Topix.net has started plotting commenter's locations, and offers a map of commenting activity. I think this is cool on several levels, but I was interested in the effect adding very basic location information seems to have had.
Since adding the user's location to each post, we've noticed a marked lift in the overall tone of the conversations. To be sure, there is still a lot of heat, but it seems like naming the town that someone is posting from has helped humanize some threads. It's not just a flamewar with faceless forum handles, there's a real person on the other end of the keyboard, they actually live somewhere.I have been thinking about the issue of on-line civility lately.
Delaware blogger Delathought recently announced that he (or she?) was shutting down, in part because "Now that I've established a pattern of behavior, people are making arguments based on what I've said previously, and so I have to go."
In the discussion that followed, I mentioned my misgivings about trying to maintain an on-line presence under a "nom-de-blog." I was reminded that almost every time I've written, broadcasted, or blogged under an assumed identity, I've ended up not liking who I became. I'm convinced that being on-line as myself, entirely in the open, requires me to maintain a certain level of civility and responsibility. I think my output is worth a bit more for that.
Delathought has returned to blogging, by the way. We don't yet know the name behind the screen-name.