Sunday, February 24, 2008

USENET and WELL Reflections

I am a younger baby-boomer and am fortunate to have a decent degree of competence to navigate my way through cyberspace. However, I am extremely uncomfortable with the open communication of public discussion venues such as the USENET. It seems odd that people all around the world are having online conversations with people they do not know. I don’t completely disagree with the notion of discussing topics of interest or for individuals seeking knowledge. In fact, after reading about The WELL, I am more inclined to participate in a discussion under their guidelines.

Maybe, I relate to my generation’s value to some degree of anonymity. I am more comfortable with a discussion between a few people… of my choice, without the concern that my thoughts are going to be spread in cyberspace open to anyone to read. I would like to be in charge of my “great ideas” and who and where they get shared.

I was not comfortable jumping into most of the conversations. There are a couple of reasons for my uneasiness. First, finding a discussion that I was willing to either share my own knowledge or feel like I have something to share. Secondly, I don’t like putting my name out in cyberspace for all to see. I identified with the Peanut Butter and Jelly discussion for several reasons. I grew up eating peanut butter sandwiches every single day, until I discovered bologna wasn’t so bad after all; you could say I have a kinship with fellow peanut butter eaters. Secondly, last month when I was walking through Scottsdale Fashion Square I noticed: PB Loco, a new restaurant. It had the perfect location – on the same level as all of the children oriented stores. The menu consisted of several variations of peanut butter and jelly; a perfect location to capture consumers shopping with and for their children. Armed with this new found information I was ready and able to discuss my thoughts with this particular group.

Discussion groups have a future. Every day more people are online looking for someone to talk to and more importantly, someone that will listen to them. While there are thousands of discussion groups available in different languages, originating in different countries and covering an assortment of topics USENET and the WELL provide a platform for knowledge sharing in a mature and thoughtful manner. According to Stewart Brand, “the Internet is more intimate than the phone. Communication between people is the most natural use of computers." Discussion groups provide a place for individuals to share new ideas, providing a venue that encourages new ideas. Groups such as the WELL seem to be a perfect place for knowledge sharing.


Edwards, O. (1995). Stewart brand. Forbes, 156(5), 166-167. Retrieved on February 24, 2008 from Academic Search Premier.

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