I can haz talking tips November 1, 2010 5:10 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to discuss communication and discussion methods that might help us stay out of flame war territory, especially in long and contentious discussions.

I assume that we are all here on MetaFilter to make progress toward common understanding and that even when it looks like people are trolling, they are actually just having difficulty building the bridge to communicate with.

I also assume that we're all interested in finding ways to better communicate with each other, to make long discussions profitable, to make it a better and more informative experience for all of us, no matter our backgrounds and other priorities. But I also want to assume that our priorities and backgrounds are what make this community a dynamic and profitable one for us all to participate in. I don't assume that what's good for me is good for you too. Except being able to talk without fighting.

I know that the Wiki also has an orientation, some scattered tips (3, 4) and our overarching principles of assuming good intent. I know that MetaTalk has a vast archive of etiquette discussions. We also have for those who participated in, read or remember them, various epic threads about racism, sexism and other ways we can be wittingly or unwittingly prejudiced and how we should, you know, stop doing that. We've got similar epic threads for certain terminology and epithets that some of us find objectionable. We've got a strong moderator team who have blessed us with a lot of consistency while still remaining flexible to do the right thing.

In the recent "Question about racist comments" post, where I participated a lot, there were some really good things that happened there and some not so really good things. My aim is not to rehash everything that happened there, but the fact that I paced myself and got out when I was feeling too invested in the discussion, I think, made the discussion go more smoothly than in other threads of similar topic that I've dabbled in previously and where I didn't take breaks.

It got me thinking about something I learned from marriage counselling long ago. I learned that it's possible to discuss things too intensively, too often, to exhaust your mental and emotional resources. It's possible to start having an argument that goes on too long to do more harm than good because all the parties involved start flailing and abusing each other because they are exhausted. It's a pattern that seemed true to the discussion this weekend and I absolutely did not regret taking breaks nor did I regret talking about taking breaks within the thread.

But I'm asking now if we all have other discussion principles and approaches that are not widely known, that would help me and others figure out how best to get along. If I missed anything major in my links above, please point it out!

I'm really proud of MetaFilter, always have been, and I think we do a lot of good work, especially with regard to building bridges with our fellow MeFites, even especially when we don't agree or come from vastly disparate points of view. It's in this spirit that I ask for more tips and strategies to make the doing of that work even easier and less flammable.
posted by kalessin to Etiquette/Policy at 5:10 AM (117 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I mentioned this in a recent thread, but my rule of thumb is that if I'm seeing red or getting anxious about getting my response in right now it's time to step away from the thread. This has served me very well over the years.

Another good one is to assume that everyone means well. Not reading too much into what people say is a healthy way to live.

And if all else fails, there's always googling for pictures of kittens in paperbags.
posted by Kattullus at 5:23 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


The premise of this thread sounds exhausting. I'm not exactly sure is a whole lot of godd can come of it, because there are always going to be people who didn't read this thread or get too angry and forget or just don't care.

I applaud your efforts in trying to create a less fighty place, but I wonder if it's also another example of that lesson you learned in counseling.
posted by nomadicink at 5:28 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've mentioned it before, I think, but something that I've found to be helpful in disagreements, especially online, is the idea that once things start getting heated, it's very important to speak directly, honestly, and without sarcasm, hyperbole, or condescension. It's very easy to misread sarcasm, especially when people are already disagreeing; hyperbole is prone to turn the conversation into a meta-argument about whether the particular use of hyperbole was warranted or a distortion of the other's position; condescension causes the other party to shut down or lash out, and insulates you from having to listen carefully to what the other person is saying-- it's the embodiment of the notion that only your viewpoint is valid, and anyone who disagrees with you must be pretty dumb. It's not a healthy way to engage in any conversation, really, but especially in online arguments/disagreements, it's poisonous.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:31 AM on November 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


I wonder if it's also another example of that lesson you learned in counseling

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. I've had a lot of feedback from moderators over the years that if I don't link to concrete examples or talk about them specifically, I create strife they don't want to see.

I understand that longish posts can be hard to read, but I also think it's (1) a topic that can be ultimately helpful to the community and (2) I personally want to know the answers (and have already gotten something out of Kattilus's comment).

If you find the very act of digesting the topic or if providing a substantive comment or perspective too tiring, I would rather you flag and move on, or just move on, rather than questioning the premise of the post.
posted by kalessin at 5:33 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pardon me, Kattullus. Sorry!
posted by kalessin at 5:36 AM on November 1, 2010


For me...

I kinda feel like the mods have a handle on this.

If I get my snark on in comments, which I have been known to do, it's usually a function of it being late and I just went to the store sort of thing., yet i seem to have the dumb luck of importing a valid point or two with my infllammatory asholeness to let a lot of things stand.

I really hate to see those little lower case things where a mod says "couple of comments deleted, you know why, and where to take this." because, I feel like we have imposed on those on the watch a bit.

The guidelines are incredibly helpful, if you actually read them, but I think I have learned more from mod comments about why they did this or that. Always seem incredibly thoughtful, and reasonable, in a sickening sort of way that makes you picture them living on top of a mountain sort of way. I have never read one of those that I didn't think, "damn the was exactly the right thing to do, and the most polite way to explain it." afterwards.

I have never been the recipient of a "hey here is why maybe you should cool it a bit" email from a mod, and I hope I never am, but if anyone has been, or becomes one in the future, please take heed, and learn from it.

I'm not sure when it dawned on me, but, by obeying these simple guidelines, being nice and helpful by default, mathowie and co are creating something of a very cool archive, and snapshot of humans, and human nature at this particular moment in time, and I full well believe it should be data dumped into the Library of Congress at some point. Sure they snip out some of the noise to keep it mostly signal and on course, but that's not censorship, that's just doing their job well.

While i don't know what ity says about me, I know I don't have this many smart, helpful, cool, and insightful friends walking around my house in real life. Glad to be here, and I will try to play nice I promise.
posted by timsteil at 5:40 AM on November 1, 2010


I assume that we are all here on MetaFilter to make progress toward common understanding and that even when it looks like people are trolling, they are actually just having difficulty building the bridge to communicate with.

That's a heckuva premise. I'm just here for the cool links.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you find the very act of digesting the topic or if providing a substantive comment or perspective too tiring, I would rather you flag and move on, or just move on, rather than questioning the premise of the post.

No, I think it's perfectly fine to question the premise of this or any other post in MeTa, particularly one that mentions possible negative side effects of endlessly hashing things out, which this post is attempting to do.
posted by nomadicink at 5:48 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I assume that we are all here on MetaFilter to make progress toward common understanding....I also assume that we're all interested in finding ways to better communicate with each other

Those are two really huge assumptions to make about all of us. It might be more accurate to say that a lot of us are here with those attitudes, but there are also a lot of us who are here to be entertained rather than to make any sort of progress toward anything, or to find better ways of communicating.

The people who are actually here in the interests of making progress and/or finding better ways to communicate are the people who probably don't really need a thread like this. The people who aren't interested in these things are probably not going to read or be motivated by a thread like this.

I'm not saying there's nothing to talk about, but it makes me think of all the sites out there that are always adding new things to their FAQs and rules and regulations and TOSs and EULAs and "you must check the box to acknowledge you read and understand the" whatever. You can post all the guidelines and helpful hints and "let's talk about how we relate to one another" you want, but the ones who really NEED to take those things to heart are never going to read them.
posted by Gator at 5:54 AM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


nomadicink, I will attempt clarification once and then drop it. If you do me the favor of reading my post carefully you will see that I specifically said that I did not wish to rehash the dynamics of the other post.

Instead I want to focus on overall communication strategy. I think it's unfair to characterize this post the way you are. It is specifically not for that.
posted by kalessin at 5:59 AM on November 1, 2010


To second Gator, let me just say, as politely and respectfully as possible, that I'm not sure all of your assumptions are accurate ones. That said, I think there are enough people who are interested in, uh, making progress toward understanding, that this post could be valuable.
posted by box at 5:59 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am fully aware that it's not possible to please the entire demographic of MetaFilter or MetaTalk with any single post yes. For those who feel I am wasting their time with this post, apologies. I do ask that you let it be so that others might possibly benefit from it.
posted by kalessin at 6:04 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I have a strong opinion, I try to say me piece in the least-insulting manner possible, then get out. I'll watch for responses, but won't do the back-and-forth beyond answering direct replies to me. I don't re-state my case over and over again -- if people can read, great. If not, oh well.

I'm not always so good about the snark, but I try to post it as light-hearted banter to lighten up the mood a bit, when I do. I resolve continuously to snark less, and fail at that frequently. It's so hard when that low-hanging fruit is right there, sometimes.

I really would not have a problem with the 400-comment metatalk threads that descend into NO YUO territory being closed up once it looks like discussion isn't yielding fruit of any sort.

Also, I appreciate all you folks who come here for good conversation and "edutainment" a whole lot.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:09 AM on November 1, 2010


I assume that we are all here on MetaFilter to make progress toward common understanding and that even when it looks like people are trolling, they are actually just having difficulty building the bridge to communicate with.

Yeah, not to pile on, but this may be your first misconception. Some people do participate here "to progress toward common understanding"; but some people are just here for the links, some just for the snark witty repartee, some, to be charitable, only because they like the look of their own words. My own talking tips would be, try to be charitable to others, try not to take any ambient yahooism too personally, and never get involved in clusterfuck threads on "racism" if you have anything even remotely better to do with your life.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:14 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you do me the favor of reading my post carefully you will see that I specifically said that I did not wish to rehash the dynamics of the other post.

I'm not attempting to rehash dynamics of whatever post you're talking about, just noting that this post may be offputting in a way you describe in this post.

I suppose it all comes down to communication, on both ends. The person writing has to be effective in articulating the idea or meaning and the person listening has to be willing to listen, even if the writer is not as effective as they could. That may be what's happening here, on my end and if so, I apologize.

But I am having problems with the tone of the post and its assumptions, as other's have mentioned. Rather than turning this into an essay, which I'm seeing as offputting, especially on the tailend of several MeTa posts over the past few days, perhaps something shorter, that got to the point instead of a post that encouraged more navel gazing would have been better? Food for thought.

I mean, seriously, this boils down to treating others respectfully, try and recognize the talking points that tend to make you super angry and if you're feeling to heated about the discussion, step away from the keyboard for a point. If a person fails at doing that, well ok, try a little harder next time. Rinse, repeat.
posted by nomadicink at 6:15 AM on November 1, 2010


I'll watch for responses, but won't do the back-and-forth beyond answering direct replies to me.

I'll sometimes even avoid replying to the direct replies. It only takes a little bit of that to make the entire thread All About You, and that's usually not too interesting to read.

And walking away. My rule is that being here is meant to be fun and pleasurable; if something is making me mad, I will take a break rather than explore my anger here.
posted by Forktine at 6:30 AM on November 1, 2010


I agree with Forktine.

Really, people shouldn't be directing comments at you anyway. I can't remember the exact wording of the "Note" but it says something like keep your comments about the topic at hand and do not direct comments at other users.
posted by morganannie at 6:51 AM on November 1, 2010


I've mentioned it before, I think, but something that I've found to be helpful in disagreements, especially online, is the idea that once things start getting heated, it's very important to speak directly, honestly, and without sarcasm, hyperbole, or condescension.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:31 PM on November


I've mentioned it before, but some people - not you, shakespeherian, this isn't a dig - need to realise that sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension aren't generated in a vacuum. They are a response to other irritating opinions, statements and modes of interaction.

There is a reason why there has been a certain amount of sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension here recently, and that is because there have been some really, really annoying examples of people being so unbelievably fragile and precious that it is all one can do not to verbally slap them upside the head and call out their behaviour for what it is, in direct and robust terms. And of course, we are not allowed to do that on Metafilter. Fine. So some people relieve the near-volcanic levels of mental pressure that these seemingly interminable manifestations of gossamer-skinned hypersensitivity engender by using less-direct expressions of their opinion.

I'm sorry, but when we have reached a point where people are seriously postulating the concern that calling a woman "unpleasant" is sexist it is all I can do not to go and kick a puppy, never mind posting a little sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension. Metafilter has to expect that this sort of nonsense is, in many bright, compassionate and reflective people's eyes, far more irksome and community-damaging behaviour than, say, the casual use of the term "pussy". I want to restate that: some of the recent moaning about what can and cannot be said here is more damaging to a sense of community than saying "X is for pussies". It really is.

If people are going to have the right to bicker endlessly about perfectly normal words and express frankly bonkers interpretations of them then they - and Metafilter - must expect a reaction. I think we have passed the point where the reactions are less justifiable than some of the things that cause them. I truly believe that the recent extended hand-wringings over language are a much bigger problem than the occasionally mildly intemperate responses to them. It's almost as if Metafilter wants to pander to weakness, whininess and almost beyond-parody levels of airy, pseudo-political posturing that would make even the Daily Mail's PC police say, "Come on, that has to be a joke."
posted by Decani at 6:57 AM on November 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


Just a note that I'll be busy at work today and will be watching but probably not participating in any discussion for the majority of the day. Not ignoring, not escaping, just leaving the thread to do its thing. Thanks folks for partipating!
posted by kalessin at 6:59 AM on November 1, 2010


I'm sorry, but when we have reached a point where people are seriously postulating the concern that calling a woman "unpleasant" is sexist it is all I can do not to go and kick a puppy, never mind posting a little sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension. Metafilter has to expect that this sort of nonsense is, in many bright, compassionate and reflective people's eyes, far more irksome and community-damaging behaviour than, say, the casual use of the term "pussy". I want to restate that: some of the recent moaning about what can and cannot be said here is more damaging to a sense of community than saying "X is for pussies". It really is.

I'm of the opinion that ridiculing or dismissing other users with "a little sarcasm, hyperbole and consescension" is actually far more "irksome and community damaging behaviour" than say, a casual conversation in which people's assumed intentions are challenged.
posted by zarq at 7:12 AM on November 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


There is a reason why there has been a certain amount of sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension here recently, and that is because there have been some really, really annoying examples of people being so unbelievably fragile and precious that it is all one can do not to verbally slap them upside the head and call out their behaviour for what it is, in direct and robust terms.

But the thing is, like I said, the employment of such communicates not only that you disagree with someone's stated opinion, but that someone's opinion is not valid as an opinion. It shuts down conversation and places that person of the defensive rather than opening them up to having their minds changed. It's possible that you don't have as your goal changing anyone's mind, but then I'm not sure what the purpose of stating your disagreement is in the first place.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on November 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


I can haz talking tips

I'd like to throw out: don't worry about anyone's psyche but your own.
posted by Dano St at 7:20 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


err... "throw out" meaning suggest not dispose of.
posted by Dano St at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


>: "But the thing is, like I said, the employment of such communicates not only that you disagree with someone's stated opinion, but that someone's opinion is not valid as an opinion. It shuts down conversation and places that person of the defensive rather than opening them up to having their minds changed. It's possible that you don't have as your goal changing anyone's mind, but then I'm not sure what the purpose of stating your disagreement is in the first place."

If someone's coming to a discussion in good faith, being open to having one's mind changed is, or should be, part and parcel of that good faith. It isn't someone else's responsibility to stroke one's language centers with just the right caresses to give that openness; it is the responsibility of everyone to bring it for themselves.

Now obviously, people get defensive and commence to turtle at various levels of provocation, because that's people being people. But that's mainly an argument for saying one's piece instead of slamming a flag down and entering Thunderdome Mode, not for eggshell-walking with any offenderati. And people being people is part of why others have already pointed out the couple "I assume we all..." statements of kalessin's up yonder are not very good assumptions, since people come here for all kinds of reasons.
posted by Drastic at 7:38 AM on November 1, 2010


I'll sometimes even avoid replying to the direct replies. It only takes a little bit of that to make the entire thread All About You, and that's usually not too interesting to read.

Pretty much this. For the most art, unless people are asking me policy/site questions directly, I say what I have to say and then back off. If people want to engage me directly, they know where my email/MeMail is. A thread that becomes a referendum on Jessamyn's Opinions on a topic is a bad thread.

I try not to insult people, ever, and even if I have to contort myself to do it, try to explain things using words that won't give offense, even to the easily offended. This is not as difficult as some people seem to think it is.

I view my irritation as my own problem and not something that someone else is doing to me.

I try to explain who does and does not speak for me, if we're in some sort of discussion where people see fit to take sides.

I try to address people's concerns respectfully even if in my heart of hearts I believe they are becoming That Guy/Gal about a particular topic, I can address that issue privately or in a spearate thread.

I trust other people to agree with my [in my opinion] reasonable opinions and so don't need to feel that I need to be the sole champion of that in a thread filled with reasonable people.

In situations where I am not going to find people to agree with my [in my opinion] reasonable opinions on a topic, i say what I have to say, explain that I understand that my approach may be unorthodox, explain why I feel like I feel, and leave. Other people aren't responsible for my feelings here. They are responsible for treating the community decently. Sometimes what is good for the community is not good for me and vice cersa and I try to be mindful of that and realize my life is bigger than MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:41 AM on November 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


If people are going to have the right to bicker endlessly about perfectly normal words and express frankly bonkers interpretations of them

Agreed! The frankly bonkers claims being made about the perfectly normal word "Anglo" being a racially hateful term recently have been unbelievably fragile and precious. How can we stop this from happening again? I guess by using sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension, right?

Which is to say, one person's sincerely held belief is another person's PC/entitled nonsense. As soon as you start believing that your own set of nervous tics are the objective standard, and people are objectively as far away from being right as they are as far away from what you think, and thus it is appropriate to mock them at a level of severity proportional to their distance from your beliefs, you're basically onto a loser. Or, more precisely, you are looking to confirmation bias to support your behaviour as well as your beliefs.
posted by DNye at 7:44 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


It isn't someone else's responsibility to stroke one's language centers with just the right caresses to give that openness; it is the responsibility of everyone to bring it for themselves.

I agree with this, but my point is that no matter how open to change I might be, if you respond to my opinion with mockery, my openness to change is not going to matter-- I'm going to fight back.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:46 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


>: "For the most art"

I love this typo so much! Sometimes they turn into poetry.

I view my irritation as my own problem and not something that someone else is doing to me.

I wish this motto could be emblazoned in shining letters across the sky, but then people would wonder why the sky was so sensitive, and what kind of fight the sky was trying to pick with them.
posted by Drastic at 7:55 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like you.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:59 AM on November 1, 2010


A lesson I learned here early on was that sometimes, people (myself included) get more invested in Being Right in a thread than simply stating their views. This leads to anyone who disagrees with them, even obliquely, having to be responded to. And soon the thread becomes all about that one person, who seems invested on swaying opinion rather than expressing it.

So, for me, if I have something genuine to say about a topic, I try to express it as clearly and eloquently as I can, and then let that be. I've said my piece. People will agree or disagree on their own. I don't have to continue posting about it again and again whenever anyone else in the thread says something which may go against what I've said. Because it's ALL STILL THERE, for anyone to read with a simply upward scroll of the window.

Unless there is genuine conversation going on (by which I mean exploration of ideas, not simply defensive posturing on my part), I don't follow up all that much. Maybe to clarify if someone is misunderstanding me. But not to try to convince. MetaFilter isn't designed to convince through repeated commenting. Any convincing will happen on its own in the mind of those reading, and not because I've restated my thesis for the 15th time.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't want us all to feel like we need to walk on eggshells here or anything but I've noticed the disturbing trend that a lot of threads - I don't want to say too many but maybe it might be too many by some people's estimation, I don't know - anyway, a lot of threads seem to devolve into a lot of people not talking about how dizzyingly wonderful I am. I don't want to come off like I'm trying to direct the flow of conversations here but I do think the site would be better off if fewer people would talk about things other than my many charms and fascinating little ways.

Just something to think about, I guess.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:15 AM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


But the thing is, like I said, the employment of such communicates not only that you disagree with someone's stated opinion, but that someone's opinion is not valid as an opinion. It shuts down conversation and places that person of the defensive rather than opening them up to having their minds changed. It's possible that you don't have as your goal changing anyone's mind, but then I'm not sure what the purpose of stating your disagreement is in the first place.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:19 PM on November 1


I simply don't agree with that.

What it communicates is that you think the person's opinion is silly, or ill-considered, and that is a perfectly valid position to take assuming one is honest about it. And, as I said, on a site where direct statements like "Your opinion is dumb" tend to get leapt on from a great height, we are left with the choice of expressing our opinion via indirect means, such as sarcasm, or shutting up. An atmosphere where honest opinions are being increasingly pushed towards that latter option is not a healthy one, not a balanced one, and not a community-minded one. A healthy community ought to be able to handle dissent, sarcasm, occasional heated words and even a good old argy-bargy every now and then without having a collective fainting fit. A community which lives in constant fear of treading on the delicate toes of every member who says "Oh! You offended me! You hurt me!", is a dysfunctional community.

The purpose of stating disagreement is, err, to state disagreement. We do that because it isn't necessarily a good thing to let opinions you feel need to be challenged go unchallenged. And once again, it is unhealthy for a community to feel that it is difficult or impossible to express disagreement, or that to do so one must negotiate a veritable minefield of quivering sensibilities and hair-trigger offence-o-meters. The trend towards hypersensitivity, and the endless indulgence of people who seem to positively revel in the attention that claiming offence gets them, has gone too far, and it needs to be reined back.
posted by Decani at 8:16 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed! The frankly bonkers claims being made about the perfectly normal word "Anglo" being a racially hateful term recently have been unbelievably fragile and precious.
posted by DNye at 3:44 PM on November 1


*Facepalm*.

I am truly sorry that you failed to detect what I had really thought was my very obviously satirical intent with that.
posted by Decani at 8:18 AM on November 1, 2010


kalessin, I'd say you're making wide assumptions of what metafilter is or isn't for and what each thread is "for." You don't get to decide that. Even for threads you create.

I'm with blue_beetle in that I'm not here to further communication. At least not to the degree that I am giving charitable understanding to trolls.

I'm here to see cool things I would otherwise miss and to share things I think are cool.

I worry about contention only in regards to my own behavior.

My personal rules that I try to follow:
  • No threadshitting. Especially in the first hour or first 15 comments. FIAMO.
  • No personal attacks.
  • Don't moderate a post. If you can't walk away for an hour after hitting post, then don't hit post.
  • Don't get vested in things that aren't worth it.
  • Don't bother arguing certain topics with certain people.
I'm sure I have more, but those are what I try to follow. I'm sure your rules would be different. I'm also sure I violate my own on occasion, but I try.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:23 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a reason why there has been a certain amount of sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension here recently, and that is because there have been some really, really annoying examples of people being so unbelievably fragile and precious that it is all one can do not to verbally slap them upside the head and call out their behaviour for what it is, in direct and robust terms. And of course, we are not allowed to do that on Metafilter.

Those aren't the only two options, of course. Aside from "sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension" and "verbally slap[ping] them upside the head", there's "civilly address what you object to and why in plain terms." And that last one works a hell of a lot better than either of the other two.

If what you're saying is that you personally are incapable of going for the third option in some cases, I appreciate your self-awareness on that front but would encourage anyone who feels thus incapacitated to just avoid commenting entirely in those cases. The site will be okay without either sort of sub-optimal response; neither the crappy sarcasm nor the aggro verbal slapping improves this place in the least.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2010 [24 favorites]


I view my irritation as my own problem and not something that someone else is doing to me.

This is a life thing that I've learned the hard way. My reaction to what other people do/say is entirely my own. no one "causes" me to get upset -- I just get upset. Or not. I've found pretty frequently that when something on MetaTalk gets me upset/angry, or I take it as a personal affront, if I walk away and look at it for a while, when I come back, I find that I had taken it the wrong way, and if I had barged in shouting, I would have been causing a fight due to a misconception of my own.

I've actually done that once or twice recently here, and had to apologize, as I had totally misunderstood someone's intent.

When I get that "Are you TALKING TO ME?!" feeling, most of the time, I'm completely mistaken.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2010


A community which lives in constant fear of treading on the delicate toes of every member who says "Oh! You offended me! You hurt me!", is a dysfunctional community.

Actually, that sounds like community full of people trying to be kind and decent to each other, regardless of their differing perspectives. I'm not sure why that's problematic.

I haven't always managed to maintain that standard myself, but it's certainly something I aspire to.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:29 AM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Decani: Ah, right. So, just to be clear, when you said:

Hmm. So. "Anglos" is okay for Metafilter, is it? That's an acceptable way to designate a certain - well, let's be honest, actually very uncertain - racial group is it? Okay. Noted. I'll concede it has a slightly cooler ring than "whitey".

By the way, this idea that racism is somehow okay or less bad when it's directed against a non-oppressed race is the rankest of rank bullshittery.


That was a satire on the sort of thing an oversensitive, entitled white guy might say? And you then followed up that by exhibiting for comedy values the other behaviours of same - staking out the love-see-no-colour moral high ground, accusing dissenters of "wooly-headed soft-liberal bullshit", making up imaginary test cases involving "Welloes", and finally explaining at great length that you don't care, not at all, not a bit?

My hat is off. Nice work, dude. You played that to the hilt. Reading that, I really thought that you were exemplifying "gossamer-skinned hypersensitivity", but it was all a brilliant satire of Luke1249's own gossamer-skinned etc? Props.
posted by DNye at 8:34 AM on November 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


A healthy community ought to be able to handle dissent, sarcasm, occasional heated words and even a good old argy-bargy every now and then without having a collective fainting fit.

How do you distinguish the argy-bargys from the fainting fits? I can't tell the difference.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


This isn't the thread for hashing out arguments from other threads.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2010


People don't like to be told they misread satire either.
posted by smackfu at 8:38 AM on November 1, 2010


Just trying to work out the disjunct between concept in this thread and percept in that one, Shakespeherian. As it turns out, that percept was incorrect - Decani's contribution was satirical genius trolling, which changes things rather.

Which brings us back to Octobersurprise's question, which I think we can now recognise as another satirical point. The construction is that argy-bargy is healthy, masculine and what I do when I disagree with you, whereas fainting fits are unhealthy, effeminate and what you do when you disagree with me. I think this must be more satire, because of course that way essentially lies training oneself to write off any dissenting opinion immediately as a fainting fit, while validating one's own professions that another's opinion is liberal/rank/wooly-headed bullshit as a healthy attempt to initiate some good old argy-bargy.

Man, dude is never out of character.
posted by DNye at 8:52 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was satirical, right?
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on November 1, 2010


We like to think our fights are over content of some sort, but by opening a content-free thread we can demonstrate our ability to fight without anything to fight about. We can create such material on the fly when necessary as a medium to hold the required conflict. See? I'm doing it right now.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2010


If I'm finding it difficult to respond to someone calmly (or even difficult to express myself well), it can be helpful to walk away for an hour or so. Not because I can write better after that hour, but because when I come back I often find that someone else has said what I wanted to say, only better than I would have said it. Then I can just F[avorite]IAMO.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:25 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a reason why there has been a certain amount of sarcasm, hyperbole and condescension here recently, and that is because there have been some really, really annoying examples of people being so unbelievably fragile and precious that it is all one can do not to verbally slap them upside the head and call out their behaviour for what it is, in direct and robust terms. And of course, we are not allowed to do that on Metafilter.

Your behavior is your own issue. You make it sound like people just can't help being dismissive and sarcastic, because, after all, look at the ridiculousness they have to put up with!

Well, there is a choice. And I'm not going to say that dismissiveness and sarcasm are never appropriate. But they're the pistols and TNT of online discussion, and tend to turn a conversation into a firefight. I try -- and fail, I know -- to only use them when guns have been drawn against me, so to speak. It's worth remembering that these are techniques for shutting down conversations, or escalating them into flamewars. We all get irritable online, and a lot of us enjoy a little bit of rough and tumble in our discussions. But we need to be aware of what we're saying, and not act as though a nuclear option is the first, best, and only option is dealing with so many idiots online.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:26 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can we just execute the next person who says "wooly-headed?"
posted by Mister_A at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I would be if he wasn't, but he is so I'm not, I think, jonmc. I misunderstood the original intent - ironically, in this case, assuming good intent was a mistake on my part, because in fact I was treating satire as sincere, when in fact it was a humorous presentation of a man going through the gears of entitled complaint, which presentation is ongoing.

But I think this all ties back to the point, which is that Metafilter only occasionally descends into real scrapping, and when it does descend it is generally about things which at least on some level can be said to matter - there have been contentious and contention-heavy threads in MetaTalk in the last week or so involving anti-semitism, racism and sexism. People aren't generally getting aggressive about Doctor Who trivia, I guess is what I'm saying.

However, that also means that investment probably starts at a pretty high level - and when passions run hot a processor meltdown is more likely. The thread on possible anti-semitism ended when somebody posted a Nazi slogan. In the thread about racism, someone felt that it was important that they reel off a list of (now-deleted) terms of racial abuse. In the ongoing thread about sexism, a woman has just been accused of having an unreasonably angry profile picture. Would you still get those crazy outliers if the less crazy but still passionate participants made an extra effort not to call each other disingenuous or each other's arguments bullshit?
posted by DNye at 9:44 AM on November 1, 2010


Let's just disagree to agree.
posted by Eideteker at 9:56 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It helps that here I tend not to look at usernames or even remember who said that annoying thing in the politics thread, so taking everyone at face value is easy. I have no idea which posters think what about whatever important topic, so grudges are pretty much impossible. Sometimes an unpopular poster says [Innocuous Thing] and I'm completely shocked at the vile response till people bring up that they're a christian tea partying circumcision fetishist.

I'm trying to skip the specific words and look for the meaning instead. It's less exhausting if you take people at face value, and although sometimes I offer a good faith reply to what was a completely sarcastic ungood faith comment I've found that really isn't the end of the world after all.
posted by shinybaum at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, isn't it?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2010


But I think this all ties back to the point, which is that Metafilter only occasionally descends into real scrapping, and when it does descend it is generally about things which at least on some level can be said to matter - there have been contentious and contention-heavy threads in MetaTalk in the last week or so involving anti-semitism, racism and sexism. People aren't generally getting aggressive about Doctor Who trivia, I guess is what I'm saying.

If they were, what would it matter? If people don't care about a topic being discussed they should have the sense to leave the thread alone and not shit on discussions that (apparently) do matter to others. No one is forcing anyone else to read or post in a thread.

What matters to one is not necessarily going to be equally important to others.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on November 1, 2010


It's less exhausting if you take people at face value, and although sometimes I offer a good faith reply to what was a completely sarcastic ungood faith comment I've found that really isn't the end of the world after all.

People are sometimes afraid to presume good faith on the part of others, for fear of looking bad if it turns out they're replying to someone who was being sarcastic, trolling, or something like that. The thing is, it isn't usually the person who presumes good faith who comes out looking bad in such an exchange.
posted by FishBike at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm just here for the cool links.

Me? I'm here for the taters.
posted by sonika at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2010


You mean the hot, hot steamy taters.

The cool taters, eh, I can leave them alone.
posted by Dumsnill at 10:15 AM on November 1, 2010


The thing is, it isn't usually the person who presumes good faith who comes out looking bad in such an exchange.

I'm struggling to think of an example of that. Usually people just look naive or earnest, which isn't so bad. There's a load of conversations I'm missing though so it could well be a thing.
posted by shinybaum at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2010


I'm struggling to think of an example of that. Usually people just look naive or earnest, which isn't so bad.

That's my position regarding pretty much all the "is this fake?" accusations that fly around here. My assumption is that, barring any specific revelations that all questions are true unless proven otherwise. If people think I'm a gullible rube, that's okay with me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:23 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


kalessin, I'd say you're making wide assumptions of what metafilter is or isn't for and what each thread is "for." You don't get to decide that. Even for threads you create.

I disagree. I get to decide what MetaFilter is for, for me, which is the spirit in which I was stating my assumptions in the OP. It's okay if you think my assumptions are wrong and tell me so, but one of the things I tried to do early in this thread was try to bring it back into its original bearing because while nomadicink's first comment wasn't exactly threadshitting, it wasn't exactly not threadshitting either.

With respect to what the thread is for, I get to say that I started the conversation/post with a particular goal in mind and that misascribing other goals to me for starting the thread, or other motives for me in starting the thread is, I feel, wrong and disrespectful. I get to clarify why I posted what I did and what I want to get out of it. In fact I should, as original poster.

It is okay with me, though, if folks ascribe effects of the conversation to whatever they want, and I'm okay with those aspects of what you and nomadicink and blue_beetle (among others) have said. I actually very much appreciate that you are all willing to say what you think about the thread's posed questions and topics as well as the metatopics of how the thread makes you feel and your reactions to that, as well as the projections you are making on behalf of other people on MetaFilter.
posted by kalessin at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2010


If people think I'm a gullible rube, that's okay with me.

Yeah, the worst-case scenario is pretty mild. Much better than going through life assuming everything is fake until proven otherwise, just to avoid being the subject of this sort of perception.

My point was just that, on those rare occasions when something does actually turn out to be fake, most people aren't thinking this anyway. Most people are thinking about what a jerk the faker is, and developing a lower opinion of that person, rather than of the people who might have been fooled this time.
posted by FishBike at 10:30 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's my position regarding pretty much all the "is this fake?" accusations that fly around here. My assumption is that, barring any specific revelations that all questions are true unless proven otherwise. If people think I'm a gullible rube, that's okay with me.

Yeah, that trend on MetaFilter bothers me, and it has spillover effects, too. Twice so far I've related stories from my life and then have been baldface accused of lying. Maybe accusing other members of lying is something which should be avoided entirely. Because, I mean, what do you do in those circumstances? I've tried clarifying my story, only to be told that "adding details only means you're REALLY lying". When the original telling of the story was a two sentence broad-brush to make a point, without details to begin with.

I know MeFites can be a cynical lot, but those two times of being called a liar about real events in my life... well, let's just say I made a mental note about who was accusing me, and they aren't people I interact with on the site anymore. If they don't trust me, why should I?
posted by hippybear at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe accusing other members of lying is something which should be avoided entirely.

It's pretty tough to think of a circumstance in which accusing someone of lying is actually furthering discussion. I'm surprised at the things which encourage other people to call other people liars. I can't tell if they've just had a paucity of life experiences or they're super mistrustful of other people or something else. It's one of those things that happens in internetland way more often than in offline-land.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I wonder if it's posturing in a your-favorite-band-sucks way.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2010


Every time I get all hetted up and GRARy about a post, I type up big old "FUCK YOU" type of response, get all angered up and freak out the cat, and then hit the back button.

Works great!
posted by disclaimer at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2010


zarq: If they were, what would it matter? If people don't care about a topic being discussed they should have the sense to leave the thread alone and not shit on discussions that (apparently) do matter to others. No one is forcing anyone else to read or post in a thread.


I think I was talking about getting angry about things rather than caring about them. I think it's OK to care about Doctor Who trivia. However, if MetaFilter threads on Doctor Who regularly saw people getting as angry as they do about e.g. racism/specious accusations of racism (delete as applicable), that would not, I feel, be progress for the community. Is all.
posted by DNye at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2010


I can get people angry about Doctor Who trivia!

JON PERTWEE IS THE ONE TRUE DOCTOR
posted by Mister_A at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2010


I also wanted to take the oppty to answer my own question in that one way that I find helps me is to not just take frequent breaks, let the conversation develop without my influence, etc, but actually let the conversation change me and my outlook. Take feedback from both my allies and my opponents and demonstrate that I have by posting some comment later in the thread about what's changed in my mind and maybe what hasn't, but focus on what has, toward building a bridge or two across that gulf.
posted by kalessin at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2010


JON PERTWEE IS THE ONE TRUE DOCTOR

Oh, is this the Tom Baker series where the Doctor travels to an alternate dimension where people have terrible taste in Doctors?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:59 AM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is only one Doctor: Paul McGann.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit guilty of threadwatching, just because I am interested in the discussion. But if I said something untoward that some folks get fired about, and I start getting the "fuck you motherfucker" in response, I cut the string on that kite for the good of the community and the realization of futility
posted by timsteil at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2010


I made you a comment, but I eated it. *
posted by taz at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's possible to discuss things too intensively, too often, to exhaust your mental and emotional resources
- That. If I feel I get crabby with the community (in any forum), I step out because it's very probably me who needs a break, not the other ones.

- Being on the watch-out for feedback signs of my own lack of clarity. If, for example, someone misunderstands me, I always go back and look whether I have formulated something sloppily (as a non-native English speaker, that's paramount). I try not to jump to the conclusion that the other person is [fill in your favorite] mad, disagrees, is stupid, wants to mess with my brains, or whatever else. If I can't find anything wrong in my previous post, I explain again, and wait for reactions. If I do find something that could have been formulated better, I re-write my previous statement. If, after all that, people disagree, and I think I've made my point, I move on. If people begin calling me out for stuff, I engage as long as I recognize myself in the discussion; when that stops, I stop.

- Otherwise: respect, as jessamyn said.

- Trying not to wise-crack on the expense of others (this can be very hard).

- And another thing: not to think with someone's else's head. Point in case from the other thread, quote from Kalessin: "I'm [whatever]. You are [whatever]. jessamyn is [whatever], Namlit is [whatever] and so is peachy." The thing that doesn't work here is the lump-togetherness. Even if I agreed with this statement (as far as I'm concerned, as in: yes, I am indeed [whatever]), I want to be given the choice to say that in my own words. It is simply not okay for someone else to take that responsibility in my stead, however well intended or honestly felt.

- That was more or less the point when I stepped out of that particular discussion about racism, because I didn't find that my own disgruntlement with 'being thought' by someone else had any place in that thread. So: taking responsibility in preventing the discussion (if it is a difficult one) from derailing, in general and especially because of one's own hurt feelings.
posted by Namlit at 11:38 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


My number one way to keep interaction at the discussion, and not argument level, is the same one I apply to politics:

The goal of a productive discussion is to understand why the other person believes what they believe, find a way to understand or even respect that viewpoint, and engage with them from there. If you fail to find common ground or change minds, then you at least understand another point of view, or at least can explain why someone holds that belief.

Whether I stick to this every time is another matter.
posted by mikeh at 12:16 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I assume that we are all here on MetaFilter ...

Using the words "assume" and "all" when discussing human beings is an ironclad guarantee that any statement you make will be incorrect.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:32 PM on November 1, 2010


The goal of a productive discussion is to understand why the other person believes what they believe

I like this formulation, and mostly agree with it, but I actually want to know first what it is the other person believes. It is extraordinary how informative that can be.
posted by bearwife at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2010


If you fail to find common ground or change minds, then you at least understand another point of view, or at least can explain why someone holds that belief.

Another complication to this is that that people have differing levels of investments in a given subject. You care deeply and want to debate and change their beliefs, the other person just isn't that interested. They either walk away, or they get defensive and overly invested in a position that they originally had very little stake in. So you end up arguing with someone who doesn't seem to have put a lot of thought into their position and it's frustrating.
posted by smackfu at 12:49 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Using the words "assume" and "all" when discussing human beings is an ironclad guarantee that any statement you make will be incorrect.

I think I am being put at a disadvantage here by having you not assume good intent when I wrote "assume". I used "assume" in the same way that a programmer might use "assert". Assume seemed to me to be less objectionable than assert, so I used the former. But I used the word "assume" to inform everyone else where I was coming from with the requests inherent in the post.

Like I said before, I get it that folks disagree with my assumptions. But to me that doesn't matter, since the assumptions I stated framed my viewpoint, and were not intended in any way whatsoever to be proscriptive. If you read the terms and assumptions as proscriptive, you are ascribing to me an intent that I think I've pretty clearly explained wasn't one of my motivations.

This is all fine, and you are welcome to think I am a rat bastard, but I am telling you that from within this head I disagree with you and think you are running down the wrong path.
posted by kalessin at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2010


Since you were asking, in your original question, for discussion principles that keep a thread steady: I've read your explanation to PareidoliaticBoy and thought by myself okay I get what this guy is trying to say.
Then I read your last paragraph and thought, this is what I'd never do, or if I did, I would erase it on preview.
You really don't need to anticipate in that fashion what people may think about you. It sort of automatically heightens the GRAR level in your correspondent's mind, no matter what you're talking about; it is unnecessary since it doesn't add any weight to your point, and the discussion will just not benefit from an aside like this at all.
Also, if you see people running down the wrong path, let them go.
posted by Namlit at 1:02 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the rest of us "assumed" that you meant "assume" in the way that most of us "assume" the word "assume" is used. I also "assume" if you had used the word "assert" that most people would "assume" that you meant "assert" to mean "to state or declare positively and often forcefully or aggressively" as opposed to "posit or postulate," so I "assume" it's a good thing you didn't use "assert" instead of "assume."

Anyway, this:

you are welcome to think I am a rat bastard

I think is a sign that stepping back might be in order. Nobody has said, hinted, implied, or otherwise suggested that you are a rat bastard. I don't know where on Earth that statement is coming from, but it gives me the impression that you're really, really offended by the way this thread has gone.
posted by Gator at 1:08 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're both right in that I should have avoided saying that PareidoliaticBoy was welcome to think I'm a rat bastard. I will step back both because you suggest it as well as because I'm busy elsewise.

I don't think I am over-invested in the discussion, but I can see how it might seem so from outside my own head.
posted by kalessin at 1:10 PM on November 1, 2010


I think you use sometimes tend to use words sloppily, kalessin. Rat bastard? Nope, your assumption is incorrect.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:37 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I'm asking now if we all have other discussion principles and approaches that are not widely known

What you say and what people hear are different things.

Equally, what people say to you and what you hear are different things.

Most of the time everyone, including you, will be oblivious that this is going on.

Fully hearing what people actually say - as they truly meant it - takes work.

Being fully heard in the way that you intended also takes work.

Nothing is wrong in any of this, it's just the way it is.

If you want to have productive conversations, assume the other person is not aware of these issues, and make it 100% your responsibility to do the work to ensure that real communication takes place.
posted by philipy at 1:38 PM on November 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


phlipy I love that (can't fave twice)
posted by Namlit at 2:33 PM on November 1, 2010


The most helpful thing for me has been to just slow down. Not even just when I'm feeling fighty or whatever. The posts I feel worst about later are always the ones I've submitted in haste. The posts I feel best about later are the ones that are written, considered, previewed, and edited. During that editing process, the emotions have time to cool, and I can do my best to ensure that I am not insulting someone, that I am commenting for a good reason, that I have backed up my controversial claims with appropriate evidence or reasoning, etc.

When I am forming an argument, if I can't give my argument at least the rough outline of a mathematical proof, my future self would rather I not post.
posted by Jpfed at 3:27 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


My own personal Metafilter rules, which are evolving constantly, currently consist of:

Flag it and move on.
The mods really are good at deleting the most egregious examples of WTFness if you point them in the right direction. Really. You don't have to wade into the fray every time something catches you the wrong way. So I just...

Let problematic threads evolve at their own pace.
If I become deeply emotionally caught up in arguments while reading a thread, I favorite the thread and then I leave for a while before I even put my two cents in. Hastily replying leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. So I...

Read all the comments before replying.
Often by the time I come back, someone has clarified what they meant, someone else has apologized and yet another someone has said just exactly what I wanted to say, only better. If not, I've had time to think about what I want to say so it comes out the way I intended without any emotional baggage loading it down. I know some people like to skim. I also know I've missed details before. But it really helps to go through the whole thread before you jump in. Because sometimes...

The Someone on the Internet Who Is Wrong? Might be me. So I try reading with a more charitable eye. They're lots of good people here. And that makes me remember to...

Be kind. Don't be a douche.
Because everyone needs a hug.
posted by misha at 4:52 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of my rules is that if I post three times in a thread saying the same thing, it's time for me to walk away. I can elaborate or clarify once, because sometimes I don't express myself as clearly or well as I might like. But if I have to do it twice, there's something in the thread that means I need to be somewhere else. It's probably me, but even if it's somebody else being a jackass, I still need to be the one to leave and go somewhere else. I can't make a jackass on the internet stop being a jackass. I can only control what I do.

Along the same lines, I try not to respond to comments that make me feel fighty. If I have to respond to a fighty topic, I can reply to people I agree with and support and elaborate, or with people I cordially disagree with and disagree. But I generally avoid replying to comments that get my GRAR up, because then I get fighty, and I don't like to do that. It's bad for my digestion, not to mention Metafilter's.
posted by immlass at 4:56 PM on November 1, 2010


Without trying to rehash various MeTa threads here: I have noticed a pattern while participating in these threads that when I've called people out on their own faulty logic or just disagreed with them, there is a tendency for people for whatever reason to start throwing out accusations of ad hominems, personal attacks, whatever without any substantiations or evidence. And when I ask them to clarify or provide evidence (so that I can, for example, re-evaluate what I wrote from their point of view and either acknowledge that something I wrote was stupid--and whether or not it was meant to be that way, so that I can clarify if it came across differently from the way it was intended, or to defend myself), that's when they choose to leave the thread.

I have no issues with someone saying, "You know what? I'm starting to feel fighty right now and i just need to remove myself from this thread for awhile." But someone accusing me of attacking them and then when I ask them to clarify, they disappear when called on it without even trying to address it--it comes across as if they are throwing out an accusation and don't feel the need or decency to back it up, and, frankly, that kind of stuff gets my back up big time.

I think it works both ways. And I think if we're going to start labelling people or accusing them of attacking or being trolls or whatever, then the onus is on the person making those accusations to substantiate them, because it doesn't go towards community building. And some people do care (at least to some degree) about their reputation here, or at least they care not to be cast in a negative light when that wasn't their intentions and they made their comments/observations on good faith.

I also really dislike it when people take a comment and then cut it up and manipulate what I or someone else said to make it seem that I/they said something other than what was said--especially when the original comment made the point rather clearly. And when those people are called on it, I would hope that they would clarify or correct their comment instead of ignoring it and moving on to a different point.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:11 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]



It helps that here I tend not to look at usernames or even remember who said that annoying thing in the politics thread, so taking everyone at face value is easy. I have no idea which posters think what about whatever important topic, so grudges are pretty much impossible
.

This is how I work as well. I don't remember user names much, I tend not to check out profiles, etc. I may have a heated debate with someone in one thread and totally back them up in another. I do that even when I do remember the user name and know that I've debated them in another thread. I guess I'm able to compartmentalize a bit and divorce disagreement/argument with "hate" or grudges. Sometimes I have to remind myself that others aren't the same way. I like the whole "Brand New Day" saying on here because that's generally how I run my life. Even if I have a huge fight with a friend/family member/loved one/whatever, I tend to get over it by the next day. It takes someone consistently being an ass to me to make me upset enough with them to not want to deal with them, and by that point I tend to just cut them out of my life and move on immediately. (Does that make me some kind of sociopath? LOL).

I've been thinking lately that maybe I need to put a disclaimer on my profile or something. Just because I disagree with someone, doesn't mean I don't like them or will hold a grudge against them. Even when I *passionately* disagree with them. It just means that I am passionate about that subject (and I like a good debate). It's when people make it personal or attack me or, worse in my mind, try to paint me as something I'm not or label me, that's when I get upset.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:28 PM on November 1, 2010


It helps that here I tend not to look at usernames or even remember who said that annoying thing in the politics thread, so taking everyone at face value is easy. I have no idea which posters think what about whatever important topic, so grudges are pretty much impossible.

Fully agree as well. The mods, or a more involved member, can correct if I'm wrong; but I believe that the reason that the user name appears at the end of the comment is so that the reader can divorce the commenter from their words, perhaps creating a more unbiased approach to the substance of the message?

I don't know, but it seems this way to me, and that is how I have tried to approach reading here (not always successfully) as well. I was pretty surprised to see kalessin's comment that I think that he is a rat bastard, given that I believe I have spoken to him twice, and pretty mildly in both cases, as far as I can recall. But I'm a pretty sarcastic curmudgeon IRL , and I will concede that it's possible that my innate impatience bleeds through onto these pages without my being aware of it, which is a tad worrying, so I will do my best to monitor it. Jess and Cortex are a big help in this struggle.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:12 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The mods, or a more involved member, can correct if I'm wrong; but I believe that the reason that the user name appears at the end of the comment is so that the reader can divorce the commenter from their words, perhaps creating a more unbiased approach to the substance of the message?

It's been that way since day one, so really only Matt knows for sure as far as intent goes. I don't recall if he's said so explicitly or not in the past. But, yeah, I definitely like that as a feature: the primary content are the words someone is saying, the byline is secondary.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:24 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Namlit.. thanks. Always nice to hear something like that. :)
posted by philipy at 8:10 PM on November 1, 2010




Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
- Jesus and/or Mark Twain
I like to live righteous. And I just want everyone to know I'm not trying to get out of anything.
- lil Kim and you if you hadn't posted that thing that we all saw.
posted by vapidave at 10:49 PM on November 1, 2010


Welcome. Can't figure why my "i" key does what it does, though, sorry 'bout that.
posted by Namlit at 2:19 AM on November 2, 2010


I think you use sometimes tend to use words sloppily, kalessin.

I think this kind of comment is both wholly accurate and also total flamebait.

Because no one uses words accurately. English is such an idiomatic and nuance-ridden language that it's widely acknowledged as one of the more difficult languages for non-native speakers to learn. As demonstrated in the other thread that I linked to in the OP, it's possible for folks to ascribe completely different (neutral versus insulting) meanings to the same word (in that thread's case it was "racist").

I think that part of the principle of assuming good intent is to make allowances for the fact, as philipy talked about, that we're usually oblivious to the fact that we're using different definitions for the same word.

It is also true (which is why I think the comment is wholly accurate) that I sometimes go too far. And I do work on that. But I also find it hard to make progress with that when it feels like a lot of folks give themselves liberty to go completely out of bounds as well. On the other thread, I believe I witnessed sloppy language from folks arguing against my position at least as often as those agreeing with me. Doesn't stop me from trying to do better not to slide down the slipper slope, but it's harder. I know, though, that I should turn the other cheek.

So I think that this kind of comment is flamebait because it's egregious. When it's obvious that I am trying in good faith to have the conversation, I would like to be able to rely on everyone else to give me the benefit of the doubt.
posted by kalessin at 5:50 AM on November 2, 2010


Some of the best advice I ever heard was from my mom: Stop wriggling and just listen.

It applies to more than just eight-year olds at string quartet concerts.
posted by breezeway at 6:20 AM on November 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


it's possible for folks to ascribe completely different (neutral versus insulting) meanings to the same word (in that thread's case it was "racist").

If you haven't learned from that thread by now that "racist" is not a neutral term, I don't know that this thread is going to help you improve your communication skills any better.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


See, that right there, 1000monkeys, is a good example of some poor communication technique. The "neutral" sense was the use of the term to indicate inescapable bias among human beings; the non-neutral sense was use to denote the confluence of bigotry and power.

Many people would describe their racially-based biases as "racism," and that's OK. That's kind of what the whole dust-up that you were smack dab in the middle of was about, if you recall.
posted by Mister_A at 1:28 PM on November 2, 2010


I only want to say one thing in this thread:

William Hartnoll: the original and best!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:32 PM on November 2, 2010


There is a small number of people here who believe that the actual definitions of words are meaningless. They insist that words don't mean what they mean, but instead that some words mean what those people think they mean. This is a battle that simply can't be won, so going forward I intend to find more productive uses for my time.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:36 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what, I'm going to bow out of this thread. It seems crystal clear to me that kalessin isn't really trying to learn to be a better communicator or have "less flammable" discussions, it seems that this is a really passive-aggressive way to get his point across from the other thread without having to actually defend that point or have that conversation again. His responses make that evident, to me at least.

Have fun, folks.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2010


I just want to remind folks as we wind up that the issues regarding racism from the prior thread that I linked to in the OP are for resolution in THAT thread. This thread is primarily about methods for improving communication within contentious threads.

I realize that some of what we're talking about here in comments 90+ in this thread bridge the gap between both, but if I can influence the discussion direction here at all, I'd like to suggest that comments about the racism question and definitions of racism specifically probably belong in the older thread more than this one.

For my part I apologize for bringing it up again here.
posted by kalessin at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2010


There are these other people out there who insist that words only have a single "true" meaning, the one they learned in their school, and that anyone who uses the word any other way, even if that everyone is almost everyone, is using it wrong and may deserves derision for this misuse. I say such people are remarkably niggardly of spirit and imagination.
posted by Mister_A at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2010


I know, right? Denotation and Connotation is the new Goofus and Gallant.
posted by Gator at 1:42 PM on November 2, 2010


That's just what I was going to say.
posted by Mister_A at 1:47 PM on November 2, 2010


I just want to remind folks as we wind up that the issues regarding racism from the prior thread that I linked to in the OP are for resolution in THAT thread. This thread is primarily about methods for improving communication within contentious threads.

As I said a few moments ago in my reply to your MeMail, which I think I should paste here as it's relevant to this point above:

"... I think you're trying to get your point across from that conversation in this thread in a very passive-aggressive manner (almost like someone who thought of a zinger after the debate ended and now wants to get that last point in without being called on it).

I came into that new thread with the thought that you were honestly trying to learn better communication skills and understand better how other people work, but it's clear from your comments and defensiveness throughout the thread that the point of this thread is not for you to learn some skills etc. etc., but to defend your actions in the other thread.

And that's something I'm not going to waste my time being a part of. "


If you want to discuss communication skills, that's fine. But throughout the thread, you seem to be defending yourself and getting defensive and it seems to me that you're really just trying to justify your communications in that thread. That's not very productive, and that's not what this thread is allegedly supposed to be about. So if you want to defend your role in the other thread, that's fine, but please don't act like this is a good-faith effort to learn to be a better communicator.

And with that note, I'M going to step away from this thread now.
posted by 1000monkeys at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2010


This whole thread is racist, in my book.
posted by Mister_A at 1:56 PM on November 2, 2010


The "neutral" sense was the use of the term to indicate inescapable bias among human beings; the non-neutral sense was use to denote the confluence of bigotry and power.

And which sense is kalessin using? I know he was pretty insistent on the latter before I stopped paying attention to him. The former is what I think the majority of English speakers would understand... most people would be insulted by being called racist. So I guess I'm not following why you seem to arguing with 1000monkeys here. He is one supporting the majority definition, no? And kalessin is supporting the academic Capital-R definition, and is therefore who you should be calling "remarkably niggardly of spirit and imagination," yes? Oh and that's a shitty thing to call anyone, by the way.
posted by Dano St at 2:10 PM on November 2, 2010


I'm pointing out this incivility:

If you haven't learned from that thread by now that "racist" is not a neutral term, I don't know that this thread is going to help you improve your communication skills any better.

in a thread that is devoted to exploring ways of furthering civility, you douchebag.
posted by Mister_A at 2:14 PM on November 2, 2010


Oh wait, most people use the third sense that I didn't realize you'd left off: racism simple means prejudice against one or more races. In other words, my brain is all twisted around, so nevermind except that part in small.
posted by Dano St at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2010


Ahh, got it.
posted by Dano St at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2010


Dano St, feel free to address me directly if you have direct questions for me. I'm still reading and around.

In the early part of the other thread, I was using the academic definition of racism that was that racism was the system of biases and prejudices present in all of us as an evolutionary trait derived from our simple ability to differentiate between different sets of people, that further becomes institutionalized into a near inescapable bias-and-differentiation behavior that we all carry out reflexively.

I am totally cognizant since all of the discussion we had in that thread and the stuff that was related to it also in this thread that for a number of folks in both or either discussion, the term "racist" is so offensive as to make it not usable in reasoned discourse, so I am doing my best to, at the very least, keep that in mind and hopefully have it inform my choice of vocabulary when discussing the term and associated topics in the future.

So I am totally clear, and I realize that this thread is totally not about me, but since people keep asking questions about my personal motivations and reactions, this doesn't mean that my newish understanding is overriding the definition of racism that I've held all my life. For me, the terms "racist" and "racism" are still neutral. I still understand my own inner psyche and reactions in terms that are related to the definitions I was already aware of and working under. But I do understand that there is another vastly different definition that a significant number of MeFites use that makes the words offensive. I will factor that in to future discussions.

I still would like to request similar allowance for my own definition (which it seems other people also share) in future discussions. Odds are that I will forget or slip and there are definitely other folks who haven't made public their desire to build bridges over this definitions issue. Toward better shared discussions, it seems like it would make sense for both sides of the definitions fence to make allowances for the other.
posted by kalessin at 2:24 PM on November 2, 2010


Sorry, "the academic definition of racism" should be "the academic definition of racism that I learned".
posted by kalessin at 2:24 PM on November 2, 2010


I think the "flat" layout of metafilter comments actually contributes to nasty arguments taking over a discussion.

If you look at places with tree-branch-type comments (i.e., reddit), hostile arguments between two people are generally apparent as "this where X and Y start shitting on each other". Those who aren't interested or are neutral usually skip over that part of the branch. And contentiousness usually stays in that part of the branch. When one of the commenters starts harsassing another commenter in a different thread, they'll be called out.

The problem with the "flat" layout is that some of the formerly neutral/uninterested people find themselves getting sucked in. They start correcting hostility, or adding to it, and suddenly the comments having to do with the nasty argument--even if it has nothing to do with the original thread--are spilling every which way, overtaking the majority of the thread.

Certainly, there are positives to the flat-type discussion, right? But the fact that barbs or snarks become messy, critical wounds...I believe that's one of the negatives. In a threaded discussion (which also has drawbacks), lots of personal vendettas are contained.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2010


If you look at places with tree-branch-type comments (i.e., reddit)

One of the things that I really like about Reddit is that after about ten comments of people going back and forth at each other in a thread, their continued conversation is just removed from the main thread altogether and you have to click "continue this thread" to go to another page if you want to keep up with it. It makes the mano-a-mano stuff a lot easier to ignore. Not suggesting MeFi should be that way, but it's definitely a useful feature over there.
posted by Gator at 2:47 PM on November 2, 2010


"continue this thread"

Thanks for bringing that up Gator. That's definitely a part of the equation I forgot to mention.

I always felt commenting on mefi is like being at a large party where there are a lot of earnest people, books in hand, shouting at each other across the room.

Commenting on reddit is like being at a rave where there are smaller groups of people, four or five to a group, conversing with another. At least half of these people are high.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2010


That was a satire on the sort of thing an oversensitive, entitled white guy might say? And you then followed up that by exhibiting for comedy values the other behaviours of same - staking out the love-see-no-colour moral high ground, accusing dissenters of "wooly-headed soft-liberal bullshit", making up imaginary test cases involving "Welloes", and finally explaining at great length that you don't care, not at all, not a bit?

My hat is off. Nice work, dude. You played that to the hilt. Reading that, I really thought that you were exemplifying "gossamer-skinned hypersensitivity", but it was all a brilliant satire of Luke1249's own gossamer-skinned etc? Props.
posted by DNye at 4:34 PM on November 1


Late back to this but what the hell.

Yes, that was satire. If you check my posting history you will, perhaps, see that I am most definitely not someone who would have made these statements in all seriousness. I was sending up the sort of cartoon hypersensitive PC nonsense that has been polluting this site of late. I really thought I was making that extremely obvious, and in the face of this frankly startling evidence of your wish to keep digging this hole even after I tipped you off to the fact, I can only reiterate my profound regret that you still fail to discern this.
posted by Decani at 1:27 PM on November 8, 2010


At this point, I barely have a sense that you know what you are saying, Decani, much less that it would be fair of you to assume that anyone else would, to be honest.

Nonetheless, let me try to explain. You are claiming, now, that your meltdown in that thread is a brilliant satire on the sort of cartoon hypersensitive PC nonsense that has been polluting this site of late - the reality or not of this pollution is, of course, rather questionable, but I think that's being handled by cortex and jessamyn elsewhere in an argument about emergency cords, so let's not get into that here. It's enough that you believe that it's happening.

My schtick in this thread was a naive assumption that you were in fact delivering a metasatire - that by acting like that, you were both exemplifying and satirising the behaviour of an oversensitive, entitled white guy, rather than simply exemplifying it. So, the percept is that you are throwing a tantrum, the comic concept is that this tantrum is actually a brilliant satire on the position that you are claiming to hold in your stated opinions in-thread - that is, that you are in fact a progressive pretending to be an anti-progressive throwing a tantrum for comedy value. That concept is humorous because of your oppositional concept - that your tantrum was in fact satire on the tendency of people you disagree with to throw tantrums - which you used in this thread to defend your tantrum. So, in effect, it's two different comic concepts, and you are getting confused because you think they are one, and thus keep missing the point.

Here's the relevant part of the bit you just quoted, which I think you missed.

Reading that, I really thought that you were exemplifying "gossamer-skinned hypersensitivity", but it was all a brilliant satire of Luke1249's own gossamer-skinned etc? Props.

If you go back to that thread, you'll find that you and Luke1249 are on the same side. And that you are both displaying the kind of gossamer-skinned hypersensitivity that you are complaining here is displayed by people who disagree with you. Which is, as I say, funny at first.

If you want to argue at this point that your entire approach in that thread was a satire on the debating tactics of PC Gone Mad, that's fine. I don't think it's true, because you seem to be speaking very sincerely and from the heart when you make statements like:

By the way, this idea that racism is somehow okay or less bad when it's directed against a non-oppressed race is the rankest of rank bullshittery

But it's fine. You're entirely free both to believe and/or to maintain that you believe whatever you want about your own words.

Man, jokes are never funny when you have to explain them.
posted by DNye at 8:23 AM on November 26, 2010


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