Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is (constructive) conversation moving offline?


One thing I have been noticing lately: a good post on this blog will receive two to three comments. But (and that’s new) I will get between five to ten emails following up on what I wrote. Is good conversation moving away from public viewing? So it seems!

Harassment, ignorance, anonymity, spam, all these have taken their toll on online discussionSome bloggers even stopped writing because of it. We don’t need to reach extremes to make these weight on the general attitude. An opinion expressed online exposes us to more violent answers than in real life. It is much easier to slap me while seating on a desk on the other side of the planet - separated from my 100 kilos by a screen and a few well guarded borders ;) - than to speak your mind in person. This disintermediation makes it more easy to go beyond the limits, as to feel like words have less consequences than they really do.

And despite what we have been hearing, every piece of information created on the web does not necessarily call for additions or follow ups. I asked a couple of times “can I republish your email online to make the blog’s conversation more complete”, only to get a “not really, it was not meant to start a discussion with anybody else than you”. Totally understandable. Why would we always want our contributions to be exposed and amended by the world? We take it for granted now, like it is a virtue to allow discussion, but why not consider the opposite - contributions that their author wants to be in their final form - also acceptable?