What are we like?

Over the history of the internet, I have seem halcyon online dreams turn sour and the same lurch is happening to the world of Web 2.0. It was only in the mid-nineties that the web was considered a levelling platform and a place for interaction and sharing. It also was a lot safer than it is today, an ironic observation given how e-commerce has taken off until you realise the financial gain from scams like phishing. Human nature does have a habit of spoiling things and the result is the number of patches that Windows has needed over the years, that and the expansion of security software from being all about anti-virus packages to the inclusion of anti-spam, anti-spyware and firewall applications.

You would think that the above would have all but killed off the optimism that abounded in the late nineties but it has resurfaced again with the explosion of the blogosphere and, of course, there is Second Life. But there are signs of slippage even in this brave new world: comment spam has become a scourge for blogs though the likes of Akismet and the WordPress Bad Behaviour plug-in see off most of it for me.

Then, there remains flaming on web forums (should that have read fora?). In fact, what has prompted this post is my observation of the transformation of a friendly forum thread into a hostile exchange. It started out as a communication regarding the welfare of someone who needed to retire from the annual Rab TGO Challenge with high fever. Everything was going well until someone poked a hole in another posters grammar but it was mention of fitness that really turned things sour, especially when someone’s admission of a 20-a-day smoking habit drew the ire from a fitness fanatic. It was all unnecessary but it shows how people can mess up with technology: in order to realise those optimistic dreams that I mentioned earlier, we have to change to make it happen. I suppose that we’ll have to live in hope…

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