Correspondence Is Making A Comeback

I was thinking of making a broader point in my "quill pen" post yesterday but ran out of time so I decided to do that with today’s post.

Before the telephone came along, correspondence mostly consisted of letter writing, like the Adams/Jefferson letters I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

The telephone changed all that and by the time I was born, in 1961, most people relied on the phone for their regular conversations. And in the process, we lost a bit of the art and pleasure of the written word. Writing became something authors, journalists and academics did and the average person didn’t do.

We also lost the ability to record these conversations for posterity. Being able to read Adams and Jefferson’s words almost 200 years after they wrote them is an invaluable resource for society.

The internet changed that, starting with email and chat. People started writing again. And the practice of everyman writing has picked up with texting, social networking, twittering, and most of all blogging and blog commenting.

I am excited about the power of blog commenting to bring ‘intellectual discussions’ back to the mainstream.  We’ve had forums on the internet for as long as I remember but they’ve been largely for a niche audience.

Blogging has brought a more mainstream audience to the idea of ‘discussions’ but the friction in the system is still too large.

Much of the friction is just inertia. I get so many comments that start out "long time reader, first time commenter". I try to reply to every single one of those because when they realize that leaving a comment is like starting an email discussion with me (and hopefully others), there’s a good chance they’ll be leaving more comments in the future.

The recent addition of facebook and hopefully other profile systems (google’s system, linkedin, myspace, yahoo, etc) to disqus and other commenting systems will help. Nobody likes having to create a new profile just to leave a comment. But when you can leverage your indentity that you’ve already created elsewhere to quickly and easily leave a comment, that’s going to bring more people into the discussion.

I was going through the comments to the ‘Bits Of Destruction’ post this morning and there’s this great back and forth between two frequent commenters about the bank panic of 1907 and JP Morgan’s role in it. That’s the kind of conversation that just didn’t exist for most people pre-Internet. You could get it in college dorms, bars and coffee shops in the right towns and cities to some degree, but certainly not late at night in your pajamas in your studio apartment.

I think we are becoming a more literate and conversational society because of the internet. And the tools aren’t there to fully leverage this activity. But they are coming fast. It is something I am passionate about and invested in. I hope you are too.

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