There is this idea of sharing ideas—of a living dialogue rather than essays which are fixed and done. When you read something heartfelt—you want to talk to the person who wrote it. Or at least you want to feel that discussion is still possible. The web offers this promise. But the format of blogs is unappealing, ranging from unpopulated sadscapes to conveyor belts for the half-packed baggage of about four or five friends. And discussion forums often devolve into tainted rage fests, at best. So the idea is to create a sincere discussion, which is alive, or at least feels like it could be.
But one thing I have learned is that the best responses to thoughts and ideas do not emerge online, but rather in real life conversations. This could be at a party, a café, or even on email. When it comes to online forums, I find those who are inclined to post post early and often. There is an unnatural sense of urgency, perhaps to post before someone else does. There seems to be a pressure to be clever or show off, at the expense of true meaning. The most thoughtful responses take more effort. They must be allowed to germinate and grow naturally. And then, as I find is the case with most of my friends, they must be forced out of people, sometimes at the threat of violence. Those are the best responses (I’m thinking of Paul and Clare specifically).
And so the web does not create the discussion. It has been going on forever, across continents. And time. What the web does do is pull these multitudes of threads ever closer together, and faster than boats ever did.
As a practical advantage, the discussion can remain fixed in one virtual yet perfectly real and accessible place on the web. And if it is lost, it may be rediscovered. No matter how you found it, here is the discussion. Here is where it is happening. Not a recreation or rendition, but the actual thing itself. The possibility to contribute is always there, always here. Like college, only without the hormones.
But as I mentioned before about discussion forums devolving, the one prerequisite is there must be a good curator. More than just a censor. But someone who cares. Who is going to be that curator?