The uses of indirect discussion

Sam Ruby and I have been having this oddly indirect discussion here on Radio, and it's made me think. At first glance, the indirectness seemed like a flaw in Radio. Were it a discussion system, like Manila and countless others, we'd be talking back and forth directly, and others would doubtless be chiming in too.

Many believe that every document on the web -- even every paragraph or sentence -- should be, at least potentially, the root of a threaded discussion. I have thought so too, for a long time. But now I'm wondering whether this "bug" in Radio is really a feature. Writing for Radio feels different than writing for discussion groups. It feels more like writing for publication. It makes you want to think through what you say more carefully, and not shoot from the hip.

I've been a writer all my life, and one of the lessons I've learned is that the process of writing -- done slowly and reflectively -- is closely related to the process of learning. I don't really know something until I can explain it, and I can't really explain it until I can write it.

In this age of instant communication and message overload, it gets harder and harder to find time to think things through. Maybe every document on the web shouldn't also be a conversation. Maybe we also need some quiet places in which to think and write.

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