18 votes

Polarization, pedantry, and pugnacious behavior

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21 comments

  1. hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    First and foremost, I just want to share here a message I wrote back in July about Tildes: If anyone is going to bother replying to this, don't reply to the stuff I quoted above, those are old...
    • Exemplary

    First and foremost, I just want to share here a message I wrote back in July about Tildes:

    I think at this point it's fair to say that Tildes is suffering evaporative cooling. Not just of nice people, but left-ish and trans people too, because the "jerks" aren't being reigned in by effective moderation and, perhaps most importantly, the site has stopped growing, so the "jerks" aren't being drowned out like they could be, and new nice, left, trans people aren't arriving to replace those who leave

    It's a slow death spiral towards a "slightly less techy Hacker News" and that really fucking sucks

    If anyone is going to bother replying to this, don't reply to the stuff I quoted above, those are old thoughts, respond to what I have written below instead.

    Reflecting on that message, I do not think the immediate issue is as much that certain behaviors and interactions aren't being moderated, but rather that there are not enough of the right kind of people to drown that stuff out. I think by far the best and easiest solution would be to 'just' bring in more users. I'm not even sure we need to worry about bringing in the 'right kind' of user because historically the site did pretty well at self-selecting for really excellent people.

    It's just that the growth stopped and almost all of those really excellent people left because the site became an 'attritioning', exhausting experience for them.

    Of course, we don't want Tildes to have to constantly grow just to not attrition excellent people though, so effective moderation is absolutely an important part of reversing this course.

    Of course of course, it could also just be that Deimos is relatively okay with the way things are now, or that he doesn't see the issues you do, and it could just be that in the end you and I are not the kinds of users that this website ended up being for.

    I really hope that isn't the case. I hope the few users who I have come to find annoying over the past year and a half because I've been stuck inside this website box with them and decreasingly anyone else, I hope they eventually (and I guess I as well) get drowned out by a torrent of new people excited to participate on a website that's refreshing and nothing like the current hellscape of for-profit social media.

    As for how to bring in more users, Deimos wrote out some of his own ideas on the subject back in... October 2019:

    https://tildes.net/~tildes/ig7/what_is_this_place_in_need_of_right_now#comment-42a1

    I know this comment hasn't really addressed directly any of the things you've brought up here, and I am sorry for that. I guess I'm just trying to write out my thoughts for a high level solution because wow, I really do want this site and community to succeed and for people like you to be a part of it.


    There are some nice people in the world. I mean nice people, the sort I couldn’t describe myself as. People who are friends with everyone, who are somehow never involved in any argument, who seem content to spend their time drawing pictures of bumblebees on flowers that make everyone happy.

    Those people are great to have around. You want to hold onto them as much as you can.

    But people only have so much tolerance for jerkiness, and really nice people often have less tolerance than the rest of us.

    The trouble with not ejecting a jerk — whether their shenanigans are deliberate or incidental — is that you allow the average jerkiness of the community to rise slightly. The higher it goes, the more likely it is that those really nice people will come around less often, or stop coming around at all. That, in turn, makes the average jerkiness rise even more, which teaches the original jerk that their behavior is acceptable and makes your community more appealing to other jerks. Meanwhile, more people at the nice end of the scale are drifting away.

    https://eev.ee/blog/2016/07/22/on-a-technicality/

    18 votes
  2. [3]
    skybrian
    Link
    I think I must have missed whatever contentious posts there were, or skipped them, or they didn’t bother me enough to remember. I tried scrolling through your old posts and couldn’t figure it out....

    I think I must have missed whatever contentious posts there were, or skipped them, or they didn’t bother me enough to remember. I tried scrolling through your old posts and couldn’t figure it out.

    It’s odd how different perceptions of this place are. I think of Tildes as a place with a moderate amount of gaming activity, a lot of gay members (at least among the people I remember), and a fair number of international users from many countries. So it seems majority-minority?

    I think it’s been pretty quiet. What sort of topics would you say are most contentious?

    20 votes
    1. Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I've been thinking about making this post for a few months now. Scrolling through my feed won't tell you much, other than my reduced activity. I wouldn't say the issue is so much one of the wrong...

      I've been thinking about making this post for a few months now. Scrolling through my feed won't tell you much, other than my reduced activity.

      I wouldn't say the issue is so much one of the wrong topics, as it is the wrong behavior. The topics that most easily slip into extreme rationalism often exemplify several of the problems I listed above and therefore tend to be the ones I avoid most... but even in places I would expect mostly good behavior I still often see the beginnings of the same problematic behavior that made me stop participating on Reddit.

      Differences in perception are exactly what I've been trying to highlight this entire time. No two people participate in or engage with Tildes in the same way and we need to be more aware of how others view the website if the goal is to have a diverse user-base.

      10 votes
  3. [3]
    Micycle_the_Bichael
    Link
    This comment won’t really directly address anything you’ve said because you already know I agree. I originally planned to come home from my weekend trip, quietly log out of tildes, and walk away...
    • Exemplary

    This comment won’t really directly address anything you’ve said because you already know I agree. I originally planned to come home from my weekend trip, quietly log out of tildes, and walk away from the site for good. But since the thread is here I might as well leave a comment and say goodbye. I’ve spent enough of other people’s time venting about my frustrations that I feel like I’d be doing them a disservice to not say something and to just disappear into the night. My departure isn’t sudden, I haven’t been subtle about my displeasure with the direction the site has been going for the reasons that gaywallet listed in what feels like the 50 threads about this that have been made. The reasons have been out countless times by others who have a much better way with words than I do.

    At one point in time I was so excited for this site. I created a GitHub account just so I could help contribute. I started expanding my tech stack so I could help the site become everything I hoped it could be. I proudly showed it to all of my friends and pestered them until they gave it a try because I was convinced they would love it. And for a long time many of them did. But all of them have left by now. Today I wouldn’t suggest it to any of them. I wouldn’t tell them to stay away. This site isn’t like fuckin parlor or anything. But I no longer think anyone I know would enjoy their time on the site.

    A year ago I got frustrated and quit coming to Tildes. I was done with it. I was frustrated and angry and sad. Eventually enough time passed, my anger went away, and I slowly came back. This time I’m walking away and I can’t say I feel much of any emotion about it. At this point it feels like I just have a bandaid that I’ve needed to rip off for weeks but haven’t. I delete more comments than I leave up because I know how the conversations will go. I’ve seen them hashed out again and again and I just don’t care enough about the site anymore to want to put anything into it. I don’t post anymore because I know who the few people still around that have the same interests as me so I just send it to them directly, why bother posting? There’s no anger or frustration this time around, just acceptance.

    I don’t really know why I am writing this comment in the first place, or why I am continuing to ramble on. Maybe it is because walking away leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. To reference the heavily referenced “it just takes one asshole” post, walking away feels like letting this ghost of assholishness win and take another site and community from me. But I need to accept that the site is what it is based off of community decisions and input and I’ve just diverged from it. Maybe because I’m naive enough to think that someone in this thread will comment the snowball that begins an avalanche of change into a unified vision and I’m egotistical or delusional enough to think that comment could come from me. Maybe I’m nervous to hit send and officially say something because it makes leaving a real decision and not just something that I wake up one day and realized happened months ago without me thinking. I’ve always been bad at being definitive with things. I’m afraid I’ll crave something Tildes can give me and so I’ll come crawling back and I know the shame and hypocrisy I’d feel from that would kill me. I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it now. Maybe this all is must my attempt at a text-based Midwestern Goodbye. Even though I know it is inevitable, I’m standing in the door stretching every second out of the conversation I can because I’m not ready for the night to end.

    But maybe it’s time I took a hint and finally close the door.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      For what it’s worth I’d love to have an alternate site moderated by those who have left or plan to leave Tildes because it didn’t meet their standards. If you find a place that is full of more...

      For what it’s worth I’d love to have an alternate site moderated by those who have left or plan to leave Tildes because it didn’t meet their standards. If you find a place that is full of more compassionate and thoughtful users I would like to hear about it so that I can join.

      10 votes
      1. TheRtRevKaiser
        Link Parent
        I'm in the same boat, and I feel like I've been looking for that kind of online community for years.

        I'm in the same boat, and I feel like I've been looking for that kind of online community for years.

        4 votes
  4. [4]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    The problems you address are kinda universal. I understand they exist, but I fail to envision any practical way to solve them, since this is more a question of human nature. How can we ever have a...

    The problems you address are kinda universal. I understand they exist, but I fail to envision any practical way to solve them, since this is more a question of human nature. How can we ever have a rule against pedantry? What's pedantic to A may not be pedantic to B. At some point you give the impression there's a concerted effort to keep an hegemony. I don't believe users are consciously dedicated to achieve that. I also do not think an effort to clarify language and write in a precise fashion should be curbed. Some people are concerned with that, others don't. Isn't there space for both? I would personally feel very restricted if I couldn't communicate in the way that is more natural to me. It doesn't bother me that others do otherwise.

    Anyway, it would be nice to have some examples, since I'm not sure I understand precisely what you're talking about.

    14 votes
    1. [3]
      mftrhu
      Link Parent
      This, I feel, is precisely the kind of pointless pedantry that is bothering Gaywallet, and which is definitely irking me. You do not feel like you are affected by it; you feel, rather, that...

      How can we ever have a rule against pedantry? What's pedantic to A may not be pedantic to B.

      This, I feel, is precisely the kind of pointless pedantry that is bothering Gaywallet, and which is definitely irking me.

      You do not feel like you are affected by it; you feel, rather, that efforts being put towards making this website less of an HN clone would "curb" attempts "to clarify language and write in a precise fashion" - escalating, going from the general statements in the OP to your own, uncharitable interpretation of what is being discussed - and thus making you "feel very restricted".

      The problems you address are kinda universal. I understand they exist, but I fail to envision any practical way to solve them

      The problems being addressed are not universal, and you can envision at least a way to solve them, if one that you dislike enough to extract complaints about pedantry from a 1604-words post, and warp it into "fighting against clarity and precision". That does not make it not practical, it just suggests that you are part of the problem.

      It doesn't suggest that you are consciously, deliberately participating in a concerted effort to keep an hegemony, either, because intent is, by and at large, irrelevant. It doesn't take a conspiracy to push people out: thoughtlessness - together with lack of moderation - is enough, as people from different walks of life have written about at some length over the years.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I merely exposed my point of view without drawing any accusation, at least that was my attempt. You responded with an accusation and a link which I can only assume is supposed to support the idea...

        I merely exposed my point of view without drawing any accusation, at least that was my attempt. You responded with an accusation and a link which I can only assume is supposed to support the idea that I should be considered an enemy. The result of answers like yours is to give me the impression I should not have answered at all.

        I am very sorry, but I will not apologize for expressing myself in the manner which is more natural to me.

        And I also don't want Tildes to become a Hacker News, I was not aware that was what we were discussing.

        11 votes
        1. k2l8m11n2
          Link Parent
          I know it's not "an argument", but this comment gave me a visceral reaction of "I don't want to go on this site anymore", more than anything else I've seen on Tildes in a long time.

          I know it's not "an argument", but this comment gave me a visceral reaction of "I don't want to go on this site anymore", more than anything else I've seen on Tildes in a long time.

          10 votes
  5. [4]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    Clearly I and other commenters here are part of the majority you're referring to since we aren't aware exactly of what you're talking about. I have had a couple less than ideal experiences on...

    Clearly I and other commenters here are part of the majority you're referring to since we aren't aware exactly of what you're talking about. I have had a couple less than ideal experiences on Tildes in the last month or so, but so far it doesn't feel difficult for me to continue using the site as normal.

    I'm definitely contributing to the male/tech crowd here. I've also said some unnecessarily flippant things on Tildes. Thankfully I was called out for what I said but that doesn't undo the effect my words could have had on others. Maybe you don't want to drag other users through the mud or expose too much about how you've been hurt and by what - but I would learn a lot about your perspective if you could share a more specific example.

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      Kuromantis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      (I am not Gaywallet and this is my conjecture on his opinions) Personally, I recall @radiator (person who replied to this comment I made on why critiquing LGBT people's labels on the basis of...

      (I am not Gaywallet and this is my conjecture on his opinions)

      Personally, I recall @radiator (person who replied to this comment I made on why critiquing LGBT people's labels on the basis of greco-roman usage is bad) and @tindall, users who occasionally participated in LGBT threads explaining things about their identities leaving. I recall in the discord of this place him complaining about many threads, this one being one of them, because most people were against the wealthy's philanthropy being good for society as a whole because of many reasons showing it's bad, but people never changed their opinions so it was just people disagreeing with eachother and the wrong side getting a platform for no reason than Deimos just doing away with the post, there's also the post where people disliked a black author because he made too many generalizations about white people instead of taking the approach I remember Kfwyre saying of assuming they come from a place of hurt (well, I don't remember what he thought people should have done but that thread had 100 or so comments so he probably stated his opinion at some point). Lastly, someone defended Stallman on his take on aborting fetuses with Down syndrome because (if I remembered correctly when I wrote this comment) they felt people with Downs couldn't live full lives as adults so aborting them is the right thing to do. (Someone replied to me saying this is liberal eugenics as opposed to classic eugenics, which I'm sure Gaywallet cares about and is happy with, lol.)

      I think he just would like this place better Deimos always watched for support of already established demographics and opposition to non-established ones and removed both on sight. Unfortunately for him, I think Deimos really does not share his definion of that.

      6 votes
      1. Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        In general terms I think you've done a decent job summarizing some of the more problematic threads that have popped up from time to time on this website. My solution is much more simple than the...

        In general terms I think you've done a decent job summarizing some of the more problematic threads that have popped up from time to time on this website.

        My solution is much more simple than the one you are suggesting - it's simply remembering the human. Stallman's thread is a good example of forgetting that there are people on this website who likely have Down's or feel strongly about someone with Down's (family, friend, lover, etc.) and discussing whether it's okay to abort children like that is likely going to be upsetting to them. I also think it's important to point out that many groups of individuals, such as those represented in ~lgbt have been classified as mental illnesses in the past by the majority, and the very idea that eugenics could allow someone to pick and choose whether their child has a 'mental illness' or not is a slippery slope - it's not a huge jump in logic to understand that some people would gladly make the choice for their kid not to have a 'mental illness' or frankly anything that might represent values they don't hold.

        Also, for the record, I'm neither male nor female. I am non-binary. 😊

        7 votes
      2. nukeman
        Link Parent
        One of my comments from the nuked RMS thread: I DMed with the poster who defended RMS; they stated that what I said was what they intended to say, but was written in a manner where it was easy and...

        One of my comments from the nuked RMS thread:

        I don’t believe that was the case (I think they were trying to state that it was acceptable to abort a fetus with Down’s Syndrome in general), however, it was very easy to make the argument that they were encouraging such abortions.

        I DMed with the poster who defended RMS; they stated that what I said was what they intended to say, but was written in a manner where it was easy and understandable to construe it as being encouraging of eugenics.

        4 votes
  6. [2]
    joplin
    Link
    I agree that the pedantry seems to be ratcheting up recently. I don’t know how to address that as it seems to be a common symptom on Internet forums. I can also think of one or two times where I...

    I agree that the pedantry seems to be ratcheting up recently. I don’t know how to address that as it seems to be a common symptom on Internet forums.

    I can also think of one or two times where I unintentionally escalated things in the way you describe by using more forceful language in a reply. Thank you for pointing that out. Now that I’m aware of it, I’ll think about ways to do it less.

    I’ve enjoyed your posts and don’t want to see you leave, but do what’s healthiest for you.

    11 votes
    1. Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      No one, and I mean no one is an exemplary of perfect behavior. I too am guilty of letting emotion get the best of me and escalating out of frustration, being hurt, having a bad day, being upset,...
      • Exemplary

      No one, and I mean no one is an exemplary of perfect behavior. I too am guilty of letting emotion get the best of me and escalating out of frustration, being hurt, having a bad day, being upset, or any other number of emotions. What matters is that we do our best to notice and curb the behaviors we wish not to display.

      7 votes
  7. [3]
    nukeman
    Link
    Forgive me in advanced; I started this at 6 A.M. on a Tuesday and I’m writing this from my carpool on my way to work. Apologies if this comes across as a bit incoherent and word salad-y. I’m sorry...

    Forgive me in advanced; I started this at 6 A.M. on a Tuesday and I’m writing this from my carpool on my way to work. Apologies if this comes across as a bit incoherent and word salad-y.

    I’m sorry if I have been overly hostile. I know that you and I tend to hold opposing views on moderation, and I hope I have not been pugnacious toward you or anyone.

    I have this ~TheoryOfTildes-type idea that Tildes has two broad camps regarding moderation. Both camps subscribe to the notion that speech should not be unlimited, but they have different ideas as to how that should be executed. One of those camps believes that, while speech can be more limited than Reddit/Ruqqus/Saidit, Tildes should strive to be as open as possible in allowing discussion, and that structural foundations of the site (such as no pictures, a minimal tolerance for one-liners, jokes, etc) help maintain the Tildes ethos (the ideal site looking like a better, substantive blend of HN, Reddit, StackExchange, and classic forums). The other camp believes that there should be a strong focus on social justice and minority inclusion, and that moderation tools should be beefy to account for the difficulties in maintaining a site with that ethos (the ideal site looking like Imzy). Both sides have their justifications: the former that arbitrary moderation drives users away and turns the site into a generic Reddit clone (and removing what makes the place special); the latter that not protecting minority users drives them away, homogenizes the discussion, and turns the site into 4chan or voat (and removing what makes the place special). And I will admit, I have noticed some regular users (RNG and emdash come to mind) not participating in threads as much, which concerns me, because I don’t want to see regular users who provide lots of insightful comments go away.

    When I am pedantic about the meaning/use of the tag “malice”, it comes from the view that while maliciousness and ignorance come from the same place, they have different solutions. An ignorant commenter can be more easily educated and encouraged to edit their comment than a malicious one.

    On solutions; I have a few ideas listed below:

    • More tags: ignorant or concern tags have been mentioned, but I also think some sort of escalation tag would be useful based on your post. Maybe something related to the pyramid of debate, logical fallacies (e.g., ad hominem), or debate etiquette (e.g., bad faith assumptions). Could be structured as subtags (e.g., Escalation: Assumption, or Escalation: Ad Hominem). Maybe having them visible to the OP or the users at large would help establish boundaries.

    • Post/comment deletion: with the new tags mentioned above; posts and comments would be deleted until they are edited to tone down the text or remove an offending statement. This could also apply to the malice tag (possibly in conjunction with new rules for excessive malice postings).

    • A broader moderation discussion (and possibly overhaul): With more and more new users coming in, it seems it might be a good time to review moderation policy. This bit is deliberately vague because I don’t know how much of a change we need.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I'm not optimistic about the idea of more tags simply fixing things, without users looking at the tabs and having some authority to clean places up. I've pushed for quite some time for minority...

      I'm not optimistic about the idea of more tags simply fixing things, without users looking at the tabs and having some authority to clean places up. I've pushed for quite some time for minority spots such as ~lgbt to have moderation simply because there are no safe spaces on this website and the absence of these spaces makes it hard to engage. I think quite a bit about the kind of response I'm almost certain to get, before I bother posting anything. Often times, as of late, I just find it too mentally exhausting to bother with and just forego the comment altogether.

      That being said, I'm also willing to try anything at this point. If the end result is troublesome comments being removed and the solution is simply more labels rather than the use of existing labels, I'm happy to give that a shot. But we also need more eyes on the labels than just one pair.

      9 votes
      1. nukeman
        Link Parent
        I think part of the issue with the labels is nobody sees them, except for the exemplary ones. They are a small, hidden option that can’t be applied to posts, only comments, and aren’t visible in...

        I think part of the issue with the labels is nobody sees them, except for the exemplary ones. They are a small, hidden option that can’t be applied to posts, only comments, and aren’t visible in 90% of cases. I don’t end up thinking about them that much. Visibility would help keep them in people’s minds. Another possibility is some sort of required reading on them during account setup.

        That said, while I’m a light-touch moderation kind of guy, I do agree that it is time to add more moderators, at a minimum in minority groups.

        One other tool (related to the two items above): some sort of content warning label/tag, which would trigger stricter mod standards and allow for all of those posts or comment chains to be hidden if desired.

        8 votes
  8. Akir
    Link
    Honestly, when you wrote about this last time I didn’t understand it. But now I realize that I my feelings are just about the same. I have also taken some time off of tildes, and have noticed that...

    Honestly, when you wrote about this last time I didn’t understand it. But now I realize that I my feelings are just about the same. I have also taken some time off of tildes, and have noticed that I’m seeing the same things as you are. The discussions being had here are very diffferent in flavor to what I remember the past being like. It almost feels like there is a distinct lack of hope here now.

    The thing that really got me thinking about it was when someone mentioned @tindall had left. I didn’t even realize that happened, but that is a tragedy, because she often had ways to say the things I wanted to say but couldn’t find the words. I found her opinions to be immensely valuable, and Tildes is a worse place without her. With you and @Micycle_the_Bichael going, the majority of people with interesting opinions have left. At this point, I think if @Kfwyre were to go I would also leave.

    Its rather unfortunate that it took me so long to see this, since we already have a list of “casualties”. I know I have found myself acting in toxic ways sometimes. But in modern times, people have become accustomed to toxicity. It’s like the dust flying in the air; you don’t bother trying to see it because you already assume it’s there. And of course we find ourselves acting these toxic ways because society quietly approves of it.

    I wish that I had a solution to this, but I honestly do not see any that are likely to work.

    9 votes