On the Limits of Online Communities and Online Discussions

Woodpecker's first computer. At that time, internet discussions was not something to worry about, haha!

Woodpecker’s first computer. At that time, internet discussions was not something to worry about, haha!

Ah, the internet!
What a wonderful world, what a wonderful tool!

You can obtain basically any information anytime you want, you can watch movies and idle away whole days there. You can feel part of the crowd and of a community without ever leaving your sofa.

You can have hundreds of friends there.

And yet, something is missing.

I realized that very clearly the other day when having some discussions on various internet channels.

Basically, I think there are two types of discussions in general:

(1) A “rational” discussion / talk

That is you and your counterparts exchange information and facts on a given topic. Often a topic where nobody or at least some participants do not have too much knowledge about at this point of time. And they are happy to receive additional information within the “discussion”.
Example: Discussion how to live more frugally. How to save petrol, where to buy cheap etc.
Here, mere facts are exchanged that will not involve the deeper and complex levels of your and the other’s personality.
It is pure rational exchange. And writing is a perfect tool for rational exchange. Thus, this is where the internet excels and should be used for.

But there is also the second type of discussion / talk:

(2) An “emotional” or “personal” discussion / talk

This is a discussion where typically at least one (mostly even all) participants have their feelings, their values, their concept of life, their view on the world involved. That is, you are not exchanging pure facts but also opinions. You are always in danger of questioning the others concept of life without knowing. And you are in danger of being attacked in your concept of life as well – often without the intention of the counterpart!

Example: “A discussion on how to react e.g. to islamist terrorism”. Or: “Is our society and economic system fair?” Bam! Here you go, immediately the ground will turn into a battlefield, with your opinions coming out of the barracks and deploying to the trenches, ready to defend you so-loved (and of course so correct (irony!) ) view of the world and your (of course universally valid (irony!) ) experiences.

Needless to say this is a difficult setting for a discussion.
But it still can be done, you just need a lot more information exchange between participants.
Something that writing cannot deliver.

Importance of body language

When I first hear the famous saying “80% of information between two people talking is exchanged via body language” years ago I thought this is crap. But actually, if you think about it, it is true! If you include the tone of your voice, the looks, the pitch, the movements etc., there is a hell of a lot of information transmitted next to the mere words. And exactly here lays the shortfall of online communication.

Example: You say something which you are convinced of to a person in a face to face setting and you notice she is hurt by what you said. You don’t know why she is hurt, but as you realize (and if you are not a complete idiot), within seconds, you will slow down your attack, you will check back why the other person was hurt, and in doing so, she might reveal the reasons and experience behind her reaction which in turn will lead you to better understand her position. You might then start a second attempt on what you were going to say, but rephrase it, maybe weaken it, taking her feelings into account. This all happens at a high pace and typically more or less naturally. That way you can discuss even very personal and emotional topics face to face if you have a minimum level of empathy and compassion (and I firmly belief everyone has that).

Not so in an online discussion.
You write something, then you wait without being able to observe. You maybe log off or preparing your next blow. The other person might be hurt or upset as well but you will not be able to notice. The only thing you see later is that she writes back in an angry or aggressive tone. You get angry too. But as it is practically impossible to accurately transport a “feeling” without it looking quite stupid or being unprecise (unless you are a poet maybe), you just shoot back and so forth.


I think I was involved in many “opinion”-based discussions in the internet, unless I noticed at some point that more or less never there was a real mutual understanding or progress evolving out of them.
Almost always, it was a mere mutual bombardment with facts, rhetoric blows and not seldom outright manipulation. A set of two or more (it gets worse with the number of participants) monologues instead of a real discussion. And I admit I played my part and did not do better than others.
In the end, the likely outcome is not a synthesis of opinions, but mostly a truce between participants when everybody realizes this is not leading anywhere.
And, also not seldom the outcome was even more negative: One of the participants left the discussion or the community for good.


A discussion in the internet on personal or emotional topics does not make sense.

In fact it does often more harm than benefit.

But the thing is, discussions / talks about personal and emotional topics are the real interesting ones!
They are the real spice of life and of communication, they are where you can cross the bridge and really establish contact to the deeper levels of another person. They are what holds friends, lovers and real communities together.
But not online!

Again: You have to get up from the sofa and meet people in person. And then start a talk about the great things in life, emotions, personal issues, opinions. Just do yourself and others a favour and don’t try to do this type of discussions online.




Ps. Any experience, advise that you have and like to share? Leave a comment!



2014 – How Crisis can Turn into Something Good

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

Wow, 10 days into the new year already, and no year-summary, no new-year-resolution post or anything the like so far.

In the past I was much quicker with the “assessment” of the year passed, with summarizing if it was a “good” or a “bad” year, which specific events were unique, and above all: How Woodpeckers performed financially. Questions like that were answered quickly in the past: “Was frugal living a success the year before?”, “Did I earn more than year?”, “Did the stash grow?”, “Did my investments perform?”.

So how come that I did not feel like a summary post this time, and even did not yet comprehend Woodpeckers financial performance in 2015 for myself?

  1. The first reason is:
    I start to get bored by my own statistics. Somewhen during this year I recognised that concentrating too much on counting money is indeed a sign that you get old, and more than that, that you obviously do not find much other thrill in life anymore.
    So you watch your stash grow in the secret hope that this – one day – will buy you back adventure, a “kick”, the lust for life.
    Bad news: This will not happen.
    The feeling of being alive cannot be bought. Literature and Myth is full of this, so it is amazing that it took Woodpecker so long to recognize he was on the very same way. Needless to say that this is not the right way to happiness.
  2. The second reason is:
    Financial Performance was crap anyway. Earnings were down (this was intentional as I took two months unpaid off in summer), spending up (we did a hell load of traveling and great short trips this year!) thus savings were down (while still much higher than anticipated), and investment performance was really bad (some not so fortunate investments done).
    Overall my current gut feeling is:
    Earnings were down 10%, spending up 5%, savings down 50% (but still +-15% of income), stash down 10% (due to bad investment performance). The last point is obviously not at all satisfying.
  3. But the main reason is:
    I refuse to let myself being dragged down by a loss of money.
    I will be honest: This did drag me down for some time during this year. But now this is overcome.
    Thus one of the two great gifts to me this year was that I overcame my addiction to “make money” and to overcome the correlation of my mood with the performance of my portfolio. The increasing focus on financial performance is THE great danger when going down the frugal living, early retirement, and the “I let my money work for me”-road. You may also simply call this temptation greed. Despite what some idiots today may try to tell you, greed is not good, not even for yourself. It will dry you out and make you a lifeless and bitter person if you yield to it. I see it all around and I am thankful I was allowed to pass this test.

    Please be careful here and very honest to yourselves!

  4. The fourth reason is:
    It was easier for me to shift away from penny counting because offline social life expanded tremendously during 2014. I made a row of new friends, old friendships that lay in hibernation for a decade were revived.
    Most important Woodpecker joined an international organization and met more different and inspiring people during this year than the total five years before. This was my second gift and continues to be an amazing and vitalizing experience. Very much recommended to everyone. Look around you and instead of counting money, go out and invest in people. Find clubs, societies, associations, whatever and give it a try. Contact people of your youth and propose to meet. Shut down the internet and get out! Drink beers (or juice if you prefer), travel and intentionally mix up with people you found strange or different before. Open yourself, listen to them, talk about god and the world and the big things. Connect on a deeper, personal level. Do things together, enjoy nature together, plan and dream.

    is life! And not your bank-account or you facebook chat.

So if you are solely looking for advise for extreme early retirement or perfection in frugal living, you might better want to leave this blog, I will not follow that extreme road anymore.

If you feel like there is something more in life than retiring early or frugal living, and that efficient spending is merely one tool helping you on your search for those “bigger” things, then you’d better stay, there is more to come.


OK, having said all of this, was it a good year then?

Oh yes, it was. It was not always an easy year, and Woodpecker plus family had their share of crisis this time. But I firmly believe sometimes crisis is needed to muster the energy for real change.

And without change, life is nothing for me.

This is what also gives me hope when I see the world around:

Yes, there seems to be crisis everywhere you look.

But what if this crises will lead to a change to the better instead of doom?I think this is very well possible, and if you look carefully you will see a lot of signs that most crisis today turn out much less bad than anticipated by the hysteric public mood. Young people (and those young at heart) seem less and less willing to follow yesterday’s black and white schemes to solve today’s complex problems.

And most if not all doom scenarios are simply void after some years (and get postponed again and again by their advocates 🙂 ).

This is a good sign, although few people yet seem to write about it.

Thus: Spirits up and forward to a great 2015 and a bright future beyond!