Interesting question Gijs. Over on Atheist Nexus I wrote a blog a few hours ago about Software that supports community discussions. That site appears to use the same software as this. In the blog I am analysing the way in which functions of the software can help or hinder dialogue (I think this software, NING, is horribly flawed in this respect).
With regard to thinking the internet posses opportunities for collaborative thinking beyond my wildest imagination. In its current state it tends to produce the dreaded drift, and it is hard to use tools like the six hats online effectively. I have tried getting people to use simple tools like PMI on phpBB forums but it doesn't quite work without lots of training first. Forums do not cope well with the idea of "training threads" for thinking skills, especially if the moderators cannot be called on to maintain trainee discipline.
I have spent nearly a decade designing a set of forum tools that will enable proper collaborative operations online for Six Hat Thinking, the lateral thinking and DATT tools and various of the group facilitation techniques, all with self moderation tools. Its probably time I looked at implementing the ideas. Anyone want to contact me about possible funding? :)
Anyway, one of the dangers of Web 2.0 is the failure of focus and an over emphasis on argument. Moderators, when they exist, are just police rather than facilitators. In the appropriate situation discussions should be self moderated and facilitated, giving all participants an opportunity to improve their skills.
What, are you saying that all the time I spend getting new members to write back to me when they first join has been reduced to policing? ;o) I agree, the more moderators exist on the site, the more effective they are. It seems to work best when most of the routine participants are also moderators, IMHO.
I'd be willing to help with that idea you propose in whatever way I could.
As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.
About Eli Pariser
Pioneering online organizer Eli Pariser is the author of "The Filter Bubble," about how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview.