In search of an online discussion format

This Monday, I’ll be eating supper with Bob & Naomi Wyble to share ideas about blogs and other ways to discuss ideas online.  Thinking back to the original mission statement of my blog, this topic feels like a good fit:

This is a blog to explore the connections between new media, authority, and community.

My original idea started with the thought that the reformation was enabled by new media (the printing press); and that electronic media may be having a similarly transformative effect on the church and other institutions.


Researched Issues:

I first spoke to Bob about the idea a week ago; and I’ve done some research since then.  Here are a few of the issues I’ve identified:

  • Private vs public – is the discussion available to all (or is it “secret”)?
  • Is there one  common site verses individual sites – are all ideas presented on a common site?
  • The discussion list could be only a part of a broader listserve system, such as at East Chestnut Street, where it is just as likely that you might read about a prayer request, a request for a refrigerator, or a post about gardening

Medium Options

  1. email – this is the easiest to get started, but the drawbacks are poor filtering, exclusivity, lack of history, and list management issues
  2. listserve – this option adds listmanagement and history fieatures, but still suffers from potential filtering problems
  3. blog – by keeping individual posts separate, an individual author is able to control the presentation of their ideas, and link them together, but work must be done to notify interested parties of updates.  This can be done through email subscription or RSS
  4. facebook – good for quick announcements, but not longer discussions.

Discussion Dynamics

Online discussions can suffer from a lack of deliberation and the contextual cues necessary for a real “back and forth” conversion.  I recently spoke with Edgar Stoesz about how correspondence was done at MCC pre-internet.  He said that the fact the the person receiving the message might not get it for a week slowed down the conversation and made it more deliberative.

A similiar process, although not common, could be done with blogs.  In the March 2012 newsletter, Pastor Jim notes:

Trust your feelings enough to test them. Sometimes it is wise to write down what you are feeling and sleep on it  before expressing it. If you still lack clarity, share it with a trusted friend. Once you say it or send it, it’s out there, so take time to let it ripen

Blogs like wordpress actually have an “editor” feature which would allow writers to appoint their own editor, should they wish to have someone review their ideas before they are published.

Current Vision for AMC

East Chestnut Street’s listserve model is an attractive one to me.  The process is like an email list, but the subscription and unsubscription process is automated using a paid version of Google Apps.

They also have 4 lists, rather than 1.  For example, Akron might set up 4 lists:

  1. Discusssion – I envision the “heavy lifting” for these would be done by individuall blogs
  2. General – prayer requests, requests to borrow, or purchase, etc
  3. Gardening
  4. Knitting


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