Saturday, October 18, 2008

Phascist Phuktards flinging feces -OR- Rawrah's Etiquette Guide to online forums

This is a blog. A soliloquy. A MONOlogue.
It is not a debate, discussion, dialogue, conference or exchange.
There is a comment section where visitors can leave words of agreement or disagreement, encouragement or discouragement, love, hate or ambivalence, but it should not be mistaken as a substitute for the give and take of actual conversation.

I cut my online teeth via BBS forums, message conferences, offline readers and flame wars. The demise of FIDOnet, RIME, ILink and BBS systems came with the rise of the World Wide Web. Sure, there were Usenet groups, but... it wasn't the same. If you weren't there, there's no way I can possibly explain the online community that evolved from 110baud acoustic modems to blazing 28.8K dial-up connections. Mail-doors, offline readers. It was a different world that got lost in the graphic wonderment of the web.

I visited almost every writer's outpost on what was then the web. I only encountered one place that fed my particular beast. I wasn't just looking for an argument, I was searching for discussion and debate and understanding.
One day I stumbled across a writer's conference that had just joined the R.I.M.E. network. RIME writer's! That apostrophe made all the difference.
Rules? We don' need no steenkin' rules. "Writers write about everything.
A writer's conference has to discuss what writers write about, not just the mechanics, but the substance as well." WOW.

There I met Bill, Eric, Lyn, Louise, Al, Kent, Del, Avenir, Rosemary, Herm, Michael, Shakib, Dick, Lucia, Zach, Marty and Dave. I slipped in, joined assorted extras. I lurked, I tried to tune in to the vibe. Before I knew it. I was dancing.
We crossed swords, we beebled, we told tall tales, outright lies and painful truths. We didn't gather to write, we gathered when we were done writing, or were procrastinating, or were facing a deadline.

On the timeline, this was waning-Reagan waxing Bush I. My socially progressive, fiscally conservative, liberal, libertarian anarchist brain was exploding with pure rage. As an outlet, this oasis provided twice daily feedback, tweaks, alternative viewpoints and outright contempt for my ideas which I gave back in kind.
This was discourse. This was debate. Over time, they knew me and I them.

By Clinton things were in full bloom. And among this group, there was understanding.
Ideas were expected to be challenged, support and opposition questioned rigorously.

The explosion of the web did nothing to mimic this style of communication.
The signal to noise ratio diluted the effectiveness. It scattered thoughts to the point of randomness. It made a million more haystacks without increasing the size or quantity of needles.

Like the early promise of television, the information superhighway missed the mark.
Yes it is great that millions of bloggers are pounding away on their keyboards. Yes it is wonderful that we get this vast ocean to surf and sail, but to what end?
It's unlikely that this medium will ever reach the interface level produced by Echo-mail conferences, Compuserve SIGs or even AOL forums.

That was personal interaction, ideas were put forward, defended and attacked.
Which brings me to the genesis of this entry. What most closely resembles that world today are online forums. Decentralized dots of specialized discussion about specific interests; either as stand-alone forums or adjunct to a website.

At present, the diversity of ideas is stuck in the same electoral rut as the MSM with the same affect. Topics are pointed, barbed and one-sided. Responses are dismissive, angry and defensive.

Beyond "somebody being wrong on the internet" and preaching to invisible choirs, is there a chance that anything written will engage the kind of discourse thinking people desperately need to have?

At some point will it evolve ABOVE flingflingflingflingflingflingfling flingflingflingflingflingflingflingfling

1 comment:

Bustednuckles said...

I am not worthy!
Fuck, I can barely use Blogger or make a Hyperlink.
I bow to the Master.