I notice that I often struggle with maintaining online conversations. But in a very different way from how I struggle with IRL conversations 😛. This is an exploration of structural differences between those two modes that cause the divergence.
When you are talking with someone in real-time - you're forced to focus on (prioritize) one thread, as people generally cannot support multiple concurrent IRL conversations.
When one branch is exhausted you can pick up some other thread you remembered, to maintain the conversation
Also, it's possible for a branch to get exhausted - namely when you have no thoughts about it for a while. With asynchronous communication - you have "infinite time" and so can continue extending any given branch almost indefinitely.
With online conversation you can reply to each point, follow up on each message creating many parallel branches on the tree and each branch has no clear stopping point.
Of course this often benefits a more serious discussion, but it can get overwhelming in a casual interaction
The medium that you use for your online conversation can have a significant impact on it's character
When you use Email - the expectation is for you to reply to all the points in the previous message before sending a reply.
Which often leads to people being stuck replying to a message for a long time, as
replying to all points feels like "a lot of work" which prevents from even getting started
and it actually is more work, so even after you start it make take a while for the full reply to be ready
With IM, one can start replying point by point, in the order of priority partially dropping or deferring some of the conversation threads
What is interesting is that this is mostly a cultural thing?
Nothing prevents you from using email in a similar fashion, but people's expectation to the contrary.
Though IM UX encourages you to send points as separate messages that you can reply to individually
One solution would be to ignore and prioritize branches as you do in IRL conversation, but I often feel bad about abandoning them 🤔
scalability considerations are important (one thing I notice is that if I don't pay attention to them is that I can get overwhelmed and get a flinch reaction for the conversation and then it'd take forever for me to reply and then that adds embarrassment about having taken a long time to reply on top of that....)