I wish that there were a developed online ethic for communicating.

Think “SoftTechnology.”

In the offline world, there are a number of people exploring different methods. Things like OpenSpaceTechnology, NVC (NonViolentCommunication,) and myriad others.

I mean, there are a bajillion of these things, all over the place: Different ways of structuring communications, either between individuals, or between groups. People are exploring the space.

Almost all of the development of online communication technique has focused on HardTechnology (which, confusingly, but humorously,) translates to “Software development.” Features and so on.

The tiny tiny bit that has focused on the SoftTechnology, amounts to:

  • FAQs on how to “be polite” online.
  • Gentle (or forceful) reminders to be and play nice.
  • Rules for forums.

Unfortunately, all of this is rather weak, and doesn’t really get into the specifics of online communication.

For example, people do not know about the dangers of DivergingArguments online. People believe time is infinite, so, “why didn’t you answer my point? Aren’t you being intellectually dishonest?” Or, on the other hand, “You responded to EVERY point? What a hog!”

For most people, even, online forums are their first exposure to voluntary associations amongst enormous numbers of people.

If you’ve ever sat in a group of 100 people assembled voluntarily, and given free access to the center pool, you’ve witnessed first-hand the constraints of time, and you’ve seen these things play out in person.

But when people are online, they do not see the temporal element: There is the illusion of infinity and timelessness. (WikiNow is tangentially related, but only tangentially related.. That’s a whole different topic.)

And this is just one facet.

No matter what technology fix we implement, this “problem” will still remain.

And this example is just one facet amongst many of the differences; And just one facet that can’t be willed away by technology: There are fundamental limits in human attention, time, access, and so on.

So, anyway, this is my recognition of a need, and call for soft technologies for online communications.

Next steps could include:

  • Isolate: What are the factors of online communication that are true to most every form of asynchronous communication, that are basically true regardless of what platform you use to communicate with (wiki, mailing list, blogs, etc.,.)
  • Identify major problem areas (such as DivergingArguments,) by reviewing myriad existing records of discussion boards, taking notes, and identifying practices / ethics / “literacies” / norms, that could relieve stresses stemming from ignorance of our new world.

Personally, I would include in this much of CategoryReasoning, CategoryOnlineDiscussion, SoftSecurity (MeatballWiki,) and general principles for interacting with LionWiki:GroupEntities.

I don’t think we should concentrate on SoftTechnologies? - but rather on WholeSomeTechnologies? - on systems that have both soft and hard elements. The naive HardTechnology way tries to code everything and translate it into computer programs - this failed because the results were too brittle and complex - but it does not mean that there are no ‘high leverage’ points where we can apply some HardTechnology that would work with our SoftTechnologies? and also I don’t believe that we already know all of those ‘high leverage’ points. For example - I believe that my One email per day - a moderation scheme can make online mailing lists more democratic. By the way I am very interested in the NonViolentCommunication idea - but I would like to go even further maybe NonAdversarialCommunication? ? I think we somehow need to get rid of the idea of ‘winning an argument’ - it turns conversations into fights.

Good point.

I don’t mean to exclude HardTechnology; And they can’t possibly be completely divorced. I just mean a focus on SoftTechnology side, in particular.

One Email Per Day – that’s just the sort of technique that would go into such a compendium.

I brought up “NVC”, which is actually a whole formal program. JohnAbbe introduced it to me, and it’s pretty well known in Seattle and San Fransisco. See: Wikipedia:Nonviolent_communication.

Even my saying “Good point” at the beginning of this post may have various power dynamics behind it that do not serve my highest intentions.

Everything is up in the air, when you start experimenting! :)


I must add that my note above is itself a bit 'adversary', I appreciate that you generously welcomed it with a ‘Good point’ comment! Clearly I need to learn a lot of the “NVC” way.

See Also



Define external redirect: WholeSomeTechnologies SoftTechnologies UnConference NonAdversarialCommunication

EditNearLinks: MeatballWiki NonViolentCommunication OpenSpaceTechnology