Not needing to respond to every post June 13, 2001 7:43 AM   Subscribe

"Your Usenettish respond-to-everyone-who-disagrees-with-you style might be less effective than you think." 11 out of 49 comments were posted by one user. Is there a proper way to "debate"? Should one save up all retorts and include them in one or two comment posts? Or is it okay to respond to each person individually? I personally am getting tired of it...
posted by jennak to Etiquette/Policy at 7:43 AM (21 comments total)

He's a conservative. I think Matt should ban him.
posted by Doug at 8:45 AM on June 13, 2001

It definitely diminishes the quality of the thread from the perspective of someone who is interested in other people's opinions rather than in joining the debate.

But perhaps it's better for people actively involved in the discussion? I'm not sure since I wasn't involved and only read the thread about 70% of the way in.
posted by chaz at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2001

There's more of it lately, and it's getting on my nerves. Somebody doing that is monopolizing the thread and futilely attempting to "win" the argument. For the record, there are liberals who do it too, so it isn't just that I disagree politically with {particular user cited}. What you get is A says X, B says Y, C says Z, then D rebuts A, D rebuts B, D rebuts C ... all of a sudden it's, like, D's thread there. It tends to incite flamewars -- with the rebutted individuals feeling obligated to defend their own words -- rather than encouraging more thoughtful posts. In short, it tends to send a thread downhill fast.
posted by dhartung at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2001

I think it's typical behaviour from LJR. Check out his comments. The amount of comments he contributes to each thread borders on ridiculous. (Look at "18 of the state's 67 counties.." thread.)

My question: is it okay? Preferable? Trolling?
posted by jennak at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2001

It's not just ljr, though he spectacularly relentless. How many threads have gone into stasis with raysmj's and ljr's jaws locked onto each others' tushies lately?

(I'm actually not sure that that's anatomically possible. literally speaking.)
posted by rodii at 10:12 AM on June 13, 2001

Good point, dhartung. I do find myself "defending" and rehashing instead of brining new ideas to the thread.

I guess I should ignore such people (instead of engaging in "debate" or encouraging them). I doubt they'd continue much longer if their flames go unnoticed.
posted by jennak at 10:12 AM on June 13, 2001

For reference, ljromanoff had posted 10 of the preceding 43 comments in that thread. And he asked me why he was "singled out" ....

Since we're using real people's names now, I'll reiterate. Lefty johnb used to do this on Nader/Green Party and environmental threads, and I didn't like it then.

jennak, that's the whole thing. I come to a thread hoping to find intelligent reaction to the original item posted, i.e. the news article or editorial, rather than peoples' reactions to peoples' reactions to ... Not that there isn't any validity to that type of discussion, but it tends to degenerate, as I said, more quickly into a kind of tit-for-tat. And the repeat posters, of whatever stripe, are essentially trying to win by speaking more loudly (i.e. more often) than their counterparts. Or you could just say they're trying to get the last word ... on everyone.

One Usenet you can killfile a noisy person like this. It wouldn't work as well in the successive-comment threads at Metafilter, and I'd rather not shut out an entire person. I'd rather ljr, or anyone doing this, contributed one or two really good, well-thought-out responses rather than the above.
posted by dhartung at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2001

I was talking about this topic with Lance (ljromanoff) in e-mail today. I have been guilty of the same thing from time to time. When I find myself posting more than two or three times in a thread, I try to back off a bit and let other people have the floor for a while. Posting too often in a thread is an easy way to throttle the life right out of a discussion.
posted by rcade at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2001

If MeFi was intended to be a forum for debate, it would be set-up more like Slashdot where you can post a comment to a comment.

I'm a huge hypocrite in that regard. I enjoy being part of the debate. But if I'm not part of it, I wish it were below my threshhold so I didn't have to read it.
posted by goto11 at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2001

rodii: Actually one one. And I admit that in that one, on tobacco, I got way frustrated with him and should've stopped. Also worried me in that he seemed like he was paying no attention, really, to a word that I was saying and it affected me elsewhere, I have to say. And sorry for it. He had a big slam coming for the Bush statement - the most ridiculous statement (repeated something like three times) which is partly why I first lit into him on the tobacco thing - but he's a frustrating cat. Sorta like a cancer that affects everything around him.
posted by raysmj at 12:28 PM on June 13, 2001

rodii: Just a quick addendum. (I'm horrible on those - start a thread on that if you like). But the only other thread after the tobacco one in which I posted any more than the norm, partly in response to ljr, was in the Iran voting thing (13 out of 90, total), which came toward the end with a few addenda and also included holgate and cap'n crack. It was generally civil.

The death penalty thing upset me a bit (again toward the end), with a new cat questioning what I was saying about four times and making me think, "It's LJR: The Sequel."
posted by raysmj at 12:55 PM on June 13, 2001

They're all civil, Ray, don't get me wrong. And I'm generally on your side in them. But it feels like you let him bait you into these repeated wrangles. He's a master baiter.
posted by rodii at 1:35 PM on June 13, 2001

Oh well. The death penalty thing, by the way, really was a case of genuine interest and concern. And ljr said nothing about that -- you just had slightly lower-key non-listeners there. (It might not be weblog as heated debate, but it is conversation, and conversation means listening). The tobacco thing, on the other hand, was something I did happen to know an awful lot about, also one which was somewhat personal. It went overboard. He just happened to bait me on the wrong subject after the earlier Bush baiting thing, when I was hacked at him anyway.
posted by raysmj at 1:57 PM on June 13, 2001

I equate this to "and another thing!" syndrome. You type out a response to someone else's response to a post, and after you hit the post button and think you've said your piece, five minutes later your brain's still spewing out manna and you wanna put it somewhere. You probably shouldn't cuz somewhere between the cerebral cortex and the monitor, the manna becomes manure nine times out of ten, but if you don't continue, you might suffer from insomnia ..or an aneurism. I'm guilty of it too. I ain't sayin' it's right. I'm just hoping to explain it to people who haven't experienced it before. It's a disease. A psychological addiction, this MeFi place. Some people need to seek professional help.

*looks at group blankly and innocent*

I don't mean ME! *smirk*
posted by ZachsMind at 12:38 AM on June 14, 2001

I told ljromanoff about this thread yesterday, in case he wanted to participate. He said I could repeat what he wrote to me in e-mail.

His comments:
Your criticism is valid. However, look at it from my perspective. Whenever
I post one comment, I usually get between 3 and 5 comments in reply. Why is
this? Because those who disagree with me outumber me on MetaFilter by some
measure. Because of this, I'm bound to have more comments than average, due
to the fact that usually I'm having conversations with several people at

If the number of people who agreed with me generally was equal to the number
who disagreed, it would certainly be fair to suggest I post less. However,
it seems that whenever I express any opinion I get several opposing views,
plus a handful of condesending putdowns and/or blatant name calling.

If MetaFilter is meant to be an enclave for those with a single-minded,
left-wing, progressive political philosophy, fine. Just let me know that and
I'll mind my own business. However, if it isn't than I feel obligated to
reply to the comments that are directed at me. If that means that I post 10
comments versus most of people posting 2 or 3, so be it.

posted by rcade at 6:11 AM on June 14, 2001

If MetaFilter is meant to be an enclave for those with a single-minded, left-wing, progressive political philosophy, fine.

This kind of defense really irks me.

It's not that we don't want to hear ljromanoff, and it's not that we don't respect his views.

I'd rather not see anyone be shut up or feel they've been chased off, I'd rather see him batch his responses, so rather than responding individually to each of the 3 or 4 people who are debating with him, do it all at once.

It will probably strengthen and clarify his arguments to solidify everything into one concise post rather then having to say the same thing 3 times over in different ways.
posted by cCranium at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2001

Maybe he just needs to develop a thicker shell? I mean I put my views out there and sometimes I get reamed for it. I can't use the "single-minded, left-wing, progressive political philosophy" excuse. I'm not right-wing. MeFi isn't single-minded. I find some views comparatively moderate to my own. And it's an equal-opportunity butt-reamer.

I have conservative friends offline who put my views to the test. I like that. They also show me how sometimes my views are so ultra-leftwing they fly back around and turn ultra-conservative, which spooks the heck outta me. Keeps me on my toes.

If one has unpopular views, it's par for the course. It's admittedly better to be called on one's views than completely ignored. If one's views are challenged, and the challenges are well-written and thought out, maybe the individual should reconsider said views, and Cranium's right. combining several potential posts into one, and focusing one's responses, it improves one's posts; gets their point across better.

Ultimately this place is rather shoot-from-the-hip for a lot of participants. Some people are better at expressing themselves than others. Those who are better at expressing themselves probably count to ten before hitting the post button.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:18 AM on June 14, 2001

However, if it isn't than I feel obligated to reply to the comments that are directed at me. If that means that I post 10 comments versus most of people posting 2 or 3, so be it.

I think this hits directly on the source. We're not attacking you, LJR, but merely debating the opposing viewpoint. It's when you respond to each poster individually, singleing them out each time, that they all feel the need to respond and then the thread turns into a clusterfuck.

Oppose the view points, gather a few quotes from previous
comments, and make a few strong comment post. I do appreciate having the opposite viewpoint; my god, I would be so bored (and boring) without an aaron and an LJR.
posted by jennak at 9:37 AM on June 14, 2001

This is very late, but maybe someone will read it. If not, maybe that's not a bad thing, as I don't have the time I think it deserves.

I think freedom of expression is a very tricky subject: I think it is both extremely valuable and difficult to judge. For both those reasons I'm surprised at the lack of dissent in this thread.

It's clear that this is a forum controlled by one person; someone who is effectively god, with absolute censorship rights. I'm surprised that's not sufficient for dealing with this problem.

It would be easier to comment on this kind of thread if the censored material was available. I'd like to suggest a read-only area (MetaCensored?) where censored posts were placed, so that people could be more informed - it would be nice for the editorial decisions to be more visible.

I've only seen one post from this guy that was supposed to be offensive - the "list of liberals". IMHO that was clearly self-aware and parodic in nature. You can parody a view that you believe in.

A lack of respect for freedom of speech is a claim against liberals that I think we (I consider myself liberal) should take more seriously. It might be possible to argue that there is no such right on MeFi, but what about in "meat space"? Suggesting that quotes be reported to employers seems to suggest that free-speech shouldn't apply there either (if I received an email reporting that an employee of mine had expressed an opinion I disagreed with I would do nothing except criticise the poster - I would have thought that a normal liberal position).

OK - that's all from me.

posted by andrew cooke at 3:48 AM on June 17, 2001

Andrew---wrong thread, I think.
posted by rodii at 1:45 PM on June 17, 2001

Damn. Thanks. Thanks also to whoever emailed me (I would have caught this sooner, but I had to move a computer etc etc). Sorry. Please feel free to delete both this and the above message - I might repost to the other thread, but really don't have time to spend on this and it's late anyway. Sorry again.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2001

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