Social media and potentially offensive material....how/do you mediate?

19 Aug 2009 - 9:23am
4 years ago
2 replies
1383 reads
Traci Lepore
2008

Yesterday I was reading this post in NY Magazine.....about Disney hiring David Mamet to help write a new movie version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Now I don't know how anyone who is familiar with Mamet's work doesn't have a moment of what that could sound like flashing in their head. I certainly did before I even read the post. What stunned me though was the comments about it. Many people found it offensive and "not funny".

This brought up the question for me about social media these days and the good use of freedom of speech it seems to allow. But what happens when something that is out there is considered, by readers, to be offensive? How do you mediate, or should you even attempt to? Do you let the conversation go where it may? I've seen people who let it and it can be wonderful in the end, but it can go too far sometimes too.

In some research I did not too long back about blogs - in particular corporate blogs - a guy Marken mentioned that blogs work best when they are based on: candor,pithiness, urgency, controversy, timeliness, and utility. And another woman, Nicholson, defined 5 types of bloggers - two of which were the Blaster and the Instigator - both of whom loved to initiate controversy. So then this particular post on Mamet/Anne Frank was only doing its job, right?

As a designer of UX though, I wonder if you are going to go that route what planning you need to do to consider the ramifications - even if it's just to decide you wont' do anything about it. If you wanted to have some affordance though, what would it be? Has anyone seen anything interesting going on?

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2009/08/anne_franks_diary_as_interpret.html#comments

Traci Lepore
Interaction Designer
twitter: traciuxd

Comments

19 Aug 2009 - 11:10am
Anonymous

Hi Traci,

I think the article on David Mamet's partnership with Disney was
attempting to point out how "odd" or unexpected the partnership
was. I also think the article was trying to hypothesize how a Mamet
screenplay for Anne Frank would read. However, in order to understand
the article and the humor behind it you would have to be familiar with
David Mamet's work.

That brings us to a fault of the article. It doesn't explain who
Mamet is, other works he has done, or why the partnership between
Mamet and Disney is "unusual." It relies entirely on the user
bringing their own knowledge to the "fake" screenplay text in order
to understand why it is funny. And as we all know as interaction or
user experience designers, overestimating the knowledge a user brings
to the experience is dangerous because you are hoping the user has the
right level of knowledge to appropriately interact, use, and
understand the experience you are designing. Unfortunately, the
article took this risk and it doesn't appear to be working out.

This does raise the interesting question "what is the right level of
contextual information you should provide to users?" I am always
asking myself this question. I know that is why you conduct field
interviews and test prototypes, but you still need to find that
correct balance between your experienced users and your novice users.
I think this article would have been less offensive to users if more
contextual information was provided prior to the "fake" screenplay
text.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44836

20 Aug 2009 - 11:05am
Charles Boyung
2009

Traci,

To me, this really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with
your social media, forums in particular. Hopefully, you have some
control over who your bloggers are, so you can dictate to a point
what they can and cannot write about.

Forums, however, have users that you have no real control over. For
a forum, it needs to be made clear from the start what is and is not
allowed. If you give them free reign over what they say at the
beginning, you are just asking for disaster. It will likely get very
bad, and someone at your organization will want to start enforcing
some order, which then causes problems with those users that want to
be able to do and say whatever they want.

For example, I used to work on the website for Taste of Home magazine
and worked quite closely with the manager of their customer
interaction group. If you take a look at the forums on
tasteofhome.com, particularly the forum called Kitchen Chat, there
are all sorts of random discussions going on. If you look at some of
the older topics (more than a year old) some of them get pretty nasty
and vile. About six months ago, the person in charge of the forum
moderation retired, and was replaced by someone that wanted to bring
things back to a more civilized discussion. He started banning
people who violated the terms of service, and started locking and
deleting threads that did the same. Then, several of these people
that were friends with the people that were banned started yelling
and complaining about censorship and violation of freedom of speech.

It was a very ugly situation, which really hasn't actually cleared
up yet, but it's getting there. If they had understood that there
needs to be some sort of moderation in this sort of environment from
the beginning, this would never have been a problem. The thing that
you need to remember about moderation and social media is this: how
is your website and your company going to look to a new (or
prospective) user when they check out your website for the first time
and are taken to a page where someone is spewing out vulgarities left
and right and disparaging other users just because they can? To me,
it is definitely worth losing those users (or never getting them to
begin with) that are going to make the entire experience unenjoyable
for the majority of the group.

Also, as for freedom of speech, the rights provided to us in the
United States by the Bill of Rights have NEVER allowed for the right
to say anything to anyone, anywhere, anytime. You aren't going to
allow someone to start swearing at you or verbally abusing your
children in your own home, correct? More than likely, you'd throw
that person out of your house and never let them come back. The same
should hold true on your company's website - some things should not
be allowed, and you need to be able to enforce that.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44836

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