Author Topic: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community  (Read 8226 times)

Sun_Worshiper

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #105 on: February 22, 2021, 01:33:44 PM »


This discussion is getting at the problem with the social/political threads. If you read through them, you will see a lot of "alternative facts," based on anecdote, dubious data, or (more often) no data at all. I don't think moderating will do much about that, however. It is really up to us as posters to try a little harder to apply the same sort of rigor to our own posts as we would demand from our students or scholars in our fields. People who are posting in bad faith or just itching to argue won't do that, but the rest of us can marginalize those posters by ignoring them or by calling out their bad faith efforts (as opposed to responding in good faith to their weak and un-substantiated claims).

It isn't totally fixable with moderation, but I think it could eliminate the posts that are egregious attempts to troll. We can't police bad arguments, but you can keep people from hijacking threads.

Let's put this in the context of an actual discussion.

There have been several reported cases of trans-females competing in women's sports (including at the high school level, hence why I said "females" instead of "women") and obliterating the competition. Since many trans-activists would say that self-identification should be all that is required, should a person in this forum be allowed to state their opinion that it is unfair for trans-females to compete in female athletic events? Or, since many trans activists would feel that such a question causes harm and is therefore trans-phobic, should it be prohibited?

I'd like to hear opinions on how moderators ought to approach this issue and others like it.

No, as long as the debate is conducted in respectful and appropriate terms.

Agreed. I don't think this should be prohibited and I don't think anyone is saying that it should be.

But I would encourage the poster making this argument to offer some context and evidence, if this is an important enough issue to you that you wish to debate it with the rest of us: Why is this a serious issue that should be given attention? Is it widespread or are you amplifying one or two instances that have bounced around the ideological echo chamber? Who is being affected by this and how?

And use data and a logical argument to support your point. This isn't a court of law or an academic journal, but since we are mostly academics it would be nice to have a discourse that is a bit higher-level than what you'd see in a random reddit thread.

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #106 on: February 22, 2021, 01:49:25 PM »
Let's put this in the context of an actual discussion.

There have been several reported cases of trans-females competing in women's sports (including at the high school level, hence why I said "females" instead of "women") and obliterating the competition. Since many trans-activists would say that self-identification should be all that is required, should a person in this forum be allowed to state their opinion that it is unfair for trans-females to compete in female athletic events? Or, since many trans activists would feel that such a question causes harm and is therefore trans-phobic, should it be prohibited?

I'd like to hear opinions on how moderators ought to approach this issue and others like it.

No, as long as the debate is conducted in respectful and appropriate terms.

Agreed. I don't think this should be prohibited and I don't think anyone is saying that it should be.

But I would encourage the poster making this argument to offer some context and evidence, if this is an important enough issue to you that you wish to debate it with the rest of us: Why is this a serious issue that should be given attention? Is it widespread or are you amplifying one or two instances that have bounced around the ideological echo chamber? Who is being affected by this and how?



This vague sense of distaste for the discussion is what concerns me. I have a strong hunch that if someone were arguing in the opposite direction, i.e. that it's great that trans students can compete in competitive sports, that there would be no such hesitancy. In that case, this forum would represent an "ideological echo chamber" where a certain view is implicitly supported, and anything else is implicitly discouraged.

Coming back to moderation, given how vague the suggestions have been of what sort of speech is appropriate, the fact that decisions may be influenced by ideology rather than fairly objective politically-agnostic rules does not inspire confidence in increased moderation.
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Sun_Worshiper

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #107 on: February 22, 2021, 02:08:57 PM »
Let's put this in the context of an actual discussion.

There have been several reported cases of trans-females competing in women's sports (including at the high school level, hence why I said "females" instead of "women") and obliterating the competition. Since many trans-activists would say that self-identification should be all that is required, should a person in this forum be allowed to state their opinion that it is unfair for trans-females to compete in female athletic events? Or, since many trans activists would feel that such a question causes harm and is therefore trans-phobic, should it be prohibited?

I'd like to hear opinions on how moderators ought to approach this issue and others like it.

No, as long as the debate is conducted in respectful and appropriate terms.

Agreed. I don't think this should be prohibited and I don't think anyone is saying that it should be.

But I would encourage the poster making this argument to offer some context and evidence, if this is an important enough issue to you that you wish to debate it with the rest of us: Why is this a serious issue that should be given attention? Is it widespread or are you amplifying one or two instances that have bounced around the ideological echo chamber? Who is being affected by this and how?



This vague sense of distaste for the discussion is what concerns me. I have a strong hunch that if someone were arguing in the opposite direction, i.e. that it's great that trans students can compete in competitive sports, that there would be no such hesitancy. In that case, this forum would represent an "ideological echo chamber" where a certain view is implicitly supported, and anything else is implicitly discouraged.

Coming back to moderation, given how vague the suggestions have been of what sort of speech is appropriate, the fact that decisions may be influenced by ideology rather than fairly objective politically-agnostic rules does not inspire confidence in increased moderation.

It isn't showing "distaste" to ask you to support a contentious and controversial statement with evidence. I'm just encouraging you to elevate the discourse, and I will try to do so as well: If I post something and you don't think that my argument is sufficiently logical or supported by data, then let me know and I promise to make a good faith effort to back it up, or to acknowledge that the data isn't there. Let's both try to make this a better board, even if we disagree politically.

I'm also not asking for moderation of speech, just for voluntary efforts by posters who want the forum to be better.

secundem_artem

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #108 on: February 22, 2021, 02:39:02 PM »
Yawn.

Sometimes, this place makes for an interesting community and interesting discussions.

And sometimes, it reads like a YouTube comments page about a contentious topic - just with better spelling.

I suspect some of the tsuris about social topics is that a fair few forumites are experts on the topic.  And a fair few are not.  But since this is not a forum run by and for experts on intersectionality, sexual identity, or any of a hundred other hot button issues, it's pretty unlikely we will ever live in a peaceable kingdom.  The lack of data behind some posting (or even good empirical argument) is the way people talk in non-expert settings.

There are a couple of people here who I find annoying.  So I rarely read their comments.  Seems to solve the problem for me.  Alternatively, I invite forumites to use the following shorthand:

1.  All problems are due to people being insufficiently woke - Just type Argument A
2.  All problems are due to people being entirely too woke - Just type Argument B
3.  All problems are due to tenured faculty malfeasance and not caring about the untenured - just type Argument C
4.  All problems with those on the adjunct death march are due to poor decision making on the part of the non-tenured - Just type Argument D
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Ruralguy

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #109 on: February 22, 2021, 07:15:06 PM »
Can we make a song of it and type ABACAB?

science.expat

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #110 on: February 23, 2021, 01:51:56 AM »
I’m a long standing forumite. I was part of the CHE fora pre-moderation and had a lot of ‘interesting’ interactions with ‘Wow’. I also learned a lot from colleagues as a mid-career researcher and future academic leader. While it was an entertaining and educational time, a major issue was that trolls like Wow affected threads across the fora.

The moderated CHE version was much more civilised and the consistently difficult people were at least less strident. And it was moderated by a group of paid and volunteer workers who could respond to reports of spam and un-civil posts.

Now we’re in a relatively new environment that has been set up and is maintained by volunteers who no doubt have plenty to do in their day jobs and real life. I am truly grateful and humbled by the effort you put in to setting this up and maintaining it; thank you! I would hate to see the fora die.

As a veteran, I skip over posts from certain forumites - often those from people who have repeatedly posted on this thread. However, a newcomer would not know the posters to avoid and could understandably decide that this is not a place to get advice or develop links.

I don’t know anything about the software, but I wonder if there could be two types of registrations for fora access. My thought is that most people could access the two main categories - general and academic - but that ‘consistently argumentative’ posters would be restricted to the ‘general catalog’. Of course this would be value judgment on the part of the mods, and may not be possible, but it might be a way of creating a welcoming space for newcomers while allowing some others to come out and play.

Just some thoughts,
Science Expat

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #111 on: February 23, 2021, 05:20:27 AM »

I don’t know anything about the software, but I wonder if there could be two types of registrations for fora access. My thought is that most people could access the two main categories - general and academic - but that ‘consistently argumentative’ posters would be restricted to the ‘general catalog’. Of course this would be value judgment on the part of the mods, and may not be possible, but it might be a way of creating a welcoming space for newcomers while allowing some others to come out and play.



As always, this is the point of contention. All kinds of people who seem to believe that the "value judgement" criteria are self-evident, also seem to be unwilling or unable to provide a fairly concrete list of them, with examples of what kind of behaviour which they would not consider a violation, even if they didn't like it.

And there's all kinds of behaviour I find tedious and even annoying, but I wouldn't support prohibiting it.
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Parasaurolophus

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #112 on: February 23, 2021, 08:41:54 AM »

As always, this is the point of contention. All kinds of people who seem to believe that the "value judgement" criteria are self-evident, also seem to be unwilling or unable to provide a fairly concrete list of them, with examples of what kind of behaviour which they would not consider a violation, even if they didn't like it.

And there's all kinds of behaviour I find tedious and even annoying, but I wouldn't support prohibiting it.

Speaking only for myself: It's not that I can't provide such a list. It's that I don't believe that it's being asked for as part of a good-faith discussion, and I'm not currently super interested in taking the time to craft a post that guards against all possible willful misunderstandings. I'm also not sure it would be productive, here and now, for me to be singling out particular posters and posts, which is what having that conversation would require. If people think that is the conversation we should have, then I'm happy to engage in it for our collective benefit. But if it's just you, then I'm afraid that our interactions have eroded my trust in your good faith in such discussions.

It may surprise you to learn that since we ported over, I've personally reached out to several posters with whom I regularly vehemently disagree and encouraged them to stay when they expressed a desire to leave.
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Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #113 on: February 23, 2021, 10:54:17 AM »

I don’t know anything about the software, but I wonder if there could be two types of registrations for fora access. My thought is that most people could access the two main categories - general and academic - but that ‘consistently argumentative’ posters would be restricted to the ‘general catalog’. Of course this would be value judgment on the part of the mods, and may not be possible, but it might be a way of creating a welcoming space for newcomers while allowing some others to come out and play.



As always, this is the point of contention. All kinds of people who seem to believe that the "value judgement" criteria are self-evident, also seem to be unwilling or unable to provide a fairly concrete list of them, with examples of what kind of behaviour which they would not consider a violation, even if they didn't like it.

And there's all kinds of behaviour I find tedious and even annoying, but I wouldn't support prohibiting it.

Well that would be the point of a detailed code of conduct which could be enforced in a more consistent manner. I think some sort of system of warnings and suspensions would work better than what science-expat suggests, but I'm confused by this argument that if we have detailed rules, that will result in capricious enforcement. Seems like it would do the opposite.

As for what I would propose. I'd suggest something like:
1. A clear ban on personal attacks and name calling. It's fine to say somebody is being overly optimistic, but it isn't ok to call them a "professor sparkle pony."
2. Guidelines on thread hijacking. Its fine to have conversations evolve and go into tangents, but you can't just jump into a thread and yell about your pet issue which is only related in the vaguest sense. If someone is asking which grad program to go to, you can suggest they reconsider grad school based on the job market in the field. If someone asks whether whether it makes sense to spend time working on a journal article before they finish their dissertation, you can't tell them that actually they should just quit grad school since they'll never get a job.
3. I'd try to take a light touch on hot button issues as long as they have their own thread, but some guidelines on threads that seem designed to troll and particular attention towards thread hijacking on that stuff.
4. However, I think we could have some guidelines on what is and isn't ok in those sorts of threads. I personally think there's a lot of unpleasant racial stuff going on whenever we talk about considering race in applications. However, that doesn't mean I'd want to ban people from saying things I think are troubling. However, I don't think it should be acceptable to claim that particular people only got their jobs because of their race, or make broad claims about the qualifications of groups of people.

Ruralguy

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #114 on: February 23, 2021, 03:54:59 PM »
Honestly, keep rules to a bare minimum.

More rules will not draw in more members.

I’d say keep it to no direct insults, no obvious thread hijacks (though I think the example given above was more just a bad negative answer than a thread hijack). Keep politics and culture wars to very  limited threads. Label thread in red to indicate it could be troubling. If someone keeps on answering every post with more or less the same grievances against the tenure system, maybe give them some guidance, but don’t ban.

Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #115 on: February 23, 2021, 05:18:17 PM »
Honestly, keep rules to a bare minimum.

More rules will not draw in more members.

I’d say keep it to no direct insults, no obvious thread hijacks (though I think the example given above was more just a bad negative answer than a thread hijack). Keep politics and culture wars to very  limited threads. Label thread in red to indicate it could be troubling. If someone keeps on answering every post with more or less the same grievances against the tenure system, maybe give them some guidance, but don’t ban.

Maybe, at any rate, I would say that unless something is truly egregious incredibly offensive language, truly vicious personal attacks), warnings should be reserved for a pattern of problematic behavior. It wouldn't have to be about policing every ill thought out comment or attack that went over the line a bit into an insult. The issue is  posters who like to tap-dance around the line and I think policies would provide a better way to deal with that. Agree about the politics and culture war stuff going to separate threads and maybe a separate folder. The general folder seems like it could use some subthreads anyway.

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #116 on: February 24, 2021, 05:28:01 AM »

As for what I would propose. I'd suggest something like:
1. A clear ban on personal attacks and name calling. It's fine to say somebody is being overly optimistic, but it isn't ok to call them a "professor sparkle pony."


I may be mistaken, but I can't recall "professor sparkle pony" being applied to any specific person; it's more generic like "Joe Public". I've never seen it as even specific to a discipline, tenure status, etc. It's just a person who always gives unreasonably optimistic advice.

Honestly, keep rules to a bare minimum.

More rules will not draw in more members.

I’d say keep it to no direct insults, no obvious thread hijacks (though I think the example given above was more just a bad negative answer than a thread hijack). Keep politics and culture wars to very  limited threads. Label thread in red to indicate it could be troubling. If someone keeps on answering every post with more or less the same grievances against the tenure system, maybe give them some guidance, but don’t ban.

Maybe, at any rate, I would say that unless something is truly egregious incredibly offensive language, truly vicious personal attacks), warnings should be reserved for a pattern of problematic behavior. It wouldn't have to be about policing every ill thought out comment or attack that went over the line a bit into an insult. The issue is  posters who like to tap-dance around the line and I think policies would provide a better way to deal with that. Agree about the politics and culture war stuff going to separate threads and maybe a separate folder. The general folder seems like it could use some subthreads anyway.

I don't have a problem with this, but I'll make a prediction: Moving all of the threads with strong debate to a separate folder will also most most of the activity and views to that folder as well. Whatever complaints people may make about "upsetting" discussions, many will still be drawn to follow them even if they don't contribute, and even if they can be easily avoided.

(Take a look in each folder at how few threads have had a single comment in the last week, let alone the past 24 hours.)
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Ruralguy

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #117 on: February 24, 2021, 06:53:03 AM »
I dunno, maybe us "culture war" avoiders are a rarer breed than we think, but I get a sense that I am not alone in only rarely looking at these threads and even more rarely do I post to them.  My primary problem with them is that it often looks like obvious trolling, boring repeats of the same opinions, etc.  To me that's all much more of a turn off than debating racism per se (I'm against racism), which also gets old and occasionally offensive even to a "just deal with" person like me.

Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #118 on: February 24, 2021, 04:58:23 PM »

As for what I would propose. I'd suggest something like:
1. A clear ban on personal attacks and name calling. It's fine to say somebody is being overly optimistic, but it isn't ok to call them a "professor sparkle pony."


I may be mistaken, but I can't recall "professor sparkle pony" being applied to any specific person; it's more generic like "Joe Public". I've never seen it as even specific to a discipline, tenure status, etc. It's just a person who always gives unreasonably optimistic advice.



I mean at this point we are really just talking about one particular poster-who shall not be named lest we summon them. The poster likes to use insulting language to demean other members, but never explicitly directs an insult at that. It is hard to describe. Maybe the Germans have a word for you when you throw insults around someone, rather than directly at them?

I think this actually illustrates the need for a clearer and more explicit code of conduct, rather than just a few rules. The problem with having a rule that says "no personal attacks" and leaving it at that, is that you allow people to walk right up to the line, toss some pine cones over it and then step back and proclaim their innocence. Obviously, if you're having pinecones tossed at you on some Internet forum, the mature and appropriate response is to ignore it and move safely out of  range. In practice, some of us aren't so good at doing that. As the moderators often remind us, the best thing to do is to just report things that seem wrong, and not respond, however, that only works if we can believe that there are rules and a process where people who are trolling, bullying and deliberately provoking get dealt with.

Again, I really do think the trick is to make this about patterns. The problem isn't that there's an occasional post that's a bit too intemperate or a bit too much of a personal attack or is perceived that way. Most of that kind of stuff is actually pretty self regulating with posters either toning down the volume when people get angry or apologizing. The problem comes when you have people who are just trying to offend and anger.

Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #119 on: February 24, 2021, 05:06:28 PM »
I dunno, maybe us "culture war" avoiders are a rarer breed than we think, but I get a sense that I am not alone in only rarely looking at these threads and even more rarely do I post to them.  My primary problem with them is that it often looks like obvious trolling, boring repeats of the same opinions, etc.  To me that's all much more of a turn off than debating racism per se (I'm against racism), which also gets old and occasionally offensive even to a "just deal with" person like me.

Yeah. Look, I sometimes look at things that drive me crazy, but at least then I know what I'm getting into. Right now, its all right at the top of the general issues forum, next to discussions of Covid and bird watching and sometimes just seeing the post title is depressing. I'd also argue that, despite drawing a lot of posts, that kind of stuff isn't much of an advertisement for this community. If you want to argue about politics and race, you can find lots of places on the internet to do that. There's no particular reason people in academia should go here if thats what's on offer.