Blog commenting systems have evolved very little since their inception. One of the more interesting examples of some kind of evolution was Branch’s inline commenting system; part of the platform’s attempt to encourage thoughts-in-progress rather than finished pieces.
Medium has similar functionality at the paragraph level but it fails to realise the potential due to its focus on polished editorial, and so the nearest thing we have to an unfinished ideas platform is Twitter. But still we rarely see the level of vulnerability and open thinking necessary to make it work there.
The ability to share half-formed ideas is a vital thing. Face-to-face conversations are built on these foundations. Without them we’d just be trading a series of pre-prepared monologues. And yet the internet still doesn’t seem to effectively support this fundamental behaviour.
One of my favourite ideas development approaches is World Café. Its primary focus is to promote conversation, half-formed thoughts, as a means of drawing out the good stuff. To do that it encourages us to huddle together, relax, be human.
But World Café isn’t about just talking. It’s designed to get our thoughts down, make them visible. And very little on the Internet comes close to this kind of all-in talking and doing.
The power of conversation in the right context is huge. Early conversations where ideas are hazy provide the true substance of individual and collective originality. They are the earliest prototypes of everything we do and they can take form with remarkable speed.
But where are the digital enablers for what we instinctively know? Why are we building more and more platforms for fully-formed thoughts when we should be tackling the barriers to unguarded originality?
Is it that the business models for the internet are built around content? Do they require finished think-pieces to effectively commoditise our thoughts? Is it a technological failing? Or is it a fear of sharing our flimsiest, most fleeting thoughts that stops us from realising the value of collective uncertainty?