Online vs. Offline Conversations

I ran into Lucy Bernholz at the first session yesterday. She and I have met in person before, but I’m always struck by how much more interesting in-person interactions are than the online version. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big advocate of how blog and other social media software allows for interactions between people who would otherwise never meet. But nothing trumps face to face conversation. Nothing trumps seeing Lucy dart up to the front of the room half way through the session and stick her iBook with camera accessory up into the air to capture the photo you can see on her blog today.

Emotion doesn’t come through very well online. But it sure does in person. I had a conversation with Susan Herr of PhilanthroMedia, Albert Ruesga of White Courtesy Telephone and Suzanne Perry, one of the driving forces behind the Chronicle on Philanthropy’s Give and Take feature, during one of the post conference receptions. We could have talked for hours — which is funny, if you think about it, because we all interact online. There is something about the emotion behind the ideas we discuss that only become readily accessible when you talk in person. Blogs are great. They have the power to transform our culture because they have the power to transform our relationship with information. But they’ll never replace conversations in the corner of a conference room, or over a glass of wine or cup of coffee.


  1. Hi, Sean. I hadn’t caught this post.

    It was good for me too. There were many things I wanted to discuss with you and Susan, without the mediation of the Internet.

    I think we’re all tuned in to how much we communicate through our pauses, intonations, and emphases; our timing and our cadences; our body language; and our unedited choice of words. If you attempted to recreate that experience on the Internet, you’d end up reinventing the videophone, or at least a souped up version of it. The hyper-videophone would need to transmit ambient sounds, smells, and “presence” — the feeling you get when you’re standing next to another proprioceptive entity. A text transcript would also be nice :o)

  2. Technology is a great tool, but it is far from replicating face to face interactions.

    It was great to meet you and Susan in person.