Some of the differences are obvious. For example, the real world club meets once a week while the mailing list "meets" whenever someone has something to say. And to join the real world club, you have to live near your school while anyone anywhere can join the mailing list.

But, you may find that you sound like one type of person in the Sea Shell Club and like a different type of person on the sea shell mailing list. When you talk to your real world club. you can see people nodding in agreement, or maybe they start doodling in their notebooks which would be a sign that they're bored. You can't see any of that when you send an email, so sometimes people on mailing lists say things just to get someone to react. While you might have said to your real world Club: "In some cultures, people blow into conch shells like this to make music," on the mailing list you might find yourself saying, "The sound of a conch is the most beautiful sound in the world and makes a violin sound like a cat with a stomach ache!"

That happens a lot on the Web. Maybe in the sports chat room your enthusiasm for a team leads you write in all capital letters and to say things that you know aren't perfectly true, such as: "THE RED SOX ARE A GREAT GREAT GREAT TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE WORLD SERIES NEXT YEAR AND ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE IS JUST A DUMB SACK OF POTATOES." Meanwhile, in a chat room talking about dance moves, perhaps you find yourself not shouting but trading puns as quickly as you can type. Someone reading your comments in the sports chat room might not even recognize you as the same person in the dance chat room. It's much easier to let yourself sound one way instead of another on the Web than in the real world because no one knows who you are on the Web.

Links to Explore

The Red Sox




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This is a children's version of David Weinberger's book
Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web.
copyright © 2002 David Weinberger