Liz has a great post on mamamusings,Confessions of a Backchannel Queen
about a back- backchannel. Our story in brief -- during a social software conference yesterday, The Usual Suspects convened on an irc backchannel. At one point, T.U.S. began criticizing one of the presentations as being pitched at novices, which got us an online shushing by one of the organizers.
Liz, rather than meekly staying shushed, then started a back-backchannel, a second irc channel for the snarkiness, which included about a third of the original irc channel but none of the organizers.
But when the snarkiness left the original backchannel, there were some interesting side effects. First, the original channel nearly died. The level and quality of content dropped off significantly as the most high-energy participants shifted their action to the new channel. Second, the level of bad behavior in the new channel escalated dramatically. By drawing attention to it, and pushing it out of the mainstream environment, it was focused and amplified. Thats not necessarily a good thing. There were times when went a little over the top, to the point were people were noticing the ripples of laughter at times when laughter seemed inappropriate.
Read the whole thing.
There was an interesting observation during a presentation yesterday about the tension between informality and inclusiveness in online tools. New tools like email and IM get dragged into organizations by the employees, who start by using personal email or IM for business, and prizing it for its informality.
Over time, the tool becomes both inclusive and vital, becoming a core function, and the appearance of business expectations undermine the informality. That is happening now with the backchannel -- if a few connection junkies are creating a backchannel, you can ignore it, but if the backchannel includes half the room, the tension between the informality and control breaks out in the open.
And so we draw behind a semi-permeable membrane, the pattern of the era.