Posted by: Nicholas Davis | February 25, 2009

Idea: Thoughts? Or ideas?

Nischa Chittal wrote a great post yesterday about the propensity for Gen Y to be self-absorbed on blogs. I’m certainly a culprit in this regard (my first website back in 1997 was called something like “N’s Story – the Prequel”). This self absorption can be safely extended to facebook status updates, exacerbated by the fact that they all start with a person’s name, and even tweets, given that Twitter asks “what are you doing”.

What’s wrong with being self-absorbed? Well, to be honest, it’s just not as interesting to hear what people are eating or where they are at a given point in time (geo-location apps are a different matter entirely). Shouldn’t we be populating the ether with interesting stories and challenging ideas, so we can share experiences and build up our collective intelligence into something powerful?

In the title of this blog, I’ve suggested a tension between “thoughts”, which are perhaps more amorphous, and “ideas”, which are more targeted. Hard on thoughts, I know, but perhaps we should all try to populate our status updates, blogs, notes articles with purposeful ideas rather than aimless thoughts. Not that thinking is bad, just that perhaps even thinking is not enough.

Hmm. I just realised that the preceding three paragraphs could very well be construed as a thought, or at most a suggestion, rather than an idea. So let me try to live the change and propose a concrete idea: perhaps for a whole day I should try consciously classifying every sentence I write – be it in emails, posts, tweets, texts. What percentage of my communication is pleasantry versus opinion versus facts versus ideas versus oh, I don’t know, advice etc etc? The next step is to see if the quality of my conversations/correspondence improves when I try and alter that mix towards what my mentor Jonathan Zittrain calls “generative” interactions.



  1. Glad you liked the post, and great insights. I wholeheartedly concur. We need people ‘populating the ether’ with less spurts of thoughts and more ideas. And more action.

  2. I contend that there is something to be said for the “collective global consciousness” of twitter. Who first (of those outside India) knew of the earthquakes in Mumbai? Those plugged into the Twitter nervous system.

    That said – I agree. Let’s lift the bar and make the quality of our interactions improve. (As long as we leave in clever wit).

    Jonathan Zittrain – yeah I’d rate him.

    • Good point on twitter, Jules. I guess we should distinguish between a range of output, some of which can be very useful in different situations: e.g. pure, raw data flow, sharing of info, psychological outpourings of self onto interweb, rants, humour and irony, insight and ideas. As an unconscious intellectual snob perhaps, I’m just biased towards the latter…

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