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Feb. 12th, 2010

branchandroot: fractal in blue and gray spheres (fractal round)
Tangenting off a very helpful and thoughtful post on my dwircle this morning.

So. Analogy. Let us say that online discussion is quite like nuclear fission in some ways. A neutron (thought) is introduced. Among the nearby uranium (readers) it strikes one causing fission which results in new elements (a reaction) and, often, some more free neutrons (comments or another post).

The more uranium (readers) present, the greater a chance of reaction. This can be a benefit of link comms. If a post is linked, the number of readers will likely be far greater than it would otherwise, increasing the chance that the fission process (thought, response, thought) will become self-sustaining. Energy is produced, light and heat for everyone. The same thing, however, can also be a drawback.

The fission process can be controlled, as in a reactor, or uncontrolled, as in a bomb. A link comm that is selective in the neutrons (posts) it lets pass (links to) may function as a working reactor, with the control rods (link collectors) passing only some neutrons (thoughts) and absorbing others (flames, drama, pure dogmatism, etc.). A link comm that is not selective in the neutrons (posts) it lets pass (links to) will produce an uncontrolled reaction, overwhelming the coolant (common sense), and leading to a melt down. In the worst case, two pieces of uranium (posters) will collide directly causing a massive explosion.

Of course, the analogy has another step, not directly related to the link comms. In fandom, as in many other areas, the new elements (the reactions to posts) are very radioactive (intensely emotional). As in the actual reactor process, I have yet to see any suggestions or process for safely containing or disposing of these byproducts, so I suppose we just have to live with them. It's real life everywhere.

This is somewhat tongue in cheek, but not entirely. The people running link comms are not responsible for any idiocy on the part of their readers, but neither is what they create a neutral location. Shooting a neutron gun repeatedly at a critical mass of uranium is an action which should be known as such or else not performed.

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