Welcome! Introductions topic - Who are you and what do you do?

Now we’re going to do something extremely fun. We’re going to play a wonderful game called, “Who is my daddy and what does he do?”
Is your daddy a fireman?
He’s probably big, is he a wrestler?
Is he a basketball coach?

~ Kindergarten Cop

Much like Detective Kimball in his impromptu role as substitute teacher, I’m curious about the background of the people in the communities I join and wanted to create a space here for people to share what they felt comfortable sharing - about themselves, not their daddies.

Some ideas:

  • Who are you and what do you do?
  • What sorts of communities or platforms do you participate in?
  • What drew you to Civitas?
  • What are you hoping to find, share, or do here?
  • What are your favorite intro-post questions, particularly ones that you wish got asked more often?
  • Are there any fun, silly, or interesting things about yourself you want to share?

I promise, I’m not using this to identify the son of an LA crime boss who’s hiding in a sleepy town in Oregon.

1 Like
  • I’m Jon Ericson and I’m an Internet Community Consultant. You can read more about my approach right here on this site.
  • All sorts, really. Discourse is great, but I do hang out on a bunch of Discord servers too. (Shame about the similar names.) Right now I’m spending some time on the Board Game Barrage Discord and Meta Discourse.
  • It’s rather the other way around, y’know?
  • I want to learn how communities are built generally. I know the Stack Exchange model, but that doesn’t work for everyone. I really want this to be a place people can try new things when it comes to community building.
  • Dunno. These aren’t asked very often:[1]
    • Crippling fears?
    • Biggest failure?
    • Any secret identities?
  • I used to have an Australian accent on account of living in Australia for two formative years.

Should I see Kindergarten Cop?

  1. Probably for good reason. ↩︎

1 Like

As a teacher I’ve been learning
And forgive me if I boast
That I’ve now become an expert
On the subject I like most
Hammerstein and/or Rogers

There’s a thing people do… In face-to-face conversation, when there’s nothing in particular to talk about but opportunity to talk all the same, when the goal of communication isn’t to solve a problem or convey a well-defined body of information on an already-identified topic…

  • “Hey there!”
  • “How’s it going?”
  • “Terrible weather, eh? You surviving?”
  • “Well, I won’t feel bad staying inside this Sunday; who you going for, Chiefs or '49ers?”

This “phatic” communication serves primarily as a carrier for other forms of communication: tone, cadence, body language… Things that don’t translate particularly well in the constrained, primarily text-based medium of the 'Net.

Also, it’s boring as all get-out.

But then there’s another thing that happens… Sometimes. After a period of time exchanging bullshit, of feeling each other out and developing some rudimentary vibe… We start riffing!

  • “So beautiful today! I wait all year for mud season”
  • “You’re sick. My boots must weigh 20lbs each! My dog has turned into a mud-colored blob, I sweep and mop a dozen times a day and everything is still filthy.”
  • “Yeah, that all sucks. But look around, see the trees budding out, hear the birds calling to each other, the burble of spring streams flowing…”
  • “Ok, sure that’s pretty, but the nearest stream is in the middle of the road - that’s why we’re standing here talking, the road is washed out!”
  • “Ah. Yeah. So… Think Rt. 6 is open maybe?”

Unlike that initial back-and-forth, this can actually work online. However… Without the handshake that the phatic exchange provides, we often struggle to develop the vibe, the cadence that invites someone else to respond. Sometimes we resort to canned questions, throwing them out like someone flipping matches into a pile of damp tinder, hoping one of them somehow manages to catch.

Like you just did.

But… Questions sorta make me uncomfortable. I feel like I need to answer them. And when I can’t, or get overwhelmed thinking about it, I tend to resort to monologuing.

Like I just did.

So I don’t really have a favorite intro question; while I recognize and respect the role they often play, that’s still akin to asking me about my favorite immunization shot.

(It’s the tetanus jab btw.)

Instead, I’ll share an essay from Adam Mastroianni, titled “Good conversations have lots of doorknobs”, in which he opines,

What matters most, then, is not how much we give or take, but whether we offer and accept affordances. Takers can present big, graspable doorknobs (“I get kinda creeped out when couples treat their dogs like babies”) or not (“Let me tell you about the plot of the movie Must Love Dogs …”). Good taking makes the other side want to take too (“I know! My friends asked me to be the godparent to their Schnauzer, it’s so crazy” “What?? Was there a ceremony?”). Similarly, some questions have doorknobs (“Why do you think you and your brother turned out so different?”) and some don’t (“How many of your grandparents are still living?”). But even affordance-less giving can be met with affordance-ful taking (“I have one grandma still alive, and I think a lot about all this knowledge she has––how to raise a family, how to cope with tragedy, how to make chocolate zucchini bread––and how I feel anxious about learning from her while I still can”).

IOW, consider “getting to know” folks by… Sharing some information about yourself, in a way that makes it both possible and pleasant for others to do likewise. Or, if you’re just more comfortable asking a question… Try to make it a question that doesn’t implicitly turn into an exam, but rather invites folks to respond in ways that themselves are amenable to riffing.