A downside of networking and public reputation: No communication for the sake of communication (alone)

-> A comment on The Importance of Managing Your Online Reputation.

I read your article, and I found the points you make very interesting, though not only in a positive way.

You tackle the “we have a network others can see” from the active side: “How can I make sure my employer likes what he sees?”.

But there's also the other side: We use the web for communicating with people, and this communication is being pulled into the open, and everything we do online is being instrumentalized to draw information about us.

This also means that no communication over a public channel can be done for the sake of the communication itself, and so the channel becomes more and more useless for any creative communication (as opposed to just exchanging preconceived and unchanging ideas).

This might sound hard, but it stems from two concepts:

  • When we want to act creatively, we are most efficient, when we do it for the sake of the activity itself. -> http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/motivation.html

  • When people know that they are being watched, they act differently (sadly I have no link on this).

Another issue is an adaption of the “unclear prophecy” problem: If people know that their online activity is being measured, they will change their behaviour to please their intended future employer, and so a measurement doesn't give you estimations about the person which are relevant to the job. Instead it only measures one parameter: “How good are you at conscious social network building?”

And for many jobs that skill is almost irrelevant.

So using public communication for calculating a score of some kind runs into a paradox as soon as people know that they are screened, and it harms normal communication. Due to that I hope, that more and more people will realize that unscreenable but efficient communication is important.

For example a network similar to identi.ca / twitter could be built on jabber with decentral buddy-lists, which can't easily be read out as massively as twitter, and the really paranoid could completely switch over to freenet as their news communication provider: http://freenetproject.org

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