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Nov 24 2010

On changes at The Construction Index, and trolls

The Construction IndexAlmost exactly a year ago, the construction weekly magazine Contract Journal ceased publication (post) with several journalists and commercial staff made redundant. Some soon got involved with new ventures; Aaron Morby and Grant Prior, for example, now run the online news service Construction Enquirer, while one-time CJ community manager Will Mann joined The Construction Index (post).

Earlier this month, though, I heard that Will Mann had been recruited to a new business development role in at construction and services business Interserve Project Services (his Construction Index role is now being taken on by former New Civil Engineer journalist Phil Bishop). And yesterday an email landed in my inbox telling me that The Construction Index’s discussion forum – one of the things Will used to manage – has been axed:

Regretfully we have had to remove the forum from The Construction Index. While we understand that most users have remained sensible in their contributions, there has been a minority that has been less than constructive in recent weeks.

With more than 1.5 million visitors to The Construction Index, we have had to take a view of the bigger picture.

Our apologies and our thanks, for your contribution to the forum.

For “less than constructive” read ‘trolls‘ (Wikipedia definition). I have monitored and contributed to various discussion forums in recent years, but have been vexed more than once by the provocative and wearisome behaviour of some individuals who hide behind the anonymity that some boards allow and verbally attack or abuse other users. This was an issue with the discussion boards on the late Contract Journal‘s website and on Building magazine’s forums (see my 2008 posts here and here), and I consequently stopped contributing.

Anonymous online identities can be used responsibly (some people may not want their employers to know they are posting, for example), which is OK if people are sensible, but I often wish we could ‘out’ the trolls and let their work colleagues, fellow project team members, clients (existing and potential) or suppliers know who they are and what they say online. Name and shame them!

The traditional anonymity of discussion boards also runs counter to the openness and transparency increasingly associated with social media, where authenticity is valued and people realise that they are leaving a permanent digital footprint on the internet through their online activities. So – neatly avoiding most trolling – I tend to focus on contributing to discussions on blogs, on Twitter and on LinkedIn and on sites such as tCn – the Construction Network (disclosure: I am an advisor to tCn), places where anonymity is discouraged and where one’s online reputation is there for all to see.

1 comment

2 pings

  1. The tCn Team

    Great post Paul.

    Forums are a hard one to get right and can easily be abused if not monitored closely. We still believe in the benefits forum exchanges offer for our industry so have a section where members can react to industry opinion or start there own discussions.

    I think its a matter of getting the balance right between complete anonymity and openess to share sometimes controversial but constructive opinions.

    tCn is available to all those connected to the built environment but have to be approved or invited to ensure relevance.

    What’s also vital is that enough people are involved and actively post their content which in turn encourages others to do so.

    We will get in touch with Phil at The Construction Index and invite them to join in helping make our central discussions area a real benefit to new and existing members.

    New members can register at http://www.tcn.uk.com

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