"[T]his is really part of a larger disillusionment with the medium as a whole that's been growing for the past several months [...] I'm coming to doubt the idea of blogs as a conversation medium [...] "conversation" implies something more than a series of alternating lectures. For a real conversation, you need some give and take-- each party needs to give the other's arguments serious consideration, and ideally, there should be some development, some evolution.
And more and more, I'm finding that this sort of conversation doesn't take place on or between blogs. People just trade position statements over and over and over.
The most obvious and direct example of this is the well known comment section phenomenon in which the latest commenter doesn't bother to read the 17 previous comments before posting the exact same thing that has already been said a dozen times.
I'm finding this more and more irritating as time goes by. I find myself walking around wanting to punch something, all because people on the Internet are pissing me off. And, you know, this isn't good."
Having met Chad, I can tell you the idea that he's walking around wanting to punch something really isn't good ;-) But more seriously, I consider myself a nice and peaceful person but even I can understand the sentiment. A sane comment to a provocative blogpost is like the drop on the hot stone.
For a while I was quite frequently commenting on blogs. But over the course of time I realized I'll have to make a choice: I either comment to what others write, or I take care of my own blog. I decided focusing on this blog. I read a bunch of other blogs, but rarely read the comment threads and even more rarely comment myself. Part of the reason is that a lot of what one finds in the blogosphere is very repetitive and I'm not patient enough for that. I don't want to comment without having read a post, but if it's not a topic that's currently in my mind, I have a tendency to only read partially and guess the rest. I have a quick finger on the scroll wheel. As a consequence, I'm exactly the kind of commenter I wouldn't want myself. On the other hand, there's people around who make excellent commenters - that's you! - and provide the glue in the blogosphere.
The other reason I'm rarely reading comments is that I realized most people just blog and comment for entertainment. It just isn't about conversation, it's not about learning or changing an opinion. It's to hang out with others, share good and bad news, comfort a friend, or pick a fight. And for some it's to show off. (Look how many comments I get! Look how many visitors I have!) Blogging makes their life interesting and relevant, it provides appreciation. It barely matters if what they write makes a lot of sense, as long as it sparks attention. (No comment.) Or in other words, the blogosphere is just a reflection of the real world. Maybe my "disillusionment" with communication in the blogosphere was limited because I find communication works generally badly. (I'm not weird! It's just that nobody understands me!)
So far about the disillusionment. Let me however mention something remarkable that occurred to me recently: The LHC has meanwhile seen the first collisions. They've been at collision energies higher than what has previously been reached in the lab. I haven't noticed a single newspaper proclaiming the world is going to end. I believe that one of the reasons for this silence is the outcry earlier scary stories caused on many science blogs, and that the tireless repetitions why these stories are scientifically unfounded eventually reminded editors of their responsibility.
It's not that conversation entirely doesn't work. It just works very slowly. It takes a lot of water drops to cool a hot stone. So keep on droppin'.
- "Walk in silence,
Don't walk away, in silence.
See the danger,
Don't walk away.
Walk in silence,
Don't turn away, in silence.
Worn like a mask of self-hate,
Confronts and then dies.
Don't walk away."