How simple technology works without harm - some thoughts

The two most purely valuable experiences I have had on the Internet since 1995 are both simple forums dedicated to specific topics. Why do they work so well? I would have to say, the technology isn’t nearly as important as the moderation philosophy.

When we bought our house, there were electric radiators, and one was not working properly. A search brought up a site, http://www.radiateur-electrique.org. The surprise was, this is entirely peer operated, and the replies to my queries were both immediate and on point. This is low tech, circa 2005 forum software, but my problem was solved instantly. I can only assume that, while there are a few ads, there’s no business plan and somehow they’ve attracted members who help each other for the pleasure that brings. This forum is full of answers and exchanges of a constructive nature. Well done!

This is, in my opinion, an all-too-rare example of fulfilment of the promise of the Internet, circa 1993. I have gone back that forum for a different question and the result was the same. I have made sure that if I was able to contribute something, back I did so.

My experience with Mastodon is similar in that interest-focused instances seem to work better than the mostly unhindered noise of the larger instances that resemble Twitter (mostly) without the politics. So it feels like it is not the technology that can effect change, it is the center of gravity, commonality of interests.

My own best contribution to the online world is to not answer posts I don’t agree with unless there is an apparent usefulness to an answer, such as correcting some known fact.

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Nice thoughts. Really enjoyed this part: “My own best contribution to the online world is to not answer posts I don’t agree with unless there is an apparent usefulness to an answer, such as correcting some known fact.”

IMO, technology is just a tool. I can be a good tool or a very bad tool. But, what matters, after all, is the human being behind the screens, his or her values, character, and willingness to help others.

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I’m glad to hear the awareness of the amplification effect is growing. I hear every day about the effects of the Internet, but most ideas are wrong. We are who we are, and it is our responsibility to promote change and in doing so, perhaps the amplifier will amplify the positive. The efforts of communities like this one are encouraging.

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Thanks for your sharing.

My thinking is that when the Internet was just introduced, people who were on it were the early adopters who shared similar intentions and hope of what the Internet can bring us. As it exploded and billions of people got connected online, the Internet was explored, to a great extent, for opportunities including commercial ones, as it happened to so many human inventions. Sadly, tech is an amplifier which can amplify kinds of negativity.

Platforms like Twitter can get very noisy and chaotic because of its design and crazy scale, but I think it’s also an amplification of how our offline world is like. It amplifies our hatred and anger by forcing us using only 140 words to explain deep, complex things like politics and social justice. We cannot see each other’s facial expression and body language - by purely reading the limited text under the instant and immediate Internet connection, we bombard each other with accusations and exaggerations. The environment, the people and the mechanism of communication are not in harmony and not conducive to critical thinking.

But I find disagreement educational and insightful. I used to think that staying within a community that’s interest-focused or where participants are like-minded is safe and comforting. When I disagreed with someone, I tended to argue over and had a desire to win. But then I asked myself - win what? Most of the time, not only we did not meet to a mutual understanding, but also the situation got worse. It took me deliberate self-awareness to listen to and sympathise with the person who is coming from a completely different perspective, but I gain a lot more understanding of how unique each individual is and how diverse our values are. And then I realise the importance of respect and how I can learn from disagreement to let my thinking map become more comprehensive. But unfortunately, our current online environment seems not to let us have that peaceful disagreement (we cannot even do it offline sometimes), and harm is appearing like a virus.

Yes, joining an interest-based group will be nice, but I also hope the Internet can become a place where we can disagree with respect and also not be limited in group thinkings. Maybe that’s still very distant, but there are still many people who held the initial hope for the Internet.

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Very accurate evaluation of the early Internet! And we were all so excited to reach out. It was like Amateur Radio, which I was into from age 13.

I think what the like-minded people in this community and related efforts are looking for is that platforms drop the idea of intentionally boosting content that is controversial, for commercial reasons. This is the biggest problem, manipulating news and timelines to get more conflict, because conflict sells. Of course, as soon as there’s a business plan, there’s going to be various kinds of manipulation. This is why I never got into MeWe while many Google+ users fell in love with its group features. Sooner or later they’ll have to find a way to make money, and those who are into it will be on another silo.

Completely agree. My most positive internet community experiences have been interest based forums - just like this one :blush:

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