what do you thinkI have been noticing a trend recently that seems a little odd to me. Let me know if you agree or if you think I'm getting a little odd myself! Some people are adding 'thoughts?' to the end of a social media post with a link or a few comments about an issue. Usually we don't know the point of view of the person making the post, or why they are asking for our input, so the command-like 'thoughts?' at the end of the post seems a little out of place to me.

I'm pretty sure the person is usually trying to trigger a conversation. I've seen this on social media mostly, where there's often scope for that conversation to take place. But I see 'thoughts?' and think 'well, what do you think about x?' or' why do you want my thoughts?' or 'what are you trying to do here?' or even 'why are you bothering?'.  And sometimes, the topic is so trivial, I just ignore it. In other cases though, the topic is more substantial and worthy of a conversation. I like good, meaty conversations that have a purpose.

This sort of approach is used more formally in futures workshop - the context is change that participants are dealing with or need to understand better, they are asked what is your reaction to it, or what are your potential responses? Have a conversation. And when someone invariably says 'what do you think?', the response is always 'my view doesn't matter - you are living with this change, not me'. The intent: no shortcuts here, you have to think about and shape your future, not me.

While the intent is the same with 'thoughts?' - get people to think and have a conversation - the context is very different. People in workshops are there for a purpose, they know they will have to think and expect to be pushed. People on social media or a forum have a choice - they don't have to join the conversation. So if you want them to join your conversation you need to invite them not command them.

The issue here I think is mostly time, and perhaps the medium. The person writing the post is using a shorthand - here's a topic and 'thoughts?'. There's no compulsion to respond, so it comes down to whether the person (i) thinks the topic is interesting and (ii) do I have time to think about this?

If the topic is trivial, responses will come easy because it takes little time and it's a bit of fun. If it's more substantial then without the context from the poster, it's more difficult to frame a response. I've seen responses to 'thoughts?' that range from serious to annoyed to nasty. And the latter two responses do little for the reputation of the poster and it shuts down the conversation that could have been into something useless.

Maybe it's social media that promotes brevity at the expense of context. Shortcuts have a place on these platforms maybe because of that. Blogs are certainly better for context setting than social media but not everyone has a blog or the time to write blog posts. So maybe 'thoughts?' is okay, but for me it just seems too abrupt if you want a conversation.

Here's my thinking. If you have an issue you want to discuss online then say that, avoid using shorthand:

  • this is something I think is important/find interesting/know little about,
  • here's why, and
  • I'd value your views.

You can do this on social media, even Twitter if you edit well.

For me, this is an invitation that I'd consider seriously, not a command which makes me wonder what's going on. Context matters if you are serious about garnering other people's thoughts.