The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Will (Prelude)

Commenting on a post by Tom Maguire about the lack of reasoned debate among blogs, I compared back-and-forth formats with shared-screen:
The only way I can see for more reasoned argument, rather than more savage invective, to gain ground is if there is a format where two viewpoints are forced to stand against each other, sharing the same screen real estate. Even the Becker/Posner interchange format is not intimate enough.
An example of the failure of the interchange format can be seen at Obsidian Wings, where proximity has led the posting team to more, not less, hyperbolic statements, and where ad hominem attacks on other Obsidian Wings posters are now a commonplace of the comments sections. The fraction of consecutive posts with the same author, which seems a decent proxy for impassioned prolixity and certainly not an indicator of dialogue, increased from 17% (16/96) in February [the oldest archive accessible from the main page] to 38% (24/64) in October.

This failure mode is not unique to Obsidian Wings. In any group blog with sequential display, there is a temptation to shout down your opponents with voluminous posting.