[iDC] iDC digest option & online silence and "infomania"
IDC infomania digest
trebor at thing.net
Wed Aug 29 16:18:35 UTC 2007
If the frequency of messages is becoming a bit overpowering for you,
simply switch to the iDC Digest option at:
Digest of the hour:
Joseph Rabie, Stephen Downes, Robert Labossiere,
message from: joe at overmydeadbody.org
I equate "online silence" with "online stress" - on
both sides, because the sender does not receive a reply, and because the
recipient has both the pressure of finding the time to reply, and the
guilt feeling of not yet having done so.
message from admin at klooj.net
one other thing occurs to me... the question of online silence is
particularly relevent to this list I think because most of us will have
encountered the phenomenon, in projects that are trying to develop
communities, of low active user response. It's not that people aren't
interested (I like to believe); in fact, many people will browse, but to
actively participate seems to require a level of immersion (familiarity
with tools, acceptance of the time that might be involved, potential
rewards, etc.) that many users don't have or don't want to explore. This
is not, imho, actually "silence" so much as passive engagement.
For p2p or distributed projects, this can be a major issue,
an obstacle to the realization of ideal of smart mobs, consumer
activism, participatory democracy.
message from stephen at downes.ca
I attempt to respond to all personal email (I say 'attempt' because I
sometimes fail). By 'personal email' I specifically exclude:
- mail from mailing lists (which *may* merit a response, but doesn't
- spam and other commercial messages, including those personally
- bacn and other status messages from websites (which *may* merit a
response or action)
I think it's rude not to respond to personal emails (yes, this means I
am sometimes rude, because I sometimes fail). So I keep all personal
email in a folder until it has been attended to (I do not delete it and
then attempt to 'remember'). This means that although I respond to most
personal email immediately, sometimes personal email can take months for
a response. Usually these are emails that asked me for a longish opinion
or to perform a task (I may send a short acknowledgment for the latter).
I have found that people (a) appreciate a response, even when it's
delayed, and (b) are willing to pick up a discussion after a long gap
like that as though nothing had happened.
I also do not respond to termination emails following an exchange of
emails. These are emails that close a discussion, and hence need no
response. My favorite reads something like, "You're absolutely
right." But you also see some like, "I guess we'll agree to disagree
message from yoram.kalman at gmail.com
both of you raise an issue which is very central to understanding online
communication, and that is the issue of norms, and of how we *expect*
people to behave online.
Unresponsiveness is really only one example of the complexity of these
norms. For example, in my research I found cases in which online silence
meant "yes, I agree", as well as cases when the same silence
was supposed to communicate, "No!" Anyone who has ever asked
people to RSVP had this experience, where some people do not respond
since they do not plan to come, while others do not respond since they
know that you know they will come, so why RSVP...
Norms about online communication do exist, but they might differ
significantly between different users, and these differences do not
necessarily follow the same "fault lines" we are used to in
face-to-face communication, such as gender, race, nationality,
geographical regions, etc.
For example, some organizations have a culture of online
responsiveness: they respond in a timely manner to emails from
customers, co-workers, suppliers or subordinates. In other organizations
an email is rarely acknowledged, and if one wants something done, one
must use more traditional means such as the phone or face-to-face. If
someone from the former type of an organization emails to someone from
the latter type, the unresponsiveness that is likely to follow might
result in hurt feelings, ethical interpretations and other musings of
which the other side is absolutely unaware.
I can see where Michel is coming from in saying that it is "an
ethical requirement to respond to one's peers" but I have now
encountered many cases which made me take a more Relativistic view on
this topic. Robert's suggestion that online silence is as much about the
sender as it is about the silent recipient, is a good example of this
Relativism. I also liked Robert's attempts to draw parallels between
email and telephones, as well as mail, bringing into mind Naomi Baron's
insightful 1998 paper " Letters by phone or speech by other means:
the linguistics of email."
So, is it acceptable sometimes not to answer emails, and, is the only
other alternative to silence, Infomania?
message #2 from yoram.kalman at gmail.com
What a great example, David! I too agree that these confirmations are
highly intrusive, and I think twice and three times before I accept them
(if at all). But, their intrusiveness is nothing in comparison to tools
such as mailinfo (http://www.mailinfo.com), which actually report to the
sender the moment you open the email. They are using the same techniques
used by many spammers. On the other hand, aren't these technologies
trying to solve a very real problem, which is the high uncertainty
related to sending emails? Is it not legitimate to wish to know that my
message was at least opened? Tom Erickson and his colleagues at IBM
Research coined the term "social translucence," which is relevant to
So, are we for these confirmations, or against them?
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