12 votes

How can I better engage Tilderinos on my philosophy posts?

I wouldn't say Tildes is wholly uninterested in philosophy, that is certainly not the case. You're a smart bunch full of intellectual curiosity!

I have been making an effort to share more philosophy articles on ~humanities for some time now. They always get a few votes, but discussion is not as common. This is in no way a complaint about our users, philosophy is often highly specific and long-form, and it is hard to predict if a long article will eventually pay off for you.

Generally, philosophy posts that are related to technology, computer science, consciousness/AI, and, to a lesser degree, social change, attract more attention. But there are not as many of those (and I'm personally interested in other stuff too...).

As I said, the purpose of this post is not to complain. I believe the lack of participation in certain topics reflects the size of our community, our most common interests, and our repertoire.

With that in my mind, I would like to know how could I better engage our community in discussions about philosophy. Apart from the themes I mentioned, what are you interested in or curious about?

I could make an effort to include a short introduction or conversation starter on every post, but I'm not sure what is the sentiment regarding that (would that be considered/labeled as noise?). Besides, I'm not a philosopher or anything of the sort, just a layman with a lot of philosophy websites on my feed. So my guess is as good as everyone else's.

It would be awesome if we had a ~humanities.philosophy someday, but I wonder if that is realistic at all...

19 comments

  1. [6]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    TBH, I think volume, and the small size of the community might be the biggest factors at play here. Lately I have noticed you have been submitting 4-5 Philosophy articles a day, and have often...

    TBH, I think volume, and the small size of the community might be the biggest factors at play here.

    Lately I have noticed you have been submitting 4-5 Philosophy articles a day, and have often been submitting those in rapid succession. Tildes only gets anywhere from 20-50-ish submissions a day in total, so you might simply be over-saturating the market, so to speak.

    Not only that, but Philosophy can also be somewhat intimidating for outsiders, since articles and discussions on the subject often have a lot of specialized terminology and concepts being used in them, which can make the meaning of everything being said somewhat opaque to those not familiar with them... which likely reduces the ability and desire of many people to participate in discussions on the subject.

    As for what you can do to potentially address those issues, and spark more engagement, my recommendations would be: Instead of submitting 4-5 articles all at once, try at least spreading them out a bit, if you can. Or perhaps instead of submitting so many articles on the same subject in the first place, try finding just one or two exceptional ones a day, and submit those instead. My personal passion is military history, but much like philosophy, I understand that it's a rather niche subject and unfortunately Tildes is still too small for me to post 4-5 topics on it a day, so I only tend to submit a few topics on it a week instead.

    You could also maybe try submitting some "entry level" philosophy topics every once in a while too, in order to help people get more familiar with the subject and its concepts/jargon/etc, so that they then start feeling more comfortable and confident participating in more serious discussions on it. And as others have suggested already, including your own comment on your submissions, either a submissions statement or something specifically meant to engage people (in good faith, e.g. by asking your own genuine questions about the subject, or asking for people's opinions on it) could potentially help as well.

    13 votes
    1. bub
      Link Parent
      Yes, this feels about right. If I had to characterize the average user here, I'd say we tend to be extremely into philosophy, rather than apathetic about it. Maybe even more into philosophy than...

      Yes, this feels about right.

      If I had to characterize the average user here, I'd say we tend to be extremely into philosophy, rather than apathetic about it. Maybe even more into philosophy than anything else.

      However, I do find it pretty mentally draining to talk or think about philosophy too frequently. Especially if I anticipate disagreements in a given thread.

      3 votes
    2. [4]
      mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Thank you very much for answering. I was not aware of the daily total of posts, this certainly puts things in perspective. 3 or 4 articles a day didn't seem like much without that information. The...

      Thank you very much for answering.

      I was not aware of the daily total of posts, this certainly puts things in perspective. 3 or 4 articles a day didn't seem like much without that information.

      The reason I post in rapid succession is that I set aside some time after my daily readings to do that at once, and I want to share them while the articles are fresh in my memory. And, due to personal circumstances, I've been reading more than usual.

      But philosophy is rarely topical and there's really no harm in spacing out the posts.

      Looking at my submissions, there are lots of articles written for "entry-level" readers -- maybe the majority. But I think I get your point since those articles are generally not introductions.

      Another reason why I submitted so many posts was to try to understand which kinds of articles the community prefers.

      From your comment and others, it seems clear that it is preferable to submit way fewer articles while setting aside some time to write a short introduction to help readers engage in the content.

      Thanks!

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        cfabbro
        Link Parent
        Perhaps it might be worth coming up with topic tags for clearly differentiating the "entry level" and "introduction" submissions from the more serious ones, so people know which ones are going to...

        Looking at my submissions, there are lots of written for "entry-level" readers -- maybe the majority. But I think I get your point since those articles are generally not introductions.

        Perhaps it might be worth coming up with topic tags for clearly differentiating the "entry level" and "introduction" submissions from the more serious ones, so people know which ones are going to be slightly easier to understand? Since from title alone it can often be hard to tell which is which.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          mrbig
          Link Parent
          Sounds good. I'm terrible at coming up with tags, though. The tag would have to be descriptive without being "offensive". I guess #entry-level might work but is a bit too specific....

          Sounds good. I'm terrible at coming up with tags, though. The tag would have to be descriptive without being "offensive". I guess #entry-level might work but is a bit too specific. #beginner-friendly? I don't know.

          3 votes
          1. cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            philosophy.4noobs! /s ;) Separate entry level, beginner friendly, or introductory tags would probably be sufficient. But maybe philosophy.101 could possibly work too? It's short, sweet, and gets...

            philosophy.4noobs! /s ;)

            Separate entry level, beginner friendly, or introductory tags would probably be sufficient. But maybe philosophy.101 could possibly work too? It's short, sweet, and gets the idea across sufficiently, IMO. It also has the benefit of being included in the main tag, so should show up along with it in the "important" topic tags section (at least in ~humanities, anyways).

            2 votes
  2. [3]
    petrichor
    Link
    I think it's less that Tildes is not engaged with philosophy posts, and more that Tildes is engaged with race / politics / technology posts. I have noticed the same lack of engagement on ~science...

    I think it's less that Tildes is not engaged with philosophy posts, and more that Tildes is engaged with race / politics / technology posts. I have noticed the same lack of engagement on ~science articles I post, and across the board in many other groups.

    But to answer the question, yeah, I think that accompanying your posts with a leading question, almost along the lines of what shows up in ~talk would certainly help drive the conversation. I personally always appreciate it when the poster either grabs some context-relevant paragraphs or writes a little bit about their takeaway from the article - it provides a good jumping off point for a whole discussion.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      Some time ago I saw people complaining about these quotes, one of them even said they mark it as noise. So I don't do that as frequently as I used to. But maybe philosophy is a worthy exception to...

      Some time ago I saw people complaining about these quotes, one of them even said they mark it as noise. So I don't do that as frequently as I used to. But maybe philosophy is a worthy exception to that.

      3 votes
      1. dubteedub
        Link Parent
        I think a simple quote on its own is noise. But if you add just a sentence or two explaining why you thought an article was interesting or what you took away from it along with a quote, I think...

        I think a simple quote on its own is noise. But if you add just a sentence or two explaining why you thought an article was interesting or what you took away from it along with a quote, I think those are great ways of kicking off a post's comment section.

        8 votes
  3. [6]
    Atvelonis
    Link
    I find that it can be easier to engage with material that has at least an introductory comment from the author, if nothing else to set the tone of a potential discussion. I always write something...

    I find that it can be easier to engage with material that has at least an introductory comment from the author, if nothing else to set the tone of a potential discussion. I always write something to this effect when I submit a link. It doesn't have to be long or formal—a candid affectual reaction to a piece can be useful in closing the gap between the material and our understanding of it as emotionally driven people. My preference is not just a list of quotes (although they may be included), but at least some analysis from the submitter. I think it really places the work into context in a way that engenders discussion.

    I don't submit many philosophy links, but this comment on a post of mine seemed to beget a fair bit of discussion; this one had a bit less; a third not so much; another had nothing. A lot of that is probably just the amount of visibility the topic got—there's a critical mass somewhere—but I think that little "conversation starters" could certainly be a way to go.

    6 votes
    1. [4]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Out of curiosity, why do you think people feel the need to respond to the poster’s take on an article rather than the content itself? I usually try to keep my comments to providing background or...

      Out of curiosity, why do you think people feel the need to respond to the poster’s take on an article rather than the content itself? I usually try to keep my comments to providing background or context that might help people get more out of the article. I specifically avoid putting my own spin on it because I don’t want to color people’s read on it with my own take before they have a chance to take it in for themselves unvarnished.

      One thing I have noticed is even when there is engagement people tend to bike shed on stylistic stuff or drag various nitpicks in the piece (e.g. complain about the headline, complain about writing style, speculate on the author’s intentions.) So it’s rarely any kind of discussion on the content of an article itself. It’s kind of frustrating.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Atvelonis
        Link Parent
        Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way...

        Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way that you may feel physical difficulty in speaking from silence in a group setting in person. The distinction is merely that you can't see the other people being quiet. But on a site with this level of activity, you know that they're there; the vote tallies show it. For people who are engaged with the material, then, you have two types of commenters:

        • People who like being the first voice in the room
        • People who are happy to talk, but who don't like breaking the silence

        For almost all topics, almost all users fall into the latter category. This is why most threads are quiet. However, everyone has a few topics they're very interested in or can engage with at that moment. Fundamentally, the reason many people are reluctant to break the silence is because it's easier to respond to someone else's original thought than to create an original thought of their own. A first-level comment is ostensibly a response to the article, but we are socially conditioned to construct it as a more formal, decisive, or coherent statement than a second-level comment. The stakes are higher because we expect more people to engage with it than a lower-level comment. It addresses the group; a second-level comment addresses a single person.

        This isn't unique to Tildes. Think of every social meeting you've been in that's awkwardly silent until someone makes a joke, and then the whole group breaks into pleasant conversation. It's not like any random sequence of syllables uttered during the conversation has any more inherent significance in and of itself than any other sequence—but the very first one is given special significance because of the context it finds itself in. That is, it finds itself the breaker of silence, addressing the group.

        I specifically avoid putting my own spin on it because I don’t want to color people’s read on it with my own take before they have a chance to take it in for themselves unvarnished.

        I understand and appreciate this perspective, but I think it takes too formalistic an approach to the material being shared here, à la Wimsatt and Beardsley. The literary criticism of the mid-20th century was frequently concerned with making interpretations rooted solely in "the text in itself and for itself," ignoring any manner of authorial intent so as to separate literature from the academy's expectations of it. This is a reasonable idea, but it doesn't work as well as one would hope. The "affective turn" we've inhabited in the decades since has shown us quite clearly that writing sans context loses a substantial amount of its essence, and we are better off analyzing texts contextually if we want to derive meaning that informs an external context.

        If we apply this principle a level up—where the "author" is the submitter of a post on Tildes, and the audience is the set of commenters on that post—we also find ourselves in a situation where both the identity and opinions of the submitter ought not necessarily to be omitted or ignored. By posting an article on Tildes, you are not simply sharing information in a vacuum. Rather, you are contributing to a "canon" of works posted on a specific medium; really you are contributing to an infinite number of canons, such as "Articles posted on Tildes in the last 24 hours," "Articles posted on Tildes during a global pandemic," "Articles posted on Tildes while an article about breakfast cereal is on the front page," etc. Importantly, some of these canons are going to be related to the source material and potentially to the submitter. Tildes' proclivity for meta threads comes to mind—an article on race relations is inextricably linked to a meta post about Tildes' overall discussion about race. What does it mean for a controversial article to be posted in the wake of such discourse? Clearly, we are not operating within a framework where the submitter is a non-entity. Thus we may reasonably conclude that the submitter's opinions should not necessarily be hidden from public view. Why did they submit the article to begin with? What drew them to the material? In what ways do they feel it contributes to the site? Commenters will be curious about these things in any case, so perhaps it is more useful for the submitter to explain their perspective firsthand than to prompt speculation on it.

        A different line of reasoning would be that anyone who is voluntarily reading the first-level comment of a submitter before reading the article is relatively unlikely to break the silence themselves. They are looking for material from other community members to engage with, probably because they feel that going into an article blind won't help their understanding as much as doing so with an opinion in mind which they can contrast with their own (while initially reading the material and not after).

        One thing I have noticed is even when there is engagement people tend to bike shed on stylistic stuff or drag various nitpicks in the piece (e.g. complain about the headline, complain about writing style, speculate on the author’s intentions.) So it’s rarely any kind of discussion on the content of an article itself. It’s kind of frustrating.

        I think these are all legitimate elements of an article for people to comment on, though I agree with you that focusing on them at the expense of the content sort of misses the point of using a link aggregator. At some level we are here for the material, not just other people's reactions to it. I'm often disappointed by the frivolity of some of the discussions here, those with commenters too heavily in an "internet state of mind." Such threads remind me how much time people spend glued to their screens, and that I should go outside myself.

        My impression is that Tildes users model most of their behavior on Reddit's commenting etiquette (modifying it only slightly to reduce noise, or to impose an aura of seriousness), which is generally superficial. On that website, most commenters do not read the source material at all, and if they do, they often intend to engage with it unfairly. I feel that this is influenced more by the expectations of the spaces they are operating in than by any specific introduction from the submitter or other commenters on an article. i.e. this cultural practice originates from the structure of the site more so than the structure of any given discussion.

        So on a structural level, Tildes obviously lacks most of the ideological forces that Reddit has, but it retains many of them culturally, probably subconsciously. Why this is the case (beyond simple inheritance) is unclear to me, but I can speculate. @Akir made a useful observation in a response to a comment of mine last month that may serve as an adjacent piece of analysis:

        I've long believed that the biggest problem is that people don't understand what the internet is from a simple conceptual point of view. People tend to think of it as some kind of simulacra; like things on the internet are somehow less real than 'the real world'. If you understand that, you realize the root of all the stupid and evil things you find on the internet.

        I think this may apply here. Why engage with the source material, which takes a great amount of effort, when one may engage with a simple but misleading characterization of it? Why analyze six paragraphs when just the headline will do? Why analyze the author's statements in detail when one can assume they're writing in bad faith? Obviously we will still find people intentionally nitpicking arguments or being intentionally dense in real life too, but I think we're conditioned not to let that fly more robustly than we are online. On Tildes we have something of an expectation to think critically, but we have neither the rigorous expectations of an academic journal nor the forgiving ones of a face-to-face conversation. We stand, rather, in a liminal space. That uncertainty prevents us from developing our ideas with as much grace as we should. The solution to this behavior is unclear to me, and probably can't be addressed quickly, but I would be curious to hear other thoughts on the matter.

        5 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          Oh dear. Since I have been mentioned and am guilty of making “frivolous” comments instead of addressing the article content itself, I figure I aught to weigh in. Personally speaking, I am more...

          Oh dear. Since I have been mentioned and am guilty of making “frivolous” comments instead of addressing the article content itself, I figure I aught to weigh in.

          Personally speaking, I am more interested in the people here than I am in the content most of the time. I find value in the conversations we have here, so I am more likely to read an article if there is already a discussion going on. That’s not to say that my behavior is consistent; I’ve purposely avoided certain popular but controversial conversations and I have read/viewed many submissions with zero comments, in which case I may have left the first comment.

          The last time I left what NaraVara would describe as a frivolous comment (which just so happens to be a mrbig post), it was a criticism of the title given to the article. And to be completely honest, the reason why it was about the title was because it was what I considered to be the most interesting part of the article. The actual content felt like common sense, something that I would have imagined the average Tilder already had learned through their life experience.

          Frankly I never would have thought it were bad to talk about the incidentals of whatever gets posted. Incidentals are also part of the package and are just as valid to criticize as the text itself. After all, the text does not exist in a vacuum. Even the title and formatting affects how you view and process the text.

          4 votes
      2. ShroudedMouse
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm guilty of the bikeshedding. Sometimes I think the content does kind of speak for itself - perhaps it's an old topic to me - and I'm more interested in the personal take of your average...

        I'm guilty of the bikeshedding. Sometimes I think the content does kind of speak for itself - perhaps it's an old topic to me - and I'm more interested in the personal take of your average tilderino. Faced with an empty comments section, I'm likely to note something small and beside the main point, cause that's all I personally have to offer.

        Edit: Atvelonis makes some great points. Yeah, most of the time I'm not willing to put in the effort these philosophical pieces require for deep discussion. How can I sure others will too? How do I know the thread'll be around after I've thought about it for a few days? I do put in more effort here than I would on reddit simply because I have that little bit more faith in y'all.

        2 votes
    2. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Yeah, that is a good idea. I'm kinda obsessive and sometimes it is hard to write an introduction like that without it taking a lot of my time. This is something I need to correct. "Go with the...

      Yeah, that is a good idea. I'm kinda obsessive and sometimes it is hard to write an introduction like that without it taking a lot of my time. This is something I need to correct. "Go with the flow", as they say.

      Sometimes I share stuff not to say something (or even to endorse something), really, but rather to benefit from the better understanding others' comments bring. So I'm often not exactly versed in the subject either.

      Thanks!

      3 votes
  4. [2]
    archevel
    Link
    I generally enjoy your posts! Though more in that I like reading and thinking about the topics. Recently the post on holes was one I really liked since it illustrates something I've not thought...

    I generally enjoy your posts! Though more in that I like reading and thinking about the topics. Recently the post on holes was one I really liked since it illustrates something I've not thought much about. There wasn't any discussion on the topic and you didn't provide any guide for opening a conversation. Sometimes that's fine and convos get started organically. Sometimes it's easier (as others mention) if you give things a bit of a push/direction :) ie. What question do you want answered? What is your stance on the subject?

    I personally probably won't engage that much, but please know I do appreciate the links!

    2 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Yes, for sure, those are good points. Thank you very much!

      Yes, for sure, those are good points. Thank you very much!

      1 vote
  5. culturedleftfoot
    Link
    Don't sell yourself short, there's no shame in being a lay philosopher. As someone who has always had interest in philosophy but never studied it, I wouldn't mind if I was put in the same...

    Don't sell yourself short, there's no shame in being a lay philosopher. As someone who has always had interest in philosophy but never studied it, I wouldn't mind if I was put in the same category. I could see it now, lounging at a sidewalk café, pontificating at passers-by.

    I personally find articles that relate philosophical concepts to everyday activities or aspects of culture (e.g. football 😁) the most interesting/easiest to start a conversation on. Maybe that stuff would fall under the philosophy 200s. I also lean more toward Eastern philosophy than Western, so I'm probably more likely to engage those topics of theory simply as I'd have less background work to do.

    2 votes
  6. krg
    Link
    Think about the topics that earn the most "engagement" here (and likely elsewhere). Usually, very divisive topics that devolve into some form of shallow tribalistic argumentation. If your...

    Think about the topics that earn the most "engagement" here (and likely elsewhere). Usually, very divisive topics that devolve into some form of shallow tribalistic argumentation. If your philosophy posts aren't providing an outlet for that type of expression, well... you can probably expect low levels of participation.

    1 vote