Here’s a practical question for those of you who know or manage communities, especially those that actually produce “knowledge objects” worth mentioning.
Picture this. A conversation starts (a forum thread). Several dozen people participate. The result is a hugely interesting and professionally valuable piece of text, tens of pages long, written during months of exchange.
Life goes on in the community, and several such threads are produced. Then, one of the members decides to pull out every single one of her messages.
As far as I can see, there are two possible answers:
1. The libertarian or “Wellsian” answer. “You own your own words”, as the old The Well community believed, and you can take them back whenever it suits you, regardless of reasons or results.
2. The communitarian or “common work” answer. “A message is not a complete work” about sums it up. Since a message is just a part of a conversation (depends on it for its start and its context and its meaning) it doesn’t give the author of the message a right to maul the resulting thread.
And yet… this week we’ve been talking at our facilitator forum. We’ve been thinking about the solution to the occasional user who actually does pack up and erase her messages… and in the process gouges knowledge objects worth keeping. Because we don’t have a policy, and sometimes we let them rip, and sometimes we stop them. And talking it over, the emerging consensus (not unanimity) is edging closer and closer to the “communitarian” philosophy. Which worries me. A bit.
In short, it seems that the facilitators would prefer allowing full edition rights to everybody… except when someone is manifestly on a rip, and susceptible to cause damage (a rare and detectable event). Then, they condone blocking the edition rights. Sounds practical and simple, but the implications are serious.
What do you think about this? Any experiences or opinions?