Is Facebook good for working out ideas in dialogue or conversation? I’m thinking yes and no.

Yes: Facebook’s immediacy—the “have a thought/express a thought” dynamic—is great for setting the crowd mind loose on a half-formed idea. Let’s say I have a vaguely formed thought about parenting, or the federal budget deficit, or science and faith, and I want to develop it. In the spirit of “two heads are better than one,” I put it out there and let people express what they think. They build on one another’s thoughts, mix and match good insights, and voila! The idea gets better and more developed.

No: Half-formed ideas are quirky things. Some are perfect for Facebook as described above. Others, though, need time and, to use a gardening term, shade to reach full flower. The best place for these seedling insights is safe within the human brain, where they can float around, take shape, and combine with other ideas to form something bigger.

Any writer can tell you about the seedling insight. It may come in the form of a big theme for a book, a character trait in a novel, or the barest whisper of an association for a poem. It’s the sort of thing that could, if exposed too early or to the wrong people, get picked to death. Its originator can easily lose confidence, and a potentially good idea withers on the vine.

What determines how much you share? Some of it may have to do with the thought’s novelty. Fresh ideas are always welcome for kicking around, but if it’s too fresh or unusual, it may scare people too much to generate give-and-take on a casual site like Facebook. Personality and sensitivity play a big role too. The closer to one’s heart the thought is, the more time it needs to germinate internally. The more private I am as a person, the less personal information I’ll want to share. So an introvert could post something about mental health and public policy for reactions, but he probably won’t work through his own issues there. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

It’s curious that different dialogue technologies address ideas in different ways. Conversation Cafés, for instance, enable the free flow of any and every idea within certain parameters. Clearness Committees, on the other hand, provide hours of silence and reflective listening to allow one’s deepest thoughts to emerge.

What do you think? Do you ever use Facebook to generate dialogue, or even to run ideas past people? If so, how’s it worked for you? If not, would you ever use it? Why or why not?