Twitter vs. Online Forums – Tragedy of the Commons

Twitter CatRiding on board a Virgin America flight, I have CNN on my seat media screen. I’m watching CNN much more than I’m usually able to.

I notice those tweets flashing along the bottom of the screen. Some are good. Many aren’t. They are examples of the tendency for online discussions to devolve into name calling, stereotypes and ad hominem attacks.

They remind of the worst sort of comments found on online message boards. The problem with inline message boards is that there is little control by the individual for what they see. It’s not just political discussions. Marketers pollute LinkedIn message boards with their spammy webinar solicitations.

It’s the tragedy of the commons. A common resource – message boards – is overrun by those not providing quality contributions.

With Twitter’s one-way subscribe model, this particular attack on the commons is limited. Why? It’s easy to unfollow those who post irrelevant or non-productive things.

Want to be a participant beyond the amen chorus and fellow polemicists, or get people to actually care about your webinar? Figure out how to engage in an intelligent discussion.

A benefit of Twitter: managing the tragedy of the commons. It should be noted, however, that enabling discussions among multiple people is quite important. Letting multiple people on a thread while preventing the spammers is the next step in protecting and improving the value of the commons.


Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Director of Marketing at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

Hutch Carpenter

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