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Two examples of why online forums break down

In a recent blog post, I bemoaned the sliming of the Open Government Dialogue by individuals with unrelated political axes to grind. My point was this: Online dialogues, to be effective, require on-point, substantive contributions. The individuals who filled the Open Government Dialogue with pages and pages of scurrilous comments made me wonder whether it will ever be possible to conduct a similar initiative without similar results. Is it too much expect, I asked.

Check out the original post and you will see a number of thoughtful responses. Whatever side they took, these readers tried to deal with the issues at hand.

But not everyone got the point. Below are two responses I did not post -- but which I include here to demonstrate how difficult it is to keep a conversation from running off the tracks. One is pro-Obama, the other is anti-Obama, but of course the topic at hand was online forums.

* It's too bad that some in the antiObama camp just can't come to grips with reality. Hello! The election is over. Obama was elected president. Do you really think that his birth status as a presdential candidate is in any way suspect? Much, much smarter folks than you would have discovered such an irregularity long ago if it existed. Whining often gets you noticed, but it requires a substantive, real issue to get respect for your actions. This issue has no feet; it's not real. So what ARE your real aims?

* The guy i[s] an imposter, a fraud, a usurper and needs to be removed from office ASAP. His affronts on the Constitution and Bill of rights pose the greastest threats to the surv[i]val of this Republic in history!! Use the piece of paper the Dems have posted on-line the same as you would a piece of toilet paper; that[']s about how useful it is.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Jun 05, 2009 at 12:14 PM

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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 9, 2009

allow your readers to regulate. Rate comments and push the negative rated comments to the bottom of the stack. Most people are thoughtful but the noise of the minority can overwhelm the signal. Putting your thoughtful readers in control of what they see will police the blog naturally. This is what the Washington Post does

Mon, Jun 8, 2009 John Wooten, Ph.D. DC area

I believe that in order to be effective, forums either have to be moderated to prevent off-subject responses as in your examples or must have some sophisticated filtering that posts those that seem okay and put those such as above into a queue to be examined before posting. Such software exists ( see http://www.askjaysec.com ) as an example of identifying the "concept" that is being discussed instead of the key words. (also see www.areteq.com). Others may exist, I'm just familiar with those. It's not censoring that I am suggesting, just staying on topic and perhaps without personal attacks.

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