The Problem With Assumptions

Interpreting tone and inferring meaning in written communications is not an easy task – it is especially difficult in electronic communications. We all seem to jump to conclusions about what somebody really meant, and for some reason automatically seem to assume the worst. Listservs seem to be particularly plagued by this problem – and often conversations go downhill quickly. Blogs, of course, are also prone to these types of incorrect assumptions. Marie Palmer, in her newly renamed blog – Library Journeys . . ., discusses these issues in a post titled Assumptions in the Blogosphere. Marie writes:

“As we promote social networking, it’s vital that we as librarians also think about educating users on how to communicate effectively over the Web, how to reduce the chance for misinterpretation, and how to better judge personal comments without assuming the worst (if that course comes about, I think I’ll be first to sign up!) )

How do you make up for the loss of visual cues over the Web? Do you say things differently in the blogworld than you do with face-to-face chats? Do you promote the use of smiley face emoticons? Or is clear and effective writing enough in the blog world?”

I agree with Marie about educating users on effective communcation via the web. However, I also think we need to educate ourselves first. This is an important skill with which most of us could use some help. We all could use some help to learn about writing more clearly – and conversely, learning to read communications without first jumping to conclusions. Additionally, she is asking the right questions. Hopefully, if we all think about these things and ask ourselves (and others) these questions, we can develop some guidelines or general rules of thumb in order to help alleviate misconceptions.


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