Response: Electronic In/exclusivism


Guilty Crown Tsugumi

Ruben recently wrote about electronic inclusionism. Like Ruben, I can understand the wants of organisations such as StackExchange and Wikipedia to want to “maintain high quality, general purpose questions”. Yet I feel the issue at hand here is not always so much the need to maintain high quality answers, but being unable to cater to everyone.

Once you try to cater to everyone, you can cater to no one and this the catch-22 that exists. Thus, the other approach is to simply cater for the general masses with the highest quality answers you can manage, which often means these niches are ignored/forgotten.

To be honest though, my issue with sites such as StackExchange is usually with some of those that provide answers, such as Just check the man page or other redundant answers, automatically assuming that just because someone is asking means they clearly haven’t put any effort into searching. This attitude typically isn’t very welcoming to newcomers, but I digress.

Simultaneous steps back and forth

In times past, I actually think that publishing time or location specific data would actually work in the favour of people. Slow distribution would necessitate you write about local events, as it would most likely be distributed amongst local markets rather than be spread globally as is the case today, and would be the kind of information that was easiest to gather. Resource wasn’t as much limited as opportunity was.

In some ways, we were all once just as liberated, just that we now have more freedom to share and distribute our thoughts and ideas whereas once it may have been kept within close social circles, hence justifying availability. People wrote diaries in the past, not necessarily for others to read and learn from, but nonetheless someone out there has found what they have to say interesting to learn from in the modern age.

What kind of written or otherwise history from the past hasn’t been helpful for the ‘future visitors’ of today, whether printed or written on cave walls?

The fact that we feel that select information was published would probably just seek to show that only select information made it that far across the seas, but not necessarily that it was the only thing that crossed to ink on paper. This would seem to agree with Ruben’s idea of the ‘self-correcting’ problem of niche content.

I can understand that having a great deal of scattered informational stubs could cause both information anxiety to users from the overwhelming amount of information available and required to be sorted through (growing exponentially by the year according to a McKinsey Big Data report), as well as be more problematic to maintain. With so much background noise, is it likely efficiency would be less possible?

A cynical view

I’ll give them credit where it’s due though, that at least in the case of StackExchange anyway, although they are closing questions, they are at least leaving them live in the event others do want to look at it. It simply does not accumulate any more replies — though the fact that there is discussion at all would seem to prove that in fact this is a topic of greater interest than perhaps just those in a very specific region (though I admit to be unaware of the nature of this question).

Some would say loss of digital information from shut down sites is a good thing too, in a time when something you place or do on the internet could have lifelong consequences, and not always positive ones.

Is having a personal website a true discussion though? There are no comments on this site, so where does the discussion really start? It seems much of the communication across static blogs like this can end up being one-way rather than two (of course, you can tweet me or write me a reply post which doesn’t happen often). In a way this also confirms the self-correcting issue — does it matter what I have to say, since this blog probably won’t be noticed? Just another part of the everlasting noise cloud.