Discussion Spaces- CirclesNovember 4, 2009
Over the last few years, I’ve been less and less interested in the types of dialogue produced by forums and the blogosphere.
The problem isn’t just the need for filtering, there’s also the major issue of attention posting, status games, and the simple but also real issues of signal to noise, produced in part by numbers of people and by the need to constantly educate folks to get up to a minimum standard.
At the same time, having a group discussion to bounce ideas off of is useful. So I’m toying with a different setup for online discussion that maybe some folks will find useful.
1. Small group (12 members, 6 men max, 6 women max)
Enough people for multiple ideas, and enough people assuming that not everyone will participate or care about any given topic. This is based on seeing most functional forum threads, or blog posts discussions, usually revolve around 4-8 people.
2. Private, but quotable w/permission
The discussion is private to the group, though anyone can talk about their own thoughts publicly, or quote others with permission.
Keeping it out of the public eye cuts out a lot of the attention posting, plus it also allows people to start doing a lot of the exploratory/unfinished thoughts stuff that tends to get pushed aside on the public spaces.
3. Limited Duration, forced mixing
If you form this kind of group, it needs to have a deadline, an endpoint. My suggestion is something like 3-6 months. After which, the group breaks and if you choose to form a new group, at least half the people must be new people. (And, it might make sense to form multiple groups, if you have specific topics).
The deadline does two things- one, it pushes folks to try to make the most out of the time people have committed to being available- if I have access to 5 really smart folks who really know the topic, and there’s a good gestalt, I better use it! Second, it stops the other major problem that shows up a lot- the formation of identity around spaces- “We’re Forgies” “We’re Storygamers” (or, equally problematic, “They’re Forgies”, “They’re Storygamers”).
The point of the group is the function of what it produces, not just having a new set of buddies (and if you are buddies, you don’t need to be in an online group just to maintain that friendship…)
At the end of the duration, it makes sense to have a followup on how things shook out, and what, if any valuable ideas folks got from it.