In an item that asks How big is the club?, Tim Bray writes:
We who read (and write) blogs and play with the latest Internet Trinkets (and build them) have been called an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, a teeny geeky minority whose audience is itself.
Very true. What’s more, I believe this tribe is, over time, growing farther away from the rest of the world. That’s happening for an interesting and important reason, which is that the tools we are building and using are accelerating our ability to build and use more of these tools. It’s a virtuous cycle in that sense, and it’s the prototype for methods of Net-enabled collaboration that can apply to everyone.
But for the most part, we’re not crossing the chasm with this stuff. I’ve thought, written, and spoken a lot about this issue lately. It’s why I’m reaching out to public radio, why I’ve been speaking at conferences other than the ones frequented by my geek tribe, and why I am working for a company whose products reach hundreds of millions of people.
How do you talk to everyone about the transformative benefits of the technologies we’re so excited about, in ways that don’t make people flip the bozo switch and tune you out? How do you tell stories that make the benefits of the technology come alive for people, in ways they can understand, without overwhelming them with technical detail, but at the same time without dumbing down your explanation of the technology?
It’s a huge challenge, and not just for us. As those of you who sample the scientific blogosphere will know, the publication of this brief commentary in Science, reprised here in the Washingon Post, was a bombshell that triggered a huge debate about how, or even whether, scientists should try to frame the stories they tell about science in order to connect with mainstream audiences.
I’m not a scientist myself, and I won’t presume to try to summarize what scientists are saying to one another about the Nisbet/Mooney commentary in Science. But I will observe that it has provoked intense passion on all sides. At some point, I hope that “our tribe” will find itself similarly energized by a discussion of how to communicate beyond the borders of the tribe.