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March 16, 2010

Play Time on the Internet is over. Wanted: A few good rules.

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Certainly, if he were real, Ned Beatty's character Bobby in the movie adaptation of the James Dickey novel Deliverance would be permitted to write in the blogosphere using a pseudonym. "Chattooga River Cutie", maybe. Those not in Club Ned? Real name, please. Time to man up. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Life and Work are both supposed to be Fun and Meaningful. We can still get both. And if everyone wants to be a "junior journalist" on the World Wide Web, that's fine, too. Pretend away, Justin. Knock yourself out. But you need a few rules.

You need a few good, and intuitive, Internet rules for lawyers, non-lawyers, business people, academics, middle managers, CEOs, bloggers, commenters, students, sales people, Pulitzer winners, Fulbright scholars, store clerks, your Mom, Gen-this/Gen-that, your demented Uncle Seamus, and the 70-year-old guy across the street with strong views about Sarah Palin, Wall Street and the Cubs.

You can't, of course, legislate rules, and enforce them, for the Internet. You can, however, demand of yourself and others--in your own spheres and "virtual communities"--a bit of fair play, credibility and stepping-up:

1. Tell people who you are. Your real identity. Demand that others do the same. Virtual sandboxes are fun for everyone. Make them a separate zone(s), maybe. But anonymity should not be the norm. Exceptions, e.g.: CIA undercover operatives; Cuban, Iranian, Chinese dissidents; abused housewives; serious risk-takers, productive radicals and genuinely-deserving victims.*

2. Be accurate. You just gave us your name. So try to get it right. Work at your content. Don't waste our time--or yours--by lobbing one in there.

3. Be willing to take a hit. Again, you just gave us your name. You're without armor--we are proud of you. Now step up and take the pain, if you are challenged, criticized or even called a worthless cretin. That's the freight you pay. Respond if you want. But you have nothing to be ashamed of.

And, finally, our suggestion on anonymous "challengers". Ignore them. They are rarely worth your time or respect.

That's about all the rules you need.

*E.g., Not okay: Law students, associates or practicing senior lawyers with delusions that they were Federalist Papers authors in a previous life. Okay: Foul-mouthed mega-talented members of Lincoln's Inn with radical free-speech agendas; some residents of Utah; and certain men from Georgia or Tennessee writing about fishing, hunting or camping trips with their buds on the ill-fated weekends that have gone awry.


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Anonymity: Keep The Club small.

Posted by JD Hull at March 16, 2010 12:40 AM

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