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Don't keep your opinions to yourself

The web is the most powerful platform for learning that human society has ever known. Every time we encounter someone with different skills, contexts and ideas to us, we learn from each other - as long as we share those things.

In many places, children are brought up to think of talking about politics as rude, and these attitudes can sometimes translate to social media. I feel very differently: while it may be rude to talk about differences of opinion at the Thanksgiving table, if only because the social norms have been set differently, I almost think of it as a duty to share our ideas online.

Of course, like any marketplace, a marketplace of ideas needs to have some rules. When I ran a debate forum a decade ago, we had a small number of core ideas:

  • No personal attacks (a disagreement doesn't mean that the person you're interacting with is inherently bad)
  • Keep an open mind - in other words, stay open to the idea that your deeply-held idea might be wrong
  • Understand that everyone has a different context, and what works for you might not work for anyone else
  • Try and avoid strawman arguments

I think these hold for any online conversation.

Personally? I love it when people talk politics with me, or disagree with the ideas I publish. And more generally, I think the web would be a richer, more valuable place if we all wrote about what we believed. As long as every party in the conversation is able to understand how to debate with each other, and understands that it's okay to be wrong, we all become smarter in the process.

I post about my political beliefs, as well as my other beliefs, according to this thesis. I don't think that people who disagree with me are bad in any way; it's a privilege to be able to have conversations with people all over the world about things that matter. I do think anything that adds to the commons, and the gene pool of ideas, is a good thing.

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Twitter: @benwerd

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