|by Flemming Funch|
In the community area of the New Civilization Network there's an occasional heated discussion about blocking. There are various ways for members of communicating and interacting. They can post to their weblogs, they can send messages to each other, hang out in chat rooms, and form virtual workgroups that other people can be invited to. But everybody do not get along with each other all the time, and the question is how to deal with conflicts, and with various people's wishes to not have to deal with certain other people. And again other people's desire to have all conflicts be settled.
In many ways it is like the Internet at large where pretty much anything goes, and you just route around the stuff you don't like. I mean, if you don't like a website, just don't go there. If you don't like e-mail from a certain source, set up a filter and send it directly to the trash. But in another sense it is like a closed community. If we were all living in the same house, as a family or as an intentional community, would it then be acceptable if two people refused to talk with each other, or, worse, if they accused each other of sinister deeds and motives, and they actively campaigned against each other? Maybe that wouldn't work, and maybe, for the sake of the community or the family, we'd have to force them to sit down and work out their differences. Or we'd have some mechanism for settling disputes. A court case or mediation of sorts. Finding out who's right or wrong, or getting them to kiss and make up.
On the Internet it easily gets fuzzy what rules we're playing by. If you and I have separate websites, it is not much of a problem if we don't get along. But what if we signed up for the same discussion group mailing list? What if we have weblogs and we write things about each other? What if our weblogs are aggregated in some of the same places, and read by many of the same people. What if there's a feature for leaving comments in our weblogs, but we deliberately block a few people we don't like from leaving comments there. But we might still write things about them, and they might appear to be bereaft of the right to defend themselves.
Well, that's the problem and the occasional disagreement. My answer is generally speaking to try to arrange things so that there's space enough for everybody, and nobody's forced to be in the same place if they don't want to, and that there are features for blocking specific other people from invading your space when you don't want them to be there.
In NCN a member can block another member from sending them messages, from leaving comments in their weblog, and even from seeing their profile. I don't see any reason for changing that. If somebody has something to say, there are plenty of places they can say it. There doesn't have to be any inherent right to force a particular other person to listen to you. But one issue at hand is: should the fact that one person blocks somebody else be public information? I'm talking about in the online community situation. The argument for it could be that it makes it clear why the object of possibly slanderous postings do not show up to defend themselves. They can't, because they're blocked by the author. The argument against it is for one thing that nothing stops the second person from stating their side elsewhere. And, secondly, making it public might make the blocker a target of further harrassment from the person being blocked. The blockee might consider it public defamation that he's being blocked, or as a personal insult, and might start a more vigorous campaign for having the block removed.
Despite that I in principle want most information to be as public as possible, I don't think an individual's preferences have to be.