A new forum for exchanging thoughts

June 11, 2019 • 12:00 pm

A reader told me about a new forum for exchanging thoughts online, via exchanges of letters, that allows far more space than Twitter but promises to be less toxic. It’s called “Letter“, is associated with Areo Magazine, and accommodates back-and-forth discussions between scholars and generally intelligent folk. Click on the screenshot to go there:

I think anybody can sign up and publish thoughts, though presumably there’s a moderator to prevent invective and frivolous stuff. Here are a few examples of what’s up there now; I’ve highlighted stuff that would interest me, but of course there’s more. Click on the screenshots to go to the exchanges.


Some of the letters, like this one, don’t yet have answers, and I don’t know if they will:

It looks promising so far, and we’ll see if it survives. In the meantime, check it out.

h/t: Daniel

14 thoughts on “A new forum for exchanging thoughts

  1. I checked it out and it looks like it’ll be a great resource. I gave a quick read of “On Feminism & Christina Sommers And Roxane Gay” — lots of interesting stuff there, including meddling by the SPLC, which, in light of the title of the exchange might be called ‘dicking around’ by the SPLC. The discussion isn’t limited to that topic but extends to others and uses these comments to make more general statements about the deplorable and extremely polarized state of discourse in society today. Now on to “On Epistemology & Postmodernism”

  2. Good stuff! You got a mention in the Boghossian/Boudry letter. ;^) I hope to see some contributions from you.

  3. Might be useful in some circumstances, but I really don’t think Balkanizing social media is going to help anything in the long run.

    1. I could be wrong, but this seems like a place to go when someone yells ‘get a room’ (metaphorically, of course). A place to take something not well suited to twitter for further discussion.

    2. What model do you prefer? Having a very few massive sites that exert arbitrary control over what can be said isn’t a good model, either.

  4. Just took a quick look – *Letter* seems lacking organization and structure (topics, author list, etc.). Currently just a sequence of conversions.

    Looks like it has potential, but needs work.

    1. As the hat tippee, I’ll just say that I’m a big fan of it! And yes, it’s fairly new- only recently out of the beta stage I think. But it’s attracting good attention, and already there’s some good conversations there. And as a recipient of the newsletter I can say there’s a lot of ideas swilling around for how to go forward- including the use of AI to transcribe the written word into spoken word using the writer’s voice (and vice versa).

      Plus there’s a lot of discussion about future formatting, eg. comments, topics, group conversations etc. And much more.

      I’m just an enthusiastic user with a good virtual acquaintance with some of the founders and movers and shakers, so there’s a lot I’m not privy to- and I’m not obligated to be so enthusiastic. My proselytisation comes from my own free will (to speak loosely!) rather than a sense of duty to an employer or suchlike.

      Some of the users are scholars, some students, some intelligent laypersons. It’s early days but I truly think it’s a good idea with a great future. And its inspired by the enlightenment era republic of letters- what’s not to love? And if you disagree- sign up to Letter and tell me why I’m wrong to love Letter!

      PS. I don’t think it’s Balkanising- it’s just an alternative venue with a better ethos for good faith disagreement and discussion than, say, Twitter (and a higher word limit of course!). I don’t think it’s going to replace Twitter or anything but through using Twitter more intelligently and using Letter, I think better conversations are possible.

      PSS. I won’t comment again as I’ve said my piece, and I don’t want to clog things up- as you can see I’m a bit long winded so I’ll hush now!

  5. Dear Jerry,

    I’m one of the Co-founders of Letter so it was a wonderful surprise to see your write-up. Thank you.

    I think I first discovered your work via the ‘dangerous idea’ piece you wrote for edge.org back in 2006. I love what you’ve done with Why Evolution Is true, though I’ve just become a subscriber I visit here often and consider it an invaluable resource.

    Needless to say my team and I would be honoured to host you in conversation on Letter. You can learn more about our platform via our About and FAQ pages (https://letter.wiki/about & https://letter.wiki/faq)

    You have an open invitation to discuss anything of interest on Letter. I’m especially keen to promote your books by inviting a sincere and thoughtful interlocutor to engage in a dialectic with you. We recently did something similar with David Sloan Wilson and Massimo Pigliucci, which has lead to a fascinating dialogue.

    To learn more about Letter, provide feedback or make suggestions you and your readers are welcome to contact me directly at clyde@karma.wiki

    The community you’ve built here are precisely the people we need to help Letter reach its potential.


    Clyde Rathbone

  6. This might be useful for historical purposes of it takes off. Scholars in various disciplines who used to collect intellectual correspondence for publication as part of “Nachlass” have lamented the introduction of email. Now …

  7. Thank you so much for this thoughtful review, Jerry! I work with the Letter team to try to facilitate conversations. If anyone reading this has any suggestions, questions or requests about Letter, please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter @IonaItalia. Or write to me at Letter itself, if you want to start a longform conversation.

Leave a Reply