Can you confirm that you meant to respond here instead of directly to Ev’s post?
Tim Chambers
1

It was intentional, although later I regretted it. I was thinking a lot about Ev Williams’ post, and as I was reading the latest responses more thinking was sparked, but it was your post which prompted me to respond, so I responded directly to it. Since then, hardly anybody has read the post, and I have realized that it wasn’t the most effective way to go, and I’m not sure how to fix it. Live and learn, I suppose.

My point in the post regarding editors was that in a world without editors as gatekeepers, everyone who posts on the Internet needs to serve as their own editor. This might mean watching for spelling errors, but it could also mean fact checking, thinking about their audience, and finding the approach and style that works the best for their audience. I don’t know that people who are outside the profession of writing, publishing, editing, etc., are always familiar with all of the things they need to think about when they are posting on the web, or sending an email.

This isn’t to say that people should be pigeonholed into a certain way of writing, either. But, since Ev Williams’ idea addresses the problem of reducing the volume of email, I was suggesting that communication written with more clarity and intelligence would go much farther than simply delaying the delivery of messages. I was also arguing that if we wanted to capture the feeling of anticipation which came from opening up a letter from, say, a friend we would want to find a way to make the messages more meaningful, much like letters once were. I actually think that this goes hand-in-hand with the previous ideas about people serving as their own editors.

The “New” Editor

Perhaps the role of the editor is changing also? Newspapers are inventing new roles for editors, such as community engagement. We might eventually see a hybrid which is part Editor, community engagement, and curator.

Culture Killed the Dinosaurs

I thought that the cartoon you referenced to was very insightful, and echoes some things that I’ve thought about in the past. I was just discussing the art of diary writing with my mom the other night. We were saying that it is sometimes hard (for her or me) to start a diary because it doesn’t seem like there is anything interesting to write down. But, if you did write then later you would have something that was amazingly informative about your own life.

It then occurred to me that we’ve replaced diary writing with social media. Instead of writing down personal thoughts, people are broadcasting them out to the world. The cliche is that someone might tweet about what they ate for breakfast. What I’ve observed about social media posts, and I think it is the same thing that bugs people, is that sometimes people write about events in their life without first connecting the dots. Why was it important that you ate cereal for breakfast? Perhaps you were starting a diet, or it was the morning of your first job, or you’re worried about your uncle who is in the hospital. Perhaps it is more important to write about what you were thinking while you ate your breakfast. Best guess is that someone who tweets about breakfast was probably thinking, “I should tweet about my breakfast.”

The biggest issue I see with social media is that it forces people to write without reflection. In the “olden days,” before the Internet, one might wait until they knew the most information they could before writing a letter, selling a telegram, or making a phone call. Because all of these were expensive (well, I don’t have experience with telegrams, but I’m willing to bet there was a cost) one didn’t want to send their communication, and then send a correction.

This can be beneficial, as in the case of a friend of mine yesterday who posted on Facebook that his daughter was going into labor with her third child. He was describing a milestone-sized moment, and perhaps posting on behalf of his daughter who most likely was preoccupied with delivering the baby.

But, it can be a detriment with other types of events that might be less clear. If the power goes out in my home, I might post on Facebook, “Experiencing a blackout in town.” But, this is only my initial assumption. If I walked around my street, I might learn that it is limited to only my block, or maybe even my house.

This goes back to being my own editor as well as the tools allowing me to serve up information that is intelligently organized.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from you.

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