The chat room/forum problem (& an apology to @Technosailor)

I’ve been doing online communities for more than 20 years, starting in 1985 when a friend had a BBS. One thing I’ve noticed over and over again is that chat rooms and forums start out fun and then devolve over time for various reasons.

But in 2000 I discovered that blogs had the opposite effect. They got more interesting over time.

Why is that?

I call it the chat room/forum problem and I think I’ve discovered the cause.

See, in a chat room no one is in control. But usually some small group starts one. They are interesting at the start. I remember when a small group of us joined Microsoft’s NetMeeting forum back in 1996. Those were the days! They were fun. Extremely so. Some of us are even still friends today and we always love to talk about the early days of that group.

Why?

Because all of us had a common interest (a new product) and we were a small group and we were at the same level at the beginning (all of us were newbies).

But it devolved.

How?

First, wave after wave of newbies came in. They all wanted their attention and you couldn’t tell the experienced users (visually) from the new ones. At first the newbie waves were a lot of fun because we were able to teach new people the tricks we had spent months learning (like how to get a certain brand of video card to work, etc).

But after six or so waves the experienced users started getting tired of answering the same damn questions over and over. See the newbies weren’t willing to search for already-answered questions and, because it was a forum, no one was able to take control and segregate things.

Then it got worse. The bad actors arrived. IE, trolls and spammers. Trolls I can handle. After all, I troll once in a while too. Spammers? No way. They destroyed any last joy I had in participating in the group. Some of us left. Others of us hung on (I did) until Microsoft killed the product. But it wasn’t fun at the end.

Here’s something I’m noticing: my Facebook has the forum problem. It’s getting noisier and noisier. Facebook is trying to solve this problem with filtering and with a new feed, which only shows “popular” items. But it has the Forum/Chat Problem and no amount of lipstick will cure that problem.

As long as you only have your really close personal friends in Facebook, this is NOT a problem at all.

But Facebook’s leaders want to change to be more like Twitter. More open, so they can defend against an oncoming Google and Twitter and Microsoft onslaught of social networking technologies.

But the more public they make Facebook the more connections each user will have, and the more noise each of those connections will bring.

At first this looks like a positive thing, right? Over on FriendFeed people are telling me “we have more conversations.” That’s true, but the more conversations I got involved in the less I found I was learning.

This came full circle tonight when I checked in my “best of day” feed on FriendFeed, picture of that experience here.

I didn’t see any geeks. I didn’t see any tech. I didn’t see anything that was teaching me anything. I had stopped getting much value out of FriendFeed.

But over the past week I’ve found that Twitter is gaining in incoming value, the way blogs got more interesting over time (and if they didn’t, I just removed them from my reader).

Why do blogs bring more value over time?

Because bloggers get smarter over time and they have more experiences to pull on.

I noticed this in talk radio, too. Generally a talk radio host will get better over time. Why? As she or he gets more popular he/she will get better guests, be invited to better events, and become better studied on the topics they are talking about.

In other words, they become an expert.

I find I’m craving experts lately. People who build things. People who do things. People who make things happen. Tony Robbins, when he spoke at the Twitter Conference last month said that Twitter is his knowledge machine. He uses it to import great minds.

The thing is in the early days of a community having serendipity, which is what Facebook and FriendFeed’s forum features bring, make things a lot of fun. After all, it makes finding people who are like minded with you easier.

But eventually the experts (ie, people who are teaching you stuff) get drowned out and you are left with an experience that looks more like the magazine rack at a grocery store than a book shelf at Harvard.

So, what happened on Friday?

Twitter got lists.

This let us throw together a list of experts. For instance, I put together a list of people who have started companies. Compare that feed to your average Facebook feed and you’ll see it in stark black and white: your Facebook feed is “fun” but isn’t teaching you much.

It becomes even more stark when you do a list like my tech news brands list. See, this is NOT a forum! It is NOT a chat room!

No one can enter this community without being invited. Now compare to FriendFeed. We could have built a list like this over there, but it would have gotten noiser because of a feature called “Friend of a Friend.” That drags in people the list owner didn’t invite. Also, anyone can comment underneath any items on Facebook or FriendFeed. That brings people into YOUR life that YOU DID NOT INVITE!

Again, at first, this seems very democratic and very nice. After all, it’s great to throw a party for the whole world and let them drink your wine and have conversations with your kids. But, be honest here, would you rather have a private dinner with Steve Jobs, or would you rather have a dinner with Steve Jobs and 5,000 people who you don’t really know?

Which one would be a better place for you to learn something? Have an experience you can brag to your friends about?

See, tonight I had another experience on Twitter. One that ripped this whole thing wide open.

Mike Lee watched a friend die. Mike Lee is an engineer at Apple. His friend was Vinay Venkatesh, one of the top engineers at VMWare (he worked on the Fusion product). This afternoon Vinay had an accident on his motorcycle in the hills above Silicon Valley.

Listen into Mike’s Tweets:

Today
1

News

2

Update

3

No no god no

4

I regret to report

5

I held

6

Tragic, my heart is out to everyone involved.

What do you NOT see?

You don’t see any stupid YouTube-style commenters making light of the situation. You don’t see anyone posting pictures that would be inappropriate.

You don’t see anyone entering a conversation that should be viewed on its own in its own totality.

Twitter does NOT have the chat room/forum problem.

Let’s go back in history and discuss other forums/chat rooms.

I started out with BBSs. They had it. They started out interesting, but then as more and more people figured out how to do BBSs their value both devolved (more noise, and slower lines) and increased (more files to download — files for some reason don’t have the same problem that chat rooms do).

Prodigy? Yes. I was on that back in the 1980s. It started fun and then devolved. Now it’s gone.

CompuServe? Yes. Same thing.

AOL? Yes. In fact it was SO devolved that when AOL joined up with Usenet all the geeks on Usenet gave a collective “oh damn” when their own conversations saw an intrusion of newbies, bad actors, and spammers.

YouTube? Just go to the average video and you’ll see full scale devolution on going.

Digg? Absolutely. Devolved big time.

TechCrunch comments. Yes, but notice that they are now moderating their comments (some posts saw deletions of more than half of the comments), which dramatically improved them. As soon as the moderation stops on comments, they too will devolve and drive out anyone interesting.

My comments? I’m moderating them now too.

But notice that top-level blogs don’t have this problem.

Also notice that Twitter doesn’t have this problem.

If I only want to listen to, say, Louis Gray, there is NO WAY ANYONE ELSE CAN GET ONTO MY SCREEN (on Twitter)!

On FriendFeed? No. Louis Gray’s feed drags in tons of others.

On Facebook? No. Louis Gray’s feed drags in tons of others (even though you need to be “friended” by Louis to see his feed there).

But, Scoble, this makes you an elitist jerk!

Bing! Bing! Bing!

But at least I’m learning something and I’m not being dragged into cat photo land if I don’t want to go there. By the way, if all you care about is cat photos, a forum is a BAD place to be. Someone will post dog photos and ruin it all. Blogs even win here.

Which brings me to why I’m apologizing to Aaron Brazell and Mike Arrington. Earlier this year both of them deleted their FriendFeed accounts for various reasons.

I was bent because I saw the geeks leaving and the utility of the forum changing. At the time I didn’t want to internalize what I already knew, that the forum problem was rearing its head. Arrington left because he didn’t like the mob attitude that reared up over there. Brazell left because he didn’t see the utility in FriendFeed.

I fought with both of them, even blocking Brazell because I just didn’t want to taste the medicine they were dishing out. After all, I’ve posted 31,876 comments to my FriendFeed account. I’ve clicked on 21,981 things to “like” them. I’ve shown FriendFeed to dozens of audiences at conferences and consulting sessions. I’ve talked about it with the press. I’ve pushed it incessantly on Twitter (which, I figure, got me unfollowed there by at least 5,000 people).

In hindsight they were right. Why was I blindsided? Because FriendFeed had some features that made it different than other forums in the past. For one, it was decentralized conversation (in old-school forums the conversation was chosen for you. In FriendFeed you could start a new conversation with each item). For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).

But these newfangled features were not enough to keep the geeks after Facebook bought FriendFeed. After the geeks left (I was one, so this story is influenced by me in part) the tide was too much and now it just isn’t for me anymore.

I will still use it here and there and drop in on a conversation when I see something interesting, but that’s less and less.

Anyway, this is a pattern that I’ve seen. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to counteract it, but this is a dangerous pattern for social software companies to ignore.

And don’t think that Twitter has learned this lesson, either. It is testing a new retweet feature (they used to call it “sharing” internally) that is very controversial.

Why is it controversial? Because it brings people into your view that you didn’t ask to see.

The chat room/forum problem should not be ignored. I’m sorry I ignored it and burned bridges with Aaron (I talked with Mike tonight and he barely even remembers our spat, so we’re cool).

I’ve unblocked Aaron and put him on my lists. Hopefully he’ll forgive me. But will Twitter and Facebook learn from this? Probably not.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

149 thoughts on “The chat room/forum problem (& an apology to @Technosailor)

  1. Well, I can say one thing after reading this: this explains why, after trying FriendFeed, FaceBook and other online social hangouts, I've never given up my Twitter account. I've used it everyday and I never get bored and I always find what I need when I'm on it …the information I want, in the size I want.

  2. yup, how abt a hybrid solution – where others can follow your stuff to gain knowledge, but they need to be friends with you to actually discuss on your content. Do you think that could solve the problem partially?

  3. Chris – although Scott McNealy used to joke “You have no privacy, get over it.” for most people privacy is still worth protecting in many contexts. Our enthusiasm for the relative openness of digital media space must be tempered with the realization that, human nature being what it is, with knowledge comes a real responsibility (if only to decide what to divulge publicly and what to keep private) to curate and steward.

  4. Not giving you a bad time for writing for yourself, Robert. That's where the passion comes from and all of the best writers do it, whether they admit it or not. ;-)

    Facebook for business is an interesting animal. Within a month of “joining” Facebook I had 4 new business leads, just from Wall-to-Wall posts and connecting with people. However, I'm still not convinced that it's the best B2B social network; personally, I lean more towards LinkedIn (with it's 50MM members today).

    It doesn't appear that you're on LinkedIn. Any reason why not? (Mostly curious, and you can tell me it's none of my business too.)

  5. Is there is a bigger picture to look at here. This is nice conversation, the point the intelligence and lack there of is growing. Armies of people are growing in social networking mediums. This is going to be a force to be reckoned, utilized and implemented in way that will reveal.

    We are rushing through the empowerment of the Individual, collecting powers that are becoming joined forces.

    Look where we are today – years of evolution brought us to the capitalist society governed by government. In the this-mosphere is happening at light speed. Power corrupts corrupts power.

    And, there is the this-mosphere and the world outside of here.

    Where are we heading, what are we creating here …

  6. Good post. Squelching and filtering non-info is so time consuming. I Love the Lists in Twitter. I deleted my other Twitter accounts which I only used to follow employees of certain companies, like Google and replaced them with Lists, like http://twitter.com/henkvaness/google-employees.

    But I'm afraid that this won't last for very long. Already noticed that spammers put you on a fake list, you check why, and voila you were exposed to their product. The next step, I am afraid, is that spammers will make fake bio's just to get listed in employee lists. They will more tricks that I can't think of right now. All what is good on the web is fragile…

    1. How do spammers do to make one FOLLOW them (not just follow you) so you end up following them without even knowing?!

  7. I agree with your analysis. But I think there is one more thing that makes FriendFeed a less-then-optimal conversation platform, and that is the user intent.

    People talk(ed) on FriendFeed. They started meaningful discussions, and participated in meaningful discussions. And that was interesting.

    But FriendFeed is also very much a lifestream platform. Which means that when viewing my FF stream, I could see these bits that people put their mind to ( = posted with the intent of posting them to FF), but also lots of automatic bits, that FF was kind enough to collect from their various other online “places” – Flickr photos, Delicious links, etc.

    These bits were created without an *intent*, and are therefore boring. They are mostly noise.

    As a person who consumes a lot of information during the day, this is useful. I get a quick summary of what's going on without having to go places. But being useful is not the same as being interesting. FF was useful, but it wasn't very interesting.

    Contrast that with Twitter. Most of the tweets are posted with intent. People intend to say something. Hence, the stream is interesting.

    Facebook suffers from the same problem.

    The same problem though is slowly creeping into Twitter, with automatic tweets from authenticated apps like FourSquare, Spymaster and friends. It's great for you that you just unlocked the explorer-whatever at wherever, but obviously, it is not very interesting.

    I wish Twitter would acquire apps to always present the tweets they tweet on behalf of a person to the person, in edit mode, before they get posted. That would make it an intentional act, and IMO would prevent the boring-automatic-noise issue.

    Lifestream is useful for us mass-information-consumers, but it's boring. Plus, most of the people are not multi-service mass-information-consumers, they just want to engage. With other people. In a meaningful way.

  8. As to Ning: forums work when a moderator is able to keep things fun for everyone. That's tough work and underappreciated. It also means someone has dictatorial control and that can lead to drama (it usually does in the communities I've been a part of). But most groups are small so drama stays under control and noise doesn't become an issue. Most Ning groups are fairly manageable.

  9. I understand you there – Facebook has treated me with utmost respect, both online and in person – they've even reached out to me as a developer a few times, so I have a bias. I can't say the same for Twitter unfortunately so I have to edge in the other direction.

    I think my other frustration is that I don't want to live in a Twitter-centric world. I hate relying on third-party services for my content. I want, as a developer, to find ways to take people off Twitter, bring their social graphs to their own sites, and communicate with their friends, find news, etc. all using the open web and their own hosted communities. The more I focus on Twitter, the more a monopoly that gives them and I just see so much danger in that! Watch for some more WordPress plugins from me, along with other things that bring 3rd-party content all into open technologies (e-mail, rss, blog, etc.).

  10. David: yup. I write for myself a lot. But the thing is when you write for yourself others follow. I still remember when everyone gave me shit for pushing Twitter here so hard. Now it seems everyone is getting into Twitter.

    Facebook works for some things for me. My wife is addicted to it. But, she only uses it in very small groups with very close friends. So it all works for her and she doesn't care about the little noise that seeps in from the edges. Me? I want to use it for business networking, which means thousands of contacts. Different use and I'm far more adverse to noise.

  11. I like that on Twitter I can follow smart people without them following me back. But if you are going to introduce a forum I think it needs to be two way.

  12. I like that on Twitter I can follow smart people without them following me back. But if you are going to introduce a forum I think it needs to be two way.

  13. 2007, I called Twitter the answer to phpBB because it was the threadless communication platform. 2008, I told people – it's an uninterrupted stream of consciousness.

    FriendFeed brought phpBB back to the table with threaded conversations, and honestly – I've looked at it about .1% of anything else I use. The saturation of quality vs. crap is just a tad bit too high; and the more popular the site gets, the worse it will get.

    Sorry to say, most people will agree, but the “general population” isn't profound often enough, but they still enjoy being heard. In fact, if the general pop. was profound, it wouldn't be profound/intelligent then… would it?

    Twitter is a fundamental form of communication with very precise functions. Exploitation is still available to spammers, but blocking is king in that regard, I reckon.

  14. 2007, I called Twitter the answer to phpBB because it was the threadless communication platform. 2008, I told people – it's an uninterrupted stream of consciousness.

    FriendFeed brought phpBB back to the table with threaded conversations, and honestly – I've looked at it about .1% of anything else I use. The saturation of quality vs. crap is just a tad bit too high; and the more popular the site gets, the worse it will get.

    Sorry to say, most people will agree, but the “general population” isn't profound often enough, but they still enjoy being heard. In fact, if the general pop. was profound, it wouldn't be profound/intelligent then… would it?

    Twitter is a fundamental form of communication with very precise functions. Exploitation is still available to spammers, but blocking is king in that regard, I reckon.

  15. Believe me, I don't like how Twitter has treated the community over the years either. But then Facebook kicked me off too, so neither are blemish free with me.

  16. Robert:

    How one views/uses FB, Twitter, BBSs, other social network/media services/tools all depends upon what one is trying to get out of them (e.g., Why are they being used in the first place?).

    As I've watched & read your posts/tweets during the past several years, Robert, it's clear to me that for the most part you're NOT writing for the masses: you're writing for your friends and for yourself — which is totally fine. But no wonder most people don't get what you're writing about (or why).

    After seeing MySpace devolve into a haven for pickup artists (and wannabes), along with skanks & porn stars, I resisted the pull of Facebook until its total user base surpassed 175MM and became too large to ignore. (Well…that plus the fact that major legit corporations we're joining FB and launching Fan Pages.) Now FB is past 300MM users worldwide and on its way to more than half a billion users; but again, this is a mass market, which means it's VERY NOISY and very disjointed.

    In engineering speak, the greater the noise to signal ratio of any marketplace, the less likely very focused (nee specialized) individuals will find such markets of lasting use — UNLESS filtering tools are available to minimize extraneous noise.

    Hence, Twitter is a great tool for you (and for many others). Ditto for your blog (and the blogs of your friends).

    Conversely, FB doesn't work for you; neither does FriendFeed anymore.

    Question: What about Ning, or something like it? Just wondering.

  17. oh ok! actually at Arktan, we dont show the comments by default and we were wondering if we should expand them by default to encourage discussion…. but I guess we have the answer now :)

    Also, what do you think of 2-way friend relationship Vs 1-way follow ?

  18. I should add that a lot of my frustrations with Twitter lie in their developer API and how I've been treated over the years. There's a lot buried in my Twitter frustrations, as you've seen on my blog and elsewhere over the years. I'm still trying to remain objective, but from a developer perspective, Facebook just provides such a better environment to write in!

  19. Well, like victor was saying, he's on a private mailing list. They're probably not going to change, but could have a real-time private channel over on friendfeed. I do kind of get what you're saying about the WTF factor, but I would explain it as a backchannel for the backchannel.

  20. sriray: ever from the beginning I wanted a view that did not show comments and that was strict reverse chronilogical view. They resisted because I can see they wanted to avoid becoming even more like Twitter. I think this was a HUGE mistake on their part.

  21. Absolutely awesome post! It sums up my feelings towards Facebook and Friendfeed and makes me feel better about how I do or don't use them. Kudos for admitting you were blindsided.

  22. c/p my response from twitter:

    You can't have it both ways. You publicly stated over and over that FriendFeed is dead so people listened to you and left. Now you're complaining about FF having no value because they're gone?

    FWIW, you can turn off all the people others “drag in” on FriendFeed. In fact, I'd demonstrate it with your feed but I already have turned off all the other folks you drag in (short answer: Hide all the entries liked by or commented on by friends of Louis Gray or even by Louis himself).

  23. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  24. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  25. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  26. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  27. How would the old Scoble have responded to the new Scoble? :-) I agree with you on some points. Disagree on others, in particular the Facebook points. What I love about Facebook is that only those in my inner-circle comment. Facebook is all about how you set your privacy. If you do it right, only those you want see what you post.

    On a fan Page (and I argue you had the same control on FF), while anyone can comment, you have full control over deleting any controversial comment. I personally don't have a problem with that – it's the same control I have on my blog. The advantage to Facebook is you don't have to mix business with personal. Twitter it's all or nothing.

  28. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  29. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  30. Thank you for this honest post Robert, good points to take as we continue to build new technologies and digital tactics to help keep establishing the 360 conversation; this includes with experts, as well as offering consumers the same sort of insight and tools for brand communication.

    I wake up every morning wanting to read and communicate back with experts in the Digital/Tech field, I've found that Twitter and Blogs ( of established smart minded people, especially using Twitter Lists ) is making this easier for me and my team everyday……Passion to Crush It.

    Those good ol'BBS msg rooms with BBS Sysops and passionate geeks were always so insightful in the 90s, even on those green terminal screens (w/o images or video)…..as well as no SPAM :)

    Digital apps/tools have been sooooo aggressively built lately, it's been hard to realize and establish what tools will continue to valuable over time, as well if they be available the next day.

  31. The new “retweet” feature on twitter will come in two flavors (from the API perspective). One with no retweet noise and one with it. Apps can pick and choose.

  32. The new “retweet” feature on twitter will come in two flavors (from the API perspective). One with no retweet noise and one with it. Apps can pick and choose.

  33. Chris: I tried to get a private room going, but it was too hard to get separate from the rest of the public forums. People didn't understand it that I invited into it. It's sort of the same problem that Google Wave has. Geeks get it, but others go “WTF?”

  34. As a USENET veteran, I sensed FriendFeed might eventually suffer the problems you've described. Any discussion, online or offline, is premised on its utility for the participants. There will always be the newbie problem, and unless a buddy system is in place to allow instant mentoring, forums will naturally devolve over time. I'm on a private mailing list that has existed for years, and we don't have this problem because our moderator keeps things on an even keel.

  35. As a USENET veteran, I sensed FriendFeed might eventually suffer the problems you've described. Any discussion, online or offline, is premised on its utility for the participants. There will always be the newbie problem, and unless a buddy system is in place to allow instant mentoring, forums will naturally devolve over time. I'm on a private mailing list that has existed for years, and we don't have this problem because our moderator keeps things on an even keel.

  36. Yeah, this was less about BBSs (although some of the early drama was there in our BBS if I remember right) but it clearly was part of AOL and Usenet and other forums/chat rooms that came later (and even YouTube comments and blog comments).

  37. Yeah, this was less about BBSs (although some of the early drama was there in our BBS if I remember right) but it clearly was part of AOL and Usenet and other forums/chat rooms that came later (and even YouTube comments and blog comments).

  38. FriendFeed is still the best platform online for communication (IMHO). This problem you're just now re-discovering can be dealt with on friendfeed as you explain (but as one of the reasons you were blindsided: “For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).”

    So the feature that can fix the problem kept you from seeing the problem? Isn't that the point of the feature? This problem isn't one that can be cured with a vaccine. And you're right that with sufficient control you can engineer it out of your site, but on a public forum you can't be friendfeed.

    Sounds to me like you want a large private friendfeed room.

  39. FriendFeed is still the best platform online for communication (IMHO). This problem you're just now re-discovering can be dealt with on friendfeed as you explain (but as one of the reasons you were blindsided: “For two, we had decentralized moderation (I can delete any comment underneath my items, and I can hide any items that come into my view).”

    So the feature that can fix the problem kept you from seeing the problem? Isn't that the point of the feature? This problem isn't one that can be cured with a vaccine. And you're right that with sufficient control you can engineer it out of your site, but on a public forum you can't be friendfeed.

    Sounds to me like you want a large private friendfeed room.

  40. I totally agree with you about the noise on chats and forums but i have to disagree on the BBS part. Trolls? Spammers? Noise? Maybe a few weirdos, maybe a little bit of spam but in these days when i surfed the BBS world with my 300 baud modem, i never really experienced this (oh and i've been on quite some us-machines, too which made my parents freak out, when they got the phone bill. One $500/month bill made them lockup my modem :).
    It was a different scene Robert and it was way smaller. Of course there are always newbies but i think the technical and intellectual level was just higher cause this wasn't a mass-phenomena.

    Today everyone can join a community with a mouseclick. no need to search for numbers of some cool new BBSs, no need to get involved into the scene and to gain some reputation until any freak is sending you the number and password to his personal BBS with lotsa cool info on it.
    We shared information on a different level at that time, now it's everywhere and everyone can join. This is causing the noise and information overflow

  41. I love FriendFeed, its community, and as sad as I am to say this: I could not agree more.

    The community is the best and worst thing about FriendFeed – VERY tight knit, like family. Especially since the founders / empolyees engage and because the community feels so close to the service, we evangelize.

    That said, because the community feels so close to the service, they are also extremely protective. I couldn't believe how Brazell and Arrington were mobbed, just because they expressed their opinions.

    Oh well. At least the services are increasing customization so we have more filtering options now.

  42. Note that you can disable friend-of-friend in FriendFeed by clicking: “hide” -> “hide other items like this one” -> “Hide all friend of entries”. It’s still a problem that random people can comment on your stuff.

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