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Why I don't support the Thread Derailment Pcy

kbub
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1/25/2015 6:43:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
This post is in reference to a proposed policy that seeks to limit serious threads from being derailed by censoring comments that distract from the forum's "original purpose." See the forum discussion here: http://www.debate.org...

I strongly oppose the enactment of the "Thread Derailment Policy" (1) because it won't work and (2) because it will have some harmful consequences for every DDO user, which I will explain further in the post.

First, let's discuss the idea of the Thread Derailment Policy in principle. I'm not thrilled about the fact that the policy makes distractions a conduct violation. I recognize that the policy has limited scope, but I don't think it is nearly limited enough. I don't think there is anything wrong with writing a distracting post in a serious topic. Obviously, there is a reason why the debater would choose to write a "distracting post," so while it may be irrelevant from the OP's respective, it may be relevant to that user. It is common knowledge that a classic characteristic of internet users is that they are sporadic and unpredictable. Even if the OP does not want a sporadic poster in their forum--tough (imo). The forum is a shared space--one person's vision of the forum frequently does not align with the other users. And this is ok! This website is all about shared space. I don't think user's voices should be silenced simply because they do not meet the original intention of the forum.

Let's examine some hypotheticals. Suppose that one person is harassing another, by diverting every forum post they make. We already have rules against that. Suppose that someone writes 10 identical posts in the same forum, or the same posts in every forum. We already have rules against that (spam). We already protect against the most egregious examples of distractions in the status quo. We don't need new rules against distractions.

There are more troubles that I foresee with this policy. For this policy to work, the moderator would need to establish the intent of the OP--whether it is "serious" or not. The moderator would likely do so by contacting the OP. However, (1) this means that the intent of the OP overrules the intent of all other users, (2) would require the moderator to establish that the other user's intent was to distract, and (3) could be used abusively by the OP. Suppose that the OP finds the other user's posts annoying. This rule could be used to silence voices that the OP doesn't want to her (after all, her intent is prioritized). This has the potential to get very messy, and very dirty.

Next, it polices the users' reasons for being here. Some users, such as Imabench, exist on forums to make off-color, off-the-wall remarks. Now, there are many reasons why Imabench was banned, but being random was never one of them. In fact, his randomness was refreshing to some people. I don't think users who exist on the site in order to be random should be excluded from the website, just for wanting to be random. Furthermore, sometimes diverting a topic--stretching it, morphing it in a way that the OP wasn't expecting--can cause one to rethink an issue. For example, suppose that someone writes a tribute to Satan in an abortion topic. A minor discussion may ensue, arguing about whether one should worship Satan. The presence of the discussion of Satan-worship in the abortion forum may inspire one to notice parallels between religious norms and abortion. Who knows?

Besides, in everyday, real life conversations, people are often random, or often change the subject. Look at this thread: http://www.debate.org.... People copied "cool" about 30 times. And you know what? That's the way we socialize. Being silly, even during an originally serious conversation, can be how we show affection for one another. This is true both in embodied conversations and on the internet. We can't regulate how people socialize--even when--especially when--they are being silly or random. Silliness and randomness do not segregate themselves to the "silliness" forum post--making them do that spoils all the fun, and irrationally regulates how we communicate.

But people being random are not the only people subject to policing. I have heard a lot of this discussion refer to religious evangelicals. Honestly, talk of preventing religious people from evangelizing on the internet makes me nervous. I realize that sometimes evangelicals' lectures can seem in bad taste. This is true. But what right have we to say why someone should be allowed to come to DDO? I think that evangelicals have a lot to teach us, and members of DDO have a lot to learn from them. But even if they didn't, do we censor people simply because they are not productive members? Do we throw out comments simply because they don't seem valuable? I think not; and in fact, I think that we do not have the right to judge what is or isn't a valuable post. Even if it doesn't seem valuable, someone thought it was valuable enough to post. None of us are so eloquent or smart that we are better than others. DDO is about being welcoming, even to those who don't fit in. The beauty of DDO is that there *is* no social norms, aside from damaging language--we are free to express opinions that challenge, annoy, perturb, frustrate, or amuse. This is a place where different minds meet--*of course* there is going to be some frustration!

Let's consider something else--the people who post such posts that don't seem valuable. We have on DDO a very young demographic who are already at a disadvantage socially and in their debates. In large part, they are the ones who will be on the receiving end of this policy. Shouldn't their voices be heard too, even if they are immature? Furthermore, many people come to DDO because they have social problems elsewhere. They have a haven and a home here. Furthermore, we do not know who has autism, who has aspergers, who has ADHD, who has dyslexia (can we get over policing spelling please?) or who has a hard time writing. Aren't their contributions just as valuable as others? Their posts may not mean a lot to most users, but they mean a lot to them. I believe their presence should be welcomed too, even though the posts may look haphazard or a nuisance to the OP.

Distracting posts are annoying, I understand. Believe me, I do. However, we cannot ban all those things we find annoying. This policy not only promises to remove their posts and send them a warning message, but:

"In cases of perpetual thread derailers who appear incapable of reforming their behavior, repeated "thread derailment" may result in a ban."

That's right. Under this policy, the moderator would ban users from Debate.org for no other reason than writing distracting posts in serious threads. This policy is absurd. People cannot be forced to be serious or on topic, and they shouldn't be forced be. Policing such triviality stinks. I don't want to have to worry about being banned every time I post, but I'd have to; I would need to ensure my posts are always relevant.

I don't just want to focus on the problems, though, because I think Debate.org has the chance to do something amazing. Debate.org has always been a place of toleration and pluralism. In a world where Facebook and television show you only what you want to see, Debate.org is a space where you encounter all sorts of people and opinions--and not just the ones you like or feel comfortable with. This is what brought be to DDO in the first place--different people coming together to work through their differences. By rejecting this policy for these reasons, we're more than defending our website--We're defending free toleration and individuality.

Regardless of the rules, our community won't ever bind ourselves to a set of prescribed, polite discussions: After all, we are Debate.org. We don't just like the thrill of challenging norms and ideas--we live for it!
kbub
Posts: 1,377
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1/25/2015 6:53:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
One thing I want to make clear: I fully support Airmax. Obviously, his work as moderator is amazing, and his dedication is peerless. In no way does my above post reflect any negative feelings about Airmax or his policies. I wrote the above post as a way of accepting Airmax's invitation to discuss this potential policy.
airmax1227
Posts: 13,240
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1/25/2015 7:06:18 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/25/2015 6:53:15 PM, kbub wrote:
One thing I want to make clear: I fully support Airmax. Obviously, his work as moderator is amazing, and his dedication is peerless. In no way does my above post reflect any negative feelings about Airmax or his policies. I wrote the above post as a way of accepting Airmax's invitation to discuss this potential policy.

I appreciate that and I certainly don't take disagreements with either my moderation history or potential moderation policies personally. It's important that people can freely criticize anything related to moderation without feeling as though I believe those expressions are meant as general criticism of me or of moderation in general, and I appreciate that you have done so.

I'll review what you have written above as soon as I can, and I certainly appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the matter.
Debate.org Moderator
bsh1
Posts: 27,503
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1/25/2015 7:11:47 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I think there is some validity in those concerns. I am not really sure where I stand; if done right, I think it could be beneficial.

My thoughts on the issue: http://www.debate.org...
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bluesteel
Posts: 12,301
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1/25/2015 7:17:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/25/2015 6:43:43 PM, kbub wrote:
This post is in reference to a proposed policy that seeks to limit serious threads from being derailed by censoring comments that distract from the forum's "original purpose." See the forum discussion here: http://www.debate.org...

I strongly oppose the enactment of the "Thread Derailment Policy" (1) because it won't work and (2) because it will have some harmful consequences for every DDO user, which I will explain further in the post.

First, let's discuss the idea of the Thread Derailment Policy in principle. I'm not thrilled about the fact that the policy makes distractions a conduct violation. I recognize that the policy has limited scope, but I don't think it is nearly limited enough. I don't think there is anything wrong with writing a distracting post in a serious topic. Obviously, there is a reason why the debater would choose to write a "distracting post," so while it may be irrelevant from the OP's respective, it may be relevant to that user. It is common knowledge that a classic characteristic of internet users is that they are sporadic and unpredictable. Even if the OP does not want a sporadic poster in their forum--tough (imo). The forum is a shared space--one person's vision of the forum frequently does not align with the other users. And this is ok! This website is all about shared space. I don't think user's voices should be silenced simply because they do not meet the original intention of the forum.

Let's examine some hypotheticals. Suppose that one person is harassing another, by diverting every forum post they make. We already have rules against that. Suppose that someone writes 10 identical posts in the same forum, or the same posts in every forum. We already have rules against that (spam). We already protect against the most egregious examples of distractions in the status quo. We don't need new rules against distractions.

There are more troubles that I foresee with this policy. For this policy to work, the moderator would need to establish the intent of the OP--whether it is "serious" or not. The moderator would likely do so by contacting the OP. However, (1) this means that the intent of the OP overrules the intent of all other users, (2) would require the moderator to establish that the other user's intent was to distract, and (3) could be used abusively by the OP. Suppose that the OP finds the other user's posts annoying. This rule could be used to silence voices that the OP doesn't want to her (after all, her intent is prioritized). This has the potential to get very messy, and very dirty.

Next, it polices the users' reasons for being here. Some users, such as Imabench, exist on forums to make off-color, off-the-wall remarks. Now, there are many reasons why Imabench was banned, but being random was never one of them. In fact, his randomness was refreshing to some people. I don't think users who exist on the site in order to be random should be excluded from the website, just for wanting to be random. Furthermore, sometimes diverting a topic--stretching it, morphing it in a way that the OP wasn't expecting--can cause one to rethink an issue. For example, suppose that someone writes a tribute to Satan in an abortion topic. A minor discussion may ensue, arguing about whether one should worship Satan. The presence of the discussion of Satan-worship in the abortion forum may inspire one to notice parallels between religious norms and abortion. Who knows?

Besides, in everyday, real life conversations, people are often random, or often change the subject. Look at this thread: http://www.debate.org.... People copied "cool" about 30 times. And you know what? That's the way we socialize. Being silly, even during an originally serious conversation, can be how we show affection for one another. This is true both in embodied conversations and on the internet. We can't regulate how people socialize--even when--especially when--they are being silly or random. Silliness and randomness do not segregate themselves to the "silliness" forum post--making them do that spoils all the fun, and irrationally regulates how we communicate.

But people being random are not the only people subject to policing. I have heard a lot of this discussion refer to religious evangelicals. Honestly, talk of preventing religious people from evangelizing on the internet makes me nervous. I realize that sometimes evangelicals' lectures can seem in bad taste. This is true. But what right have we to say why someone should be allowed to come to DDO? I think that evangelicals have a lot to teach us, and members of DDO have a lot to learn from them. But even if they didn't, do we censor people simply because they are not productive members? Do we throw out comments simply because they don't seem valuable? I think not; and in fact, I think that we do not have the right to judge what is or isn't a valuable post. Even if it doesn't seem valuable, someone thought it was valuable enough to post. None of us are so eloquent or smart that we are better than others.

You lost me here. Some users are better than others. There are some users on the religion forum whose intellects I actually respect. The literally crazy people who think they are prophets are not among them. And they drown out the interesting voices.

DDO is a community. A community is a voluntary association of people which has some control over its membership.

If you want a completely unfiltered forum with no moderation where you can post whatever you want, go to the /b/ forum on 4Chan. Literally anything goes.

Of course we have the right to judge what is a valuable post, just like we have the right to judge what is a valuable RFD. In my everyday life, I don't seek out the heroin addicts on the street who are literally talking to themselves and mumbling about how they are talking to God. Why should such people be taken *so seriously* on DDO that you would defend to the death the right to post absolute nonsense?

You're the one who always says we shouldn't use ableist language because it bothers people. Well thread derailing bothers me, sometimes. Will you let this affront to my dignity go unanswered?
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
YYW
Posts: 36,282
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1/25/2015 7:21:52 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/25/2015 7:17:02 PM, bluesteel wrote:
You're the one who always says we shouldn't use ableist language because it bothers people. Well thread derailing bothers me, sometimes. Will you let this affront to my dignity go unanswered?

I lol'd
Tsar of DDO
YYW
Posts: 36,282
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1/25/2015 7:22:14 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/25/2015 7:11:47 PM, bsh1 wrote:
I think there is some validity in those concerns. I am not really sure where I stand; if done right, I think it could be beneficial.

My thoughts on the issue: http://www.debate.org...

Yeah, I think we pretty much agree.
Tsar of DDO
Daltonian
Posts: 4,797
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1/25/2015 8:08:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Good post, kbub. I agree with portions of what has been said, and much of your opinion is very similar to how I would iterate mine.

I *do* understand what the intent of the policy is, though, and recognize that some measures should be taken to prevent people from actively derailing threads in a precise manner that does not break ToS for reasons of malintent. In this regard, I also agree with bsh and YYW.

All in all, I think the policy could work if we orient it so that it very clearly restricts the persons it targets to those with malintent: socializing is a crucial aspect of a forum that is going to promote free discussion.
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