I pointed to this earlier, but I think it deserves its own post (hat tip ABATC)
I find it easier to be civil to people on the intertubes.
Thanks, Greg. Hard to watch myself fidgeting and umming throughout, but I feel passionately about building community, and am proud of what we all collectively have built.
This is an impressive group of people.
I wonder about Anton’s notion that it is inherently better if people meet face to face. Is this true? Why is it better? Will something come of it other than knowing how each prefers tea served?
Certainly it’s more fun, and it’s stimulating. But let me tell you why I am thinking in this direction.
I have a column in our city newspaper, and a smallish blog, neither of which has near the reach (or quality!) of what I read here in scienceblogs in general or Laden in particular.
My editor is extremely supportive and valuable (anyone who writes knows the value of an editor), but she doesn’t find time to meet, and that’s why this post started me thinking about whether there is any real benefit. How would my writing improve by meeting in person?
In unknown and marvelous ways is my own view, and I am thinking Anton has the same view.
The people that I interact with on the blogosphere are not represented as fully formed models of fully formed humans, in my mind unless I’ve med them and spent some time with them. There are myriad aspects of a person that matter to interaction with them, and many of those aspects remain important even if they can’t be accurately detected through the blogosphere.
There is nothing wrong with some of the people you interact with being only on-line entities, but it is not OK if that is how most of them exist in one’s mind.
That what I just said is true would probably be agreed on (or some version of it) by most people who have been to a conference like this after a period of working on line with people they only know on line. Another supporting bit, though, is this: We evolved in the context of face to face interaction. I think that matters.
Also, despite the technology, there is an immediacy to actual huma conversation that can not be replicated electronically by any of the means we currently use to communicate. Again, evolution. We have ways of communicating of which we are not aware. We live in a state of peril to remain ignorant of those ways.
Even if there were no other advantages to getting this group of people together in one place, there would still be the egoboo of having people say, “Oh, you! I read your stuff!” or the equivalent. And the joy of doing that to someone else.
But there is also the practical consideration of people floating small bits of ideas that aren’t formed enough to be things they want to write down where they’ll get comments. Something that is presented as a musing with a shrug meets up with another idea of a like nature, and pretty soon you’ve got collaboration.
Then there’s the frivolity. Online science geeks who are willing to spend time thinking and talking about how and why they geek are relatively rare. It isn’t often you get to sit next to another one of them, much less be surrounded by them. It’s a remarkably attractive crowd, too, animated and smart and alive in ways that profile pictures just can’t capture.
And on top of all that, parentheses are not a replacement for hugs among the friends you’ve made online.
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