It’s generally accepted that there are two kinds of topics on Boing Boing. The easy ones, and the hard ones. The hard ones are what you’d expect – the classic list of stuff you avoid discussing at thanksgiving dinner.
But I wonder, 8 years into the BBS experiment, how we’re feeling about the “classic” difficult topics, which come up again and again: religion, politics, gun control, sexism, police, bicycles vs cars… ?
We build discussion software, and the purpose of discussion software is, well, to discuss things. To learn things. To have a more nuanced and informed opinion over time, or maybe even change your mind. But what do you say when every possible argument has been had, when every conceivable angle and nuance of the discussion has been hashed and rehashed a thousand times, in a thousand different topics?
I’m thinking about this because I read a meta post on another 20 year old (!) forum which struck a chord:
These days, when I go scan the open discussions they are all the same as 20 years ago. “Why religion is stupid”. “Why guns are bad.”; “Why taxation is the same as slavery”. “Why cops shouldn’t shoot black people”.
Maybe it was always like that and my memory is rose-tinted but, either way, I’m not interested in having the same discussions every day for the rest of my life. It’s no one’s fault, but it’s true all the same.
On the rare occasion when someone does start a new and interesting thread, it gets hijacked off to one of the standard topic destinations before it even leaves the runway. It’s like some posters are playing a game of “I can hijack that thread to ‘why it’s ok for police to shoot black people’ in 5!”. This one is someone’s fault. I often wonder if they know who they are.
I hope flagging for off-topic is working; that requires moderators (and a community) who are paying attention.
For any particular topic (Guns, Gods, Gays, Property Rights, Immigration, etc, etc, etc), there are 3 or 4 people who seemingly don’t feel at home unless they repeat the same arguments they have been repeating for 20 years. Your arguments were interesting the first 12 or 13 times I heard them but now, maybe you could let someone else have their say before shutting them down? Maybe you could just say “I refer you to my Argument No 7” and shut up for a little while and see what the new folks have to say.
Many of the big picture tools for managing discussion require a human touch, because your most avid users can sometimes be your most problematic. That’s why we’re experimenting with slow mode, but one of the takeaways from that topic is that it should possibly be imposed on specific users rather than the entire topic.
Perhaps consider it as a challenge – how do we host interesting, unique discussions that avoid repeating all the same arguments about hot button issues over and over again?