Why are you jerks so obsessed with civility?

I applaud the recent lounge topics on “how can we be more civil”, such as:

However. I find that these topics, though they are started with the best of intentions, ironically tend to devolve, because it’s not clear what is actually being discussed.

Poster #1: I think abstract concept A.
Poster #2: No, abstract concept B.
Poster #3: You’re both idiots, abstract concept C!

People have an uncanny ability to argue about a lot of abstract concepts that may or may not have anything to do with actual problems the community actually has. That is why these kinds of topics, in my opinion, need to be heavily anchored with concrete examples. By this I do not mean User X did something I don’t like, absolutely not!*

For example, let’s concrete-ize Civility on the BBS:

Are we doing too much eye-rolling?

I think that, while not specifically mentioned in the Community Guidelines, eye-rolling violates the intent of civility here, and falls in with things like insulting, bullying, and hostility.

I felt that this was an excellent question to bring up, it was answered wonderfully in the topic by several regulars, and it made me think about what I do, and what others do. That’s awesome. That’s what these topics are for. As for the rest of the topic much further downstream of that… eehhhh notsomuch. Perhaps that could have been avoided if the topic was specific and concrete and anchored on a real world example in the first post.

Rules of Nettiquiite has a different problem. It is a bit of an everything and the kitchen sink topic, so it’s hard to tell what responses it’s looking for, or even how to respond to it at all… cool story, bro? Also I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s spelled, is it? Isn’t properly spelling it part of the … uh… er… Koyaanisqatsi itself?

What’s the actual problem?

Rather than list a bunch of … stuff, it might have been better to focus this topic on the existing BBS rules (which are quite good IMO) and what specifically might be changed in them to make them better or more clear based on what is observed to be happening regularly in BBS discussions.

This should be accompanied by a few (anonymized!) real world examples of the problems that these rule changes are designed to address.

What exactly is it we are trying to fix here, and why?

So, carry on, wayward mutants. Continue to think about how we can improve this place, and each other. It’s good stuff! I got your back(s)!

But please try to anchor civility discussion with concrete, real world examples. Otherwise we’ll end up spending a lot of time arguing over a bunch of abstract concepts that doesn’t really accomplish anything.

* Yes I am aware I have fucked this up in the past and I apologize to @Mindysan33 again. I really should know better, and I swear I do, but sometimes my mind grapes just don’t work like they should.


“If you meet an asshole in the morning,” etc. etc.

HYPOTHESIS: A civility topic is a honeypot for people who keep running into assholes all day long and want to tell you all about it.


Also civility can mean almost anything. It’s a pretty broad topic. You need to get down to brass tacks pretty quick. I don’t want to say rules lawyering but it’s best to be … specific whenever you can.


The irony you’ve pointed out is the reason I’m absent from most of those posts, to be frank.

‘Civility’ isn’t some kind of sugar coated faux-politeness or walking on eggshells all the time so as to avoid “offending” anyone, ever.

IMO, true civility is based in having a modicum of mutual respect that all parties make the endeavor to abide by; it’s not always needing to have the last word, or to ‘prove’ that you’re the smartest guy in the room.

It also involves knowing when to just let it go sometimes…

For me personally, the concept boils down to this:


I hope it’s ok to share this here. It’s a blog post that I wrote recently. It is intended for yoga practitioners. But really it is about the nonviolent communication technique. As a result of conversations here, conversations I’ve been having on Facebook, personal conversations, and the political situation, I have been studying a lot about communication in order to try to find a way to change my mode of conversing with people. I just often feel that my conversation is too much back-and-forth and not really a mutual exchange of thought that changes both of us. It seems like my normal mode of conversation just drives me and the other person deeper into our original positions.

So this post has comes out of a lot of research and there are some links at the bottom to recommend a material. I highly recommend that people look into the book Nonviolent Communication it is excellent.


“Are you calling me aggressive!? I am CIVIL!”

(yes, all I have to really offer to Civility Wars IV A New Hope is a swan gif)


so true. i’ve been reading a history of mathematics as my “bedtime” book for the last month and i recently got to the part about the academic battles over set theory of the infinite. georg cantor had discovered a way of defining levels of infinite sets by using one-to-one correspondences to demonstrate either equality (even numbers = all whole numbers) or inequality (real numbers > whole numbers), results which many mathematicians applauded because it allowed for greater facility in providing a rigorous grounding for analysis. on the other hand, one of the most senior and respected mathematicians in germany, leopold kronecker, found the results to be offensively nonsensical because it dealt with completed infinities while “everyone” knew that one could only deal with infinities as potential and not completed. the arguments became so intense it resulted in cantor suffering a nervous breakdown. as an argument about abstract concepts that probably represents bull-moose grand prizewinner.


I will never forget when my Disney fantasy of swans being elegant, charming, civil birds was shattered as a small child when one just flat out attacked me for no reason in a park, biting and pecking and smacking me with its wings. The only thing damaged was my shocked reality. “Why???”
Swans are dicks.


Boy howdy that first one did! The netiquitte thread was an attempt to invite people to share their best practices (not make a rulebook).

Poster #4 went to “YOU THINK Abstract Concept NAZI and are here to dominate me personally”.

That’s not devolving, that’s just plain abuse!

People have a funny habit of discussing the problems they individually have. Unless you’re looking for:

Poster #5 “WE THINK abstract concept HIVE MIND” - which I don’t see as much better than #4. Nor does it celebrate individuals and mutants.

I suppose I could have asked the question at the top and then responded to the thread, rather than including my response to the question as the post? I can see that helping make it clear I was asking for individual best practices and submissions of collective wisdom (and stories of bad nettiquitte too!)

Also, isn’t “cool story bro” a verbal eyeroll? Asking for a friend (see, that’s one too, I’m not above them, nor do I pretend to be!)

I don’t know how it’s spelled! It’s not a word that can be spelled, as far as my browser/spellcheck is concerned. But no, it’s a pretty awful hack job of a word. Net Etiquette sounds better to me anyhiow. Thanks for asking.

That’s how the first thread devolved.

I gave a concrete example “I can’t tell, and don’t quite believe, you’re asking a question when you dont’ use punctuation as in this place X in this very thread” and a second concrete examples in places W and Q a user was saying “YOU THINK” rather than “I THINK” and I spelled it out.

And I got FLAMED HARD for it. And I didn’t eyeroll, but I also didn’t shrink, and I think moderation in that thread failed bigtime.

I can’t agree that I, in either discussion,was too abstract. I think you’re doing that now, though.

Thanks for the ideas, but what direction are you heading with in this post? What concrete examples are you offering. The threads? What specifically about them?

it is not that people think A, B, and C.

it’s what they (we) DO to degrade other users, and how.

I’ve learned that lately telling other people what they think and then namecalling them when they disagree that it’s what they think is totally okay around here. That’s pretty concrete, no?

I don’t run into assholes all day. I run into assholes sometimes when I say “no”.

Also relevant - Aspergers is a communications disorder. This “I think/You think” thing is a super common problem with aspies. Just my experience.

ETA: thank you for trying @codinghorror. As the creator of the software you do have some authority here, and I appreciate you not speaking from that place and staying curious.


I think the Community Guidelines doc is great as is. I don’t think we need any changes in the rules. They seem to have been left slightly vague for a reason—that is, they clearly say that they don’t cover every detail—which I think is good, because otherwise you get more of people just following the letter of the law, as in It doesn’t say that I can’t do X!.

I’d like to see us look at how we actually create the ethos/atmosphere here. How we make and keep this a place where people do feel free to express their ideas. I mean, how do we create the living spirit/atmosphere/character of the place through our daily actions here, in light of the Community Guidelines.

That is pretty abstract, though, and one thing that might be wrong with that is that there’s always new people coming on board—new Members off the street and new Regulars in the Lounge. So there’s always new people who won’t know what the ethos is. I hesitate to call it “unwritten rules”…I mean more how we ourselves keep a spirit of kindness/compassion/inclusivity/inquiry/etc. alive as we go along.

I take responsibility for setting off the Civility in the BBS topic on an impractical and undefined foot. It wasn’t intended to be about eye-rolling. It was that the community’s desire for a topic where we could talk about civility came up in a discussion about eye-rolling in the Hey, Rube! thread, and I personally made the mistake of bringing over my comment about eye-rolling to start off a new thread. If I had thought it through, I would have done much more like what Jeff is suggesting now.



[no slurping sounds]


Perhaps speaking for anyone but yourself is pretty awful for polite conversation? It sure is rude to take away someones voice like that. The “everyone knows” argument is just claiming allies you don’t have, and putting anyone who disagrees as a ‘no-one’. It’s just bullying.

It’s triangulation/gaslighting and I’d like to see it as a flaggable offense here, enforced by the entity.

And there can be no civil response to it, as @Melizmatic basically said up a few comments.

Codinghorror said:

As for the rest of the topic much further downstream of that… eehhhh notsomuch.

what was wrong later in the civility thread? Someone showed up and started taking other peoples voices away from them, and was allowed to. Both by speaking from an “everybody knows” POV as well as a “This is your quote”, “But this is what you really actually said and I am putting it in the same quotes because my opinion of what you said is truer than what you said, and you’re responsible for my misinterpretation and misquote”

And things devolved because the mods, for whatever reason, tell both the bully and the one trying to stay on topic while saying ‘no’ to boundary crossing as equally responsible. I think that needs to stop.

I can think of one small change.

• Be cool. Don’t post insulting, bullying, victim-blaming, racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks.

should be

• Be cool. Don’t post insulting, bullying, victim-blaming, racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic remarks.

I have mentioned it before, but my life has been too busy to fight for it.


I muted them all.

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Most people look away. I don’t think that’s a community solution.

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kronecker was not a man known to avoid bullying in the pursuit of his conception of numbers.


Nailed it!


Yes, academics will tear each other apart sometimes.


Oh I know a mathematician just like that. it’s not uncommon at all, the human ego losing it’s place like that. Good story, and thanks for sharing it. It’s a great example.

As the head of things, his abuse of a lower ranking academic was an abuse of his authority.

Among apparent equals in a community setting such as this, the professor is to behave as an equal to the sophmore, and vice versa. no? The abuses of equality are what concerns me here.


We’re all only human. :wink: