Is it possible that one person just being themselves could make a social site so unwelcoming that you’d avoid recommending its use?
This isn’t just about tolerance of trolls. It’s about whether or not social sites are usable in an educational context. I’ll give an example.
I’d like to include video on the next Integrated Sciences website. Specifically I’d like to be able to include video conversation, so that people could ask questions and these would appear on site. Seesmic would seem to be a good idea for that. Except there’s no way I’d use Seesmic because of Underpants Guy, a man who likes to pontificate with liberal use of swear words in his underpants. There’s plenty of him to see. Now suppose this self-proclaimed troll moves into this conversation thread, what can be done? On Seesmic, nothing. Even if there could be, I’m not sure that flagging his comments for being inappropriate for an educational site would be entirely fair. Seesmic is not my site, therefore I’m not in a position to insist on a dress code or use of language. It’s a social site. For this reason Phreadz, with its own liberal use of language isn’t suitable either.
Phreadz will have the option of creating a closed site, which would solve the problem. Unfortunately there’s no way ISciences will be able to afford it, if it’s sensibly priced. Also if the site is closed, very few students will use it. It has to be open and therefore we have the troll problem again. Again I can’t insist that IScience lays down the behaviour rules, and with Phreadz being social I think it would be a very bad idea if it did happen.
I’m now thinking that while following the students and using the tools they use is a good idea, proactively leading it opens up too many problems to make sense. There can be grief on Twitter or Facebook, but if it’s somewhere where the students are leading then perhaps that’s less of a problem.
*While flagging him for use of language for purely social reasons would be no problem at all. I suspect if that actually happened many social sites would collapse under the admin strain.
Photo of pants (cc) ZeePack.Google+