Writing with Strangers

Writing in the presence of rampant forking calls into question what it means to write and how to do it well.

Descartes tells us that our thought is the only sure evidence that we are anything at all.

But we as social animals come from a very long line of communicators who have now concocted a new way to share our thoughts with others through machines.


Words help us think but they are not our thoughts. While speaking or writing we may struggle to find language that fits the moment, that extends the moment, that sharpens it for us and for others. See Conduit Metaphor

Words may come out before a thought is complete. Sometimes a sentence will trail off as the mind races ahead. Colleagues may try to complete a thought that has stalled. It is a guessing game. See Some Talk to Think

How long should we hold onto thoughts before we expose them to others? With who should we expose the incompleteness of our thinking? Do we have property rights over our thoughts that should be protected? Would we dare mind-meld with someone as smart as Star Trek's Spock. What would he think of us later?

Thoughts expressed do take on a life of their own. We can choose metaphor carefully so as to guide them downhill in the landscape of competing ideas. Science suggests we assemble the best evidence from the natural world before we subject ideas to the scrutiny of our peers. But even this process is recognized as conversation. See Kuhn Cycle


Face to face conversation takes place in turns. A skilled listener can postpone posturing for their own turn so that they can concentrate on the speaker and best hear what is being said. Skilled debate moves the posturing into preparation but leaves the winner knowing only what they studied as only judges have time to listen.

We aspire to solve large social problems that require more careful thought than just winning in an argument in the moment. Our medium admits incomplete ideas, expressed and titled, to flow within a community that need not take turns to perfect them.

We aspire to hear others more clearly by taking our colleagues expressions and making them our own. We do this for our own satisfaction, not for their approval. We do this in our own time merging our own thought with those of many others to make what for us seems whole.

When we fork a page we sever the connection with the original thinkers. Their expression becomes our expression, not copies of their thoughts as with the Vulcan mind-meld. The page simply expresses something that we have heard, something that has meaning to us, something that we choose to repeat even if we suspect that meaning might be incomplete or untrue.

As curators of a forked page we have some obligation to incorporate our own thought in the expression in a way that will be clear to our own readers. As the new owner we can renovate without apology. Our reader will understand that we have thought many things, often contradictory things, and that this one thing, the forked page, fits into our thinking a little or a lot.

We have shown sufficient respect to other authors when we allow our readers to seek their expression in their words unadulterated by us but possibly revised since we took to understanding them. This citation is automatic in the fork and convenient for both readers and authors.


This leaves the question as to what a scholar should think of this new medium. Writing here might put an established reputation at risk.

One might fear that they would be exposed as a careless thinker of incomplete or incorrect thoughts. In the competition to be paid for thinking this could be disasterous.

One might fear that their best ideas will be recognized by others before they are fully developed by themselves. Again, in a competitive space such hoarding might make sense.

A young scholar might take a different view. While the federation is small anyone choosing to write here has a better than average chance that their ideas will grow and flourish to dominate conversations for many years to come. This page is our best advice to those who choose this path.