There are two aspects to any written debate which I think need to be considered in any discussion about readership styles.
Firstly, written debate is is relatively permanent, so what we say has a habit of being read and re-read - and quoted back to us after our position has changed through debate!
Secondly the audience is invisible.
Let us transport ourselves to a university debating chamber, where someone might say 'What's the problem with that idea then pal?", said with a smile and an arm round the shoulder it's seen as a quizzical search for more information, if the "Pal" is spat out when standing square on shoulder to shoulder with faces inches away from each other and red cheeks, we see a different image and a different intention.
Similarly, If the next post in a written debate assumes one or other of these outcomes then the chances are that all future responses will tend to make the same assumption.
We therefore not only make our own points, we provide context for all the comments that have gone before hand and which we did not write. How often do you post something and find another comment has intervened between the one you were relying to an your comment? Have you ever pulled a comment because the context has now changed?
Dr Dinesh S Katre talks about this sort of stuff and in particular about Empathy and Reciprocity. Empathy is where "members respond to echo similar opinions and forget to contribute their independent observations on the issue" and reciprocity where there is a strong desire to respond to a point - even if it is a diversion. These things mean that the direction of a thread can often be diverted without that ever being the intention of any of the writers.
A friendly or fiery statement using the same words might be correctly interpreted in the dabating chamber, but, In the written environment either is possible and some will interpret one thing and some another. We need to bear that in mind when we write, and when we read responses.
We know we have an invisible audience, and a lot of people are here reading and not commenting. I discussed in this thread some aspects of participation, and in this thread some aspects of how you should consider new readers.
Our invisible audience is interpreting what we write in their context and providing no feedback at all on the way they have interpreted it. They do leave digital breadcrumbs though and you can track their trail. That gives you some idea about what is good and what is not good for the invisible audience that you have.
I think there are four principle style of readers, Introverts and Extroverts and Reactors and Reflectors. Bear in mind that some people may not write in the style in which they read.
Introverts tend to read on the basis of what does this mean for them at an individual level. This is not selfishness, it's about the context that they apply, Extroverts on the basis of what does it mean for others
Reactors tend to respond by writing about the specific issue or points, they will respond to a multifaceted post on a single issue of the post, reflectors tend to take time to consider wider options and comment on the consequences of alternatives.
When an Introverted Reactor responds to an extraverted reflector the styles inevitably clash, both may agree but neither can see te other point of view.
Our responsibility has to be to consider all the styles whilst writing and to also consider the different styles when reading too.
My natural instinct is to see the impact of posts on others and seek to protect consequences of that, (extravert reflection), seen from an introverted reactors point of view my writing can sometimes appear to be advocating censorship and even, heaven forfend, political correctness. Our style difference results in a misunderstanding. Overcoming those differences is what will make debate here or in any social network even more worthwhile and valuable.
I'll post some more about writing for these styles in the near future.