Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why private boards fail

When you are on public boards you often get to the stage where you have to make choices. Do you want to be the group member who takes time to explain things to the newbie? Do you want to get caught in endless circular debates, with people who just don’t get it; often because they are in a different place? Do you want to go online to defend a position that makes you bone numbingly weary? Do you want to be the person who tries to pull topics back in line, keeps the topics flowing or asks the right questions to stimulate debate?
Eventually when you do it for long enough, you start to dream a little dream of a quiet place that you can go to, thereby avoiding all the hassles of a public board. Eventually someone starts just such a place and invites people along to join them. Usually they are people they have had conversations with outside of the board, people they find funny or entertaining. Often they are people who feel as embattled and weary from leading the charge on the stupid and the ignorant. More often than not they are the people who are just like you on some level.
And there is the first critical mistake, but you don’t know that yet.
So off you go forming your secret clubhouse, giddy with the joy of being free from the masses. You talk about the things that matter in your life and mock those out of the loop. People invite other people, who are acceptable to you, and each one is a quiet victory against the insanity of the outside. Before you know it you feel safe with each other and share your darkest thoughts, trusting them because they are so much like you.
And there is your second mistake, but you don’t know that either.
You’re so close and all agree with each other, to the extent that you can predict people’s answers often before the question has been asked. After a while you start to run out of hot topics... at least ones that don’t involve gossiping about other people... or ones that aren’t stolen from somewhere else and carried in like the cat bringing home a trophy mouse. The quota of life stuff starts to creep up and before you know it, there is more off topic stuff and recipes exchanged than anything else.
Then, once the euphoria has rubbed off, you start to notice things... and this is where you have reached the critical stage, but you might miss this one as well.
You start to notice some of the people you hang out with are not quite as fun as you first thought. In fact you discuss this with others quietly behind the groups back. Before long someone, somewhere, says things that are not flattering about people you admire outside of the group, and you are stuck in the awkward position of having to choose who your allegiances are to. Quietly and steadily people come less often because well... there are only so many ways you can cook a steak and it is getting too quiet for comfort. And you feel bad that they wouldn’t let so and so in because they were not just like you.
Before long the private sanctuary has become a burden to you. You feel obligated to the person who started it all, but it is dead in the water... torn apart by infighting, leaks, boredom and ennui. In fact you have turned outwards again, led to the fray by a really hot debate elsewhere and before you know it you are back in the public domain... all the while wondering what went wrong. You were all so close...
And the answer is very simple gentle reader.
In choosing people just like you the stage is set for a homogenised group; a place that has no friction nor any of the necessary ingredients for debate. It is also a sad fact that the contentious people who are fun to read, are often not good at starting threads. That takes a different type of person altogether... you need a thinker and the chances are they are not just like you at all. In fact while they may have a quirky way of looking at things that allows them to promote your thinking, they may also vehemently disagree with you on a raft of subjects.
You also made the mistake of thinking that because you exchanged a bunch of stuff with people online, that they are your friends... and sometimes they can be... but oft time they are just people with all the flaws that can entail. They have agendas, they lie, they disseminate, and they have egos, allegiances and desires all of their own. See the unkind reality is that although we meet people in this life that we have things in common with, no one is exactly like us. It is the differences that make us individuals and uniquely ourselves.
Now you are reading this and probably thinking one is the most cynical person on earth... and you might be right. But the sad fact is one has been on a few private boards and they all go this way. It doesn’t matter if they started out as refugee camps from other places, or they were a response to the rough and tumble of public boards. The sad truth is that unless you have a domain that you make big enough to include the people who aren’t exactly just like you, while still keeping the integrity of the spirit of the place, you are doomed to failure.

1 comment:

MsSparkles said...

You are not the most cynical person in the world love. A quick count tells me I've now been on at least six private boards (usually with you) and they have all gone the same way. Because that's what happens.