28 votes

Unofficial Weekly Discussion #3 - Argument de-escalation and disengagement brainstorming session

IMO one of the major issues with online debates, arguments and heated discussions is that they often tend to escalate rather steadily over time, and as each side gets more frustrated with the other they also tend to slowly get more personal as well. I am admittedly guilty of falling into this trap occasionally myself too, which has got me thinking about ways that Tildes (the site and the users here) can potentially help deescalate unproductive arguments and allow people to disengage more effectively from them. To this end I thought it might be a good idea to have a brainstorming session regarding that.

To start things off, here are most of the ideas I could find related to this issue that have previously been proposed and are already on Tildes Gitlab (click to read the full details):

Add ability to hide topics (and view/unhide ones users have previously hidden) self explanatory
Add community based thread locking We have labels now, which help moderation and can help hide comments that hurt the discussion. But maybe we need some sort of similar function for locking or temp-locking threads when they get out of hand due to drama or something. As long as we only really have Deimos doing the moderating, that can help avoid things blowing up when he is unavailable.
Add "block user" feature This would more effectively allow people to avoid arguments but has some potential downsides worth considering as well, e.g. users getting trapped in a filter bubble. However, other than for moderators, that is probably not a major drawback compared to the benefits, IMO.

How deep the block goes is also something that probably needs to be investigated and discussed. E.g. Does blocking a user just prevent PMs? Does it prevent their replies from notifying the user? Does it hide their comments/topics, and if so does it hide all the replies to those hidden comments as well? Etc.

Add "unfollow" feature, allowing users to turn off notifications for replies to their comments/topics This would allow users to more effectively disengage from arguments. It should probably be something disabled by default and only enabled on a case-by-case basis, not a global user setting though, IMO.

edit: Feature also requested again, but for a slightly different reason (avoiding getting spammed on busy topics)

Add placebo comment labels Related to the other "disengage" feature suggestions, I think a "placebo" comment label could also potentially help the culture of the site. What I mean by that is perhaps adding some comment labels that have no effect, or only an effect for the person that applied it. e.g. A "Disagree" comment label, that has no effect whatsoever, or perhaps makes the comment collapse (like a "noise" labeled comments), but only to the user that applied the "disagree".

Comments related to this.

Add "argument/bickering" label for users to apply on unproductive arguments This label, once it reaches a certain threshold could even have effects applied to it, E.g. imposing a forced time delay on replies between all involved parties, adding a delay before the replies even show up (to give time for people to cool off), or even simply locking that particular thread entirely if enough labels are applied.
Show whether a comment has already been replied to in users' /notifications/unread page I suspect that people often reply directly from their /notifications/unread page, which can lead to needless repetition in the comments. It also potentially further escalates arguments as well, since a user may feel obligated to reply since they do not realize that someone has already addressed the comment effectively. Embedding the other replies somehow, perhaps by using a `details` like expando, might be nice as well.

Feel free to voice your support or criticism regarding the above suggestions, offer up ideas to potentially improve them, or even propose your own brand new ideas related to this issue in the comments here as well.

p.s. Once again, the point here is to open up the conversation and get ideas flowing freely, so let's please try to keep things positive, and keep any criticism purely constructive and friendly so as not to discourage people from participating.


Previous Unofficial Weekly Discussions:

Week #1, #2


Other relevant links:
Donate to Tildes - Tildes Gitlab : Issues Board - Tildes Official Docs

28 comments

  1. NaraVara
    Link
    I'll probably have some more detailed thoughts later, but of the ones you listed I think the "bickering" label is probably the strongest suggestion. The only downside is that it can very easily be...

    I'll probably have some more detailed thoughts later, but of the ones you listed I think the "bickering" label is probably the strongest suggestion. The only downside is that it can very easily be used to impose a sort of groupthink or have a chilling effect on constructive debate. Not all arguments or conflict are bad, we just want to focus on keeping the arguments constructive and respectful while minimizing sophistry, bad faith tactics (e.g. sea lioning, JAQing off), or personal sniping. Things might even get heated at points, but in those cases I'd prefer if we focused on cooling it off so the discussion can proceed productively rather than shutting it down.

    I'm not sure how much procedural or punitive measures can do to accomplish that. We can and should shut down flame bait or personal insults (though IMO mockery is the only effective response to bad-faith tactics, so that's a whole different thing). Instead of starting with the technical fixes, I think we should start from understanding what we value about lively discussion/debate, what we don't like about bickering, and figure out how to address that. Ellen Pao's suggestion to "remember the person" is probably a good starting point there, and we should consider what UX patterns we can think of to remind ourselves of the people we're talking to.

    9 votes
  2. imperialismus
    Link
    This is a Reddit feature I miss on Tildes. When I see a bunch of replies popping up, I feel compelled to respond. It's stressful in the way that seeing your non-spam email or phone blow up with...

    Add "unfollow" feature, allowing users to turn off notifications for replies to their comments/topics

    This is a Reddit feature I miss on Tildes. When I see a bunch of replies popping up, I feel compelled to respond. It's stressful in the way that seeing your non-spam email or phone blow up with messages is stressful: what if it's something important? Shouldn't I be addressing this right now, while my response will still be relevant and before the unread messages pile up to unmanageable levels?

    Except I may not have the time to make a reasonable and nuanced response right now. Or I may not be in the right frame of mind. Or it might be an ongoing discussion that's going in circles and I can just tell that no further debate will lead to anything productive. Or I may have simply made a top-level post that became unexpectedly popular, even if half the replies are not ones that I personally have any business replying to.

    For all these reasons and more, I like the "disable inbox replies" feature on reddit. It allows me to ignore certain threads for the time being and respond to them in due time, or choose to end a discussion before all the other participants are ready to hang up their gloves. The concern for potential abuse is that someone might use it as a "drive-by" shooting option, not having to deal with the consequences to an inflammatory post. But it's my belief that most trolls desire to see the reactions they provoke and so wouldn't use it. On the other hand, letting me manually check a thread for updates after my head has cooled down and I'm in the right frame of mind to respond, or not respond as the case may be, seems like a very useful option to have.

    7 votes
  3. [6]
    Deimos
    Link
    Something I've been thinking about lately is whether we should consider changing how reply notifications work. Along the same lines as what @imperialismus is talking about, having every reply show...

    Something I've been thinking about lately is whether we should consider changing how reply notifications work. Along the same lines as what @imperialismus is talking about, having every reply show up fully in your inbox feels very "direct", and I think it affects the dynamic of how people end up replying to each other because of that directness as well as taking the conversation out of the context of the overall thread, and so on.

    Some things I've thought about, which wouldn't necessarily always need to happen, but maybe only in certain cases:

    • Don't show the actual comments, just something like "you have 3 new replies in Topic X", so that the user can just choose to go look and reply to them in-context, instead of having them all come directly.
    • Delay the reply notifications, so that they don't show up immediately. For example, maybe the notifications only show up once the comment is a few hours old, and only if it looks like the recipient hasn't already seen the comment (such as it being in an old thread they're not still visiting). That way the notifications are more aimed at "here's something you probably didn't notice" instead of "here's every individual thing that happened in response to you everywhere".

    There could definitely be downsides to changes like these, but I think they could also help improve how some of the common interactions on the site go. I don't think the current notification method is necessarily "correct", and it might be interesting to try out some other options.

    7 votes
    1. [5]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      The "directness" of replies showing up in the inbox is definitely a part of it. Another thing might be the nature of replies and threads themselves, where all comments end up threading under each...

      The "directness" of replies showing up in the inbox is definitely a part of it. Another thing might be the nature of replies and threads themselves, where all comments end up threading under each other which makes every exchange a back-and-forth between two individuals rather than two people talking as part of a group/community discussion.

      It's a tough to analogize it to anything in the real world. The way the comment system works here (and in Reddit or Twitter) is almost like we can only ever directly comment at each other individually. There is no analogue to addressing a group all at once. This doesn't happen on Tildes so much just because the community is still small, but often on Reddit there will be situations where a person will make a touchy comment and they will be inundated with responses that all mostly say the same thing. But the platform only lets you address each other in one-on-one interactions because of how threading works. So you end up feeling like you're arguing against 40 different people instead of just trying to defend or clarify a single point.

      There might need to be some kind of restructuring of the design of comments needed that lets people separate the content of a comment from the person making it. A focus on directing them to the thread itself would be a step in the right direction. But more than that, we'd probably want new comments to ping for everyone following that subthread or nested comment chain rather than just the people involved in it. Usually one of the main things that helps keep people on good behavior is forcing them to maintain a "spectator's perspective" in the back of their minds. If it's only ever one-on-one that's hard, but if it's kind of known and understood that we're all talking amidst a group of people it compels people to be more mindful of how their comments are going to look to others.

      It would also tamp down on issues by encouraging outsiders to an argument to get involved. They can help clarify issues where it seems like people are talking past each other or just be able to chime in when things are getting heating to tell people to chill.

      And then in the vein of remembering the person, it's possible that some sort of design choice to make people's posts more visually distinctive might help. In the old days forums had forum avatars and signatures and all sorts of stuff. Having a clear visual that distinguished each poster made it easier to remember you're dealing with an individual with a specific point of view and personality. Humans are visual and social creatures and we have all kinds of cognitive stuff happen to us when we recognize a face that makes us more open and empathetic on an emotional level. I don't think just seeing names in dry text has the same effect and suspect it probably contributes to viewing responses in a bit of a dehumanized way. The downside there, though, is that I actually like the barebones aesthetics of the site and putting avatars or something in there would get in the way of that. It's definitely a tough design problem to solve.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        Deimos
        Link Parent
        Hmm yeah, really interesting. It's a problem specific to this kind of nested/tree-like comment system that didn't exist in other ones like standard forums, mailing lists, etc. Because there's only...

        Hmm yeah, really interesting. It's a problem specific to this kind of nested/tree-like comment system that didn't exist in other ones like standard forums, mailing lists, etc. Because there's only a single "thread" in those, you can post a kind of "general reply" that can address a lot of people at once, and assume that anyone still interested in continuing to follow the discussion will read it. It's not necessary to reply to each person individually, which probably lessens how personal and overwhelming it can feel sometimes.

        I like the nested comment system for a lot of reasons, but that does seem like a pretty significant benefit of a flat one. I'm not sure if there's a reasonable way to bring that kind of ability into this system without making it too confusing, but it's good to think about.

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Yeah and unfortunately the two paradigms don't work so well together. Slack has threading under comments, but it really doesn't gel well with the flow of everything else and people almost never...

          Yeah and unfortunately the two paradigms don't work so well together. Slack has threading under comments, but it really doesn't gel well with the flow of everything else and people almost never use it in any of the workspaces I'm on.

          3 votes
          1. Wes
            Link Parent
            I see people using Slack threading, but I always find it a bit irritating to use. It slows me down having to open a dedicated page or sidebar to view threads. And the implementation is poor; you...

            I see people using Slack threading, but I always find it a bit irritating to use. It slows me down having to open a dedicated page or sidebar to view threads. And the implementation is poor; you have to click to view new comments frequently when having a conversation with someone.

            I only use threads when there's an active conversation going on that I don't want to interrupt.

            5 votes
      2. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        I agree. One way of doing this would be to remove the 'reply' option from people's inboxes, so that the only way to reply to someone else's comment is to click through to the thread (where you see...

        A focus on directing them to the thread itself would be a step in the right direction.

        I agree. One way of doing this would be to remove the 'reply' option from people's inboxes, so that the only way to reply to someone else's comment is to click through to the thread (where you see the context in which everyone can see your comment).

        4 votes
  4. [3]
    kfwyre
    Link
    Some scattered thoughts: I'm strongly in favor of an "argumentative/bickering" tag. We need a way of letting users know they need to cool off. I think it's important for the bulk of users to have...

    Some scattered thoughts:

    1. I'm strongly in favor of an "argumentative/bickering" tag.

    We need a way of letting users know they need to cool off. I think it's important for the bulk of users to have the ability to flag these, as the outbreak of an argument itself is an indicator that one or more parties has lost sight of our cultural norms. As such, the observers are the ones who should be putting things back on track, as it's unlikely to happen with the involved parties themselves. Having it come from uninvolved users can also help any redirection feel more neutral or positive than punitive. I'd like for the cool down period to come across more as "take a break" than "you're on thin ice."

    It's important for the bulk of us to be able to use them because I don't think any single label of this type should have weight. If only one label did it, people could use it to target individuals they don't like. Instead, I think it should take effect only when multiple users flag a single comment as argumentative. That way there is some observer consensus that the comment has crossed the line. Furthermore, this could create a sort of "grace period" during which the user could be encouraged to edit their response. If a cool-down period occurs after, say, three argumentative labels are applied to a comment, notifying the user (and only the user -- this should not be public) on the first and second could give them time to change their post before they get a third.

    I also think there's a benefit to a sort of progressive discipline. If a user receives enough argumentative tags to goes through the cool down then returns to the same conversation and does not receive another one, that's a good thing! The correction worked. On the other hand, if they return to the conversation and receive another one, it's clear that the correction didn't work, so something else needs to happen. My thoughts are: lock down commenting in a single thread; then a single topic; then sitewide. We could also add a progression to the time of the cooldown (e.g. 10 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day).

    1. Manual disengagement should be an easy, structurally supported option.

    Give users the power to turn off notifications for responses and mentions, ideally with options for different levels (e.g. comment, thread, topic, and site-wide). Give them the options to hide topics from their feed. Make it such that if I decide to exit a conversation, I can make it such that it never crosses my radar again.

    It might even be worth making this known to other users. For example, if I've commented in topic A, and then I opt to hide topic A in my feed, anyone who goes to respond to my comments can be given a notification (much like the week-old one) that I've disengaged from the thread. They can still choose to comment if they want (especially if their comment is more for the community rather than me), but this lets them know not to expect a response from me, and, of course, I don't receive a notification that they've done so.

    If we do implement some form of argumentative label, we could even tie it in with disengagement. For example, if I mark a comment as argumentative in a topic as an observer, I could be asked if I would like to disengage with the topic entirely and hide it. This could be good for me because I'm worried things might go downhill and I'd rather not watch the decline. The same could go for participants in threads who receive the labels themselves. Upon receiving one of them, they could be asked if they wish to disengage the thread, which would allow them the opportunity to step away before potentially going in to do more damage.

    1. Nudge the user before they submit.

    This is a shot in the dark idea, but we could identify common words that occur in argumentative posts (e.g. stupid, ridiculous). If a user submits a comment to the site with a few of them in it, they can get a nudge before confirming the submission. Something like "this post has words that might make it come across as argumentative -- are you sure you want to submit it?"

    Certainly there will be some false positives (meta discussions, posts about geometry containing the word "obtuse", etc.), but this could prompt a "think before you post" moment for users caught up in the heat of the moment. I also don't think it should ever stop someone from submitting, just give them the opportunity to change things if needed before they do.

    This also gives us the added benefit of knowing that a user who has gone through with an argumentative post full of inflammatory language willfully submitted it despite being warned about it in advance. That's a much harder position for them to defend.

    7 votes
    1. mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      Like your 1 and 2, you express the same thoughts I have better than I could. Number 3 could get annoying though, it feels like those censorship policies for swear words that not only aren't...

      Like your 1 and 2, you express the same thoughts I have better than I could.

      Number 3 could get annoying though, it feels like those censorship policies for swear words that not only aren't effective at stopping people from using them (since they just use the bastardization versions of the words to get around) but also become grounds for mockery and distraction. This could then backfire as being annoyed is like a step closer to being angry, which we don't want. Rules are only as good as guidelines and punishments are only corrective measures. If we want to be preventive, we need ways to calm people down and keep everyone in a good mood. Although how to do so in the form of a mechanics on a social media platform, I have no idea. Maybe awarding people with "civil points" or something idk.

      5 votes
    2. Amarok
      Link Parent
      Yeah, this is good. Working in this sort of slow escalation with feedback just to that user is more nuanced than whacking people with labels in public. It's less likely to further inflame their...

      Yeah, this is good. Working in this sort of slow escalation with feedback just to that user is more nuanced than whacking people with labels in public. It's less likely to further inflame their tempers. We're not starting from scratch here, we have to help deprogram people from the instant fight reaction the rest of the internet has hammered into them over the past decade.

      2 votes
  5. mundane_and_naive
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm in favor of pretty much all suggestions here, especially the bickering label, as far as de-escalation is concerned. I also think there's room to explore more fine-grained options for our...

    I'm in favor of pretty much all suggestions here, especially the bickering label, as far as de-escalation is concerned. I also think there's room to explore more fine-grained options for our punishment system instead of just locking an entire thread for everyone (which is warranted only when the thread is sensitive enough that it affect pretty much everyone) or banning a user from the whole site (either temporary or permanently, which is sensible if the person display consistent misdemeanors).

    More frequently, bickering happens between a few people over a specific issue and it may only arise circumstantially due to a commenter's poor choice of words or whatever. So I think smaller-scale actions that are applied more frequently but narrowly may be more effective to prevent an argument from gaining enough momentum to reach ban-worthy level of toxicity, while also not to affect the flow of discussions, as well as the person's ability to participate in other threads if they largely remain civil. Maybe something like stopping a user from commenting for different amounts of time (minutes, hours, days...) and apply it with different degrees of locality (only the comment chain that the bickering is going on, the thread that they're picking a fight with everyone in, group-wide or site-wide for recurring behaviors).

    5 votes
  6. NaraVara
    (edited )
    Link
    Ah one approach just struck me from how Kinja used to work. Only trusted (starred) users had their posts automatically shown to everyone. Everyone else had to have their post promoted by an editor...

    Ah one approach just struck me from how Kinja used to work. Only trusted (starred) users had their posts automatically shown to everyone. Everyone else had to have their post promoted by an editor or a trusted user before it was visible. Otherwise it languishes in a sort of purgatory zone where people have to click through to a “see all comments” button.

    That’s not the important feature though. The key is that replying to a post automatically promotes it. This does a pretty good job of discouraging people from trying to get the last word in and really discourages people from feeding the trolls.

    I’m not sure how that would translate here. I don’t think we’d want to start demoting/promoting posts. But maybe comments that are too deep down in a thread just aren’t visible unless they’re replied to or specifically labeled.

    5 votes
  7. [3]
    VoidOutput
    Link
    I'm sorry not to have a good rationale for this idea, but I just thought it could be interesting: maybe some discussions don't need to be stopped, maybe they need to be isolated and contained....

    I'm sorry not to have a good rationale for this idea, but I just thought it could be interesting: maybe some discussions don't need to be stopped, maybe they need to be isolated and contained. What I mean by that is, when a conversation devolves into a different argument, we could label the root comment of that conversation when it turned. And it would create a link to a comment page dedicated to that conversation. The rest of the surrounding conversation would be unaffected of course.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Don't worry, you don't need a rationale since we're just brainstorming here. And I think there might be some merit to what you're suggesting in spite of not having a rationale for it....

      Don't worry, you don't need a rationale since we're just brainstorming here. And I think there might be some merit to what you're suggesting in spite of not having a rationale for it. @mundane_and_naive touched on desiring more granular options for dealing with these sorts of issues, and partially quarantining discussions that maybe aren't quite deserving of removing entirely but are still unproductive and likely to cause more fighting, might be worth exploring, IMO.

      3 votes
      1. Eva
        Link Parent
        @VoidOutput Hacker News has a feature roughly to that effect; they call it detaching, though.

        @VoidOutput

        Hacker News has a feature roughly to that effect; they call it detaching, though.

        2 votes
  8. [2]
    Amarok
    Link
    I've been pondering the concept of "agree to disagree" lately. There will be discussions where two parties are not going to be able to find common ground, and the only polite interaction is to...

    I've been pondering the concept of "agree to disagree" lately. There will be discussions where two parties are not going to be able to find common ground, and the only polite interaction is to walk away once both sides have had their say. I think the saying is still relevant, people understand what it means to agree to disagree. I also like this because it's less negatively phrased than some other suggested mechanics such as pedantic or bickering tags. Those could be interpreted as prickly.

    I'm not sure how exactly to turn that into a mechanic that allows two people to successfully disengage from a heated exchange. Should it be up to the two arguing parties, or should the rest of the users be able to add that to an exchange somehow, like bystanders breaking up a fight? Perhaps we want both? Should it trip a posting cooldown? Or should it just hide that interaction chain from the rest of the users so they aren't bothered by it?

    Do we have an [agree to disagree] button that, once used by either party, terminates the exchange and any future notifications caused by the two parties in that part of the thread? We can't really do this with a label, can we? This is something else, something like a final reply. Calling it the 'last word' is probably a bad idea.

    This seems like it might be related to the idea we've talked about in the past for a 'changed my mind' mechanic like CMV's delta system. That one can be a label, but maybe it's better if it's more than that.

    Aren't we looking more at the mechanics of a conversation with this stuff than we are at labeling the content of said conversation correctly? What are the mechanics of a healthy conversation, anyway? Anyone with debate club experience here want to chime in on this? Is there some set of rules we use in real life that could be copied and enhanced into the basic forum mechanics to facilitate keeping conversations healthy somehow? Something more flexible and nuanced than just hitting reply and vote, then later responding to notifications in your inbox?

    Could we tie 'reminders' and 'save for later' mechanics into this too? Sometimes I want to reply but don't have the time, and may not remember later, so it'd be nice to have a way to keep track. The reminder notifications crap up reddit all the time.

    It just seems like there's a missing subsystem lurking in here, somewhere.

    4 votes
    1. mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      People always have the power to stop themselves from escalating by just not replying anymore. If the back-and-forth reach a stage where neither do so means that any mechanics we implement for them...

      Do we have an [agree to disagree] button that, once used by either party, terminates the exchange and any future notifications caused by the two parties in that part of the thread?

      People always have the power to stop themselves from escalating by just not replying anymore. If the back-and-forth reach a stage where neither do so means that any mechanics we implement for them wouldn't get touched by either. So, intervention needs to come from a third party.

      The easiest way is probably to just have a dedicated mod position whose sole job is diffusing argument. They can send "official" warning in the form of whisper comment, or removing the reply button on specific comments or comment chains that tend to get aflame, or more. Of course this person need to have a solid reputation among the community for it to work but that will probably be the job for the much anticipated trust system.

      2 votes
  9. [2]
    Deimos
    Link
    I haven't read through it yet, but there might be some good thoughts in this thread from HN yesterday: Ask HN: How to be less argumentative online?

    I haven't read through it yet, but there might be some good thoughts in this thread from HN yesterday: Ask HN: How to be less argumentative online?

    4 votes
    1. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      LOL, this one really resonated with me as a hardcore Trekkie: I think I will have to give that a try in the future.

      LOL, this one really resonated with me as a hardcore Trekkie:

      Might seem stupid, but I found the following thought experiment interesting. Discovered it on Reddit.

      The OP was working in the finance sector surrounded by people whose values conflicted with his.

      He wrote something like this:

      If you are in an environment surrounded by people with whom you disagree, pretend that you are a Federation officer in an exchange program serving on a Ferengi vessel. Most of the crew’s values will bother you, but you’re not there to correct Ferengi culture. You’re there to learn whatever there is to learn from them and contribute in a positive way to the running of the ship. Being combative won’t change the Ferengi, but your positive example might update some views.

      I think I will have to give that a try in the future.

      5 votes
  10. [5]
    kfwyre
    Link
    I've been thinking a lot about this, and I have a somewhat tangential thought: We do a great job of focusing on how we can structure the site to be the most effective discussion platform it can...

    I've been thinking a lot about this, and I have a somewhat tangential thought:

    We do a great job of focusing on how we can structure the site to be the most effective discussion platform it can be. This is great and vitally important, but it does have some limitations. The last leg of a comment is always in our hands in the form of what we write. The site's structure and mechanics are a way of setting the table, but it's up to us users to eat politely.

    I think looking at that "last leg" could also be valuable, as we could identify social strategies that commenters can use to help avoid conflict in the first place. What can we do within our own posts to help keep things constructive? How can we better frame and phrase things to help prevent outbursts, arguments, and hostility? What can we say to help de-escalate conversations that are starting to get tense?

    I don't want to necessarily derail this thread by encouraging people to chase this rabbit, but maybe this could be a discussion thread for a different week, @cfabbro?

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I agree that there is only so much Tildes can do to facilitate productive/healthy discussion, although I think people vastly underestimate how profound an effect site mechanics and UI elements can...

      I agree that there is only so much Tildes can do to facilitate productive/healthy discussion, although I think people vastly underestimate how profound an effect site mechanics and UI elements can have on user behavior. But the reason I focus these discussions almost exclusively on that sort of thing is because that is what I actually have experience with (having contributed to /r/theoryofreddit and modded /r/ideasfortheadmins for years), and so I can actually provide constructive feedback to users on those subjects. The results of these sorts of discussions are also actually actionable by me through Gitlab as well.

      Whereas, discussions on site culture, social strategies, and individuals' actions is something I feel neither qualified or comfortable with handling. And frankly, in my experience, those sorts of more abstract discussions tend to be pretty unproductive overall, as they often result in people using it as an excuse to air their grievances without actually discussing meaningful ways to improve things.

      However, with that said, I would love to be proven wrong there and would certainly be willing to take on one or more "co-hosts" who do feel comfortable with those sorts of topics, or even hand the reins of the weekly discussion over to a "guest host" on occasion too. So if you or anyone else feels particularly passionate about a topic like that, think it's worthy of being a weekly discussion and also think you can keep the discussion from going completely off the rails (keeping in mind that only Deimos has the ability to lock topics and remove comments ATM)... let me know and we can try to work out the logistics. :)

      @NaraVara too, since you mentioned discussion on similar ideas.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        I'm up for "co-hosting", though I don't want to take away from your regularly scheduled programming. I already derailed your thread once, and I don't want that to happen again! :) Don't reroute...

        I'm up for "co-hosting", though I don't want to take away from your regularly scheduled programming. I already derailed your thread once, and I don't want that to happen again! :) Don't reroute your plans on my behalf, but if you want to throw me at the back of the queue, that's fine.

        And just to be clear, I am not trying to take away from structural discussions at all! I don't want you to think this is a critique of using structure or mechanics to affect behavior. I am an incredibly strong believer of that concept.

        Instead, I'm just looking at it from a teaching perspective. This is my real life "moderator" role where I have to behaviorally manage kids all day long. Teaching generally breaks "classroom management," as it's called, into a couple of pieces: structure and routines, progressive discipline, and instruction.

        Here on Tildes we do a lot of discussion on parts one (structures and routines/mechanics) and two (progressive discipline/consequences), but I haven't seen much given to part three (instruction), which was why I brought it up.

        In teaching, if someone is continually running into discipline issues, it's sometimes an indicator that they lack a necessary skill. Teaching them that skill would be part of the process of getting them back on track and preventing future misbehavior. Discipline can only meaningfully change behavior long-term if the individual is equipped with compensatory skills that help them navigate around whatever was causing the issues in the first place. We want to discipline misbehavior in the classroom, not inability.

        Mapping this idea to Tildes, I think that, given the amount of "misbehavior" that is not just tolerated but encouraged elsewhere online, it's likely we'll have some users whose line crossings come not from wanting to overstep our rules but from weak communication skills or poor messaging strategies. I envision a resource that we could create with pro-social commmunication techniques that we could point people to if we find that they're being flagged for argument/malice frequently. That way, receiving structural discipline from the site isn't just a slap on the wrist but a potential for improvement.

        3 votes
        1. cfabbro
          Link Parent
          I would be totally cool with and absolutely welcome a co-host, especially since that would help these unofficial weekly discussions branch out into areas I am not particularly comfortable with but...

          I would be totally cool with and absolutely welcome a co-host, especially since that would help these unofficial weekly discussions branch out into areas I am not particularly comfortable with but that are still important to discuss. I still have a ton of topics I would like to see discussed, but none are critical they be discussed immediately... so I am totally fine with alternating with someone who I trust. Which is to say, if you feel you're up to the task, welcome aboard! (I'll PM you with some contact details)

          And just to be clear, I am not trying to take away from structural discussions at all!

          No worries, I never assumed you were... and I absolutely do see the value of your discussion topic suggestions, it's just that as I mentioned, I don't feel particularly qualified to handle them myself.

          but I haven't seen much given to part three (instruction)

          I think again that comes down the qualifications bit. I certainly don't feel comfortable or qualified to "instruct" people on behavior other than in a "hey, maybe don't do that" kinda way... especially since any more than that would make me a bit of a hypocrite considering I am guilty of misbehavior on occasion here too. ;) And I imagine many other people feel similar, so it's a bit of an awkward/hard topic to discuss under those circumstances for most people.

          I envision a resource that we could create with pro-social commmunication techniques that we could point people to if we find that they're being flagged for argument/malice frequently.

          I support that wholeheartedly, and Deimos has even mentioned in the past implementing potential mechanisms like that. E.g. If a person's comments frequently get "noise" labeled, automatically sending them a message pointing to a resource on why that sort of comment is discouraged here, with a guide on how to contribute more meaningfully in the future. I just think that again, most of us here don't necessarily feel comfortable/qualified to write that sort of material. But given your background in teaching, along with your temperament, you may actually be the ideal candidate to help us with that. :)

          3 votes
      2. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I'm comfortable discussing them, but the truth is website design offers very few levers to effect it. The main way to reinforce culture is through social negative and postiive reinforcement...

        Whereas, discussions on site culture, social strategies, and individuals' actions is something I feel neither qualified or comfortable with handling.

        I'm comfortable discussing them, but the truth is website design offers very few levers to effect it. The main way to reinforce culture is through social negative and postiive reinforcement mechanisms (shame and praise, basically) and reputation. Anonymity and the ability to form a new identity on the fly makes the latter challenging to manage and the reinforcing mechanisms need a certain level of commitment from the user base that's hard to manage at scale (Eternal September problem).

        All the same, you can design small UX nudges and interaction paradigms that encourage people to form these connections. That's kind of what I was getting at in this comment where making every interaction 1-to-1 (with a silent audience) rather than 1-to-an audiencemakes it easy for people to lose track of how they're coming across and makes them not listen to themselves as they're talking. The comment about more visual cues to differentiate posters from each other was similar, by creating a stronger visual marker that the post is made by a person with feelings and a personality it could, maybe, tamp down on assumptions of bad faith.

        2 votes
  11. ibis
    Link
    I would love a 'block user' feature which hid my posts/comments from their view (or just blocked them from replying to me or mentioning me). I am open to new ideas, but I have already identified...

    Add "block user" feature
    This would more effectively allow people to avoid arguments but has some potential downsides worth considering as well, e.g. users getting trapped in a filter bubble. However, other than for moderators, that is probably not a major drawback compared to the benefits, IMO.

    How deep the block goes is also something that probably needs to be investigated and discussed. E.g. Does blocking a user just prevent PMs? Does it prevent their replies from notifying the user? Does it hide their comments/topics, and if so does it hide all the replies to those hidden comments as well? Etc.

    I would love a 'block user' feature which hid my posts/comments from their view (or just blocked them from replying to me or mentioning me).

    I am open to new ideas, but I have already identified more than one user who I just don't want to talk to any more - not necessarily because of their ideas, but because of their tone. I'm sick of getting dragged into an unnecessarily hostile debating style. I'm aware that I am not perfect in this regard, but I want to be better.

    The downsides of this kind of block:

    • it's open to misuse (eg. blocking a user from replying so that you can get the last word, or blocking a user so that you can insult them without them seeing/being able to defend themselves).
    • in practice it might censor a social group's perspective from a discussion (eg. if a user consistently blocked all the women he came across, he may then be able to make a post about women which most women would be unable to comment on).
    • will probably be used to block opposing ideologies instead of just an argumentative tone, which may lead to echo chamber comment sections.

    The upsides:

    • people could pro-actively avoid arguments without filtering different views,
    • gives people a small degree of control over who can read their posts,
    • pro-actively avoids abuse and the escalation of bad relationships,
    • the user experience would be more comfortable if you were less worried about the next abrasive reply you might get.
    1 vote
  12. [2]
    blanknam3d
    Link
    One thing I want to add on as well, I wish the comment box was at the top. At the very least, make it a user-customizable setting. I personally don't like scrolling to the very bottom to make a...

    One thing I want to add on as well, I wish the comment box was at the top. At the very least, make it a user-customizable setting. I personally don't like scrolling to the very bottom to make a comment.

    1 vote
    1. Eylrid
      Link Parent
      That's a deliberate design decision. It encourages people to read the other comments before adding their own. On posts with tons of comments a lot of what people have to say has already been said....

      That's a deliberate design decision. It encourages people to read the other comments before adding their own. On posts with tons of comments a lot of what people have to say has already been said. For example look at pretty much any popular post on reddit and sort the comments by new. What you'll see is a lot of duplicate comments and a lot of noise. There are a number of previous discussions on the topic, here is one: https://tildes.net/~tildes/ov/we_gotta_move_the_comment_box_from_the_bottom_of_the_comments_to_the_top#comment-335

      7 votes