About iRi

posted Mar 14, 2007

After a long search for what iRi is, I have finally found it, and now I'm taking the time to write it down, or at least part of it.

iRi is the leftover stuff in my life. Talking about politics, religion, ethics, science, programming, epistemology, all that jazz is important to me, but I can't talk about them in "real life" because talking about this stuff is really, really hard in the real world, due to the limits of the conversational form.

iRi is my platform for getting such things off my chest. As such, you are welcome to read it, but that is a secondary concern to me.

What do I mean by "the limits of the conversational form"?

You just can't say much in a conversation. To get off even two hundred words before being interrupted is hard, and it's being a rather ungracious conversationalist to boot. (200 words is roughly the length of the post up to this point, including the summary and this paragraph, so just imagine trying to read everything up to this point into a conversation in one go. But don't try it, because you'd be a jerk.)

In a conversation, you have to be "fair". This is great for social occasions like catching up with old friends or trading anecdotes about your week; don't interpret this post as a rant against conversations in general, I like conversations quite a lot! I just don't think it's very suitable for what I talk about here on iRi.

If we're going to debate politics, religion, ethics, etc., I want to be able to complete my thought, however long it may take, but even more importantly, I want you people to be able to complete your thoughts, however long that may take. The value to me of listening to myself spew out my opinions in a conversation is nearly zero; the only value is in hearing other opinions that I haven't heard before, which due to these limits of conversation is pretty rare. It's hard to tell me something about, say, Iraq, Demopublicans, or abortion (the quintessential debate) in two or three hundred words that I haven't heard before.

The value to me of taking the time to work something out and write something meaningful about it can be high even if nobody responds to it.

I want links to primary sources and the fact-checking that's one keystroke away in Firefox (CTRL-K). One link could well radically alter my opinions about some topic where one word stands no such chance.

I want the ability to carry on a debate with many people without anybody ever having to step on anybody else's toes, because everybody has all the space they want.

And finally, I read a lot more quickly than you can talk. I like that. If we're discussing something serious, I like being able to go back and re-read something exactly, or skip ahead if I've seen this bit. I like it so much I'm willing to pay the typing time penalty. That's not such a high price, since I find my typing can often out pace my thinking. Plus, because I have to sit down and work it all out, I often learn things as I write, and even sometimes completely change my mind.

I participate in several other online communities, but all with some specific focus. iRi is the catchall, the central repository for ideas I want to link back to, the place where nothing I say is ever moderated off-topic. It's also the place where I can form my thoughts into larger cohesive wholes without it being off-topic.

A disclaimer worth adding: If you know me merely through my blog, you don't really "know" me. In real life, I'm not this "boring" (or whatever), because all that comes out here. But while this view may be incomplete, it is also a true view. (None of that angsty teenage You don't really know me! garbage, thank you very much!)


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