If the problems being discussed have not been solved or gone away, why would anyone expect (or want?) the discussions about the problems to go away?
I used to think movie or television “reboots” or “remakes” were stupid. “That story has been told,” I thought. “Make something new.” But then I realized that the reboots were about bringing those old stories into the modern, current narrative in front of a new audience.
I tend to think the same way about these “old” hard discussions.
No one is forced to take part, just like no one is forced to watch a reboot of an old classic movie. But for those out there that want to engage, some maybe for the first time, I think it’s important to keep the discussions alive and current.
I don’t know that it’s possible without allowing repetition of some of the same arguments. Some will always still be hearing them for the first time, as @Jesse13927 and @ficuswhisperer noted above. I think that’s just how the world always has and will continue to work, as we slowly drift (hopefully) to more sensible and widely adopted solutions. Not much help for your challenge, but I think the discussions here are overall quite good. I almost always learn something.
ETA: I just re-read your post. Would it help to add a flag category so we could flag things if they’ve already been stated on a given thread? Like, if the discussion is flowing, and then someone posts without reading through, it can get really repetitive, and often others feel a need to respond to the repeated claim, even though that claim had already been responded to above. Maybe we could flag with a “repeat” topic and link to the post that already made that point?
I agree with all of that, but it seems to me like the idea of “repetitive” topics is based on a completely different premise. I think it relates to different assumptions about what discussion means.
In treating social interaction as an engineering problem, you could model “discussion” as a pure process of information exchange, where people run SQL queries on each other until all required data has been exchanged and the topic has been fully computed. No one would reductio it ad quite that level of absurdum, but I think sometimes the default assumption does have something close to that as its skeleton.
In real conversation, the bulk of what we say is not about information, though – mostly it’s a performance, to cultivate a persona for our audience and for ourselves. Even in the gruffest conversation about auto repair, the exchange of facts and figures is only one of the things floating on that carrier wave. Often people talk for hours without exchanging information at all.
That’s even truer of forum discussions. We use posting to rehearse our thoughts out loud, and when we respond directly to strangers it is mainly to cast them as characters in our own arguments. We refer to this loosely as “discussion”, but I’d avoid the analogy to speech altogether. It’s more like people on a dorm corrridor putting posters and notices on their doors, or like an indie gig circuit: people see and respond to each other over time – which adds layers to it – but in an immediate sense it’s a bunch of parallel monologues. (And that is learning, because you don’t really know something until you can articulate it. Obtaining the raw bytes is a very minor part of the task).
I find that forums make a lot more sense when you understand them this way. Then, revisiting the “same” topics isn’t redundancy, it’s practice. And the difference between “easy” and “hard” topics is that the latter require more chewing.
I know that there are a couple cases where these discussions have changed my opinions, and many where they have caused me to refine those opinions. I’ve adopted or lost certain nuances to particular topics; Learned which points were central versus which were tangental; Which arguments and approaches were effective or not.
Examination and challenge is integral to understanding truth. If we can’t defend our ideas, how can we justify holding them? How can we know when we’re right if we can’t withstand challenges by dissenting ideas and new facts?
I think that’s allowed me to be more accurate in my assumptions and reasonings, and more persuasive in my arguments.
I would even go a step further and say that active debate against a worthy opponent and in good faith is one of the best forms of mental exercise that you can have. It doesn’t just allow you to refine specific opinions related to the debate, it also enables you to refine your internal processes for forming and refining opinions in general.
I’m encouraged by your responses. I came into this in late 2012 with optimistic ideas of what the software could do, e.g.
but with Trump and social media fuelled extremism, things took a much darker turn. And stayed dark. Thank god for the election; we all worked so hard on that, and every day I praise FSM we’re not on that other timeline.
There’s always been an element of “not everyone is invited to this cool place unless you can be cool” to both Boing Boing and the design of Discourse. It is not a one-size-fits-all-humanity design, because a) I don’t think that’s sustainable and b) who the heck wants an Internet that’s just one giant Facebook-style panopticon? Diversity is good, but not in the sense that “everyone must be allowed on the same website, no matter how extreme their opinions”. Closing the door on bad faith and negative participants is essential.
(Since the above blog post I have come around on mute and ignore, as tools for fences between neighbors. I guess that poem was right.)
The kind of diversity we advocate is lots of different sites, each with their own delightful flavor and texture. Find a site that fits you. Heck, try a few. Along the way, realize that not everyone is gonna be into pistachio, and that’s OK too.
I’m heartened to hear that y’all are not feeling burned out or overburdened by repetitive discussions on the complex topics after 8 years (since June 2013). We want to keep thinking about ways the tooling can encourage people to be thoughtful and kind when they reply – and locate just-in-time patterns of behavior that indicate when someone is “on tilt” and remind them to cool off.
For context, those paragraphs were part of a larger discussion about growing their community and keeping it alive after 20 years. So they were taking your point, but also pondering … how will a new person react to all this? Are we too entrenched?
I suppose it is natural to drift in and out of communities over time as well. Your interests may change; the community may change.
One strength Boing Boing has is a curated influx of varied, interesting topics from the BB authors. I wonder what this community would look like if new topics came only from the community?
That’s how I see it, including returning. Like using myself as an example I’ve definitely been influenced by my time here. But I’ve also been influenced from other places, and then in turn bring that here again too, hopefully for the better. Sometimes I wonder why I’ve stuck around here so long (not in a bad way, just noting that it is unusual) and I think it’s kind of special about this place.
Please Lord, not like Facebook. Anything but Facebook.
You bring up a great point: the value of clever, interesting curators versus “the wisdom of the crowd”
It’d basically be a news feed. But then, how close is BB to a newsfeed already?
It’s posters’ reactions to the news links, especially when they have real-life experience to bring to the table, that make the difference.
It seems to me in the end that this inescapably leads to, “The cool people can do whatever they want, because no matter what, they’ll never be like those Other people.”
On the surface, the point you’re making sounds valid… but ultimately, I don’t think it’s true.
Nobody here gets to “do whatever they want,” because we all have to follow the Guidelines. And that’s a good thing, I think, because obeying them helps us discuss controversial and emotional topics with a minimum of strife and harm to participants and readers.
Does that divide the community into “cool” and “other”? No, I’d argue that it divides the commentariat into “those who work within the rules” and “those who can’t/won’t.” The posters who do stay within the boundaries set by moderators can say what they choose, but only as long as it’s consistent with the rules. Those who repeatedly violate the Guidelines will eventually get asked to leave.
So yes, as long as even one rule is enforced, you’re going to see a division of the group into those who comply, and those who don’t. That’s an inescapable truth. And since this site has Guidelines, and actively enforces them, then yes, that type of grouping will happen here. But I don’t see it as a horrible thing. I prefer our system, imperfect as it may be, to the chaotic free-for-all that unmoderated forums eventually become, where nothing gets discussed without attacks and insults.
And I think it’s fair, because when you get right down to it, we self-select which group we wind up in. Every single time we post, we make the choice, with every word we type, whether or not we’re going to comply with the rules of the board. If we go off-track, we get flagged, to remind us where the lines are (and it’s happened to me, and probably everyone else here at one time or another.) When that occurs, we make another choice-- go back to following the Guidelines, or continue the offensive behavior, knowing what consequence it may bring.
IMHO, the ultimate choice and responsibility of which group we belong to is ours, and ours alone.
That’s my opinion, though. YMMV.
Life is nothing but a series of repetitions of mostly meaningless activities. How many times in life have you brushed your teeth, clipped your nails, or bought tp?
The trick is to find the joy, humor, or new angle in whatever you are doing. Look upon events and the ordinary with the wonder of a child. Conversations are no different. You’ll never avoid the repetition.
That’s a really good point!
And if you have trouble finding joy, humor or new angles, you can always step away from those conversations for a while. Even if you take a break, those conversations aren’t going anywhere, and you can always pick up where you left off later on. And who knows, by then, something may have shifted in your own understanding or in others’.
In the meantime, it’s literally impossible to run out of things to discuss!
Not true. In recent memory at least two of the coolest and most edifying posters here (imho) got given a time out. None of us can “do whatever we want,” without repercussions, even the “cool” or “popular” ones. (Of which, I am neither!) If anything, perhaps having a longstanding history here of insightful discourse might cause others in the community to give the benefit of the doubt and be less likely to flag posts than if they were coming from a “joined two hours ago” member, which is (again, imho) as it should be.
That’s new. I’ll take your word for it.
And yet, it seems to me like after a while the best way to get the benefit of the doubt is to make sure one is already finding fault with
someone anyone else who happens to be handy.
I am sorry, but that is simply not true.
For every snarky, “suffers no fools” remark that you see (and you do see a lot), you will also see plenty of well-thought-out and even-tempered responses. A sassy retort may earn more likes, but likes are not what gets you the benefit of the doubt. Being consistent in adding something to the conversation (whether it’s funny or insightful or adds new knowledge, etc.) over time is how you earn the benefit of the doubt. Not many people have that, but the ones who do, did not get it from tearing others down.
You can take mine, too!
The bunting tossers on the BBS do an excellent job, prompting the moderators to step in when needed. Nobody is perfect, no system is perfect, but all in all the BBS works, for me at least.
Valued and prolific members have been banned before — usually for not longer than a week or two, but it still hurts. Lifetime bans aren’t typically doled out unless it’s for a good reason, and it’s not unprecedented for long-time members to be on the receiving end of these.