MSNBCBSABCNN, it's a joke. Plus, I can read more spin in 10 minutes on both sites than all the networks together could give me in an hour. (Did you ever notice that you can make just as much sense out of the evening news by ignoring the screen and just listening to the words? Now - do you really read that slowly? Plain text is the fastest way I know to cram data into my brain ;-)

Money (2)

tentac1e (62936) | more than 13 years ago | (#337458)

Most people would be surprised by how many cases that get brought before the Supreme Court in regards to our personal liberties ultimately boil down to one issue: who pays for it?

These free forums of Internet Access are payed for by taxpayer dollars. Why should a conservative husband and wife with a 486 have a large chunk of their paycheck taken from them, so a transexual sado-masochist can read about the latest wares on a P4?

Of course, the problem at this point becomes where we draw the line as to what is educational and what is a waste of money. The simple solution, of course, is nothing. Human beings were not born obligated to surf the Internet, and we have no obligation to pay for anyone to do so. If anyone feels that Internet Access is an obligation, they should go establish a charitable organization to provide it, rather than forcefully take out money from us.

On a related note: Why is there all this outrage on the Slashdot community when someone mentions anything that vaguely sound like "censorship," when the most obvious, dictionary definition case of censorship is under way in the US, known as "Campaign Finance Reform." The US Supreme Court has already ruled that money is free speech, and yet congress is ready to hold the equivolent of an illegal constitutional convention, to limit the ammount of money an individual can spend to say how much they like or dislike a candidate. As a result of CFR, there will be, by its very design, less information reaching the public.

When a library restricts the flow of information, it's an outrage, but when our government does it, it's worthy of praise?

Re:Moderation=Fascism (2)

mwalker (66677) | more than 13 years ago | (#337459)

Here on Slashdot we have developed, as a community, and incredibally powerful tool

I respectfully disagree. Say what you want about /. moderation, but it was not developed "as a community". It was was developed by Hemos & Taco, and the rest of the team [] . The rest of ./ may have collectively bitched about it, and provided a live test facility, but that's a far stretch from "developing" something.

Bender is an amazing piece of software. Instead of another unappreciative rant, let's show some respect for the sheer volume and popularity of /. and the innovators who made it happen.


Re:Dumbing up. (2)

jheinen (82399) | more than 13 years ago | (#337461)

"With "Me Media" I can point a microscope at one story, and delve far beneath the surface."

Is that really true though? Is it actually possible to look at an inssue in such microscopic depth on the internet? Let's say there is a story posted on CNN about Joe Politician doing something naughty. Where can I go to get more detailed, accurate information that is better than what the major news outlets publish? It strikes me that the vast majority of so-called "me media" sites are nothing more than collections of unverified, unadulterated personal opinion. Take Slashdot for example. The stories posted here are almost invariably links to other, more mainstream news articles. The comments are usually nothing more than personal opinion and commentary. They may let me know how you and others "feel" about something, but they usually offer little in the way of substantially new information pertaining directly to the story in question. When you get right down to it, "me media" offers little more than a whole lot of "me too" comments from the public. There aren't a lot of places that accurately cover news stories in more depth than CNN or MSNBC or the AP, since most of the alternative sites simply repeat what the major sites publish. In that sense I think the original article overstates the problem. I believe the internet actually does provide a shared expereince in that regardless of where you hear about something, you're usually reading the same basic set of facts about an issue as everyone else.

The real power in the internet is in the establishment of focused portal sites that aggregate information about specific subjects so people can get more breadth (not depth) to their informaiton consumption. If I am interested in some particular issue, I can frequent sites that focus on that issue and collect a large number of references to many articles that help me get a better overall picture of the issue. Such sites usually don't offer any new or deeper information, but they do make it easy to access what is already out there so that I am able to better filter the information by checking one source against another.


Tunnel vision and Darwinism (2)

Broadcatch (100226) | more than 13 years ago | (#337463)

The "Daily Me" is something I've been working towards for twenty years, starting with NewsPeek in 1979. It will give people the right and capability to see only one side of things - so that they can live in a world of their bias if they so choose - and I believe they have that right. But these "tunnel vision" people - who's minds are not open - will die out and be replaced by a new breed that searches for Truth.

One of the great uses of a truely personalized system is the ease with which one can find quality opposing viewpoints. If today I wonder how anyone could believe Bush "has a mandate from the people," I have to piece it together myself. But with secure, anonymized and decentralized personalization, I can easily find the top-rated opposing viewpoints so that I can better understand those I oppose, for every in every war it's important to "know your enemy."

Finally, my "Me" would contain 85% stuff of direct interest, by authors and in a style I appreciate, and %15 would be from my chosen "serendipity" authors who point me to headlines I might not otherwise see, sort of like Slashdot.


Nostalgia for corporate brainwashing. (2)

loki2eng (104976) | more than 13 years ago | (#337465)

Despite the disclaimer that there is no nostalgia for TV networks controlling everything (which would be premature) the implicit basis of all this is that we should all be exposed to the same media. The news I like to read (like slashdot, Scientific American, 21C, etc)has always been, and will always be, suppressed in this 'common sources' as being beyond the attention span of 'common americans'. The idea that 'me media' won't expose people to anything outside thier balliwic, but say CBS will is absurd. To the contrary, I find stuff on line that suprises me regularly, and in the 30 yrs I've been on this planet, a major network has not suprised me EVEN ONCE. Anyone who thinks deeply enough about the implications of what I just said will probably want to have every university that gave this guy a passing grade, let alone hired him, stripped of their accreditations.

Moderation was the first? (2)

benenglish (107150) | more than 13 years ago | (#337466)

Reader moderation ... represent the first meaningful efforts to control the epidemic hostility, spamming and chaos that overwhelm public spaces online.

You're kidding, right? Either that, or you've never been an ass on a bulletin board with a strong sysop.

A good sysop was not just a "meaningful effort" to control hostility and chaos, they were damn effective ones, too.

Me moderated (2)

ckuijjer (112385) | more than 13 years ago | (#337468)

"If an individual freely chooses to join a service that moderates ... then the viewer has expressed his inalienable right to listen only to what he wants,"

"Nothing," McMahon adds, "could be more democratic."

No the viewer expressed to listen to a mostly common opinion. A better way for a really democratic moderation system would be one that moderates on bases of your previous opinions and others who sort of share your opinion. Like a "me moderated" version of /.

Re:Moderation=Fascism (2)

Ronin X (121414) | more than 13 years ago | (#337469)

Moderation should not be used. It shouold be a free for all, with the irresponsible forced to face up to what they do. Its that simple.

You post this on a moderated web site. The value of the site is measured in 'mind-share' (or maybe time-share) of the users it has. You are contributing to this... putting your 'content vote' into Slashdot.

There is no shortage of unmoderated forums. Go post to Usenet, and watch your thread be ignored amidst a sea of non-sequitors, me-toos, flames, and spam.

The "Them" Media (2)

YIAAL (129110) | more than 13 years ago | (#337471)

Sunstein's fear has some basis, I guess. But in fact I think people are being driven away from traditional media by the same phenomena. Most trad. media are written by, of, and for -- and increasingly *about* -- a narrow class of traditional journalists who share the same worldview, political opinions, lifestyle, etc. It's already the "Them Media." For many people, that's reason enough to tune them out. If mass media were more inclusive, and less solipsistic and biased, this would be less of a problem.

Where was the "Common Ground" in 1776? (2)

Storm Damage (133732) | more than 13 years ago | (#337472)

In general, most users of "personalized" websites receive an experience no more "personal" than a list of headlines on some topics that they've previously identified as interests. And that's only if they bother to customize the options on that site, which most people don't.

Regardless of how I've configured my Slashboxes, I still have no idea exactly what headlines or what viewpoints are going to show up when I log on to check the news every day, but I know that in general, they will pertain to the industry I work in, the people I associate with, and part of the community I participate in.

How does this really compare with information distribution of days gone by? In the late 18th century, while the United States was in it's infancy, there was no internet to spread customized news to individuals, but does that mean individuals got all the news and all the viewpoints in their Sunday newspaper?

No, much like Slashdot volunteer moderators do today, the editorial staff of the local newspaper (which in most cases only had a distribution to the local community) filtered through the news they received and printed on topics which were relevent to the industries, peoples and communities in their local distribution area. People may not have had an exact forecast of what they were reading, but certainly could expect that the local paper would print news that affected them.

I think that if the rural farmers in South Carolina were able to find some common ground with the Entrepeneurial class in New York on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, despite the balkanized nature of the press in those days, there is little danger that everyone in a globally interconnected network are going to totally lose touch with one another.

Citizen of Logical Space (2)

aminorex (141494) | more than 13 years ago | (#337476)

People have a tendency to create subcultures, which act to reinforce their prejudices, and leave them unchallenged. But there is an upside. The same conditions incubate ideas that might otherwise never arise, just as small, isolated populations of animal species are used in husbandry to develop useful (and unuseful) novel features.

Citizenship is not global. One may be a good citizen of a free association tribe without being a good citizen of a nation-state. The free associations have moral superiority to the obsolete nation-states, which in turn have moral superiority over that most coercive of all regimes, the inescapable fascism of the globe.

The primary potential detriment of social insularity is to the individual, not the globe. In the largest sphere, smaller associations balance each other's diverse impulses -- parochial extremisms tend to vanish as the sphere expands. The failure of the individual to learn from others is not similarly ameliorated. However, the greater diversity of culture which arises in a system of unforced associations allows the *motivated* individual to benefit the more from disparate perspectives. As Jesus said: To he who has, more will be given; from he who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Interesting Points (2)

Prof_Dagoski (142697) | more than 13 years ago | (#337477)

One thing's for sure, we have more ways than ever of tuning out of unpleasantness. However, I'm not so sure the real issue is about moderation or customizable portals. I think people have historically made active choices in the media they consume. Newspapers and magazines are good examples of this. Network TV, I think, has been anomaly in the forty or so years it's been around in any meaningful way. The Net puts us back to the day where we mostly got our information from a diverse set of print publications. As for moderation, this system is not so different from a panel discussion. The moderation system can be a way of achieving consensus in a particular community. In short these new information spaces are what we make of them.

Re:Moderation=Fascism (2)

ErisDiscord (173307) | more than 13 years ago | (#337480)

Admittedly, moderation can be said to be the enemy of free speech, but excessive freedom in unmoderated environments seems to breed 'chaff'. I find it to be as restrictive to my intake of new ideas to allow thousands of useless or antagonistic posts to proliferate these message boards. I do not have the time in my life to personally sift through hundereds of pointless posts searching for the jewel of information. Instead, I visit places where people I am somewhat trusting of moderate the posts for my perusal. There is, perhaps, a weakness to any system, and until humans cease to exploit the relatively new anonymity of the internet for their attention-getting behaviors, I and many others will be forced to rely on moderated systems. Oh, and this is my first ./ post. I am elated to have finally found something worth speaking up about.

Yes, but... (2)

Sodium Attack (194559) | more than 13 years ago | (#337483)

I completely agree that it's a good thing to be exposed to viewpoints different than your own. I try, from time to time, to remember to read articles that I know I disagree with. I come away either realizing that the article's reasoning was flawed, and why, thus making my understanding of the opposing position better; or, sometimes, with the sneaking suspicion that maybe I was wrong after all and I should rethink my position. Either way, I like to think that I am a stronger person for it.

But I would never force someone to be exposed to viewpoints that they don't want to be exposed to. This is the central point of the article: it is good to be exposed to alternative viewpoints, but it is bad to be forced to be exposed to alternative viewpoints.

Unfortunately, I see no middle ground here, and I prefer to stick with the current system where people are not forced to be exposed to alternative viewpoints, as the lesser of two evils.

Some of us may remember when television stations were required to give "equal time" to opposing viewpoints. This was eventually struck down as unconstitutional. It amounts to forcing someone to speak in a way they do not wish to speak. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak (as Katz acknowledges). I have no intention of giving up my freedom not to speak, even at the potential "cost" of people not being forced to be exposed, against their will, to alternative viewpoints.

But there's another, more insidious danger with "equal time" laws, either of the sort that used to exist in this country, or of the sort that Sunstein suggests. It misleads people into thinking that there are only two viewpoints on any issue. In fact, on important issues, there are likely to be three or five or ten different viewpoints.

How many of us are fed up with both Republicans and Democrats? Under equal time laws, Republican and Democratic views can be presented as opposing viewpoints, with all others suppressed. "Surely," you may ask, "having all but two viewpoints suppressed is better than having all but one viewpoint suppressed?" No, I don't agree. If only one viewpoint is presented, I believe most people will realize that it is not the only viewpoint. If only two are presented, I fear that more people will think they are getting the full picture.

In their debates last year, one of the few issues Bush and Gore disagreed on was whether to use some of the U.S. oil reserves. Meanwhile, libertarians were asking why we have government-owned oil reserves at all; but that viewpoint was not considered. It's bad enough when it happens in presidential debates, but it would be worse to have it happen across all news.

To take another example, a website under Sunstein's rules, might expose people to "both" sides of the abortion debate by presenting an article with the extreme pro-life position, and one with the extreme pro-choice position. Extremists on both sides of this issue claim that there can be no compromise--depsite the fact that the vast, but nonvocal majority of Americans seem to want a compromise, allowing abortion early in the pregnancy but not allowing partial-birth abortions. Is this really a good way to expose people to differing viewpoints?

I (and I would suspect, most other people) simply do not have the time to read every possible viewpoint on an issue. I do not read every comment in a /. article with 500+ comments, even though I know I might be missing some valuable comments. Given this practical limitation, there seem to me to be only two possibilities: give each person individual control over how to filter which comments he and she will read (and accept that some people will apply filters that I personally don't agree with), or have a "moderation czar" (no doubt Sunstein himself would be happy to volunteer for this) who decides which alternative viewpoints people should be exposed to. I'll stick with the former, thank you very much.

No, these are VERY different (2)

abe ferlman (205607) | more than 13 years ago | (#337485)

Those who moderate comments on Slashdot, Kuro5shin and other community-based weblogs may downgrade content they don't find worthwhile in a genuine effort to express their thoughts as readers and participants -- a freedom no newspaper reader or television viewer has. One person's new freedom is another's' censorship, though. Congress has required, for instance, that schools and libraries who want to take advantage of lucrative e-Rate funding for their networking projects employ content-filtering software. The same basic mechanism (content is chosen before it reaches the viewer), but with very different motivations. As various methods and reasons for content filtering spread, they bring with them some dark clouds."

The basic mechanism is NOT the same. In one case, no matter how low a comment gets moderated, you can still get it by changing your own filter settings. In another, someone has made it IMPOSSIBLE to reach some content through the available interface. One preserves a filtering function that allows us to enjoy our freedoms more, the other eliminates our freedoms to make our own decisions about content if we don't like the ones the authorities have made. Very different indeed.


Beats the alternative (2)

Private Essayist (230922) | more than 13 years ago | (#337487)

" mimic the press's deadly habit of balancing every single point of view with an opposite one..." [Emphasis mine]

"Deadly habit"? I dunno. I think I'd rather have the press presenting both sides, even when it's "obvious" which side is right, than to have them wholeheartedly advocate one point of view to the exclusion of alternative thoughts. With the current system, we the reader can make our own judgment as to which side to believe. With the alternative, we will never even hear about the other side in order to make a judgment.

Re:Moderation=Fascism (2)

Anonymous Slackard (254578) | more than 13 years ago | (#337489)

Unmoderated forums have been done. Do a websearch for 'usenet'. Hope that helps!

Not quite right. (2)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 13 years ago | (#337490)

While I agree that it's important for people to have the widest possible exposure to a variety of different ways of thinking, I think that it's ridiculous to even consider trying to mandate it. Let's face it, some people just don't want to improve themselves. Others are too lazy. But here's the kicker: the people who get the widest exposure to new ideas, the people who are the most well-rounded intellectually and socially will be the ones most likely to be sucessful. The "me media" doesn't change that at all. And so Darwin is still going to favor "new thinkers."

Moderation systems like Slashdot uses are useful in that they do not "censor" ideas that are less popular but that they draw more attention to the ideas that more interesting, insgihtful, funny, whatever. I still read posts scored 1, just not every last one of them. I do read all posts scored at 2 or higher. But Slashdot's system I think may be a little different in that it severely limits the amount of moderation that any one individual can do. I think that's a Good Thing. More importantly, it's all voluntary. I can read messages scored at -1 if I want to.

I read about this very subject 4 or 5 years ago when the "push revolution" was beginning. The concern then was that Internet use would become passive (no more browsing) and that we would constantly be provided with information that we found interesting, relevant, or idealogically reasonable and that we wouldn't be provided with anything conflicting. It hasn't happened yet, and "push" technology is dead. I don't think that it's ever going to happen.

What we are really talking about is narrowcasting, and I think that it is a Good Thing as long as it is an option that is controlled by the user. As long as broadcasting is still an option and browsing is still an option users will not be able to accidentally paint themselves into a single idealogy.

Take for example (again) Slashdot. I'm constantly learning and being exposed to new ideas from it just by browsing it daily. I see hundreds of messages on each topic, and never have they all taken the same stance. There are always naysayers and yaysayers, and many degrees in between. And I'm exposed to their thinking (for better or worse) regularly.

Now I think back 100 years before the widespread growth of communications technology. Or maybe 200 years. We (most of us) would have grown up in some small town or village or on a farm, for all intents and purposes isolated from almost all other people who were not also farmers (or lived in the same village/town). We would have lived isolated from new ideas. We wouldn't have any way of hearing about a breakthrough in the invention of a combustion engine. But it still happened.

So even if we are still isolated intellectually (which I think requires a ridiculous amount of passivity on the part of everybody) innovation will find a way. Someone somewhere will continue to come up with new ideas and new technology. I mean, let's face it: we're human beings. It's what we do.

Moderation=Fascism (2)

Lover's Arrival, The (267435) | more than 13 years ago | (#337491)

Here on Slashdot we have developed, as a community, and incredibally powerful tool, that will one day break out of its ghetto and be used on many online communities. When online communities become popular and break into the mainstream in 10 years or so, they will be controlled by the multinationals, of this there can be no argument. Microsoft and AOL will be controlling them.

The moderation system developed here on Slashdot is a first, and the technology it represents can be considered a beta test by the multinationals.

How long before they take it and control it for their own ends? Moderation is a very right wing and controlling force - rather than punishing people who post trolls and flamebaitish comments, and are irresponsible, by sending them from the community they abuse (k5 can be said to do this), we instead ignore them, and blot them out, which means that they never need to face responsibility for what they do.

Furthermore. this technology developed here can be said to be very powerful, but it will be perverted by the forces that be.

In 20 years time it will be the geeks here that created the moderation system moaning about it in YRO articles. This is, yet again in the geek community, hypocrisy.

Moderation should not be used. It shouold be a free for all, with the irresponsible forced to face up to what they do. Its that simple.

Filtering (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#337492)

People have always attempted to filter out ideas they don't want to listen to. Did you think the Catholic church didn't have public suppor for burning heretics at the stake? Even in the short history of the USA, there are plenty of examples of both private and governmental violence being used to avoid having to listen to the other side. In the War of 1812, critics of the war were arrested for "Sedition" (quite unconstitutionally, but the Supreme Court wasn't yet confident that it could review things like that). In the 1850's, in Congressional debates over slavery there were Congressmen beating each other unconscious; at least they didn't murder each other like was happening in Kansas. In the 1920's, Attorney General Palmer (quite illegally) arrested many for "radical" views. (Hilary Clinton is more radical than most of those persecuted were.) In the 1950's, the FBI was still so busy investigating "radicals" that it didn't even notice there was a Mafia until the NY state police busted a national meeting of mob bosses. I assume nobody needs to hear more about the 60's. And so on...

So a simple internet filter is a considerable improvement over what has happened historically. It does bother me that many people can so insulate themselves as to never hear the other side of the story -- but what has changed? Throughout my lifetime the network news, major newspapers, and most magazines have kept their coverage limited to things that won't unduly surprise the 75% of Americans who don't bother to dig deeper.

Re:More Not Less Choice (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#337493)

The trouble is, these statistics compare two self-selected groups -- people who care enough to seek out news on the internet vs. people who don't. It doesn't prove much about what some guy that is content with the few minutes of real news coverage a day on pme 1/2 hour TV "news" show would do if you took away the TV and replaced it with an internet terminal.

JonKatz whining again (2)

snoop_chili_dog (314897) | more than 13 years ago | (#337495)

Jon missed his calling. He should have been recruited for Battlefield Earth. What's wrong Jon? Still ticked that all those people who checked your box off in their preferences?

I'm finally beginning to see why people hate this guy. Every article he's put out in the last 3 weeks is a boring little whine fest. Oh nooo! Personalized media allows people to turn off my driveling opinion. What will I do? Where will I go? Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Next in a series. Mute...Cute little button or Satan's helper? You be the judge.

Eat Your Beets (2)

journalistguy (398433) | more than 13 years ago | (#337496)

Because they're good for you. While only getting the information you want may be democratic, it may not be necessarily good for either you or society.

The digitalization of information helps you find information you know about but may close you off to new ideas and experiences.

Take a look at the humble card catalogue, once a fixture at the local library. I used to find all sorts of books to read -books I never would have though to look for- simply by flipping though the cards. With a computerized index I find what I'm looking for faster, but I've lost the chance to stumble onto something new.

I am polysyllabic (2)

journalistguy (398433) | more than 13 years ago | (#337497)

You wrote:

Unfortunately, as I stated in an earlier post, there is no way to prevent the divergence of media, or the Balkanization as you put it, without resorting to even more stentorian methods of control.

Admit it: you've been waiting years you use stentorian [] in a sentence.

Re:What a wacko theory (2)

mamsfan (409946) | more than 13 years ago | (#337498)

It's crazy to think that open-minded people like myself would intentionally limit the ideas we are exposed to just because we don't like them.
I think it's about time I stopped letting Katz on my Slashdot page

This is the greatest piece of satire I have read in a long time. Congrats to the author for poking fun at all the other people that want to ban Katz but somehow not limit ideas!

What a wacko theory (3)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 13 years ago | (#337499)

How do things like this even get posted? It's crazy to think that open-minded people like myself would intentionally limit the ideas we are exposed to just because we don't like them. Thank god Slashdot lets me choose which stories make it to my personalized front page. I think it's about time I stopped letting Katz on my Slashdot page so I don't have to see his lame theories and rants anymore.

Who decides what everybody needs to know? (3)

scruffy (29773) | more than 13 years ago | (#337500)

If there is a flaw in Sunstein's arguments, it is that the information winnowing he decries has become more and more necessary due to the sheer volume of data beamed at individual users.

The real flaw is that Sunstein wants somebody to decide what everybody needs to know, somebody to tell us what to believe. Sorry, the "cure" is worse than the "disease".

The real problem is our schools, parents, and peers focus on telling us what to believe instead of teaching us how to determine what to believe.

This happened well before the 'net. (3)

StenD (34260) | more than 13 years ago | (#337501)

It wasn't as consumer-driven as the 'net permits it to be, but in the heyday of the newspaper, most major cities had the Democratic paper and the Republican paper, and most people who read newspapers purchased one or the other, not both. With the rise to dominance of television and the decline of newspapers, there was less diversity in viewpoints, but the 'net and cable television has helped to restore the diversity of opinion sources. The 'common experience' apparently being extolled was not the historical legacy of the American Revolution, but was instead an abberant blip in history, and people seeking out viewpoints they agree with is the historical norm. I'm not claiming that this is good, but to argue that this is a new behavior is wrong.

Amen Brother (3)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 13 years ago | (#337503)

(couldn't resist that bit of irony...)

I agree with this. The whole "must-carry link" idea is terrible: your right to freedom of speech does not obligate me to listen! If I choose to ignore you, how DARE you try to force your opinion on me!

In meat space, if someone tries to force me to listen to them, I can walk away, tell them to shut up, even kick them in the crotch if that is what it takes. Online, I can add them to my killfile (which I do sincerely wish the /. crew would add). How dare this person suggest I be FORCED not to do this!

There is a big difference between /. style moderation (there are enough divergent opinions among the moderators that any well expressed view will likely be moderated up) and the "groupthink" this article fears. Yes, I know there are certain alledged groupthinks here on /., but consider: how often do Pro-Windows, Pro-BSD, Pro-Mac views show up and get moderated up, in defiance to the alleged Linux groupthink. How often to pro-gun views get moderated up (or anti-gun). For a site that is allegedly "groupthink" run, a surprising diversity of opinions grace these pages...

This is news? (3)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 13 years ago | (#337505)

People have always used media to escape reality. That's the point. This is why video/role playing games have always been bad for "geeks," providing an escape from the reality that they fear to a false one that they can feel safe in.

It goes back farther than that though. Remember your mother yelling at you to stop watching TV and do your homework? Same concept. Stop shirking important stuff just to be a zombie.

The book Katz speaks of is just the work of someone stating the obvious. Of course, Katz being the genius that he is, needs the obvious pointed out, and assumes that others do, too.

Democracy means freedom to choose (3)

ReadbackMonkey (92198) | more than 13 years ago | (#337506)

The moderation system allows me to ignore people that I might not agree with (read at 2), or to try to read every opinion posted (read at 1). This system is only censorship if there is no choice for me to read at the lower level, I quite often don't agree with moderation, hence I read at -1, but the bottom line is it is my choice just as it is in life.

If I'm watching T.V. and something comes on that I don't want to watch, I change the channel. It's a simply as that. This moderation system isn't anything new, it's a simple evolution from traditional media forms. Freedom of speech doesn't mean I have to listen to you, it just means you get to say whatever you want.

Dumbing up. (3)

FTL (112112) | more than 13 years ago | (#337507)

> They are important, nonetheless, he says,
> partly because they protect against fragmentation
> and extremism, a predictable outcome when
> like-minded people communicate only with one another."

The problem with mass-media is that in order to survive it must have mass-appeal. Consequently, mass-media tends to be extremely shallow in its treatment of issues, since they know that for any story, 80% of the audience aren't interested in it. So they have to keep moving from topic to topic trying to keep their audience from becoming bored.

With "Me Media" I can point a microscope at one story, and delve far beneath the surface. In doing so I've aquired an understanding about a particular topic, not just been exposed to a dozen one-liners that will all be forgotten the next day.

I'll grant that "Me Media" produces less conformity (whether this is a bad thing or not is a separate discussion). But one cannot deny that mass-media is a lot shallower.

Anarchy Day on Slashdot (3)

mr_gerbik (122036) | more than 13 years ago | (#337508)

Heres an idea - Anarchy Day on Slashdot

All account holders get unlimited moderation points for one day. Articles have no score limit. You can only mod each post once. Sounds like fun to me.

I have no idea what this would possibly accomplish or signify, but I'm sure Katz could come up with some bullshit theory about how this experiment is related to Columbine, mass media tyranny and his movie review of the week.


Re:Moderation!=Fascism (3)

plover (150551) | more than 13 years ago | (#337509)

What about NoCeMs? The idea where you trust only specific moderators, who you select as having viewpoints that "filter" the news as per your tastes?

You may decry moderation as a bad thing, but I stopped having time for Frist p0sts a long time ago. Yes, moderators can and definitely do abuse their power, especially so around here where moderation happens anonymously. Do I care? Not enough to give up using moderation. I simply don't have time to listen to everyone's drivel, and I truly don't care about the troll-of-the-week. For me, missing the occasional post that the chri$tian fscking coalition or the clam$ mod down to -1 still wasn't worth my time to hunt down, because, frankly, very little of what happens around here is really "stuff that matters."

Knowing how moderation works at least lets me recognize the dangers inherent to moderation. I'd still love to see NoCeMs implemented for moderation so I could filter out some of the idiot moderators who think goat-abuse is worth my time.


loss of perspective (3)

_|()|\| (159991) | more than 13 years ago | (#337510)

His point ... seems to be that all these choices are bad for us.

I'm a web junkie, and I've given the matter some thought. My primary sources of information are USENET and the web. Of course, I only keep up with a few out of the thousands of newsgroups. Likewise, I follow a few quite specialized web sites, like Slashdot. When the focus is so narrow, it's easy to lose perspective, especially when egoboo like Slashdot kharma is involved.

Have you ever gotten hot under the collar after an anonymous coward's flame? Why? If "All you hot Natalie Portman grits are belong to us!" makes any sense to you, you probably don't get out enough.

I'm convinced that there's a danger in always agreeing with what you read. I read a Mother Hubbard at the gym the other night. It had an article pointing out the irony of a Republican senator (I forget his name) who helped pass mandatory minimum sentences for drug convictions, then helped his son avoid such a sentence. Right on, stick it to the hypocrite! Then again, I feel a little insulted by Mother Hubbard's obvious agenda.

The world would be a better place if conservatives read Mother Hubbard and liberals read the Wall Street Journal, or something like that.

Re:Moderation==moron filtre (3)

Darth RadaR (221648) | more than 13 years ago | (#337511)

The moderation system developed here on Slashdot is a first,

Nah. Moderation has been used for years on alt.sysadmin.recovery. I pity the fool that does a "all your base are belong to us" over there. :)

IMHO, moderation != censorship. Moderation is just a real nice way of cutting through some of the line-noise. You have the right to sat what you want, and I have the right to say you've got a good point or you're simply talking sh*t.

software -does- help get a social life (3)

unformed (225214) | more than 13 years ago | (#337512)

According to Sunstein, software is helping us talk only to ourselves.

Maybe so, but it has its advantages too. If it wasn't for the movie players and all the popups I wouldn't have become so close to my hand. And if I hadn't gotten close to my hand, I wouldn't be getting laid. all works out in the end :)

I disagree. (3)

perdida (251676) | more than 13 years ago | (#337513)

Unfortunately, as I stated in an earlier post, there is no way to prevent the divergence of media, or the Balkanization as you put it, without resorting to even more stentorian methods of control.

When you walk around in a world of printed media, it is already enclosed in private places and relationships. You walk into an adult book store to pay for the stuff. That is a place where common ground is excluded; the common ground (the street) cannot legally be a place to display the porn.

On the Internet, there is nothing intrinsically preventing the porn marketer from doing something that, to continue the metaphor of the real life adult shop, would make the windows as light and bright as Macy's, attractive to everyone who wants to see it and obnoxious to those who don't. There should be some kind of filtering software to demarcate a public space which those who want to make a buck will freely violate.

We support laws for the restriction of smoking advertisements, which use strategic locations and attractive appearances to get attention- just like porn sites. I definitely prefer filtering software, which you can choose to download and use, to laws that would make the entire internet a public space. Even better, a free market to promote competition of filtering software will improve the software far better than a static law will.

I feel those who wopuld like a wholly unregulated Net, which has no mechanism that protects us neither voluntarily or through law, are unaware of the true content, architecture and behavior of the modern Net. It is no longer a primarily scientific system... just read this [] CNN article about how searches can't even touch most of the hidden Internet anymore.


Good points, but... (3)

CyberDawg (318613) | more than 13 years ago | (#337514)

There appear to be some very valid points here. I make a point of switching back-and-forth between the most liberal radio station in my area and the most conservative, deliberately exposing myself to both points of view (the middle ground comes from other media). The two points the author appears to have missed are:

Moderation systems like Slashdot's are radically different from net nanny filtering because users have the opportunity to configure how they apply, not just the filtering criteria. I can choose to ignore moderation entirely, showing all posts, or to set various cutoff points and sorting methods. I enjoy seeing opposing points of view, but appreciate methods for filtering out anonymous cowards and some trolls (good trolling is humorous, insightful, and enjoyable to read).

Second, the homogenization of news is hardly something new. If I choose to read Windows NT Magazine instead of Linux Journal, I'm not going to read much pro-Linux information, am I? We already have a lot of control over what we see, and the changes brought by the customization of places like My Yahoo or Slashdot are parts of a long-standing trend, not something new and revolutionary.

Thesis doesn't make sense... (4)

Moofie (22272) | more than 13 years ago | (#337515)

Any given web site may espouse a certain political or sociological viewpoint, but there are arbitrarily large numbers of web sites. Hell, Slashcode is open source...if you don't like what you find out there, make your own!

The Internet is about niches. It's not about selling dishwasher detergent and Pepsi (although those companies would disagree), it's about selling imported Japanese giant robot models and European release CDs. Markets that are too small to survive in any geographic region can be profitably addressed by the Internet. The same goes for ideas...the pre-digested pap can be replaced by discussion, collaboration, and exploration. Moreover, the mere fact that there are millions of voices speaking is far preferable to the monoculture popular media we're putting up with now. If all the voices start sounding alike, that's not necessarily bad...consensus does not limit freedom, but hollering one message from one source in everybody's ears 24/7 does.

Choice is bad?? (4)

q2k (67077) | more than 13 years ago | (#337516)

His point (based on Jon's article, I have not read the book) seesm to be that all these choices are bad for us. 'Common Framework" sounds suspiciously like "Group Think." Its better that we all get the same info - even if its not entirely accurate?? I don't buy it, choice is good, as long as you really have a choice. The problems start when the "choices" are not really that different.

Re:Moderation=Fascism (5)

Chakat (320875) | more than 13 years ago | (#337518)

You don't like moderation? Then turn it off. You can always chose to browse at -1 and read all the utter crap that goes on down there. In contrast to most of the major news services, you can chose exactly how you want to filter the content here. Hell, if you want, you could hack up a perl script in an afternoon so that you only read the and ascii art spams.

Besides, if we ever do get fascistic moderators who deny us the choice of reading the shit, we can go elsewhere. Voting with one's eyeballs and one's wallets are much more powerful than you think.

Although, you're wring about one important thing. Moderation does have teeth and does punish the irresponsible - you get moderated down far enough and you get banned for a day.

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