A while back, George Michael closed down the message board section of his website. He was apparently hurt by all the negativity being bandied about. For no particular reason except the media’s innate bitchiness, this became big news and was a PR disaster for poor George.
Over at Many-to-Many, Clay Shirky offers a brief analysis of online forums, and how they can outgrow their usefulness to a particular community.
Let us stipulate, as the lawyers say, that Michael is an idiot. Giving people tools for uncensored communications and then expecting them to engage in â€œPeace and Loveâ€¦ or nothing at allâ€ puts him in Radio 4 territory. (I also love the implication that people posting negative posts are doing â€œthe mediaâ€™s workâ€.) But this is an old story â€” the real interest, I think, lies elsewhere.
There does seem to be a maximum size for reasonable interactivity online. For example, it’s nearly impossible to have a conversation on Fark because of the signal-to-noise ratio. On the other hand, I’ve been an on-and-off member of alt.sports.hockey.nhl.vanc-canucks, and it’s always remained at a manageable size.