I am not exactly “beloved” for my opinion of my IT brotherin, the antisocial and borderline sociopath behavior that comes as a result of spending fourty hours a week staring at the monitor and conducting more than half of the “conversations” over the wire instead of face to face or even voice. I don’t mean to sound like I am judging here, I am very much in this crowd as I have previously texted and even IMed people that were just a few feet away from me. This type of communication, and lack of need for a social experience, explains why most communication written by IT staffers sounds like the fire & brimstone from some relatively mellow individuals. It explains why people tend to hang out by themselves at IT conferences, why they never grow significantly when they go into a consulting (people service) business, why IT culture in general tends to be skeptical and introverted.
It also explains why services like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Friendfeed, and thousand other services happen to be so successful: Introductions are easy, you can enter a conversation at any point and end it whenever you get distracted by the next thing.
Now Sarah started this whole fire, but Larry Dignan flared it up by trying to figure out the value in the conversation. That is very, very, easy to figure out: there is no value to the extended conversations happening outside of the source (blog post, conference). Here is the basis of my argument: translate the conversation into an actual human interaction – people talk all the time. Can you be in every person-to-person exchange, at all times, in all the subjects that interest you? No. Sure, the Web 2.0 makes it easy, but the expense of being involved in all the conversations is usually far higher than the benefit, which can be reduced to simply the personal satisfaction of having a discussion. There is a value in having something thoughtful to say (blogging, to external audience) and direct exchange of ideas by people who are interested in what you have to say (comments, from the external audience to you). You’re providing something valuable, and in return you are getting something valuable back, that you may not have considered.
That is the value of conversations: the exchange of ideas.
As for trying to interact with angry villagers with pitchforks out in the streets (Twitter), or time investment equivalent of NSA’s wiretap program (FriendFeed)… if thats the extent you need to go to in order to get attention its probably a good indication that your life/work are not fulfilling enough so it might be a better idea to invest in those, instead of the poor online substitutes for them.