Have you found yourself wanting to write letters to the editor of every newspaper or magazine you read? Do you get unexplainable urges to call in to talk radio shows? Me too. And I think it's Slashdot's fault.
I had never been the type to care enough to write letters to the editor. There's a man in my community who writes letters to the editor all the time. He was a substitute teacher in my school when I was a kid, and we all thought he was a crotchety old guy with a mean temper*. He writes letters to every local publication full of stubborn complaints about everything. I think that the editors must be sick to death of him. So I've always felt that I didn't want to grow up and become like that.
But I've recently found myself wishing that newspapers had comments enabled. Sometimes I'll want to make a side observation about a small point related to a story. Other times I'll start writing furiously about a vitally important distinction that must be made, or how a magazine should never have printed such rubbish, only to sit back and realize that I'm making a big deal over nothing and a letter to the editor would just be overkill. I hate to say it, but I'm almost becoming crotchety in my not-quite-old age.
I realized that my desire to discuss the things that I read is a direct effect of posting comments on /.. To risk sounding JonKatz-ish, this forum has got me thinking about what I read and encouraged me to talk back. That's definitely a good thing, but I still don't want to turn into a stubborn pedant. Bitterness, irritability and knee-jerk reactions are not character traits that I want to live with. That's not the kind of person I want to be.
So this /. effect is a good one, as long as I make sure that it's affecting me in a positive way.
(*)To his credit, I later found out that as a young man he was a hero who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during WWII and escaped from the Nazis before they liquidated the ghetto.