A General Letter to General Discussion about Discussion Etiquette

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Brovo, Feb 19, 2016.

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    Alright, so, uh, I looked around in the news and announcements section for something like this, didn't really find it. I'm pretty sure everyone can agree that with the removal of the debate tag, the discussion tag has kind of maybe sort of turned into scenes like this. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. I've made discussion threads turn out just fine*. Heck, done it multiple times. I even once went over several different controversial topics at once, no outrage over it. Gender I was able to touch on, unscathed. It's not that hard, if you follow a couple of simple rules. So walk with me, GD. Take five minutes of your time, and learn a few things from this guide on how to tackle discussions. Civilly.

    General Tips

    #1: Always assume the person you are talking with has good intentions. Whether in real life or online, a large number of fights start by simple misinterpretation of someone else's thoughts, ideas, values, or words. Online however, misinterpretations are compounded by a lack of ability to read bodily language, or hear the tone of another person's voice. Even if the other person has bad intentions and just wishes to hurt you or irritate you, always take the higher road and be diplomatic: It will look better on you, and worse on them, no matter the substance of whatever it is you are talking about.

    #2: Never engage in name calling, or in attacking a person for their beliefs. It just makes you look like this. It's about as effective, too. It will make you feel like shit in the long run, it will infuriate only you, it will burn bridges with other people you're talking to, and after a while, you will isolate yourself. Even if you have genuine inquiries, they may get misinterpreted in the future as being terrible. No matter how offensive or disgusting a person's opinions, consider that they could have a vastly different life from you. They may simply not know, and being calm and diplomatic when talking with them, will look good on you, and potentially, you might teach something to them, or learn something from them.

    The first step to wisdom is admitting you know nothing: You only think you know things. The same goes for everyone else in the world, no matter how smart they may be.

    #3: If you're angry, walk away. Delete that post you were writing, and walk away. Come back when your mind isn't swimming in the intoxicating combination of vindication and adrenaline that makes it hard to think. You will feel better for it. Also, just so we're clear: I'm not talking down to any of you. Hell, I've been an asshole too. Literally accused someone of being a Nazi there. Got upvotes for it, but that didn't make it appropriate.

    #4: Apologies can mend broken bridges surprisingly well, if you make a sincere effort to avoid the troublesome behaviour that caused it to begin with. I've made public apologies to that effect before to try and disarm tension, as well as private apologies whenever it's made the most sense. The last thing anyone wants is to have long term grudges pollute new threads because of old thread issues.

    #5: Give ground. Seriously, you can't always entrench yourself and never step back from your positions. If you want to get anywhere in a discussion, whether it's about something as serious gendered violence in the workplace, or something as silly as "muh space mareens are stronk, yur orkz are weak", let go of some positions. It's rare that a person founds a position on something that is entirely and utterly wrong. There's an adage for this: Truth is a three edged sword. My truth, their truth, and the truth.

    #6: You can't control others, only yourself. If someone is saying stupid or cruel things, and you can't convince them away from their position in a civil manner, control yourself, and walk away from the topic. If you find yourself getting angry beyond reason, ask yourself why, and how you can prevent that in the future. Others cannot manage your emotions for you, and if you find yourself consistently enraged, maybe you should avoid these topics altogether and find something else.

    Controversial Topics

    #1: Most importantly, more than anything else, don't ask a loaded question, and if you're the thread starter, maintain your neutrality. This thread became a shithouse right off the bat because the thread starter immediately took one side and started spitting at anyone who took the other before anyone even made any such comment in support of the position. (No offense to @SacredWarrior who seems like the kind of person that wouldn't mind learning how to better construct threads. Not a bad person, but this was a bad way to start a thread, mate!) There's a theory I'm going to introduce to you right now that should change the way you look at any human-based power structure: Tone at the Top. The thread starter inherently has some level of power over what tone the rest of the thread will take by both stating as such, and demonstrating as such, right off the bat.

    In a role play, this essentially means that people attract others based on the beacons they send out on the tone of the writing. If you're an elitist, you will attract elitists. If you're a romantic, you will attract romantics. Based on what you write and how you write it, you can get more like-minded people along, and discourage less like-minded people. Perfect example of this in action is in typical post length: Those that write less, tend to be intimidated away from writing with those who write more. Those who write more, tend to be discouraged and disappointed by those who write less. One liner posters tend to congregate together in their own groups, separate from those who post several paragraphs or more a post. Exceptions exist, but are not the rule.

    In a discussion thread about a controversial topic, this means you have to preemptively attempt to discourage and disarm vitriolic and self-defensive posts.

    You'll notice in a lot of the example threads of discussions that went well, I...
    • Guided the conversation with questions, so everyone would be on the same page, to help avoid misinterpretations.
    • Directly discouraged people attacking each other right off the bat, and made it clear that I could and would call moderators in to help me keep the peace if people refused to play nice.
    • Maintained neutrality regardless of my personal feelings on the subject matter. For instance, I'm an atheist, but in the religions thread I linked, I was more than willing to step in to stop bullying against Christians or Muslims by my own group. I have to set the tone at the top, it's my responsibility when initiating conversation about a controversial topic to ensure that my own biases don't cause the very issues I might complain about later.
    #2: Immediately call moderators if personal attacks are going on toward other people, or if someone is derailing the thread with troll bait, and maintain a professional attitude throughout. Encourage people to avoid engaging a comment which you know may cause further vitriol in the future, and encourage others to do as moderators ask. (@Grumpy being such a bruv that he is, was more than happy somewhat content to engage in protection of the thread.) Moderators are more likely to help keep your threads in line if the tone you set right from the beginning is friendly and professional, as opposed to hostile and accusatory.

    Also, as an added note, remember rule numero uno of general tips here: Just because someone said something which you think is flame-bait, doesn't mean that it is! Always assume good intent and simply pass over the post if you have nothing constructive to add!

    #3: Whatever you do, discourage mob justice as swiftly as possible, as best as you can. Mass trolling against other users is not an acceptable form of conflict resolution, and more often than not, just leads to bans. This generally means that in threads with controversial content as the topic, do not shitpost unless the thread starter has invited it. There are so many other threads in GD you can shitpost in. You can create your own shitpost threads whenever you want. We have an entire sticked thread dedicated to shitposting your heart out. If your post will not constructively contribute to a topic, don't post. Just move on. Don't be the guy or gal or space nebula that wrecks entire threads just to amuse themselves. That's a real dickish move, even if it is sometimes funny. Calling someone a Nazi was funny to me, didn't make it right. :ferret:

    #4: Finally, if you're offended by something someone has posted, ignore it. If they consistently post things that frustrate you, upset you, or they're some pretentious piece of shit like this guy, click on their user profile, and click on the "ignore" button. It's always directly to the right of a person's username. It's okay to not get along with someone, there's people on here I don't get along with. That doesn't make them bad people, it just means that I generally won't enjoy discussions with them, especially on controversial subjects.

    Also, if a controversial subject in question is extremely personal for you (ex: mental disorders for me), be aware that you may need to be very careful with how you go about discussing the topic. The start of that thread is flawed: I ask a loaded question, and it's only because I managed to scramble and clearly define what I was talking about that prevented the thread from going straight to shit. (Also, because @Hellis & @Astaroth are pretty great people who often disagree with me on controversial topics, but who like me, just want to have civil conversations, who helped keep the thread on a stable track.)

    So, to summarize:
    1. Always assume the other person doesn't mean to hurt you. If they go after you personally, they could be just frustrated, and treating them well makes you a good person.
    2. Don't engage someone in name calling, don't respond to vitriolic attacks against your personal character. Report the post, and move on: You will never defeat an idiot by sinking to their level. They'll just beat you with experience.
    3. If you find yourself becoming agitated or angry with a topic, walk away for a few minutes. Go smell some flowers, go listen to some music, go play some video games, go write a post for a role play. If you're still angry when you come back, you should probably stay away from the topic in question, and work on yourself to try and prevent future anger episodes in the future.
    4. Apologies take a great deal of strength and most people will find you highly commendable for doing so, even your intellectual enemies.
    5. Be willing to give ground to others in discussions, be willing to sacrifice points, be willing to see the other side. If you can't concede anything, you send the message that you refuse to discuss things, and simply wish to proselytize others. It's okay for the end result of a discussion to be "we don't see eye to eye, but it was good talking to you." You don't have to win. Victory is simply getting through a discussion and learning something new, and/or having a good time.
    6. "It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you react to it." -Epictetus.
    7. If you start a thread on a controversial topic, don't immediately attack people who hold views differing to yours, and don't ask loaded questions that nobody can answer honestly. Be the neutral arbitrator, be the guiding hand that sets the tone for the conversation to follow.
    8. Don't be afraid to report posts which you think are vitriolic or inflammatory. At worst, you reported something which isn't warranting attention, and it will be ignored as you calm down. At best, you call in @Jorick & @Grumpy to do what it is they do best and stop one person from wrecking what could still be an interesting discussion.
    9. Mass mob mentality is the stuff of civil rights nightmares. Don't do it, don't encourage it, actively report it and discourage it. We're a community of individuals, attacking anyone who refuses to assimilate or capitulate with mass shitposting or other forms of trolling is not acceptable behaviour and makes the entire community worse overall.
    10. If you're offended by something, and it's to the point where it infuriates you on a deeply personal level, you may just want to walk away from the topic. If you continue discussing it, you may wish to inform others that the topic is deeply personal for you, and that you don't mean offense if you end up being perhaps more emotional in your responses than you otherwise might be. Humility is one of the most powerful discussion tactics in the universe, because it's hard to get angry at or damn a person who is going out of their way to respect you.

    There, GD. All of this. Now can we stop posting threads that start thinly veiled attacks on entire groups of people, no matter how despicable we may think they are? Can we stop derailing entire discussion threads with mass shitposting because one person ended up saying something dickish or offensive? Can we at least try to give controversial topics the gravitas they necessitate, and follow some level of conversational etiquette? :ferret:

    Also, yes, y'all have permission to shitpost gifs and all sorts of wacky stuff in this thread. I'm not sure what more use it will have anyway beyond people discussing the points themselves, or suggesting their own. In the meantime, if you actually sat down for 5-10 minutes to read all of this, here. Relax to some chillin' tunes with me, and thank you.



    *For those wondering, yes, I will finish the combat guide at some point. I'm just doing further research, compiling information, editing it, and proofreading it. A good 70-80% of my time spent writing guides is proofreading and editing. I've also found myself needing to split medieval & modern ideas of combat into their own sections, so guns should get a nice, fleshed out spot all to themselves. Does mean the guide is bloody long as fuck though, so bare with me. I don't mean to be so slow. :( Screenshot to show I'm not bullshittin' you either, it's gettin' done.
     
    #1 Brovo, Feb 19, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
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    Thumbs up for earning that staff position.
     
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  4. *Currently having a thread where everyone remarked how well/civil it was going*
    *Only then did this get made*

    You were a bit slow here Brovo. :P

    *Notices it's the same thread you tagged as being a shit house*

    Um...
    Either you bailed early, or your standards of a civil thread are far different than most other peoples. :/

    Like, the advice is appreciated and does hold true.
    But the timing of this is off, I'd have waited until something was actually happening.
     
  5. Awww. I guess that means I can't go around calling anyone a poopy head. Way to kill my fun Brovo!

    Seriously though, if people get are pissed/upset with anything I've written, and I know I've kind of pushed a few people's buttons, I can assure you it wasn't intentional. And if I say something to piss anyone off, just send me a PM and let me know. I'm not trying to offend anyone (Unless you're Donald Trump, and if you are I am totally trying to offend the hell out of you. But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be on here, so I'm good. =D) and if I do, I apologize.
     
  6. I wouldn't say there's really a bad time for a reminder like this -- but I do agree that the choice of the supposed shit house thread was a bit surprising -- if only because I feel like it went a lot better than it could've, even when people didn't see eye-to-eye.

    I mean, yeah, I suppose that thread didn't live 100% up to the standards detailed here -- but I guess my standards are relatively low in regards to what makes for a "good" or "civil" GC thread. All things considered, I'd say that thread went decently well. Certainly not what I'd label as "shitstorm" territory. It wasn't perfectly managed, but you can't expect everyone to be a saint. And seeing as how people were able to debate in that thread while still parting on good terms, I'd call that a success.

    I mean, I'm not saying your rules are bad, Brovo -- just that a thread can still turn out ok even when said rules aren't followed to a T. You can have back-and-forth debates without it turning into a shitstorm. Seems a bit odd to me to judge a thread based on whether everyone was able to abide by perfect etiquette, as opposed to whether or not everyone was able to walk away from it without any feelings badly hurt.

    But, I suppose that's a minor nitpick.
     
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  7. @Brovo

    Don't do that, please. Doesn't help the situation and is edging into airing drama in public.
     
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    Do you seriously think threads like this will help?
    Do you honestly think the people who talk the way you don't want them to care about your opinions?
    Or the opinions of anyone but themselves?
    Even for you Brovo, this is a an oblivious ideology.
    It's like a lone man wading out into the water to stop a tidal-wave by himself.


    The staff has three options here;

    1. Become the Tyrant, ban or silence anyone who doesn't fit into your framework as a good little poster.
    2. Let Go, let people talk the way they want, even if a few people get their feelings hurt. Keeping the job of the staff to uphold the site rules and watch for anything that takes things too far. Seeing as almost all other forums do this, and Iwaku got along just fine with this before, this is my recommendation.
    3. Or you can carry on with this, issuing empty threats, not solving anything, and typing out long, detailed posts that make your intellectual penis hard.

    I mean, the dumb ideas spouted out here will never go away, it's only expected when you have a community of children and young-adults who can hide behind their usernames. What really gets on my nerves is that the staff suddenly thinks this kind of posting is some kind of problem and feels the need to diligently police our comments for anything that goes against their own personal standards and regulations rather than those of the site.
     
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  10. Like pouring water into an ocean of piss to dilute it.

    Otherwise most of this shit is common sense and no matter what people will have different opinions.

    Also arguing is fun.
     
  11. It is not.

    • Point one should probably extend to assume people's intentions are goodin general. For example, when discussing 'social justice' it is hardly common. One side often assumes the other is bigoted, the other assumes the one wants attention. Regardless of any other point made. Out of courtesy I'm not going to find quotes, but you don't need a lot of digging.
    • Point two. Again, I'll extend this a little to personal attacks and ad hominem rather than namecalling in specific, but it goes hand in hand with point one.
    • Point five, I've seen too much shit going in fucking circles because the other 'just doesn't get it' because neither party is trying to understand the other, just to convince them of their own point of view. Arguing may be fun to some, but the removal of the debate tag is kinda showing of how much fun it is to moderate. Or sift through when I want to read a proper discussion without pulling my hair out in the process.
    • Point six is genuine wisdom I actually don't believe most people understand.
    • Point seven, I don't agree entirely any OP must be completely neutral (even in the beginning,) but it is far more productive of an approach if you want to learn instead of argue. Learning through discussion, even if you end up disagreeing, is also rewarding.
    • Point nine, I absolutely fucking despise the mob mentality and it is way too fucking common some of you assholes gang up on someone for having a different or unpopular opinion. You'd have more of my two cents on this if @Grumpy and @Jorick didn't warn or lock threads before I get my posts in. My wpm is shit.

    Point three, four, eight and ten, common sense, I'll grant you that.

    So basically, I consider only 40% of this common sense. That's a lot and maybe that makes you feel like all of it is, but here's the cliché with common sense; it's not exactly common.

    I suppose @Cpt Toellner makes a decent point that... Well people will be people. Even when they're far past the young adult stage, people still spout a lot of strong and uninformed opinions. So will this guide help? Honestly, I doubt it, but if we're lucky it might get a few people to think (hint; if they do you probably won't notice it because people take others being a decent human being for granted even if they're being shitbags their selves.)

    Second thing I saw come up. Is it properly timed? Actually, yes. Again, out of courtesy I'm not going to quote or reference people but a lot of this shit has been broken in the past few days.

    All in all, @Brovo is trying to be constructive instead of bitching about it like everyone else, while being massive fucking hypocrites. I don't even care if he would (hypothetically) be doing it just for the brownie points. It's at least some kind of contribution. Which might not be the giant change like the hyperbolic Big Brother versus completely unfiltered free speech @Cpt Toellner mentioned would bring across, but here's the thing. Most people adapt to their environment. We're hard-wired to try and fit into communities. So for all the shit people whine about happening in GD, you must understand we're all facilitating this as a community. It's not just the staff that determines the atmosphere. It's the contributions of regular members as well.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'll cut off my post here because the amount of sass I've been withholding while typing this up is difficult to further contain.
     
    #11 Kestrel, Feb 20, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
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  12. Speaking of threads that spiral into shitstorms and need to get locked?

    Yeeeeah. :[
     
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