Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The #DontGo Revolution...

With the country in the midst of an energy crisis, the best discussion taking place on the issue can be found on... Twitter?

An amazing sequence of events has been happening over the last 48 hours. It began with a Republican-leaning organization calling itself the "#Don't Go Movement", whose mission is to see Congress stay in Washington, and not go on summer recess, until a solution for our energy crisis is found. Hence the moniker, "Don't go".

But once this group formed, they immediately called on Twitter supporters to include the "#dontgo" hash in all of their posts. Overnight, "#dontgo" became the top "trending topic" on the entire site - meaning more people were microblogging about #dontgo than anything else being talked about on the entire internet, including the Olympics, Paris Hilton, and the new Batman movie. Check out the ongoing Twitter stream here.

This would be quite a story in its own right, but there's more to it. Not to be outdone, Democratic-leaning hacktivists, dismayed at #dontgo's success, have begun an organized effort to pollute the Twitter stream. In other words, critics of the #DontGo Movement are now being encouraged to also include the #dontgo hash in their own posts, that way when people search Twitter, more critical posts will be displayed.

#DontGo has certainly succeeded in its goal to "utilize technology to push the frontier of what constitutes modern politics", though maybe in ways it didn't necessarily foresee. But if you're not that familiar with the potential power of Twitter in fostering online discussions, again, take a look at the #dontgo feed and start learning. Quickly.
  

11 Comments:

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

UPDATE: The #dontgo critics' tactic of polluting the stream is now officially being called a "Twitter bomb".

 
At 1:06 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Interesting that the "free speech" crowd isn't so interesting in allowing the free speech from views they don't agree with.

I was just reading this post about "winning practices" in Twitter:

15. Don’t be overly critical of other people’s points of view.

I think liberals have had a strong online presence for a while and I was interested to see a conservative online movement. The internet provides opportunity for communication and debate, but it also is open to spam tactics like "Twitter Bombing". It's unfortunate that an opportunity for discussion is being subverted. Of course, would I have a problem if it was the other way around?

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Thanks for the response, Ryan. I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of free speech. The liberal Tweeters are not censoring the #dontgo supporters; they are simply flooding the "discussion" with their own perspectives. Admittedly, this is being done in a subversive way, but they would argue that it's not a true discussion unless the opposition's voice is also represented.

The issue this raises isn't so much free speech, but how to maintain a single cohesive group of like-minded people in an internet forum with non-exclusionary access.

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

You are right. They don't have a way to censor what's being said outright. Flooding the discussion with thoughtless name-calling is not exactly adding to the conversation. It's entirely intended to push down the pro-dontgo discussion, so how isn't that censoring?

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

"Thoughtless name-calling" is, of course, mindless drivel that dilutes any attempt at real dialogue - and that pertains to advocates on both sides of the debate.

Really, what I was trying to get at in that last comment, was how it gets complicated when liberals try to actually infuse thoughtful comments in the #dontgo stream, critical though they may be. These folks aren't suppressing free speech, but they're certainly using the forum for something other than that for which it was intended.

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Great post about e-Hatred. Again, flooding thoughtless spam into a discussion is in my opinion a form of e-Hatred. However, voicing your dissenting view, as you said, is necessary. I need to pay closer attention to the anti-dontgoers and find the thoughtful rebuttals...but when I was looking it was mostly spam.

Part of the problem is how passionate and emotionally driven much of these discussions are and how we typically react rather than take the time to thoughtfully debate.

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Is being passionate about political issues really a problem? In this age of voter apathy, maybe we could actually use some more of that.

Also, as to your point that people too often react, rather than thoughtfully debate the issues (which I agree with), do you think online services like Twitter - with one-sentence microblogs - only encourage more of that?

Good stuff here, Ryan :-)

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

Very true. Passionate reactions are probably what pushed the dontgoers to start dontgo! It also pushes the "good men who do nothing" out of their complacency.

So it does come back to how do you maintain "cohesive group of like-minded people in an internet forum with non-exclusionary access". Do you delete the opposing views? No. Do you filter the spam? I would argue yes, but I see the argument to let the spam stand as representative of the dissenting voice. I have thought about this...Structurally segregate the opposing views so it is more easy to follow on perspective AND compare that to the other. What if you had a comment section/forum where the submitters could decide what side of the argument they were on and run the two opposing view in parallel columns? I would actually like to start a blog where I could debate topics and put the counterpoints exactly parallel so you could look to the left and see the liberal argument and to the right to see the conservative.

And thank you for engaging in thoughtful discussion! :)

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

To your question: Aspects of the Twitter exchange probably do contribute to less-thoughtful comments, though it doesn't have to.

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger Rob Domanski said...

Okay, unfortunately, the only way to maintain a "cohesive group" online is to implement stricter measures of control. Either you must 1) make the group of people allowed to participate in the discussion an exclusionary one, or 2) designate someone to moderate the discussion and give them the power to select what content is deemed acceptable and what is not.

Of course, Option #1 flies in the face of the generally accepted internet ethos of open participation, while Option #2 is only a slightly veiled method of institutionalizing censorship (spammers, notwithstanding).

 
At 4:32 PM, Anonymous ryan said...

Making the group exclusive undermines the objective to persuade and convince others to agree with your argument, which I think for #dontgo, was the whole point.

 

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