Internet Mob Mentality

An interesting example of the mob mentality that is becoming more prevalent on certain parts of the internet (and, indeed, in real life).

Yesterday Digg published a story claiming that O’Reilly editor Steve Mallett had “stolen” the Digg’s CSS definitions for his own sites. The response from Digg’s readership was immediate, nasty and, ultimately, completely wrongheaded.

Steve didn’t steal anyone’s code. He used an open source project called Pligg to build his sites. Pligg builds on another project called Menéame and it was this project which had used CSS that originated with Digg. A few hardy Digg readers pointed this out, but the vast majority chose to ignore the facts and overnight over three hundred comments were posted to the story – most of them calling for some kind of retribution against Steve.

This morning I see that wiser heads have prevailed. A new story which corrects the facts has been posted and that is now getting a lot of attention. Hopefully Steve’s reputation will recover.

But there are two issues raised by this. The first is the number of people who just commented on the story without actually reading any of the other comments and realising the facts (Martin recently pointed out another similar case on his blog). The second issue is a bit more fundamental Of all of the Digg readers who were getting angry over Steve’s “theft”, I can’t help wondering how many of them swap illegal copies of MP3s.

Not passing any judgements here. Just wondering.

One comment

  1. Oh god, not this business again.CSS code defines the ‘look and feel’ of a website and is therefore not subject to intellectual property law – principles long established under rulings in Lotus vs Borland copyright case of the late 1980’s and, in particular, the Apple vs Microsoft patent case of the 1990’s.

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