Author Topic: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community  (Read 8221 times)

eigen

  • A function of something...
  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 493
  • CHE Posts: 1477
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #75 on: February 21, 2021, 03:30:20 PM »
None of this particularly bothers me, personally, but I definitely hear from new posters who leave because they can't stomach it, and that's not healthy for the community. People often characterize "academia" as eating its own young, and I would definitely say this forum is a microcosm of that.

You liken this message board to a library, but that's not (imo) a good analogy. It's a community. Is there information buried here? Sure. But it's not organized, it's not collated, it's not stored. If we wanted that, we'd make a community sourced wiki of academic knowledge rather than a message board.

My library analogy was because there are so many threads on here, like books in a library. Am I unusual in only following a tiny fraction of them? At any one time, I'm probably only looking at a dozen or so, and I probably only comment regularly on half of those. If there were threads that bothered me I'd just ignore them.
For posters that can't stomach it, is it that they feel they have a perspective on a thread that hasn't been expressed, but they are afraid to do so for fear of attack? Or are they unsettled that the range of opinions expressed on an issue is wider than they expected in this kind of forum? I'd genuinely like to understand what peoples' expectations are, especially in regard to topics on which people disagree. Should they be avoided entirely, or should threads be cloded and/or deleted if they get too heated?

I keep up with almost every new thread and post. I browse exclusively through the "New Posts" list and check in on most of them every day or so.

The vitriol in this forum is really, really high. Most of it doesn't cross the line into "personal attacks", but it stays pretty consistently one level below that. Coupled with people pulling baggage into pretty much any new thread (be it issues of race, class, economics, politics, or adjunctification) the barrier for starting here as a new poster is high.
Quote from: Caracal
Actually reading posts before responding to them seems to be a problem for a number of people on here...

Ruralguy

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1416
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #76 on: February 21, 2021, 04:08:01 PM »
I usually just occasionally look at “those” threads...sort of like only peeking at what my uncle said about Trump on Facebook about once a week, if even, but not really responding.

Cheerful

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 813
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #77 on: February 21, 2021, 04:12:06 PM »
The vitriol in this forum is really, really high. Most of it doesn't cross the line into "personal attacks", but it stays pretty consistently one level below that. Coupled with people pulling baggage into pretty much any new thread (be it issues of race, class, economics, politics, or adjunctification) the barrier for starting here as a new poster is high.

Interesting how impressions differ.  Vitriol here is "really, really high?"  I don't have that impression.

"race, class, economics, politics, or adjunctification"  These issues aren't discussed in every thread.

"the barrier for starting here as a new poster is high."  Again, I don't see that.  Create a moniker, register, post, read stuff you want to read, ignore the rest.

Quote
You liken this message board to a library, but that's not (imo) a good analogy. It's a community. Is there information buried here? Sure. But it's not organized, it's not collated, it's not stored.

Fora info seems organized among thread titles, like NSF threads, for example.

While I don't share your impressions on these matters, I appreciate all you've done to create The Fora and continue doing to keep things going.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 04:40:14 PM by Cheerful »

Caracal

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1872
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #78 on: February 21, 2021, 04:37:10 PM »


Most of the reports are people miffed at me or an example of SPADFY, not real violations of rules.



Not at all interested in dredging up feuds, but I actually think this gets to the issue with limited moderation.  If the only thing that is a "real" violation of the rules is calling someone a pedophile or a four letter word, that lets all sorts of abusive behavior go unchecked. The problem is that abusive personal attacks tend to beget more of the same and things get ugly in a way they don't when people keep things civl. Unfortunately, I can attest to that personally. I got in a grumpy exchange about survey methodology last week, but there was never any danger that things were going to escalate. Nobody was calling anybody names or accusing anyone of anything. Stuff goes off the rails when people are being belittled and accused of having sinister motivations, not when they disagree.

I think it would be possible to try to deal more with problematic behavior without heavy moderation. Wouldn't it be possible to have a system where if someone gets posts reported that run over or near the line, they get something along the lines of a friendly note from a moderator, reminding them that while disagreement is fine, they need to be a bit more careful. If problems continue that could move into a formal warning, then perhaps some sort of suspension and eventually removal. I imagine there wouldn't really usually be a need for things to go far and a friendly note would usually do the trick.

Parasaurolophus

  • near crested lizard
  • Senior Moderator
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2724
  • CHE Posts: 1640
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #79 on: February 21, 2021, 04:46:19 PM »
I usually just occasionally look at “those” threads...sort of like only peeking at what my uncle said about Trump on Facebook about once a week, if even, but not really responding.

I think that's the real trouble with them, and what puts new users off. I don't blame you or anyone else for not wanting to participate--it's not pleasant! But I think this helps me to articulate the point I was trying to make earlier. There's a real difference between seeing a thread like that in which one or two posters are adamantly recalcitrant but are very clearly in the minority and are being shouted down, versus a thread that's entirely dominated by them. One of those looks friendlier to newcomers than the other. They each paint a very different picture of the Fora's more general composition. And when there are several of these going at once...

It's like if you brought your same-sex partner home for Christmas and your homophobic uncle spouted off. Imagine two bifurcating futures: one in which everybody else in the room ignores it and lets him be, and one in which the rest of the room calls his shit and makes it clear it's not welcome at family gatherings. One of those futures is a more pleasant one for your partner than the other. At least, that's my intuition.

(Incidentally, I'm not good at this IRL. I tend towards the conciliatory, and my inclination is always to keep quiet. It's a hard habit to shake!)
I know it's a genus.

eigen

  • A function of something...
  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 493
  • CHE Posts: 1477
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #80 on: February 21, 2021, 04:49:40 PM »


Most of the reports are people miffed at me or an example of SPADFY, not real violations of rules.



Not at all interested in dredging up feuds, but I actually think this gets to the issue with limited moderation.  If the only thing that is a "real" violation of the rules is calling someone a pedophile or a four letter word, that lets all sorts of abusive behavior go unchecked. The problem is that abusive personal attacks tend to beget more of the same and things get ugly in a way they don't when people keep things civl. Unfortunately, I can attest to that personally. I got in a grumpy exchange about survey methodology last week, but there was never any danger that things were going to escalate. Nobody was calling anybody names or accusing anyone of anything. Stuff goes off the rails when people are being belittled and accused of having sinister motivations, not when they disagree.

I think it would be possible to try to deal more with problematic behavior without heavy moderation. Wouldn't it be possible to have a system where if someone gets posts reported that run over or near the line, they get something along the lines of a friendly note from a moderator, reminding them that while disagreement is fine, they need to be a bit more careful. If problems continue that could move into a formal warning, then perhaps some sort of suspension and eventually removal. I imagine there wouldn't really usually be a need for things to go far and a friendly note would usually do the trick.

This would all be very possible, but was vehemently opposed by a vocal majority at the outset of these forums, which led to the rules and moderation policy we currently have in place. I initially proposed a more fleshed out code-of-conduct, but that was shot down as being "tone policing".

And I can tell you from experience how well most users here respond to a "friendly PM from a mod telling them they're close to a line".

It's also pretty common on here for anyone who has an issue with the forums, tones, etc. to be met with a crowd of people telling them it's all in their perception (see examples upthread). In the past 5 years (old and new fora) the perception issue with new posters has been brought up a great many times. It's always met with (old) users saying that nothing's really wrong and new people just need to adjust. Then we end up with the discussion of why we don't get many new members, and the cycle continues. At some point, I wonder if people will realize that whether they agree or not, a number of people don't "perceive" the environment here as friendly, welcoming, or something that's worth taking the time to get into as a community over other available options.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2021, 04:52:49 PM by eigen »
Quote from: Caracal
Actually reading posts before responding to them seems to be a problem for a number of people on here...

eigen

  • A function of something...
  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 493
  • CHE Posts: 1477
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #81 on: February 21, 2021, 04:57:17 PM »
The vitriol in this forum is really, really high. Most of it doesn't cross the line into "personal attacks", but it stays pretty consistently one level below that. Coupled with people pulling baggage into pretty much any new thread (be it issues of race, class, economics, politics, or adjunctification) the barrier for starting here as a new poster is high.

Interesting how impressions differ.  Vitriol here is "really, really high?"  I don't have that impression.

"race, class, economics, politics, or adjunctification"  These issues aren't discussed in every thread.

"the barrier for starting here as a new poster is high."  Again, I don't see that.  Create a moniker, register, post, read stuff you want to read, ignore the rest.

Quote
You liken this message board to a library, but that's not (imo) a good analogy. It's a community. Is there information buried here? Sure. But it's not organized, it's not collated, it's not stored.

Fora info seems organized among thread titles, like NSF threads, for example.

While I don't share your impressions on these matters, I appreciate all you've done to create The Fora and continue doing to keep things going.

I'm just sharing what I hear, especially from other communities / reasons why people don't want to join this community when it's suggested or brought up.

There's some info here, sure, but the NSF threads here are so minimal that they're borderline useless (IMO) relative to other communities that are much more research focused. I certainly wouldn't come here to ask questions about grants / research. We have too small of a community with too little overlap (fields, types of institutions, etc.) for much advice to be useful to the average person who asks. I'm not saying I haven't picked up a lot of useful stuff here over the years, but the signal:noise ratio is really, really high. I have other places I go to for discussions of pedagogy, classroom management, research, grants, publishing, etc.

What this place *is* really useful for is a community that is immensely diverse in the fields and types of institutions they represent. I've learned more about the breadth and variety of "norms" in higher ed here than anywhere else.
Quote from: Caracal
Actually reading posts before responding to them seems to be a problem for a number of people on here...

Cheerful

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 813
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #82 on: February 21, 2021, 05:07:31 PM »
How are new people even finding out about The Fora?
The Chronicle of Higher Ed connection for the old CHE fora was a big factor in attracting new posters there.  No such thing close to that for The Fora.


eigen

  • A function of something...
  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 493
  • CHE Posts: 1477
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #83 on: February 21, 2021, 05:45:57 PM »
How are new people even finding out about The Fora?
The Chronicle of Higher Ed connection for the old CHE fora was a big factor in attracting new posters there.  No such thing close to that for The Fora.

Up until very recently, we were still directly linked to the CHE- they had a "forum" link that directed people here.

It's no longer listed on the main page, but still there: https://www.chronicle.com/page/chronicle-forums

Most people seem to find their way here through mentions on reddit, facebook, and word of mouth among other things.

We're also the 3rd hit on google for "higher education forum", which helps.
Quote from: Caracal
Actually reading posts before responding to them seems to be a problem for a number of people on here...

Sun_Worshiper

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 498
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #84 on: February 21, 2021, 05:52:54 PM »
I agree that it would be better for the community if there were more threads centering on academic topics. Maybe some more general threads would be helpful:
- What are tenure expectations like in your department?
- Share your experiences publishing UP books (approaching the press, working with the editor, etc.)
- Tips for new folks on the tenure track
- Etc.

I also wouldn't be opposed to some light moderation to do two things: (1) require threads on political/social issues to include a clear question for everyone to respond to, (2) nudge posters to stay on topic. I don't know how realistic this is or how it could be done effectively, but I do think it would lead to better and more focused discussions and offer openings for lurkers to chime in.

nucleo

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #85 on: February 21, 2021, 06:13:34 PM »

I think that's the real trouble with them, and what puts new users off. I don't blame you or anyone else for not wanting to participate--it's not pleasant! But I think this helps me to articulate the point I was trying to make earlier. There's a real difference between seeing a thread like that in which one or two posters are adamantly recalcitrant but are very clearly in the minority and are being shouted down, versus a thread that's entirely dominated by them.

Yes, exactly.  This is a very good description of why I have only been lurking these days.  And I used to participate on the old forum.  Not necessarily a lot, but now and again.  (I think I was above 800 posts.)

Parasaurolophus

  • near crested lizard
  • Senior Moderator
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2724
  • CHE Posts: 1640
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #86 on: February 21, 2021, 06:14:58 PM »
I agree that it would be better for the community if there were more threads centering on academic topics. Maybe some more general threads would be helpful:
- What are tenure expectations like in your department?
- Share your experiences publishing UP books (approaching the press, working with the editor, etc.)
- Tips for new folks on the tenure track
- Etc.



One thread that I thought was really cool--and showcased a whole direction we almost never explore here, but could, and it would be really awesome--was that thread on haint blue.

My research is adjacent to loads of stuff in other fields that I don't know well, and it would be really cool if we had a place/a culture of asking for help on such things here. (My subfield association maintains such a space, called '[subfield] anonymous' and it's immensely helpful).
I know it's a genus.

Puget

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 942
  • Always tries to use Sound judgment
  • CHE Posts: 447
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #87 on: February 21, 2021, 06:36:43 PM »
To my mind the problem is 3-4 posters who are very vocal and tend to turn certain threads into echo chambers-- muting their posts or just not reading those threads pretty much solves the problem. I don't see any point in arguing with them-- isn't going to change anyone's mind and I'm not sure how that would help new people feel welcome-- whatever happened to do not feed the trolls?

Most non-political threads are quite friendly-- for example I've seen nothing but care and support on the mental health thread, and many others are just light and fun (cats! pies!). On the academic focused threads, I think a good deal of interesting discussion and good advice is on offer, though of course posters don't always like the answers they get.

So I guess while I agree a tad more moderation might help, I don't see a major problem.
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

marshwiggle

  • Finally, a
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2461
  • Old Narnian
  • CHE Posts: 3299
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #88 on: February 22, 2021, 04:00:32 AM »


I think that's the real trouble with them, and what puts new users off. I don't blame you or anyone else for not wanting to participate--it's not pleasant! But I think this helps me to articulate the point I was trying to make earlier. There's a real difference between seeing a thread like that in which one or two posters are adamantly recalcitrant but are very clearly in the minority and are being shouted down, versus a thread that's entirely dominated by them.

This is the attitude that makes me very concerned about more moderation; the implication that if the people guilty of "wrongthink" get shouted down then things are good.

It boggles my mind that in a forum for academics this is considered a fairly mainstream opinion.
It takes so little to be above average.

Parasaurolophus

  • near crested lizard
  • Senior Moderator
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 2724
  • CHE Posts: 1640
Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #89 on: February 22, 2021, 08:00:12 AM »


I think that's the real trouble with them, and what puts new users off. I don't blame you or anyone else for not wanting to participate--it's not pleasant! But I think this helps me to articulate the point I was trying to make earlier. There's a real difference between seeing a thread like that in which one or two posters are adamantly recalcitrant but are very clearly in the minority and are being shouted down, versus a thread that's entirely dominated by them.

This is the attitude that makes me very concerned about more moderation; the implication that if the people guilty of "wrongthink" get shouted down then things are good.

It boggles my mind that in a forum for academics this is considered a fairly mainstream opinion.

We know that things are bad when the people who are behaving poorly face no resistance, because that communicates tacit support.

We also know that things are bad when people who behave poorly are hugged and kissed and told their stupid and hurtful ideas are right, or special and just as valuable as anyone else's.

The other option is to call people out on their bullshit. If lots of people do so, that communicates to new members and lurkers that these views are not widely shared in the community.
I know it's a genus.