See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil and Write No Evil – To remove postings on SDN forums or not?
Write no Evil?
Background to the weblog: While attending the ASUG/Sapphire US 2006 event, I happened upon an interesting discussion at one of the SAP NetWeaver exhibit booths (or pods as we call them at SAP something out of invasion of the body snatchers dont you think?) I was staffing. The discussion started out simply enough about implementing additional capabilities of SAP NetWeaver and the approach that the customer should take. The discussion wound its way to the part about staffing the project itself this is where I was asked by the customer if it was worth hiring SAP NetWeaver certified consultants for the project. From SAPs perspective, the answer is always Yes to this question. Now this is where the conversation got more philosophical as the customer stated that while he liked the idea of a consultant having a certain quality level of knowledge. An observation from the customer was that the certification itself did not always ensure that the consultant was competent -How could some consultants actually get certified when they obviously did not have the basic understanding of the product area they were meant to have specialized in?. There are probably a large number of reasons you could argue why this could be, so I was pleased to see that this customer had rigorous interviewing techniques to reduce this risk of hiring a consultant who know less than his staff. Following this conversation, while talking to colleagues on the SDN pod (yes, we use alien technology to clone our SDN staff it explains a lot!) about some of the challenges of moderating SDN forums, one of my colleagues mentioned that he was having some challenges in his area, specifically the BI related forums, with multiple postings of requests for certification questions and the responses. He said that he had started to remove some of the postings but had received feedback from some SDN posters that this was censorship and he should stop. As further background, the SDN community guidelines state “We reserve the right to remove any postings (although we have no duty to do so).” So this leads to the philosophical discussion?
Should SDN editors and moderators have the right to control content posted on SDN? Is this censorship?
Completely taking off my SAP Employee hat here, I personally have strong beliefs in the freedom of speech and against censorship in almost every form but unfortunately its not a black and white subject and needs intelligent discussion, agreement, and some enforceable rules. The subject of this weblog is not to talk about censorship vs. freedom of speech in the general context (there are numerous newsgroups on the web that cover this already) but the specific topic of whether SDN editors and moderators should remove content that they deem questionable or harmful. Of course this now leads down the whole rat-hole of what does questionable or harmful actually mean? So for this blog I want to limit the discussion to that of the certification questions postings (and answers!) on the forums in SDN. I think this is a relatively safe discussion for SDN and relevant to most people who use SDN without opening up a very very large can of worms. In addition I do not want to open the discussion in the specific merits of the actual certifications themselves as that is a weblog in itself and something someone else might want to post on! It is not an easy topic to get your hands around so Ill pose a few questions to think about: Is it ethical for people to post certification examination questions and answers on SDN forums? Is this cheating or simple information sharing or are the posters cheaters or information sharers? Do such postings diminish the certification test itself? Would you feel comfortable hiring a consultant if you knew that they could have cheated on their certification tests? Do you see the SAP NetWeaver certifications as valuable achievements that people should work hard for? Should SAP change the certification test questions more frequently? Should SDN forum moderators remove such postings on SDN? Is there any difference between removing these posts and removing blatantly incorrect information from SDN? Should fellow community forum posters self police the forums and add postings requesting the posters not do this? Would self policing work? Does it make a difference if the moderators removing these posting are SAP employees or not? Do inaction or removal actions by SDN forum moderators on these postings diminish the SDN community as a whole? Or does the presence of such postings diminish the integrity of the community? OR You may or may not have made up your mind when thinking about these questions. This bloggers opinion is that we should remove such postings and specifically prohibit such postings in the community guidelines – other communities do control content too (see below). I have not removed any postings as of yet but there are a multitude of them already in the forums. Obviously this does not holistically solve this problem as there are other nonSDN SAP forums on the web where these individuals could go to post but I believe it does improve the SDN community itself by reducing unethical actions by individuals. In addition I believe that everyone benefits when we have highly ethical and trained/certified consultants and users to work with. If we do exercise content control, where is the tipping point if we start adding more content restrictions to an open community? Even Google, whose corporate philosophy is Do No Evil has wrestled with this one and implemented at its discretion the ability to edit content on newsgroups set up by individuals (I will avoid the whole Chinese censorship issue immediately as this is a highly political discussion and not really a topic for SDN). Below is an extract from its terms and policies: Google’s Rights. “… If Google discovers Content that does not appear to conform to the Terms of Service, Google may investigate and determine in good faith and in its sole discretion whether to remove the Content…” During my limited research for this blog I found newsgroups with answers to the questions for my states driving examination! Now this is really scary that people may be out there without having learnt the laws. Obviously SAP Certification exams are not as life endangering as this example but it does bring some of the arguments into perspective Maybe I should be suspicious of people who have passed both and drive really badly or am I including myself there??? 🙂 Got to love this WWW, you find examples for everything! We could produce handbooks for these people too!! So there you have it, I hope you found this thought-provoking and something worth reading? I look forward to the comments posted. All the best, Write no Evil Mike (A SDN forum moderator, SDN community volunteer, former SAP consultant and SAP customer)