Empowered, engaged adults

Matt Thompson’s “A 5-minute framework for fostering better conversations in comments sections” has cropped up in my twitter feed several times over the past few days but it wasn’t until the flight to SxSW that I got a chance to read it. It collects together lots of sensible stuff, and distills it quite helpfully. Definitely something I’ll come back to next time we’re designing commenting systems, or their like.

But the line that really leapt out at me was:

“The very best filter is an empowered, engaged adult.”

(It comes along as part of a response to Clay Shirky’s comment that “There is no such thing as information overload, there’s only filter failure.”)

It seems to me like a very handy telling of something we don’t hear often enough. In all the chatter about what living in the flow, and what being surrounded by twitter and the like will do to our brains, there’s a lot of taking sides, some discussion of automated filters, but not really enough stepping back and wondering what it means to be an “empowered, engaged adult” in the midst of it. We can entirely disengage, we can build better software, but at some point we always need to fall back on self-awareness and self-restraint to mediate whatever we’re surrounded by.

(it feels quite appropriate to be saying that while on a plane (and hence disconnected) and at the start of Lent)

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