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Friday, July 22, 2011

Gracious Online Debate

So my book came out on Tuesday, I blogged about it on Wednesday and so did a friend of mine, Matt Dabbs. By Thursday night, there was a comment on Matt's blog about how the first chapter of my book doesn't interpret scripture correctly.

This brings up the issue of how we should debate online. The internet is a world unto itself. There are different levels of debate that exist online from what would normally take place in person. A large part of that is due to the lack of tone available in online communication. Spoken communication is all about the tone. Yet when we type things out, the tone doesn't go with the words. We may have a tone in our own head that accompanies the words, but there's no way to be sure that the same tone is interpreted by the people reading the words. But a tone will always be applied to the words we read.

My wife and I have developed a tool to use when we're disagreeing with people online. We read back through our words, out loud, with the worst possible tone we can muster. If the tone can fit the words, then we need to rewrite the words. It's only when we get the words refined to the point where they can't be interpreted as offensive or abusive that we're allowed to post them online.

I have to confess that I've learned this rule the hard way. I've said things online that have been interpreted as offensive. I've even been upset and said things that were intended to be offensive. That's the danger of the internet, you can type something in a heated moment and it's now online forever. I'm working and learning about how to be gracious online. Please don't hesitate to help me, just be gracious when you do it.

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