The Trouble with Topix

Before I moved to Springboro, I stumbled across a message board on Topix.com that featured a lively debate between many of the locals. And by lively I mean that most of the conversations were quite vicious, attacking local unions and questioning the honesty of our elected officials, some of whom have apparently been in place for decades. Without knowing much of the local history, and being disinterested in all the name calling, I stepped away from Topix until I read about the Board’s contract negotiations with our local teachers Union. Knowing that Topix would certainly have something to say about the negotiations, I decided to head back in to the snake pit.

On a related note, I feel it’s important to point out that I am a survivor of the Great Flame Wars of the late 90’s. My daughter was just a few years old, and I was working third shift at AT&T to support my family. That afforded me the unfortunate opportunity to stay up until dawn crafting the most malicious attacks to defeat my cyber enemies. This is not to say that I am proud of my imaginary victories, but to show that I’m no stranger to the types of heated debates on Topix, where there is no discourse so much as the opportunity to turn your words against your opponent.

When I returned to the snake pit, I decided to brand my identity in order to promote Open Springboro. Even though the conversations were just as vicious as before, I thought this would afford me the opportunity to sharpen my talking points and think through some of the barriers to Open Government in Springboro. At first it seemed to be working like a charm, until the trolls detected that I wasn’t bashing Unions, and set their sights on associating Open Springboro with other local residents whom the snake pit despises. Regardless of the fact that I was speaking with one of the Board members about building onto their Transparency Project, the feedback that I received about my exploits on Topix inspired me to write a piece that would force the trolls back into hiding.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m simply not interested in taking sides. Open Government is intended to serve every aspect of our community, including the Board, the Unions, as well as the trolls in the snake pit. In my conflicts during the Great Flame Wars, I learned to respect the trolls the same way I do hackers. Both examples exploit the system for their own benefits, and in so doing expose the weaknesses for strategists and architects to solve. This means that they serve a valuable roll in the debate, but sinking to their level can polarize your thinking. Instead of promoting Open Springboro, I found myself becoming the enemy they painted me out to be.

For this reason, I’ve decided to focus less on Topix and more on WordPress. I’m hoping this will give me the opportunity to not only think through my ideas for Open Government in Springboro, but open the conversation in a much less controversial atmosphere. As I’ve since discovered, both the members of the Board and a few local residents also use WordPress to share their ideas. This should afford me the opportunity to connect in a much more authentic way, assuming that I can ignore that one reply on Topix which summons me back into battle.

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