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Forsaken Conversations and Intelligent Reading

January 27, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the internet works for learning ideas and being provoked into useful fields of thought. It more or less follows the 80-20 power law – you can find tons of rather superficial and starter info, and as you learn more, it becomes harder and harder to get something useful for your time.

At the same time, I’m watching about a half dozen great discussion topics dying in the throes of derails and people talking past each other, mostly, arguing about which synonym or near synonym should apply while completely ditching the context and point being made. In other words, a lot of the bikeshed argument.

A few years back, Chris Lehrich wrote about Charitable Reading, which, while I think goes a little overboard in terms of giving the benefit of the doubt, it’s absolutely correct that good discussions only happen when everyone is reading for context and actively focusing on keeping the discussion on the current topic and not spiraling into nitpicking (or, ego games, etc.)

Basically: is your time best served chasing detail points or trying to learn something new or be provoked into new trains of thought on the topic that got you to read the discussion in the first place?

Anyway, new post category here, now: Forsaken Conversations- for topics that have been eaten up by bikeshedding.

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