Having been in the community space for a considerable amount of time now, one of the big points I have always tried to advocate is open-mindedness, specifically in the programming and technology arena. However more and more in the last few months I have found myself typing responses to questions on sites like Stack Overflow and SA Developer.Net, or comments on blog posts and ended up deleting the responses and not ever hitting the enter button. The main reason for this is the lack of etiquette that exist on the internet, and the absolute lack of respect people show to others on the web.
To illustrate the point, I read the latest post by Jeff Atwood, entitled The iPhone Software Revolution. Jeff does a follow-up on a post he did with the first launch of the iPhone, and with the release of the new 3GS, has finally invested in one. He makes a clear and concise argument about his reasons for doing so, and strongly motivates why he believes Apple has the right idea around the App Store. The frustration however lies in the responses to the posts. Albeit at least 20% of these are well worth the effort, my blood begins to boil on the amount of uninformed, and ill researched responses made with regards to the features of the iPhone in particular.
The same trend seems to come to light on forums and discussions groups, where comments to response, or even responses themselves follow the same trend. I have always believed there is a very thin line between constructive comments, or even disagreements, and wanting attention. It seems uninformed responses for the sake of responding is becoming a common trend. The scary part of this is that at least 80% of the respondents are in the technology industry, and with infinite access to factual information, provided though services like Wikipedia, Google, Bing and even the vendor’s websites themselves, still seem to miss the plot, and at the same time are negative about a technology, gadget or opinion.
If there is one thing I have learned the hard way, especially living in an online world, is that the rules that apply in real live of listening to the opinions of others also, if not more so, applies to the internet. I follow a very selective list of blogs and podcasts, because the people involved in these I respect for being open-minded and respectful towards others. However the online world seems more and more dominated by the uninformed, and negative. The value of initiatives like Stack Overflow and other communities are seriously compromised when the contributors spends time trying to convince others they are right, instead of trying to give valuable and useful content.
The unfortunate effect of this trend, is that the people who can indeed offer useful insight into a problem, tend to become less motivated when they are continually degraded by those with negative intentions. I’ve learned over time to listen, read and digest the information presented, often allowing myself into the perspective of the poster before responding, the same way I would when dealing with a person standing in front of me. Understanding that the person on the other side of the keyboard and screen is in fact human.
In the last few years I have seen so many brilliant and informative websites lose traction, and watched contributors exile themselves, and sadly this means the one place where the idea of sharing information is the corner-stone of its existence, has lost its footing. The slow degrading of basic values in society has started to bleed into the virtual world, and unlike the real world, there is no police force to combat its effects. The other unfortunate is that the next generation, the one’s that pick up the baton from us, will have strong reminders of this trend at their fingertips.
Has the internet just become another soap box, another outlet where misinformation has become a norm and not an exception?