What’s your point?

In March of 2008, just a few years after Web 2.0 had really taken hold on the Internet and people were interacting with content (i.e., commenting on blog posts was becoming common; newspapers were opening up fora; social media were launching left and right; etc.), a guy named Paul Graham wrote a commentary about how people often disagree with what they read on the Web (and elsewhere, of course).

The web is turning writing into a conversation. Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. The web lets readers respond, and increasingly they do—in comment threads, on forums, and in their own blog posts.

Many who respond to something disagree with it. That’s to be expected. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing. And when you agree there’s less to say. You could expand on something the author said, but he has probably already explored the most interesting implications. When you disagree you’re entering territory he may not have explored.

Mr. Graham anticipated the slapdash nature of disagreement that we’ve become accustomed to reading on the Internet since the first decade of the new millenium. He offered a preliminary seven-level hierarchy of categories of disagreement, ranging from “name calling” to “refuting the central point.”

I shan’t reproduce the details of all seven levels here. Interested readers should review Mr. Graham’s full descriptions on his original page. Also, however, someone sometimes identified as “Loudacris” (AKA: “Rocket000”) from CreateDebate.com created a nice graphic representing these seven levels of disagreement. The accompanying graphic shows them.

We might want to stretch the levels a bit. Those scientifically based readers might refine the top couple of levels of Mr. Graham’s hierarchy by making references to trustworthy or replicated studies. Sure, but maybe that’s included in “explains by it’s mistaken” or “explicitly refutes.”

Those would be good discussions to have, provided we get away from employing name-calling, ad-hominem, responding to tone, and such as our primary forms of argument.

So, what are you arguing?

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Filed under News, Notes and comments, Politics, Science, Skepticism, Thanks for reading

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