Author: Andrea Weckerle
Audience: Individuals and businesses
Reviewer: Sue Gee
Partly a wake up call, mainly a call for action, and finally an action plan, who should read this book?
Although the web should be a force for good where everybody behaves with courtesy and respect, the sad truth, as you are probably already aware, is that can be a hostile and even dangerous environment. This book claims in its subtitle to tell you How Companies and People Can Triumph Over Haters, Trolls, Bullies and Other Jerks.
The Forward to this book comes from Jimmy Wales founder of Wikipedia who explains the policies it enforces to ensure that Wikipedia maintains neutrality and avoids the harassment, abuse and insult that is often rife elsewhere on the Internet. His contribution concludes with his endorsement for author Andrea Weckerle, whose credentials for writing this book is that she is an attorney who founded and leads CiviliNation, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing online hostility and character assassination.
The overarching issue that this book tackles is conflict, with its first chapter asking "Who gives a darn about conflict?" Throughout the book Weckerle relies on real world examples using copious endnotes for references to her sources and this chapter opens with a recap of the online abuse meted out to feminist games developer Anita Sarkeesian. You might be a bit shocked at the amount of bad language (indicated using asterisks rather than being spelled out in full) but the purpose of the first chapter is to shock any readers who might be complacent into reading the whole book.
Early in the chapter Weckerle introduces three business scenarios so extreme that a naive reader might consider them constructed or exaggerated for effect. When she returns to them after a few pages that cover features of the web that exacerbate the situation and provides names and other details, you realize just how real these cases are and hopefully you are ready to pay attention to the discussion of conflict management and resolution.
Weckerle moves to the a discussion of online reputation in Chapter 2, which serves as a reminder (or possibly an eye-opener) about just how much freely accessible information there is about individuals as well as about businesses. The moral of this chapter is "be mindful of what you share via social media - it could impact your future choices in education and employment.
For businesses as well as individuals the author suggests taking an inventory of your online presence. This isn't a quick or simple task as she includes not only the websites you are actively engaged in (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on, but others where you might be mentioned. She advises using sentiment analysis to discover how you are portrayed - positive, neutral or negative. After discussions of trust and goodwill and how to respond in the event of making a mistake, we come to practical advice on monitoring online reputation using Google Alerts and a list of 10 monitoring online tools.
Chapter 3 covers several different types of online conflict. Eight permutations of the parties involved in a conflict are outlined in a pie chart at the start of the chapter as:
- Private disputes
- One-to-one conflict
- Conflict with people you know
- Conflict with people who are pseudonymous or anonymous
- Public disputes
- Conflicts between several people of groups
- Conflict with people you don't know
- Online lynch mobs
The chapter also outlines different conflict issue categories: ones based on content, personality, power and identity.
Chapter 4 has the title "Who are the Troublemakers and it focuses on five types: trolls, who attack others online for fun and sport; sockpuppets, who assume false identities in order to mislead; cyberbullies; harassers; and defamers. Advice is given about how to deal with variants of each type.
In Chapter 5 the reader and is asked to consider the question is asked "What's your conflict style". Having introduced two different classifications, The Thomas-Kilmam Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) and the Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory, Weckerle introduces her own Online Conflict Style Cluster which has seven classes, each given a style beginning with the letter C and a personality to typify the style:
- Competing: The Warrior
- Coercing: The Bulldozer
- Circumventing: The Dodger
- Compliant: The Pacifier
- Compromising: The Negotiator
- Covert: The Operative
- Collaborative: The Resolver
The chapter concludes with an Online Conflict Style Quiz in which you have 7 options for each of five online scenarios. There's a scoring key to identify the styles- but unlike some magazine quizzes of the same type it doesn't accommodate "mixed mode personalities leaving me confused as to where exactly I fit!
Chapter 6 is on anger management and has an Important Note saying that it is intended as an overview of the topic and not a substitute for therapeutic advice! It draws on material from several sources to look at different ways in which anger manifests itself and to remind the reader that anger can easily be confused with other emotions such as annoyance, frustration, loathing, hostility, aggression, fury or rage.
The title of Chapter 7 is "Digital Literacy in a Hyperconnected World" and an important part of the argument here is the importance of truth and accuracy. Weckerle tells us that digital literacy is "the application of traditional media literacy skills to the Internet for the purposes of critically analyzing and evaluating online information found on social networking sites, forums, blogs and in the comment threads of news stories for quality, credibility, accuracy, bias and manipulation". She goes on to the role of trained journalists and editors to act as gatekeepers and later points out that critical thinking - is "an insufficiently taught and underutilized skill".
Messages to take away from this chapter are to check you biases and beliefs and to examine the credibility and quality of online information. It concludes with a list of websites that can help to evaluate the accuracy and fairness of online information, report on media mistakes and expose false claims.
At Chapter 8 we move Into the Trenches and look at conflict resolution skills and strategies. This is in many ways where, after a lengthy and careful preparation, you can extract the goodness from the book with strategies and techniques for tackling conflict resolution. Weckerle goes through a detailed process for dispute management, looks at the interpersonal skills it requires and outlines different approaches for dealing with repeat occurrences. Real examples are used to make the advice more concrete.
Chapter 9 takes us into Legal Aspects of rights and responsibilities, issues of freedom of speech and privacy. In practical terms, it looks at how to draft robust and legal social media policy.
The final chapter present an action plan, covering everything you should have learned by reading the previous nine. By now you will be under no illusion that this will be a quick and easy task. Even so it comes as a bit of a shock that this is a 30-day Plan for Better Conflict Resolution! Some of these are very full days, especially at the beginning of the process where you take an inventory and conduct a guided assessment of your existing conflict culture, your conflict history, risk factors, areas for improvement and so on. Words such as Identity, Measure, Choose and Set Up appear frequently in the day headings that are number 1 to 30 - so this is a 6-week plan rather than one that will take you a month. However, by the end of this book you are probably determined to follow some, if not all of its recommendations.
In reviewing any book for I Programmer we look at it primarily from the point of view of the target audience - which in the case of many books is fairly narrow (C# beginner or team moving to Agile methodology). In this case the audience is very wide - organisations and individuals who have a presence on the web as well, as those who are developing and designing social media sites. One way or another this book will apply to almost all our readers and is recommended to them all.
Reddit is rude
Truth, beauty and sock puppets
Value the Gatekeeper
Why the Trope of Anita Sarkeesian Matters