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Activity in a thread from a few weeks ago has prompted me to think on a lot of things about Ricochet. It seems to me that Ricochet is something special that I have not encountered anyplace before. It has been building in my mind over the weekend and I thought I would share my thoughts.
Let us get the big two out of the way up front:
Pay to Post
Ricochet is a pay-to-post site. By itself, this creates a better space than places with free posting. You have to have skin in the game to comment. As a therapist, I know that clients who pay money are more likely to be engaged in their own care. Paying changes the equation.
Of course, the other big and obvious elephant is the moderation of the Code of Conduct. We all know how vile the internet is. People who can post anonymously will often say things they would never say to someone’s face. It is the mob effect. While Ricochet still allows for anonymous posting, it is not so anonymous that people cannot be banned (thanks to making them pay). While moderation is not perfect, and the Code of Conduct is not always evenly applied, I believe the site does a good job of it, and as a charter member, I can say the moderation has improved and become more evenhanded. I admit, I am human, and part of me would like the Code of Conduct to be used more against others than me, but the more rational part knows that is the way that leads to an echo chamber.
With those mentioned, let’s move on into my deeper thoughts on what I think generates the Ricochet Difference. After all, people pay to comment at National Review, and are moderated, but the comments at National Review are nothing like Ricochet.
The first big thing is the ability for members to make long-form posts. This is huge. Any member who can post has an unlimited word count for their thoughts. These go on to their own page, the Member Page, wherein lies the beating heart of Ricochet. Now, while people can make short posts, the real intellectual energy and investigation is found in longer posts that can dig into an idea like an article in a magazine. I have learned about many things I did not expect to learn about here at Ricochet. And yet, often the real learning comes after the post is made. That is in the comments.
Non-Nested, Long-Form Comments
Ricochet’s use of long-form and non-nested comments allows for a true conversation. With nested comments so commonly used at other sites, you do not get one conversation with everyone participating, you get a break up into several little conversations. Even with a large word count, nested comments lead to short remarks, and frankly, a Twitter feel.
Long comments allow for thoughtful responses. (I’ll admit, I miss having a “Thatcher” level for unlimited word length.) Members at Ricochet are able to respond to any post with a long and thoughtful response, even those with limited word count. Indeed, the back and forth between the writer of the original post and other members is often a great way for an idea to be further explored and understood. Unlike most other sites, these comments can be point-by-point refutations, discussions, and comments. It is a marvelous system. Yes, there can be acrimony. Good. A robust discussion of ideas requires some tough skin, hurt feelings, and robust defenses. That is the stuff of hammering our ideas. And, what is more, the conversation might move away from the starting point as conversations do.
The Spin-Off Post
The last bit that is the “difference” is the spin-off post. This is when a conversation strays too far, or an exciting new point is brought up, someone may decide to create a new original post. The spin-off post often links to the original, and takes the new idea into its own conversation. Some posts have some much energy they spawn more than one spin-off, and sometimes a topic and its variations cover multiple posts for many days. This is outstanding. The site is alive and ideas are bouncing around. All of us who participate are stronger for it. I hope that those who mostly read and not post get something out of it as well.
The Posting Members and Frequent Commenters
I want to also talk about the engine that is Ricochet, the posting members. Posting members are simply the members who often post and comment. Compared to the overall membership, we are a minority, but we make a lot of noise, as it were. We are the members that everybody recognizes. I know I have names I follow, and I am amazed people want to follow me. There are those people who, when they post, I want to read what they have to say.
We also have the frequent commenters. These are often posting members, but also include members who don’t often start the conversation, but sure join into them. It is not that they don’t have anything original to say, it seems they like to use others as a springboard. Often, these are some of the most interesting comments in a conversation.
I would like to take this moment to invite any readers interested in posting to post. You will get a warm reception from most of us, even if we disagree with you. The best way to write better is to write. Come on in, the water is fine. We have cookies.
What It All Means
Ricochet is unique. There is no place like it anywhere else on the web. As a Charter Member, I am proud to say that I have been able to engage with members here consistently for its whole existence. I can have heated (and civil) arguments, heated agreements, revelations, and greater understandings. I hope for many more years of Ricochet and getting to talk to my Ricochet family. As Peter’s tagline says:
Ricochet! Join the Conversation!Published in