In late 2011 I wrote this blog about my attempts to hold open discussion about issues in the Middle East.
Six days ago I returned to the TED forum on linkedin (now an unofficial forum but still with over 300,000 members) to discuss the Syrian crisis.
Two years ago the TED forum was far more open than most as it lacked the option for anonymity which seemed to protect vicious and opinionated contributors on other forums and free, high quality discussion did take place over many weeks. However attempting to host a discussion there still brought severe personal and cyber-attacks and the eventual disappearance of the discussion has still never been explained.
This time it's very different. After six days there are 94 comments from 18 participants. There are no signs of the personal attacks which used to be common place and we seem to have lost the contributors who refused to look at evidence.
I'm stunned. I think it's worth noting the contrast.
In parallel with this I think it's worth also noting the that some of our politicians are now embracing social media in their passions for improving the quality of the decisions they make, engaging us in our democracy and improving its transparency. I'd like to recommend the facebook page of Tim Farron MP as being an excellent example which readers might like to explore. Many other politicians are making genuine and valiant attempts in this direction (and their skills in using social media for consultation and transparency are improving rapidly) and still more are being influenced by and are engaging with their better informed peers.