Interesting viewpoint, in particular:
The problems plaguing high school debate are mirrored in our public sphere. Political discourse is often little more than a game. Its goal is to score political points with witty rejoinders and scathing takedowns. The purpose of “adult debate,” as with debate for 16-year-olds, is to bludgeon your opponent into submission instead of engaging in open-minded dialogue.
Also I love the author coda / mini bio at the end:
Jack McCordick is a freshman at Yale University and a former intern at America. He and his teammates from Regis High School won the high school debating national championship this year.
When building Discourse, we had questions about formal “debates” and I found them stultifying and pointless. The main things you get out of social discussions like these are:
Ideally, and most importantly, empathy from your fellow man. Really that’s it. That’s all you’re supposed to get. Anything else beyond that is gravy.
If you are really, really lucky, the discussion will encourage other people to have slightly more nuanced viewpoints. Changing minds is never gonna happen, at least not where you can actually see it. But nuance matters. Nuance is important. On any problem of substance that people are going to strongly disagree about over time, shit is not easy. And people who think shit is easy are, uh … kind of the problem?
People do, in fact, change their minds… very slowly, then all at once.
Seriously. When was the last time you actually saw someone change their mind? It doesn’t work like that. At all. Minds do change, but you’ll never see it happen. If that’s discouraging to you, perhaps activism isn’t your field.
Anyways, the takeaway here, the things we can actually do, are:
Try to build empathy, even if you disagree.
Don’t present (even if accidentally) an overwhelming show of discussion force that bludgeons people into submission via sheer volume / size.
For me as a dude, both of those are a bit of a challenge, but #2 is easier for me to fix. Just say your piece and let it go for a while. Don’t reply to every little thing.
As for things Discourse, the software, can do:
Discourse warns you if you’ve posted more than X % of the replies in a topic (thus dominating it)
Discourse warns you if you’ve replied 3 times in a row in the same topic to the same person, when the topic has more than 5 participants
Discourse does not let new users post over and over in the same topic (limited to 3 replies, unless another user replies to them)
Discourse has strong global new user (TL0) post and topic rate limits, and a special sandbox for first day participation rate limits across all users, whether they are TL0 or not.
All of those exist under the broad umbrella of “diversity of opinion and thought is good”.
Still, there is more we can do. For example, we do have a bit of an oversight on length. I’ve seen people come to my blog instance on the rare political topic and post reams of text, literally ten thousand+ words, over and over, in individual posts. We don’t catch that kind of mega disproportionate individual reply length at all. But we should.