Sunday, August 11, 2013

About Email Forwarding - And the Balkanization of Discourse


There is nothing worse than having to scroll down through layers and layers of email addresses till you finally reach the content.

I recall back in the 1990's when all the 'Net' was brand new getting an email forward where you could NOT easily cut/copy/paste inside the email program and I even enjoying looking at the 'Forward-Chain'.

I would search down through the email addresses of the various groups looking for the thread among them.  So in the single "FROM" address field of top group searching the multiple "TO" addresses of the previous forward for that name and so on thus establishing a long winding trail from the original sender to me.  

Of course it would be possible that each person in each "TO" group to forward the email to their own group so you could imagine that from the original sender this great branching tree graph of email addresses growing out from the original sender.  

As time went on and you got more and more folks in your email address book you would get the same email forwarded from different friends thus noticing that the 'branching-tree-graph' was multiply connected and thus not really a tree but a tree graph with cross linked nodes.


Needless to say it did not take long for some college kid to figure out way a neat way to cut through all this and put up a single site where you could post and share content among your friends instead of sending email forwards.  And that guy's name was Mark Zuckerberg.  And thus 'Social-Networking' was invented.

So in some sense Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can be thought of as the next generation of email forwarding without all the excess email addresses getting in the way.  


Now a days you get 'Recycled/Tweaked' email forwards (and Social Network Posts) all the time.  Someone will get some content from way back and edit it a bit and send it along (or post it on Facebook) and it may 'go-viral' (i.e. it will be reposted, shared, forwarded all over the place.) 

You see this content in your email inbox or social network thread and think ("I saw that weeks/months/years ago!").  If the content if viral enough you then collect some key words associated with the content and visit: and, again, if the content is viral enough you can validate whether or not it is baloney or real.  Whenever I see content that is clearly viral and perhaps a little bit 'Too Good' I immediately hit is up with  

Some times I am surprised to learn that the content is correct, but most of the time it is just a re-tread of something from the past that has been tweaked for some item that applies today.  Over the years I've become pretty good at spotting baloney and just plain reworked content.  

Just recently there was a real tear-jerker of a post about a teacher describing some guy who was from a home where is mom died and how she initially did not like the kid but then took him under her wing and he turned out to be this major doctor when he grew up.  

I could not resist ""'ing and found out that the original story came from RedBook Magazine back in the 1960's and that the original author really resented her story being put into email and social media posts with a bit of tweaking.  So I posted a comment to that effect and a link to the item.  The story was still nice but total fiction.

When growing up our parents would say, "Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see!". As we got older we would rejoin, "What about what you read!".  Reading in our family was considered the loftiest mental activity you could engage in.  I think mom and dad must have had a long discussion about this rejoinder and came back with, "Check the author and see if it is a reputable source!" 

All of this was very good advice for kids growing up and teaching themselves thing outside of school by reading.  This advice is just as good (if not better) these days with just such things as 'viral-tweaked-stories' and 'instant-news-cycles' and 'anybody-can-publish-anything' books.

Sadly we see in our current national dialogue ways of craftily and carefully pitching your message to avoid it being 'fact-checked' for validity.  I find some of the most useful places to check stuff out using the 'Net' are places like Wikipedia, and Snopes.COM and FactCheck.ORG and MediaMatters.ORG.  

However as far as progressive/liberal content goes; because I am a progressive/liberal person I have a harder time fact checking that type of content. Many times find myself thinking, "Wait a minute, you just put a 'Fox-News'ish spin on that!" and when I see that I try to correct such crap instantly.  Going down the conservative-rabbit-hole, as a progressive and liberal thinking person, in my opinion, is to 'Join-The-Dark-Side' in its worst form. 


In modern times with dedicated cable news TV channels and radio stations and Internet web sites you can very easily watch, listen-to, and read content created and circulated by folks who think pretty much just like yourself.  In the process of doing this it is very easy to create a US-vs-THEM paradigm that automatically excludes ideas generated by folks outside your 'reading/listening/watching' group.

This type of thing, this 'tribal-mentality' is responsible in our history for just such things as differing-tribes, differing-nations, differing-religious-groups.  When the planet was geographically segregated it was viewed as just the way things were.

As the planet shrinks under the influence of increasing population and ubiquitous information sharing (i.e. the Internet and Instant-New-Cycles) this tribal mentality does not somehow disappear but instead we see niches and methods popping up all over the place to continuously reinforce our tribal nature.

In some sense we are battling against our our built in nature.

And in a very real sense we can see horrible outcomes of re-inventing tribes.  The terrorist acts of 11 September 2001 are a very good example.  The rise of the ultra-right-wings: (neo-conservative, christian-evangelical and tea-party groups) in the Republican party is another excellent example. 

The results are clear and are ongoing in Washington DC with the stalemate between the legislative and administrative branches of government.

The left-wing had similar movements back in the late 1960's associated with the war in Vietnam and later with groups associated with the environment.

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