Author Topic: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community  (Read 7318 times)

ciao_yall

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #90 on: February 22, 2021, 08:06:49 AM »
What I always liked about these boards was the straight dirt and, frankly, tough love. Sometimes I was on the receiving end of it but I always deserved it, appreciated it, and learned from it.

I came to higher ed after a career change and learned here, sometimes the hard way, how higher ed as a whole operates. Now I feel blessed to have "met" the smartest (and most funny) people I have ever known.

So, fora, keep doing you.

Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #91 on: February 22, 2021, 08:16:23 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.

That's actually a pretty good description of how free speech is supposed to work.

Free speech doesn't mean everyone gets to be validated. Establishing boundaries around what is and isn't socially acceptable is pretty crucial if you're going to make free speech work.

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #92 on: February 22, 2021, 08:25:21 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.

That's actually a pretty good description of how free speech is supposed to work.

Free speech doesn't mean everyone gets to be validated. Establishing boundaries around what is and isn't socially acceptable is pretty crucial if you're going to make free speech work.

My objection has nothing to do with "validation"; it's about the idea of "shouting down" someone. Overpowering someone with sheer volume doesn't make the loudest voices any more correct. The idea that a big enough mob must be right is disturbing, and history has lots of examples of when it was clearly and horribly wrong.
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Parasaurolophus

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #93 on: February 22, 2021, 08:28:42 AM »
As I've tried to make very clear, I'm talking about having many people vocally opposed to something contributing to signal their opposition.


Caracal is right: that's exactly how the Millian ideal of free speech is supposed to work.
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marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #94 on: February 22, 2021, 08:35:34 AM »
As I've tried to make very clear, I'm talking about having many people vocally opposed to something contributing to signal their opposition.


"STOP THE STEAL!"

"LOCK HER UP!"

"BUILD THE WALL!"

I'm a bit fuzzy on how many people vocally opposed to something contributing to signal their opposition makes for a better society.

Quote

Caracal is right: that's exactly how the Millian ideal of free speech is supposed to work.

Presenting actual coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments isn't remotely the same thing as just yelling "NO!" at the top of your lungs.
 
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Parasaurolophus

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #95 on: February 22, 2021, 08:42:06 AM »


"STOP THE STEAL!"

"LOCK HER UP!"

"BUILD THE WALL!"

I'm a bit fuzzy on how many people vocally opposed to something contributing to signal their opposition makes for a better society.

Depends on the views you're peddling, doesn't it? And again, remember the alternatives: silence and kisses and hugs don't necessarily make for a better society, either. I don't see the point in coddling idiocy or bigotry. Do you?




Quote

Presenting actual coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments isn't remotely the same thing as just yelling "NO!" at the top of your lungs.

Forgive me, but there's plenty of evidence on threads here that many members are not at all interested in polite and coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments. Just consider the discussions we've had about IQ, sex and gender, and social construction. It's clear from the way these issues keep popping back up that no matter how much actual evidence is carefully explained to them, some people have no interest in learning the facts.
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marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #96 on: February 22, 2021, 08:53:41 AM »

Quote

Presenting actual coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments isn't remotely the same thing as just yelling "NO!" at the top of your lungs.

Forgive me, but there's plenty of evidence on threads here that many members are not at all interested in polite and coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments. Just consider the discussions we've had about IQ, sex and gender, and social construction. It's clear from the way these issues keep popping back up that no matter how much actual evidence is carefully explained to them, some people have no interest in learning the facts.

These are all issues where ideology greatly influences what "facts" different people will accept. That's the big problem.
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Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #97 on: February 22, 2021, 08:56:20 AM »


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.

Fair point on the difficulty of moderation. The claim that a detailed code of conduct would be tone policing doesn't really make sense to me. We could carefully craft the code to allow for vigorous and even caustic disagreement. You don't need to be nice about people's ideas, but you can't make personal attacks, call people names, harass people across threads etc.

Parasaurolophus

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #98 on: February 22, 2021, 09:09:21 AM »

Quote

Presenting actual coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments isn't remotely the same thing as just yelling "NO!" at the top of your lungs.

Forgive me, but there's plenty of evidence on threads here that many members are not at all interested in polite and coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments. Just consider the discussions we've had about IQ, sex and gender, and social construction. It's clear from the way these issues keep popping back up that no matter how much actual evidence is carefully explained to them, some people have no interest in learning the facts.

These are all issues where ideology greatly influences what "facts" different people will accept. That's the big problem.

No. They're issues where the facts are not widely understood except by specialists, some of whom exist on these very fora, and where those facts are widely misreported.

Besides, I remember taking a fair bit of time to explain what social construction actually means, as well as some of the kinds of disagreement attendant to the notion. As I remember it, the pushback wasn't about about 'the facts different people will accept' (although there's actually plenty of room for that!), but rather about the kinds of claims made by social constructionists. In particular, some members insisted on peddling some weird, deviant understanding of those claims despite repeated explanations that that was not what people think or say. There are basic facts about the kinds of things people are actually saying, and if you can't even accept those, then you're not fit to be having that particular conversation. Let alone on an academic forum.

You're a computer scientist, right? Imagine I decided to say that large primes can't be used for encryption. Or that prime factorization takes longer than ordinary factorization. Now suppose you took some time to set me straight, but that I insisted on it for a while before letting it peter out. Then, in another thread, I pop back up to say that large primes are useless for encryption, or that large prime factorization takes longer than non-prime factorization. Is that a case where "ideology greatly influences what 'facts' different people will accept"? Sort of--in the sense that I'm being unreasonable and stupid. If I can't take your word (actually: your explanation), as a computer scientist, that large primes are useful for encryption or that factorization of any large number takes a long time, then we can't actually have a discussion about the kinds of issues which are up for debate in those fields.

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Sun_Worshiper

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #99 on: February 22, 2021, 09:25:55 AM »

Quote

Presenting actual coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments isn't remotely the same thing as just yelling "NO!" at the top of your lungs.

Forgive me, but there's plenty of evidence on threads here that many members are not at all interested in polite and coherent, evidence-based counter-arguments. Just consider the discussions we've had about IQ, sex and gender, and social construction. It's clear from the way these issues keep popping back up that no matter how much actual evidence is carefully explained to them, some people have no interest in learning the facts.

These are all issues where ideology greatly influences what "facts" different people will accept. That's the big problem.

No. They're issues where the facts are not widely understood except by specialists, some of whom exist on these very fora, and where those facts are widely misreported.

Besides, I remember taking a fair bit of time to explain what social construction actually means, as well as some of the kinds of disagreement attendant to the notion. As I remember it, the pushback wasn't about about 'the facts different people will accept' (although there's actually plenty of room for that!), but rather about the kinds of claims made by social constructionists. In particular, some members insisted on peddling some weird, deviant understanding of those claims despite repeated explanations that that was not what people think or say. There are basic facts about the kinds of things people are actually saying, and if you can't even accept those, then you're not fit to be having that particular conversation. Let alone on an academic forum.

You're a computer scientist, right? Imagine I decided to say that large primes can't be used for encryption. Or that prime factorization takes longer than ordinary factorization. Now suppose you took some time to set me straight, but that I insisted on it for a while before letting it peter out. Then, in another thread, I pop back up to say that large primes are useless for encryption, or that large prime factorization takes longer than non-prime factorization. Is that a case where "ideology greatly influences what 'facts' different people will accept"? Sort of--in the sense that I'm being unreasonable and stupid. If I can't take your word (actually: your explanation), as a computer scientist, that large primes are useful for encryption or that factorization of any large number takes a long time, then we can't actually have a discussion about the kinds of issues which are up for debate in those fields.

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).

Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #100 on: February 22, 2021, 09:43:37 AM »


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.

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #101 on: February 22, 2021, 09:54:21 AM »


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.
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eigen

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #102 on: February 22, 2021, 10:16:18 AM »


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.

In my opinion, you're making arguments in this thread that are, effectively, strawmen.

The issue in the vast majority of cases isn't the opinion held (although some of them are pretty damn problematic) but (a) how the opinion is communicated, (b) what evidence is used to support the opinion (or lack thereof), and (c) how the individual in question responds to disagreement.

The last point, to me, is key: we frequently have people state an opinion, and then result to inuendos, assumptions and ad hominem attacks when people disagree with them. Take, for example "one thing I can tell you about liberals. They don't like diversity." as a response in a thread that had nothing to do with politics.

It's even worse when those posters continue this type of aside in any thread, whether or not it's related to a heated topic under discussion (baggage). 

marshwiggle

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #103 on: February 22, 2021, 11:20:16 AM »

In my opinion, you're making arguments in this thread that are, effectively, strawmen.

The issue in the vast majority of cases isn't the opinion held (although some of them are pretty damn problematic) but (a) how the opinion is communicated, (b) what evidence is used to support the opinion (or lack thereof), and (c) how the individual in question responds to disagreement.

We live in a society where there is a constantly expanding definition of what someone will call "hate speech". The legal definition of hate speech, in places where there is one, is quite narrow, typically involving an actual incitement of violence against an identifiable group of people. Merely saying something unpleasant or even derogatory doesn't qualify.

However, given the expanding popular usage of the term by various activists, hate speech can be used to identify virtually anything which someone doesn't like.

From the comments of moderators here, I still don't have the slightest idea of how much the current expansion of the idea of "hate speech" would influence their decisions.

Quote
The last point, to me, is key: we frequently have people state an opinion, and then result to inuendos, assumptions and ad hominem attacks when people disagree with them. Take, for example "one thing I can tell you about liberals. They don't like diversity." as a response in a thread that had nothing to do with politics.

Since "liberals" can be used to describe all kinds of people, (including "classical liberals", who might call themselves conservatives or even libertarians), is this really meaningful enough to be sanctioned? Is it sarcastic? Sure, by intention. Is it immature and/or off topic? Perhaps, depending on your definition. But can it really be seen as an ad hominem attack?

Quote
It's even worse when those posters continue this type of aside in any thread, whether or not it's related to a heated topic under discussion (baggage).

"Baggage" may be tedious, but policing threads for topical relevance seems like a pointless intrusion where the cure may be worse than the disease. Threads that degenerate into a familiar debate seem to peter out as people stop following and posting. They die a natural death. Ending the threads formally a few posts earlier doesn't seem to serve much purpose, and may in fact be counter-productive if it inspires people to post more (perhaps in new threads) about "cutting off debate". When a thread dies naturally, by definition, there's no more audience.
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Caracal

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Re: Polly's Thoughts on Future of Our Community
« Reply #104 on: February 22, 2021, 12:56:05 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.