Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tagging and filtering are ANTI-censorshop tools

A book club meets once a week at the public library to talk about classic literature. A few of the members want to also have a chat about Disneyworld, or tell off-color jokes, but some of the group doesn't want to talk about or listen about that. There is no way to resolve this situation that doesn't involve someone forcing their preference onto someone else. The pro people could keep talking about it, forcing their preference onto the anti people. The anti people could suppress the conversation, forcing their preference onto the pro people. Or the anti people could leave entirely, avoiding both what they don't want to listen to and what they do. None of these solutions is good.

An email listserv is formed to talk about classic literature, but a few of the members want to chat about Disneyworld, or tell off-color jokes, and again some on the list don't want to talk or listen to that. There are two easy ways to fix this that do not involve anyone forcing their preferences onto anyone else, that allow everyone involved to see exactly the discussion they want. One is creating a second listserv for those "off topic" posts (assuming that listservs are free and plentiful to set up). The other and perhaps better is to have those off-topic posts tagged with something like "[OT]", and then those who don't want to hear them can effortlessly filter them out.

That we can do this takes away the only argument anyone could have made to suppress or censor those off-topic discussions. Therefore, filtering is actually a way to avoid censorship.

So why do daft people who haven't quite "gotten" the ways email differs from sitting in a room insist on taking a request for tagging to be censorship when it's exactly not censorship? Censorship isn't me choosing not to listen to you; it's not even me saying "you should talk about that somewhere else, not here" (in a privately run, topic-focused forum). Censorship is preventing you from saying something. Period.

1 comment:

Siobhan Perricone said...

I think I have it. I bet this is the progression in their minds.

Putting in the OT makes it possible for someone to filter out these posts from the list.

That means that some of the content of the list is being removed before someone else reads it.

Removing words/content is censorship.


I bet that's the 'logical' progression they're making in their minds. If you're not reading all the same posts they are, and if you're actually removing some of the posts so you don't have to read them, it means you're not experiencing the list the same way they are.

With a book, if you edit the book in some way so that it's not the same book they read, removing some of it, that would be called 'censorship'.

So this bears some sort of resemblance to that, in their minds. The leap they're not making here is that listservs are not books. There is nothing sacred about how you experience a listserv, and it's OK if *I* choose not to read some posts that YOU choose to read.

I'm willing to bet that's the kernal behind this kneejerk reaction, and if people would just stop and THINK for a moment, and really examine their reaction to this, they'd realize they're not thinking of a listserv in the right way.