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PostSubject: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeTue Jan 22, 2008 1:02 pm

Many years ago I observed a flame war on a guild board. Since I thought I knew both of the antagonsists really well (virtually) I was surprised at the vitriolic exchange. It seemed out of character for both people. (OOC in the RL sense, not the game .vs. RL sense.)

So I wrote this little piece which I have retained and dragged out from time to time. While there's no flame wars on this board, we will be dealing with some sensitive subjects from time to time, and I'd hope that we can avoid the poison of a flame war.

Here's the piece I wrote many years ago:




Human communication evolved as gestures and expressions and grunts, performed by people sitting around the hearth fire within smelling distance of each other. Eventually the grunts became words with symbolic meaning of their own, but for millennia even these words were still delivered in person along with the gestures and expressions.

In fact, the gestures and expressions and tone of voice make up 90% of human communication. Gestures and expressions (“body language”) accounts for 50% of the communication value, and tone of voice for 40%. The symbolic value of the words alone contains only 10% of the message!

However, in the last few centuries it has become common for people to communicate with each other by individual written communication. Individual written communication, until the late 20th century, was almost always conducted between people who knew each other well. A line of words, written by someone you know -- whose expressions, attitudes and tastes are familiar to you -- is fairly easy to understand. You can “read between the lines” and interpolate your friend/relative/lover’s expressions and tone of voice behind the symbols on the paper.

The exceptions in these earlier times (approx 17th-20th century) were “journalists” and “businesspeople”. (“Journalists” here include essayists and writers of fiction, as well – “business people” refers to anyone making a communication to another person for reasons of commerce.) The communications produced by these groups were intended for people the author did not know. But each of these groups had a set of rules by which they produced their communications. Specific training was available to prospective newspaper and magazine correspondents, editors, essayists and secretaries, in order to train them in the appropriate means of clear written communication. The training was rigorous, detailed and standardized, such that a business letter from a foundry buying three carloads of coal looked very much the same as a letter from a printing shop ordering a wagonload of paper. Newspaper articles and essays followed a formula to ensure that all the information intended to be conveyed was received by the reader.

The one common factor of these standardized forms of written communication is that they do not read like people talk. Since written words only convey 10% of the meaning of a spoken conversation, a good written communication perforce does not read like a spoken conversation.

But near the end of the 20th century, the Internet provided a means for all people to communicate widely in writing. Most people who use the Internet for broadcast communication (any message intended for a wide audience, not personally acquainted with the author) are not trained in the nuances of written communication. They “write like they talk” and that’s the fatal flaw. The writer is only putting out 10% of the content of their message. The wry smile that one makes when one tells a joke on a friend is not present in the written word. The eye contact that one makes when debating a point with a coworker is absent. All that comes through are the insulting symbols of the words of the joke, or the contradictory message of disagreement.

Once the reader picks up the symbols (but not the true content) of the message, their natural reaction is to retaliate in kind. But since they are not any clearer in their own response, the response is received as an insult or arbitrary contradiction. This escalates into a condition we call the “flame war.”

I don’t have a solution for this. My own way of dealing with this condition is to avoid responding to any message that makes me feel bad. I always assume that the author mis-communicated, and rather than try to clarify (which only exacerbates the problem) simply assume good intent and move on. That may be the key: if you feel hurt or insulted by a post, assume the most positive possible intent and move on. Of course, there are jerks in the world…

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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeWed Jan 23, 2008 2:25 pm

A very important point you've made there.

I would also say that it is helpful to layout your post in a very careful and deliberate manner. Ensure that you express explicitly what it is you mean and what you intend. Explain your main point in a number of different ways. If you think that someone might misinterpret what you're saying, it might be good to throw in a line or two stressing your intent.

This is espcially true if the subject is sensitive or contentious. Don't respond to something in a flash of emotion. Its not face to face conversation so you don't need to rattle off a quick retort or response.

Walk away, take a deep breath. Re-read what was posted and formulate a response. Examine your writing, and when you're satisfied with it, then post it.

This is the same method I myself use, as I never, except under certain circumstances respond to any post (even simple ones) "from the hip" as it were.
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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeWed Jan 30, 2008 3:00 pm

Interesting percantages, although I would be interested in seeing a source. It does seem rather correct.

However I would like to touch on the loss of eloquence in the electronic age. The internet is text communication at the speed of light, further enhanced by SMS and other means. However according to "netiquette", brevity is sought.

In times passed, not that long ago in fact, the written word was the only way to communicate over long distances. If we stop to read some of the letters written 100 years ago, or even longer (after literacy "caught on") they are quite clear in their intent and tone, at the expense of being a bit verbose. But now things are more and more abbreviated, with an emphasis on SPEED and none on content. A shame really. I do not think the communications gap rests entirely upon the haste of messages, but in the decreasing impatience it fosters in the potential reader. Why type when you can talk? Why read one thing for 15 minutes when I could read 15 short things in the same time?

Hence, this is why most of my posts tend to be longer than e-Mily post would allow. Anyone who needs to hear what I have to say will take the time to read it and not have any doubt as to my intent. Anyone who can't be bothered sifting through xxxx posts isn't really part of the conversation anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeWed Feb 06, 2008 1:59 am

When I was a guild leader in Anarchy Online there was often disputes that would come up between people. Being the leader I was often in the middle trying to sort things out and calm people down. Often, though not always, the disagreement stemmed from simple miscommunication. People don't get the same contextual clues as face to face communication. There is no tone or inflection. People make typos. People might not have English as a first language. All these things conspire to make misunderstandings. The next time you are in a dispute, ask yourself; "Were my words unclear? Did I misunderstand thier meaning? Is this really worth getting worked up over?" Taking that step back to rexamine things often helps resolve the petty disputes that crop up in an online world.
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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeWed Feb 06, 2008 10:43 am

Michael Kavanagh wrote:
Interesting percantages, although I would be interested in seeing a source. It does seem rather correct.

---snip


Here's a reference to the classic study:

http://safari.oreilly.com/0201752794/ch12lev1sec2

Bog
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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitimeWed Feb 06, 2008 2:20 pm

Bognor wrote:
Many years ago I observed a flame war on a guild board. Since I thought I knew both of the antagonsists really well (virtually) I was surprised at the vitriolic exchange. It seemed out of character for both people. (OOC in the RL sense, not the game .vs. RL sense.)

So I wrote this little piece which I have retained and dragged out from time to time. While there's no flame wars on this board, we will be dealing with some sensitive subjects from time to time, and I'd hope that we can avoid the poison of a flame war.

Here's the piece I wrote many years ago:




Human communication evolved as gestures and expressions and grunts, performed by people sitting around the hearth fire within smelling distance of each other. Eventually the grunts became words with symbolic meaning of their own, but for millennia even these words were still delivered in person along with the gestures and expressions.

In fact, the gestures and expressions and tone of voice make up 90% of human communication. Gestures and expressions (“body language”) accounts for 50% of the communication value, and tone of voice for 40%. The symbolic value of the words alone contains only 10% of the message!

However, in the last few centuries it has become common for people to communicate with each other by individual written communication. Individual written communication, until the late 20th century, was almost always conducted between people who knew each other well. A line of words, written by someone you know -- whose expressions, attitudes and tastes are familiar to you -- is fairly easy to understand. You can “read between the lines” and interpolate your friend/relative/lover’s expressions and tone of voice behind the symbols on the paper.

The exceptions in these earlier times (approx 17th-20th century) were “journalists” and “businesspeople”. (“Journalists” here include essayists and writers of fiction, as well – “business people” refers to anyone making a communication to another person for reasons of commerce.) The communications produced by these groups were intended for people the author did not know. But each of these groups had a set of rules by which they produced their communications. Specific training was available to prospective newspaper and magazine correspondents, editors, essayists and secretaries, in order to train them in the appropriate means of clear written communication. The training was rigorous, detailed and standardized, such that a business letter from a foundry buying three carloads of coal looked very much the same as a letter from a printing shop ordering a wagonload of paper. Newspaper articles and essays followed a formula to ensure that all the information intended to be conveyed was received by the reader.

The one common factor of these standardized forms of written communication is that they do not read like people talk. Since written words only convey 10% of the meaning of a spoken conversation, a good written communication perforce does not read like a spoken conversation.

But near the end of the 20th century, the Internet provided a means for all people to communicate widely in writing. Most people who use the Internet for broadcast communication (any message intended for a wide audience, not personally acquainted with the author) are not trained in the nuances of written communication. They “write like they talk” and that’s the fatal flaw. The writer is only putting out 10% of the content of their message. The wry smile that one makes when one tells a joke on a friend is not present in the written word. The eye contact that one makes when debating a point with a coworker is absent. All that comes through are the insulting symbols of the words of the joke, or the contradictory message of disagreement.

Once the reader picks up the symbols (but not the true content) of the message, their natural reaction is to retaliate in kind. But since they are not any clearer in their own response, the response is received as an insult or arbitrary contradiction. This escalates into a condition we call the “flame war.”

I don’t have a solution for this. My own way of dealing with this condition is to avoid responding to any message that makes me feel bad. I always assume that the author mis-communicated, and rather than try to clarify (which only exacerbates the problem) simply assume good intent and move on. That may be the key: if you feel hurt or insulted by a post, assume the most positive possible intent and move on. Of course, there are jerks in the world…


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORDS! ((and thats how i deal with drama))
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PostSubject: Re: Written Communication   Written Communication Icon_minitime

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