“Putting Our Hot Heads Together”

This essay in AListApart seeks to answer a pressing question for anyone trying to manage an online community: “How can we transform discussion sections on major sites and online magazines from shooting ranges into arenas of collaboration?” (tip)

Rather than proceed to direct confrontation, Carolyn Wood suggests we “go for the prize behind Door Number Three: the Great Idea or small suggestion that actually moves the conversation forward…”

One of the beauties of door number three is that with this approach it’s practically impossible to launch a personal attack on the author or another member of the online community. Or simply be snarky. It’s also a technique that works in face-to-face interactions as well. And it leads to one of Carolyn’s key take-aways: “If more of us are thinking, ‘What can I contribute’ instead of ‘Did I like this article?’ the entire conversation is transformed.”

One of the reasons that this change in focus transforms the conversation is that “like and dislike” are judgments. By their nature, judgments are personal… and as such tend to lead to an emotional response. I’m not trying to be Rousseau, but I believe a lot of conversation – not just conversation online – could benefit from a dash of reason before a kick from the gut.

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