It’s civic election time here in central Alberta and the Red Deer Public Library is hosting a web site and blog site for the candidates. You can find it here at http://www.electionforum.ca/. There is some blogging going on – mostly Q&A and some videos but the most interesting element is the controversy over anonymous comments to Jeffrey Dawson’s blog postings.
Mr Dawson took offense to some comments and expressed concern over the source of the anonymous commenter. The result was some back and forth between Mr Dawson and the incumbent Mayor or Red Deer, Morris Flewwelling with Mr Dawson eventually terminating his blog postings. The folks at the Red Deer Public Library, who manage the site, changed the comment system from anonymous to where the commenter is required to leave a name and email address.
Excerpt from the Election Forum front page:
Updated Procedure for Posting Comments
Submitted by dstewart on Wed, 10/03/2007 – 16:54.
…Being that the process is so new to everyone involved, we have made and will continue to make changes to the site in order to ensure that we can make the entire venture as fair and informative as possible.
… As of today, you will now be required to include your full name and email address with your comment or it will not be posted. We will publish your name but we will not publish your email address (it will be kept only for our own use)...
…The goal of this site always has been and will continue to be, to provide a forum for all the citizens of Red Deer so that they have a place to put forward issues that are of concern to them…
» dstewart’s blog
[click here to see the entire posting]
You can read more about the events from the local daily newspaper – Red Deer Advocate, in these stories:
Election blog attacks anger Dawson. by Andrea Miller
Dawson needs thicker skin. letter to the editor
Civic election website tightens access. by Andrea Miller
Can Dawson cut the mustard? a commentary by Mary-Anne Barr
Now what does all this have to do with Web 2.0? We are watching the birth of Web 2.0 – blogging in particular, here in Red Deer. Politics aside, I see many interesting comments and perspectives on the use of blogs ranging from folks who have no experience with Web 2.0 culture and technology to the supporters and trail blazers encouraging its use. Any birth has pains associated with it but we need to keep moving forward regardless.
As far as anonymous comments to blog postings are concerned, the blog-o-sphere through the blogger’s code of conduct, a non-official guidelines for bloggers, feels that anonymous comments do not work with most blogs. This is driven by such things as legal issues – defamation lawsuits in the US and the UK have highlighted this and cultural norms – ‘don’t say something to someone in a blog comment that you wouldn’t say to their face’. The Red Deer Advocate will not accept anonymous letters to the editor, or anonymous feedback from their online article links – and for the same good reasons this should apply to public blogs. The good folks at the Red Deer Public Library, managing the election blog have taken the high road and setup a system for monitoring blog comments. Kudos for them. This also shows how fast Web 2.0 technologies can be reconfigured to meet the needs of the users. I suspect that if this was a traditional mainstream media venue, there would be months of meetings and policy discussions before any action would be taken.
Let’s hope that Mr. Dawson will take this move by the managers of the blog as a positve step and get himself back online.
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