Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Usenet, Bulletin Board and Blogs. All the same really.

Reading the comments on Tim Ireland's "Guido deletes my comments" posts, and the posts by the Me-Toos (here, and here), it has suddenly struck me that no matter what the technological medium, the rules of the online community still apply. Anyone who has spent a significant time on Usenet or Bulletin Boards will know that every year or so there will be a thread that starts off a war of words between the opposing sides of the community. The sides of that community are more often than not divided along political lines.

On the one hand you have the freedom loving, libertarian anarchists, whilst on the other you have the authoritarian vanguard elite who want everyone to be very serious to ensure their own intellectual self-importance. The thread that kicks it off will always contain a diatribe aimed at a long time member usually from the libertarian side of the community but not always. The diatribe will always contain fallacy, request proofs of negatives, and usually start that age old Internet classic "who are the alts?".

What are alts you may ask? Well, the Internet is like the side of a house with lots of windows. Each window represents parts of our own psyche, and we can look through whichever window we choose and explore that part of our psyche if we wish. Hence a man can pretend to be a woman, a woman can pretend to be a man, or in bizarre cases a man may pretend to be a woman pretending to be a man. These are your alter-egos, or alts as the community will usually call them.

Fundamental to the diatribe and ensuing flame war (of which yes, this may be considered part), is an edge of paranoia that thinks all is not what it seems. There will be a belief that vast numbers of the "other side" are not really individuals but merely alts of the original target. The intellectual absurdity then becomes present as the paranoia leads to fallacious arguments such as "unless you prove you're not an alt I will believe you are one". This is a bit like saying, unless you prove you don't have weapons mass destruction we will believe you have some. Ah yes, WMD, and Iraq. Where would an Internet flame be without some idiotic reference to Iraq being the real cause of everything in the world ever?

Where am I going with this? Well, the truth is, I don't really think anyone other than intellectual elitist snobs give a shit if Guido does delete comments. I don't actually think anyone in the real world could give a flying fuck if Guido did post anonymous comments on his blog. In fact, the entire accusation, which has been wrapped in pathetically high-minded moral bullshit, is merely a distraction from the headline point of Guido's blog. The story.

This is the Internet, the idea that there is some sort of self-regulatory code of conduct bloggers follow is little more than romanticised bollocks. Blogs are websites, they are websites owned by the author, and the author has every right to do whatever they choose with it. It is their space, just like their house. They have no obligation to anyone other than themselves, and thinking otherwise makes one rather foolish.

Having said all this, watching the toys flying out of the pram, be it on Usenet, BBS's or blogs, never ceases to be thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

NOTE: You cannot comment on this post. I have not turned comments off because I'm afraid of debate, I've done it because I think I'm big, clever, certainly arrogant and actually quite funny really.