Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Talk softly, but carry a big thesaurus?

I have mixed feelings on forums, even though we have one on,
we take part in more than a few as part of our daily grind, and this
blog itself sort of being an area of open comment.

There is no doubting the absolute value of a like-minded group sharing
information and thoughts. Better yet when others can be attracted to
seek help and contribute.

And sometimes there can be even greater benefits to be derived from
spirited debate.

But there's that small niggle that even in areas of comparative calm
(though to be sure all things environmental can be pretty heavy and
hence stir the mightiest passions) there are those who get more than
they bargained for when they make an 'innocent' suggestion that ends up
with some quite negative feedback.

It is very relevant to, because we live and breathe by the
contributions of our audience, young and old, novice planet saver to
eco-warrior. Indeed, it now occurs to me that even on individual idea
posts, there is an opportunity to comment, so these in effect become
mini forums.

So now I'm wondering if that is a problem. And also part of a bigger
issue we need to address.

I'd like to think that there will be no such thing as a bad idea on Common. Obvious. Maybe even poorly thought through. But
never bad.

Such thoughts were brought to mind by a series of exchanges on a forum
we follow.

Basically a nice person had shared a reuse (hence our interest)
opportunity she had discovered. And for a while the subsequent posts
were positive. Then came the now almost inevitable 'but is it truly
environmental on a global scale?' question.

Now that in itself was entirely valid. Frankly I had a whole set more
that sprung to mind, though most were more on a practicality basis. But
on balance I figured, hey, it's cute, it's neat, and why not? But like
the whole disposable vs. cotton nappies episode, which somehow seemed
to drag in the environmental costs of donkey transport in India, it can
all get a bit 'deep'. Matters of tone can then make things worse. While
'I'm not sure that going to work because...' is a possible route to an
alternative viewpoint, 'That's the most stupid thing...' tends to end
in MAD. It's a feeling I get when I watch BBC Question Time when
everyone, panel experts and audience alike, are so informed and
impassioned (and chosen to be that way), that I don't feel the true
contributions, appreciations and feelings of normal folk are adequately

And that's what happened in this forum: Much Deepness in the Mire
(which is also a small village West of here:). Average person ends up
having a big green finger been wagged at her, backed by all sorts of
shaming stats.

I'm not sure what the outcome was, but it seems pretty certain that by
the end all concerned were wishing they had never touched the keyboard,
which is a pity. Especially because I'd suspect that the initial
contributor, and those like them, may not be as keen to share again in
the future.

Hence I'm inclined to relook at our posting system, because I never
want anyone to feel they can't post without risking ridicule from those
more vocal or who 'know better'. is for all those who care,
even if it is a little bit, and I don't want to see things getting
dominated by those who care perhaps too much.

Of course it would be a shame to lose the chance of feedback, as it
can be used to improve an idea, and indeed there may be a need for wise

I'm not quite sure how we're going to walk the line, but to ensure even
the softest voices are heard I do think we need to create a totally
welcoming environment.

Hmn, 'a totally welcoming environment'; not a bad phrase at all on
which to end.