Help needed in setting the tone: Who's in favor of abrasive behavior?

#1
Yes, I know the thread title is loaded. The only people in favor of consistently abrasive behavior are, I most sincerely hope, those who habitually engage in it, and perhaps not even them. Some others tolerate it with various degrees of good will or grudging resignation. Those two groups, the few irritators and the larger group of tolerators, by definition make up the long-term membership of the Skeptiko Forum.

But how many others are there who do not tolerate it for long? Alex goes to a great deal of effort producing his podcasts and additional effort to entice new potential members to the forum. How many come, experience the rancor, then silently leave, never to return, the whole process essentially invisible to the forum's existing members and administrators? And how many of those might have made valuable ongoing contributions had they stayed? How many might have been the kind of people you enjoy spending time with, potential friends?

To be clear, I'm not talking here about inhibiting lively debate, including the snipes, sarcastic comments, and fits of pique most of us engage in from time to time - one hopes at rare intervals. Those things happen, and sometimes the aggressors cool down and quickly repair the situation openly or with private communications the rest of us don't see.

It's true that hard-core skeptics were the main problem in the old forum; in some cases their skepticism was interwoven with a taunting sarcasm - to annoy was likely their main goal - but as the intentionally annoying skeptics have damped down, a residuum of a very few abrasive individuals begins to stand out, people who are not materialists, perhaps are even valuable contributors. When these people taunt or otherwise offend, what can be their goal? I can't fathom it, but I think it may just be the sort of unconscious bad habit that grows, if left unpruned, in the dark anonymity of the web. Of course we all know that by web standards of conduct the new Skeptiko forum is doing relatively well but it seems some important improvement can still be gained with only a little additional effort, and it seems this is the time.

By now it's probably clear that I have a low threshold of pain when it comes to dealing with abrasive behavior - I burned out quickly on the old forum and bailed, just another invisible casualty, and the barbs weren't even directed at me. Whether or not that was any loss to that forum in any way cannot be known, and I don't claim that it was, but I know it was some loss to me that I reluctantly accepted as the lesser evil, for my peace of mind. The important question here is, was I a rare case, or one of many? I rather think the latter.

This time around, with a wave of reform currently washing over the Forum, I thought it might be time to engage the system, add another bucketful to the wave. (Sorry about the metaphors - I've been reading William James:eek:). A more experienced forum member tells me this has been tried before, without success, so he has found an individual way to minimize the distraction. The ignore button is currently the recommended approach, and some members use it liberally to preserve their equanimity. But why should they have to? The ignore button seems to me rather like a hammer, when a scalpel, or even just a bit of sandpaper, is needed. Some thoughtlessly rude people make otherwise valuable contributions - I don't want to simply eliminate them from my reading. So let me rephrase the thread title: Who's in favor of generally civil behavior as the default tone here? What's the downside? A few individuals are denied their cheap kicks at the expense of others? At the end of the day, they too may find they enjoy a mutually considerate atmosphere.

This is not the old forum but rather the New Skeptiko Forum, and right now is the time to fashion it in a way most congenial to the majority. If the will to do so exists, how can it be most effectively accomplished? I suspect a simple mechanism, requiring only a little tweaking of the existing system, can be devised to improve this situation greatly, perhaps a slight adjustment of the system that is currently being used with some notable success against obstructive skeptics. But there I plead inexperience and defer to the more experienced members to sketch out an approach.

Please weigh in with your thoughts.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#2
Hi John,

Hope you stick around. I agree with the idea of less tolerance granted to disrespectful behaviour. That's rule No. 1 on the rule list. What tweakings do you suggest? If you haven't seen it, there's a "report post" feature you can use when you come across such behaviour.

Let's not please use the ignore button but rather report such posts or call attention to them in some way. I agree it's unfortunate if some people think of quitting the forum for that reason. I think they should consider advising the moderators rather than simply quitting, because that doesn't change things.
 
#3
I just stick to the podcast threads because they seem to be better moderated. I had a look at some of the other sub-forums, and they generally seem to be a waste of time. I think the believer/skeptic debate idea is something people engage in until they evolve past the need for such things. Once you are past that stage, it becomes a waste of time. But some people remain stuck there. The best thing to do is ignore and avoid them.
 
#4
Hope you stick around.
Thanks very much, Ian. My only importance in this discussion is as a representative, admittedly self-appointed, from a continuously growing group of disappointed - or disgusted - would-be participants that are otherwise invisible to forum members.

The best thing to do is ignore and avoid them.
That may be the best option currently available to individuals, but is it the best we can do for optimizing the forum, both in terms of membership and useability? How hard can this be?:eek:
 
#5
That may be the best option currently available to individuals, but is it the best we can do for optimizing the forum, both in terms of membership and useability? How hard can this be?:eek:
You can only do so much with limited moderation man-hours. I'd rather Alex spend his time creating podcasts for me to listen to than have him chase down offensive posters. I understand what you are saying, it would be nice to have some fun discussions without some of the stuff I saw going on in your explorer sub-forum thread on cloud experiments. That was very unfortunate. The explorer forum in particular would have to be heavily moderated to be successful, in my opinion. I'd like to see skeptics participate in experiments along with believers. But it requires a very high level of tolerance and decorum on both sides, which probably needs a little help from extra moderation.
 
#6
You can only do so much with limited moderation man-hours.
I agree.

... some of the stuff I saw going on in your explorer sub-forum thread on cloud experiments. That was very unfortunate.
I really didn't think that thread was much different from average. Only two posts from a hard-core skeptic really bugged me, mostly because they were completely off-topic, and Alex kindly removed those as is currently the policy for Mod+. Well, admittedly the conversation did go downhill, but it may not be finished:).

My observations aren't based on my feeling offended - I don't - they come from reading many threads. Of the Old Timers, it seems some have grown calluses and the rest use the "ignore" button. Are those the only ways forward?
 
#7
I agree with the idea behind the opening post - civil discussion should be encouraged, but it doesn't seem to happen in practice. It might be more successful if people weren't called out on the basis of party line, but on the basis of behavior? (Assuming your opening post was complaining about 'skeptics' - apologies if it wasn't.)
The opening post only dealt with skeptics in one paragraph.

I have no doubt that many/most skeptics are often/usually polite:eek:. We get tired of hearing it but "I'm a skeptic too." I'm a true skeptic, and I'll warrant I can out-skeptic anyone in the house (or equal-skeptic at least:)). But of course Skeptiko is an attractive nuisance for skeptics of a particular stripe, folks who may only be skeptical of the other person's viewpoint, and that's the rub.
 
#8
Hi John,

Hope you stick around. I agree with the idea of less tolerance granted to disrespectful behaviour. That's rule No. 1 on the rule list. What tweakings do you suggest? If you haven't seen it, there's a "report post" feature you can use when you come across such behaviour.

Let's not please use the ignore button but rather report such posts or call attention to them in some way. I agree it's unfortunate if some people think of quitting the forum for that reason. I think they should consider advising the moderators rather than simply quitting, because that doesn't change things.
Totally agree and encourage everyone to follow this advice -- flag the post so the moderators take notice. I know this will be extra work for Andy and I, but it's not really that much trouble, especially if we can spot problems before they start.

But please be aware that the banning censorship thing cuts both ways, and never feels good. Some of us have tried to voice our opinions on forums and had our posts/comments deleted, or (like in the Sheldrake wiki case) been banned. Some of this friction in unavoidable... but I feel like some of it is needs to be tolerated if we're going to engage in these kind of dialogs about cherished beliefs.
 
#9
I just stick to the podcast threads because they seem to be better moderated. I had a look at some of the other sub-forums, and they generally seem to be a waste of time. I think the believer/skeptic debate idea is something people engage in until they evolve past the need for such things. Once you are past that stage, it becomes a waste of time. But some people remain stuck there. The best thing to do is ignore and avoid them.
Agreed. And we've all been there... we've all spent time in these stuck-on-stupid debates. But I do feel like K9 is right -- ignore and avoid. Sometimes I just can't, but other times I do and am amazed to find that the world goes on without my input :)
 
#10
Agreed. And we've all been there... we've all spent time in these stuck-on-stupid debates. But I do feel like K9 is right -- ignore and avoid. Sometimes I just can't, but other times I do and am amazed to find that the world goes on without my input :)
Alex, you call me stuck on stupid and my arguments silly - without reading what I write and having the respect to even particularise what you think I get wrong. Isn't that aggressive behaviour?
 
#12
So let me rephrase the thread title: Who's in favor of generally civil behavior as the default tone here? What's the downside? A few individuals are denied their cheap kicks at the expense of others? At the end of the day, they too may find they enjoy a mutually considerate atmosphere.
Hi John: seeing as you've mentioned it here, and I mentioned it elsewhere (also without naming names), I think it's okay to say I'm the one you've been having conversations with in the background, and like Alex, I don't want to see people like you leave: you have a strong scientific background and are a definite asset to the forum.

The thing is this: Alex has his vision for the nature and purpose of this forum, and it includes space for sceptics. I support him in that vision, and have been vocal about that in the recent past. However, that's not to say that I would approach things the same way as he does were I in his place. There are certain people who have posted here (mostly, but not all, sceptics) whom I'd have banned outright and not have given relatively short sabbaticals.

But hey, Alex is in charge and so I have to find my own way of dealing with these people. He isn't likely to change his approach, and I don't feel inclined to argue with him about it. So I'm focussing on making this an environment conducive to what I want to get out of it. These certain people are ignoring the Mod+ distinction and that doesn't surprise me, because the aim isn't to engage in genuine dialogue, but to screw things up, basically because they like to behave like bastards and rejoice in doing so: few manners, little consideration or intention to learn. Now and then, admittedly, I have given them short shrift with a pointed piece of my mind.

Alex, I'm not really the type to be frequently complaining in the back channel: I'm not even using the dislike icon because I've made a resolution not to. I might just occasionally use the disagree icon in a neutral way, but no further than that. I find the ignore facility the very best option for me. The people who want to disrupt normal services then simply disappear: it's much better than in the old forum, because even quotes of their postings disappear, and there's hardly any temptation to weigh in, making things all the better for me. That's not to say I don't enjoy vigorous debate: I do, and we often get it because proponents are very far from a homogeneous bunch of sheep in an echo chamber. The new ignore feature is really working for me, and people only get on my ignore list when eventually they get sufficiently far up my nose that I realise that attempting constructive dialogue is completely pointless.

You have your vision, like I said, and I support you: it's because I do so that I don't argue the toss with you. The upshot is that I tailor the environment to suit me so that there's no cause or temptation to argue. You have things the way you want them, and all power to your elbow, but so do I, and in that way can square the circle. If things change and the disruptors are brought in check, then I may change my tactics, but for now this is where I stand.
 
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#13
K9 - was there something inaccurate in my post that caused you to dislike it?
Yes, you very aggressively came here to argue, and then called Alex aggressive. WTF? Alex very kindly allows the skeptics to have their own sub-forum here, despite the fact he sees how "stuck on stupid" many of the posts there tend to be. Be nice to the guy! He gave you a forum! Enjoy it!
 
#14
Yes, you very aggressively came here to argue, and then called Alex aggressive. WTF? Alex very kindly allows the skeptics to have their own sub-forum here, despite the fact he sees how "stuck on stupid" many of the posts there tend to be. Be nice to the guy! He gave you a forum! Enjoy it!
If you think I'm aggressive then I'm not sure what you mean by aggressive. Take a look at my lancet thread though, tell me what you think after reading it.
 
#17
I stay out of the skeptic sub-forum. It's easier than putting all of you on ignore.
I think I might disagree with you there, K9! It's very easy on this new forum to put people on ignore, and if you do, you can boldly go wherever the heck you want secure in the knowledge people won't be getting up your nose! ;)
 
#18
Your choice. But then I would suggest you withhold judgment given that you don't know the facts.
I know what I witnessed in this thread. Someone made an appeal for civility and a couple of "skeptics" showed up looking for a fight.
 
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#19
I think I might disagree with you there, K9! It's very easy on this new forum to put people on ignore, and if you do, you can boldly go wherever the heck you want secure in the knowledge people won't be getting up your nose! ;)
I'm starting to see the value of that in this thread! I still don't see any point in venturing into "stuck on stupid" territory though. I got all of that out of my system already.:D
 
#20
I know what I witnessed in this thread. Someone made an appeal for civility and a couple of "skeptics" showed up looking for a fight.
K9, there's no one who has pushed more for civility on thus forum than myself. And prodding Alex not to call me and other skeptics stupid or call my arguments silly without even reading them is part of that push.
 
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