May 11, 2006

Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

We’ve been watching a conversation on the Guttersnipe that seems important for the future of the community that’s growing around Open Source. A few of our regulars have been debating what behavior is more likely to bring new voices into the Open Source comment threads. The question, to simplify terribly, is whether a large volume of comments from a small group of regulars encourages or discourages more comments from new voices.

There seems to be general agreement that we would all benefit from rules of engagement, standards we could all follow when we post our comments. Rules are just a means to an end: civil order, a successful soccer match. To arrive at a set of rules we have to define what we want out of Open Source, so today, the producers agreed on the following:

Why an Open Source Community?

Open Source invites comments on every show because we believe that you know more than we do. We’re looking for personal stories, reflections on the news, experts, links and references. We’re looking for conversations, too, that engage the reader, develop arguments, and keep extending our open community. The comment threads should work toward the same goal as the show: to give voice to the widest possible range of ideas and experience.

New voices, then, are the ultimate goal. When you arrive at Open Source for the first time you should find a conversation you want to join. We would suggest, cautiously, that a string of long posts from the same voices looks intimidating, just as, at a party, a loud group of strangers who all know each other is hard to join. That said, our regulars — Nikos, Babu, Winston Dodson, sidewalker, Peggysue, plaintext, Jon Garfunkel, Allison, nother, avecfrites — are almost always responsible for getting the conversation started in the first place.

As regulars, then — the ones we trust to keep this community alive — you should ask yourself in every thread how you can make the conversation more inviting. Mary asks us every day, as we’re booking the show, “What’s the definition of victory?” The definition of victory for the comment threads is “Did someone you’ve never heard from before leave a comment?”

To this end, we’ve developed rules of engagement. They’re not final., but we’re very fond of them, and if you want to alter them, you’ll have to do some convincing. Let us know what you think over the weekend.

To read the full text of these rules, click read the rest.

Update, May 12, 12:33 AM

Made some changes to reflect Sidewalker’s response. Also, I thought I’d link to some of the research I did, and offer a belated thanks to Cameron Barrett, who was very generous with his time and advice. (And check here for an interview Chris did with Cameron back when he was part of the Clarke campaign.)

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, Virtual Panel Participation, Making Light, January 27, 2005

pastordan, Suggested dKos Community Norms, Daily Kos, October 4, 2004

Danah Boyd, Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?, danah boyd

I should also point out that, as part of the rules we’ve developed, the producers — all six of us — will be playing a greater role in each comment thread. We’ll be jumping in, asking questions and providing answers. If you don’t see us, ask us where the hell we are.

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