Practice makes progress

One of the ideas that have been bouncing around my head lately is the idea that participation in online communities is limited by the ability and willingness of the community members to write. In a virtual world, all you have is the written world, no facial expressions or body language (beyond emoticons). Even backchannel asides to your friends must be written. In my mental model, this implied that there would be people who never participate in virtual communities because they won't write. Then I ran across Johanna Rothman's discussion of teaching a writing class (emphasis mine).

I'm always amazed that timed writing can be so successful. To me, it's successful because you know you don't have to stare at a blank page very long. Joel Spolsky in Joel on Software and on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters... says on page 51 (about why people don't write specs) "...so many people don't like to write. Staring at a blank screen is horribly frustrating. ... Writing is muscle. The more you write, the more you'll be able to write." Knowing I can write for a short time frees me from having to write the whole darn thing -- and being scared that I won't be able to do so. Timed writing is like a Hudson's Bay Start.

Practice makes progress.

1 Comment(s)

[originally posted on 12/16/2004 01:42:42 PM]
I wonder if this thought could be informed by the studies of lurkers. It seems that I've seen quite a few recently. Also, I think the willingness to write might be less linked to a blank screen/sheet than, say, esteem or other issues. In forums (fora?), for example, there isn't a blank screen - you're adding to the bottom of a thread. You can participate without starting from scratch (incremental comments). Likewise, with blogs, you can comment instead of starting with a blank post.
No doubt you're right, though, that it's not a community unless people participate.

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