last edited: Wed, 16 Jan 2008 11:24:50 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
I continually find myself fascinated by the dynamics of online social interactions. The latest episode was on a community for Australian bloggers. You would think this would be a good match for my interests - but you'd probably be wrong. It was interesting to watch as I got shunned from conversations. You see, I live in Australia, but I wasn't born here. One strike. Then I was asked what software I use to blog with. Well, it isn't WordPress, and it isn't Blogger either. Two strikes. I also voiced my objection to using trackware and monetization schemes. Three strikes.

You're out.

Now watch what happens when somebody who is 'out' tries to get involved in one of the discussions. This is the fascinating part. A lively discussion going on. I post something. The. conversation. stops.

Everybody moves to a different topic to avoid the pariah. On occasion a newcomer will respond - that is until they discover that they're talking to a pariah. Then. the. conversation. stops.

Eventually, somebody will find that they really wanted to be involved in this topic. But it is stopped. What do they do? They ignore my post. Reply to a previous post that didn't involve me. Then the conversation continues again, skipping over whatever I had to say. This happened over and over again on any topic that I tried to get involved in.

As a test I started my own topic - about feed sharing, something that interests me. Anybody want to share their feed? I've got a cool tool to do this, but copyright law forces me to ask. A previous post by a member asking for everybody's feeds to put into Google Reader (but not sharing them) had 50-100 replies. Maybe one or two folks would be interested in some free publicity seeing as how they love trackware and link love.  

Dead. Silence.

You can go to the websites of any of the members, and find lively and active comments - maybe 30-40 comments on what the person had for dinner last night or basically anything they have to say. They chase each other around the web leaving comments on each other's websites. It boosts their Alexa rating. But you see - I don't use trackware. I go to these places and join in the discussions. Hey, it's what I do. I've been doing it since before many of them were even born. But nobody comes back here. Zip. Zero. Nada. You see, it doesn't do anything for their ratings. (To be fair there was one comment last week by a forum newcomer, who then quickly vanished and never returned.) It also doesn't help them figure out WordPress (talk about hackware, go ask Terri).  And I'm (originally) an American. Aussies like Americans for the most part - as long as they stay on their own side of the ditch.

The community zooms in popularity, everybody feeding off of each other, everybody increasing their ratings. Except for the pariah. Don't go there. Don't talk to him. He's not one of us.  

Oh well, live and learn. Life goes on.

Somewhat related I also find it fascinating how they build their community site. A WordPress blog (of course) with a freeware forum bolted on the side. Yeah, I did something like that once. It's fine if your website will only ever contain a forum and a blog. But if you want to do anything more elaborate, you're stuck with these two packages that don't integrate well. Been there.

There's much better community software available that all works together and doesn't have so many holes. But alas, it wasn't my decision to make and it's a free world for the most part.
Update: Now I'm getting emails from the forum administrators admonishing me for 'spitting the dummy' and disturbing the other members. My recent posts have been removed. My most recent post was basically 'the polite thing for me to do is quietly walk away'.

I'm deeply sorry if the other readers are disturbed by my failed attempts to interact.

I can solve that problem.
Hey Mike,

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. One post of yours was removed, the one where you essentially accused the members of the forum of racism against you because they did not all give you permission to share their feeds. It has nothing to do with your not being Australian, it has to do with people not wanting to share their feeds. And one person did agree to your sharing their feed.

[I postulated this (my birthplace) may have been one reason for the pattern of exclusion behaviour which manifested itself in most places I participated, onsite and offsite; this topic and others. Maybe it's because y'all don't like my shoes.

My bad for not acting sooner.

There is a natural process of exclusion which occurs in every social group - and it isn't pleasant to be on the brunt end. It's not your fault - I'm not the target demographic and somebody has to be an outsider for there to be an exclusive group. Yin and yang.

Racism is a strong word that I did not use. I believe I used the word 'shunned' which reasonably accurately describes the behaviour I refer to.  

The simple fact is that if I was born in Adelaide, used WordPress and Alexa we wouldn't be having this conversation.  

...Those interested can share their own feed. I tried to explain this a few times previously, but I really doubt anybody noticed.]
I sent you a private message, not an email. In that private message I said many things as you are aware. I would ask you to step back for a moment and take another look at that message, perhaps when your judgment is not clouded by anger.
[FYI, private messages are sent via email. No biggy.]

We do not want you to leave the forums. It's your choice. You are more than welcome to be a part of the forums and there is no racism at all. Discussion does not stop in threads you're a part of, either.

If you wish to walk away we can't stop you. I'll be sad to see you go - my personal hope was to include you in the moderator team down the track. It's your decision.

[I'd rather get a root canal. This is something systematic that you can't change and I really do not enjoy. I'm sure everybody will be much happier not having me around.]