I am fascinated by what our avatars say about ourselves in SL. I only wish I understood all the messages. 🙂 I tend to form opinions of people in SL based on their avatars. As someone said in a comment on my blog earlier – we CHOOSE how we look in SL, so there is more basis for taking the appearance as a key. And sometimes that opinion is born out by the words in the chat box and sometimes the chat leads to a modified opinion. But our words, unaccompanied by pictures, paint a picture of ourselves as well.
At work I had occasion to research a business topic. I didn’t know much about the subject. Actually, that’s being overly-generous. I knew almost nothing about the topic. But our company provides forums wherein we can all ask questions and get information from our coworkers. So I began reading the related forum. I’d had such success in the virtual worlds forum that I hoped this one would work out as well.
At first, most everything I read was a mystery to me. But as I continued to read each thread, I came to recognize certain of the posters. Each one began to have a distinct “voice”. I began to understand more and more of what I read. Finally, however, I had reached the point where I needed more information. My coworkers in my office couldn’t help me since they didn’t know the topic either. I was going to have to reach out to someone in the forum and ask for help.
How do you decide which stranger to approach? In our social network this decision is simplified because we post pictures, games, information about ourselves and our jobs. But in a forum all you have are the words. Words have both denotations and connotations. The connotations make the words resonate for the reader. Grammar and punctuation do the same. The writer’s attitude is conveyed by these things.
Over at least two forums I have contacted 4 “strangers”. Three of these people I contacted because I had questions and needed advice. I trusted that if I reached out, they would respond. Not only did they respond but all 3 responded quickly, warmly and with an invitation to contact them again should I need more assistance. I’ve take 2 of them up on that invitation and each question I send is answered in a reasonable time frame and fully and with the same invitation to feel free to write again.
The 4th correspondent was someone that I had considered but skipped when I was seeking information in my position of total new-comer. Something in the posts from that person – perhaps the tone of the sentences or the argumentative nature – had made me feel this person would not take kindly to requests for information. Then there was a post and an issue and I needed to contact this person directly. My instincts were confirmed. I did ultimately get a reply, but it took 3 days. The reply was incomplete and did not actually answer my question. I have had to write to this individual 2 more times. Each time the reply is days in coming and always abrupt. There are no extra words of information wrapped around the core. There is no warmth. There is no acknowledgment that the way of the world is that those who have the information need to teach the new-comers. The posts in the forum were the truth about the person.
I come to know you by your words. I see you even if there is no picture there.