So it turns out wikis, blogs and coffee shops have a lot in common, but the focus of this post is the rules of engagement. The rules can be summed up in two words:
When I researched the history of coffeehouses, I learned that respectful and civil discourse was expected. Informal rules regulated the space and fostered lively but civil debates. In 1674, these informal rules were compiled into a poem that was printed and posted on the walls of several coffeehouses in London. Here are some lines from the poem, re-published in part in McComb’s essay.
“Enter, Sirs, freely, but first, if you please, Peruse our civil orders, which are these…
But let him forfeit twelve pence that shall swear; He that shall any quarrel here begin, Shall give each man a dish t’ atone the sin…Let noise of loud disputes be quite forbone, No maudlin lovers here in corners mourn, But all be brisk and talk, but not too much…”
People came to consider the poem satire due to the fact that these rules were broken when discussions became heated and passions were strong, and yet, the coffee house maintained an elevated reputation of a place of public discourse and intellectual exchange rather than a place of brawls and debauchery associated with the pubs of the day.
The current coffeehouse etiquette also requires respect and civility. I learned about this on my very first visit to Fiddlehead Coffee Co. when I saw the baristas wearing “Hate Free” buttons. I learned even more about the house rules when I visited Will from Café Steam. Will explained that at his shop, he really wants to encourage people to exchange ideas and have open conversations. Typically, this goes very well. People are respectful and genuinely interested in learning from each others perspectives. He did say that certain external factors can sometimes have an impact on these conversations, and that has, on occasion, caused a problem. He cited the tension-filled time in our society immediately following the election of President Trump as a period where he had to be more vigilant as a coffee shop owner to be sure the atmosphere was one that fostered healthy and safe discussion. He recalled a couple of incidents where he had to escort a customer out for cussing out another customer.
Will also mentioned having to do a fair amount of bouncing due to the fact that his shop is located near downtown bars and pubs. Intoxicated individuals looking for a little more action than he wants to promote at his shop will stop by and need to be re-directed elsewhere.
Just this week, Rochester learned of another instance where Will had to put on his bouncer’s hat at his coffee shop. Two local politicians, running for different political offices, met at Café Steam to discuss their differences. This sounds like the exact type of conversation encouraged by coffeehouse philosophy; however, the whole exchange went south quickly, and one of the politicians found himself being escorted out after local law enforcement was called (Local News).
The Wiki Way
The members of the wiki community regulate themselves a little bit differently. Some wiki communities are gated to begin with, only allowing identified individuals to participate, but in the open wikis, there are some policies in place to help the wikizens self-regulate. Ward Cunningham, who started the Wiki Wiki Web and a company for programmers called C2 Wiki, has devoted several wiki pages to educate people about The Wiki Way. On C2’s page, “WelcomeToWikiPleaseBePolite“, you can read this introduction,
“It’s quite possibly one of the most civil online discussion forums you’ll find. Maybe a little dull, even…… “
The reader learns that confrontational communication is not welcome on the wiki. “Master the fine art of respectful disagreement and disagreeing respectfully.” C2 Wiki carefully explains that they do not want to discourage participants from disagreeing or having a different opinion, but they have set up rules for when/where/how to communicate ones contrary position on the MakeRoomForAllViewpoints page. DeleteInstults, a page on C2 Wiki, says this, “Insults and abuse don’t belong in this wiki. Confronting bad ideas and faulty reasoning are encouraged, but personal attacks have no value. They are just noise.” Wikizens are allowed to simply delete insults when/if they come across them. However, they don’t encourage too many deletions. If the insults are still contain some valuable ideas, or if they are just in fun, they should not be deleted. Wikizens are encouraged to set a good example for newcomers, to guide and re-direct when a newcomer gets a little out of line, to ignore obnoxious behavior, thereby discouraging that type of contributor, and to only delete the most blatant of insults.
Blogging P’s and Q’s
Blogging communities are quite different, mainly because there are so many different genres of blogs, and even within genres, there is room for individuality. Some bloggers might enjoy the unwieldy and uncensored communities, while others may prefer more gentrified spaces.
Andy Koh and company divided blogs into two categories: personal and non-personal and conducted a survey to determine if each group held to a code of ethics and if so, were the codes similar. They looked to authors like Rebecca Blood who advocated for a code of ethics similar to that found in journalism. Their hypothesis was that they would find this code to be more predominant among the non-personal bloggers, but once the data was collected they discovered both groups to be quite “ambivalent” about the need for a code to exist. Koh and company surmise this has something to do with the fact that blogging is not a money-making endeavor. At the time of their study (2005) around 24 individuals were making a living blogging. Because it was seen as more of a hobby, the bloggers didn’t see much urgency in having a code; in fact, most surveyed didn’t rate personal accountability very high on the priority list either. Koh and company do admit that the study had limitations and therefore is not conclusive.
Like in all social media, some members may try to correct the bad behavior of others, but that usually ends up in a comment war. Some bloggers, who wish to maintain a certain level of discourse, will set up a gate-keeping system to pre-approve comments before they get published on the blog. This systems is an attempt to keep the riff raff out. It is also an attempt to keep out comment spam.
Aimeee Morrison writes about the practice of policing comments. “The free-for-all of democratic, unfiltered interaction provided for by anonymous, instant commenting has been severely challenged by the advent of “comment spam,” the blogosphere version of unsolicited mass-mailed advertisements: early ideals of mass participation are now bumping up against the realities of un-neighborly commercial practices.”
So while coffee shop owners are dealing with out-of-control customers and Wiki collaborators are shunning the ill-behaved participants, bloggers are waging a battle with the bots of the commercialized internet.
The main focus of this article has been about site-management, but bloggers also run a sort of tit-for-tat community – one that revolves around reciprocity. If I like your blog, you should like mine. If I credit you, you should return the favor, and so on. I wrote about the human – cyber communities and the reciprocity agreement in an earlier post.
Jill Walker Rettberg* writes about this in her article, “Weblogs: Learning in Public.”
“One advantage of using weblogs is that they come with a built in code of conduct that has grown from this very collaborative spirit. You read a lot when you blog, and you use other peoples’ words all the time, and instead of writing out a citation in a form that many students find very complex, you link to the website where you found the words.”
This ping-back practice is not to be taken lightly, however. Scott Rosenberg in his book, Say Everything, informed us that Jorn Barger (the man who coined the term weblog) was eventually ostracized by many of his own followers when he began linking to anti-Israel sites. His reputation became questionable in the blogosphere. Rosenberg stated, “…in the world of weblogs, you were what you linked to” (97).
I find it interesting that wikis, while the most open philosophically to mass collaboration, have the most structured system of management and rules of etiquette. Bloggers are rather lackadaisical about the concept of adhering to a code of conduct, and coffee shops ascribe to the idea that it’s more important to keep the spirit of the law than the letter of the law, in that they don’t really have anything set in writing; it’s just a common, social and cultural understanding.
So, before I go, I want to remember my manners and thank you for your time and attention through this lengthy post. I appreciate your interest, and I hope you’ll stop by again soon to learn even more about the connections I’m making between wikis, blogs, and coffee shops! Aloha!
*Walker Rettberg, Jill. (2005). Weblogs: Learning in Public. on The Horizon. 13. 112-118. 10.1108/10748120510608142.