A special thanks to Gerald Napoles, a doctoral student from the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin, who sent us this link to an interesting story about college presidents: College Presidents’ Blogs Opens Door to Controversy: Some Get More than They Bargained For.
What’s somewhat striking about the article is how it portrays the blog as a somewhat new phenomenon in making information more public, allowing anonymous attacks, and stirring up controversy. I hate to break it to the author, but these are the same challenges that group e-mail, listservs, and bulletin boards—or just basic web sites—have posed for more than a decade. Indeed, folks have been using web tools to attack administrators and faculty for years. Whether it’s “Corruption at LaGuardia Community College” (an attack that has been going on so long it’s almost comical) or http://www.myprofessorsucks.com/, the online world is not shy about ganging up on folks. Indeed, the folks at the Cluetrain Manefesto have long posited that this postmodern pattern will be a pernicious day-to-day affair for organizations trying to serve any clientele.
This always-on, often-attacked phenomenon is one of the major arguments for extreme authenticity; because in a connected and transparent world, you’re not going to hide anything for long. What we’re getting more used to however, is what folks in small towns have known for a long time. In tight communication circles, some stories are true and others are just really interesting or really inappropriate.
I am concerned that the presidents from this story aren’t more careful about moderating their blogs. While moderation slows down the conversation a bit, it’s the only fair thing to do for your online participants. There are plenty of other open air communication vehicles for folks to vent; why would you allow your blog to be hijacked by the hyperbolic? Good online teachers have known this for years. It’s one of the reasons many choose moderated threaded discussions over chats for class online discussions.
In short, let’s not flog the blog. Let’s instead learn how to leverage it more effectively as an ongoing communication vehicle for communities committed to learning together.