Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fail to Scroll at Your Own Peril!

One of the skills identified in my research on computer mediated communication is a really simple one.  Like most simple concepts, it is one that if you get it wrong the consequences can be moderately disastrous.  It is, quite simply, scrolling down!

Think about it.  Have you ever missed a really important point because you didn't quite scroll down far enough in an email trail?  Or perhaps you only half read your Twitter feed this morning and missed a critical Tweet.  Discussion Boards are another space where scrolling down can stop you from making the proverbial idiot of yourself when you write something someone else has already covered.

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Most of us are oblivious to how often we do scroll - most operating systems and web designs mean we scroll every time we open a web site. The skill of scrolling down is both the motor art - physically scrolling and knowing the easiest way to do this depending on your hardware and software.  When I'm on my PC using the trackball to scroll would be my favoured method - but I know others who swear by the up and down arrows. It's a matter of personal preference.

More importantly it is the skill of remembering to scroll- and the associated skill of being able to read postings/emails in a backwards thread.  This non-linear reading is a skill we have developed along with digital communication technology. The associated skill here is time management. Most people who can tell you about a "I didn't scroll through" disaster, will give context to the story by pre-empting how busy they were at the time. It is critical not to underestimate the concentration and time required to scroll or read non linear threads accurately - and then also critically evaluate them.

The equivalent old skills would be scanning a set of letters, turning the page of a memo, or simply taking the time to read correspondence through to the end. Somehow the speed of digital communications makes us think we need to be speedy in our scrolling and reading. Not so! It has the potential to make idiots of the best of us. Slow down and scroll - you never know, if you read until the end there might not be any action required by you!

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