21 votes

Discussion of politics going forward?

@Deimos has expressed some concern about political discussions in the future here and I'll quote some of it:

Personally, I'd like to try and reduce the amount of politics overall on the site in the near future. It's tiresome, exhausting, and the source of the large majority of the arguments and problems on the site in general. I don't know if I'll need to try to force that to happen or not—hopefully things will start going back to being relatively boring again.

I agree that some people have trouble discussing politics and that, in turn, this causes problems with moderating a space such as Tildes.

However, I believe that it is important for people to educate themselves and, in this case, discussion could be very helpful.

One way in which this could be accomplished here is that politics be discussed in a framework of academics. For example, we could discuss things such as constitutional law or parliamentary democracy.

This is much in the same way that r/AskBibleScholars approaches the Biblical texts in an academic fashion that examines the texts, archeology, etc.

Basically, discuss politics outside of pop culture.

26 comments

  1. [5]
    spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    I think the goal should be to reduce the amount of time Deimos has to spend moderating political discussions. Having more in-depth and academic discussions is definitely a good thing, but I don't...
    • Exemplary

    One way in which this could be accomplished here is that politics be discussed in a framework of academics. For example, we could discuss things such as constitutional law or parliamentary democracy.

    I think the goal should be to reduce the amount of time Deimos has to spend moderating political discussions. Having more in-depth and academic discussions is definitely a good thing, but I don't think we want to make it a requirement because it puts Deimos in the position of having to spend a lot of time deciding "is this discussion academic enough to be allowed?"

    Something that's been suggested in previous threads about this, and I'm supportive of, would be some sort of "mandatory cooldown" period for commenting in contentious or argumentative threads.

    I like this idea because it would be relatively simple to implement on the backend and would have no impact on the vast majority of comment threads that remain civil.

    Sketch of how it might work:

    • An entire topic (or maybe just a comment subthread, or maybe both?) can be marked as "argumentative"

    • This could either be done manually just by Deimos (simplest option), or have a permission added (similar to tag editing / title editing / etc) that allows multiple users to flag the thread, and past a certain threshold it's automatically put into that mode.

    • If you're posting in a topic or comment tree that the site is treating as argumentative, your comments are limited by time. Simplest option here would be a "each user gets 1 comment per X minutes" rate or whatever. More complex options would be to implement some sort of exponential backoff, or add an extra delay when someone's in a back-and-forth with one other person, which seems to be a common way for threads to go off the rails. You would also probably want the rate limit to be site-wide across all argumentative threads.

    Another thing I like about this is that it focuses on the root problem - comment threads that are argumentative - rather than taking the most common source of argumentative threads (politics) and trying to special-case "if it's a politics thread, these extra rules apply..." which inevitably leads to hairsplitting about whether a given topic really counts as politics or not.

    This would also cause argumentative threads to naturally fall off the front page more quickly (assuming the default "activity sort"). Part of the reason those threads tend to snowball is the frequent back-and-forth of replies keeps them near the top of the page and draws more people in. Rate-limiting the replies would break that feedback loop.

    20 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This is separate from the larger discussion, but your comment here made me think of it: I'm also wondering if it might be beneficial to have something like a "low activity" feed that eliminates...

      This would also cause argumentative threads to naturally fall off the front page more quickly (assuming the default "activity sort"). Part of the reason those threads tend to snowball is the frequent back-and-forth of replies keeps them near the top of the page and draws more people in. Rate-limiting the replies would break that feedback loop.

      This is separate from the larger discussion, but your comment here made me think of it: I'm also wondering if it might be beneficial to have something like a "low activity" feed that eliminates any topic with a high volume of discussion -- a way of self-selecting a quieter/cozier feed from the available topics on Tildes. Not only would it be a nice option to have for when things get lively (as they certainly have been recently), I think it would also be a good way of highlighting topics that could benefit from comments. Every day on Tildes I see interesting stuff hit the main page and then fall off due to a lack of responses, and I'm thinking a structural way of extending their life a bit might yield more discussions on them.

      19 votes
      1. Atvelonis
        Link Parent
        Great idea! Sorting by new almost serves this purpose, but doesn't actually prevent smaller threads from slipping through the cracks if they aren't right at the top of the feed. I would be...

        Great idea! Sorting by new almost serves this purpose, but doesn't actually prevent smaller threads from slipping through the cracks if they aren't right at the top of the feed. I would be interested in seeing some sort of customizable feature here, where you could specify what exactly qualifies as "low activity"; I'd be interested in having adjustable values for both an absolute number of comments and their frequency within a user-specified time frame. That might be too complex to actually implement, but I think it would be valuable.

        7 votes
    2. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I think you have hit upon the core behavior pattern and your proposal is an interesting behavior modifier. I think it's particularly appropriate, given my inclination to believe that the frequency...

      Another thing I like about this is that it focuses on the root problem - comment threads that are argumentative - rather than taking the most common source of argumentative threads (politics)

      I think you have hit upon the core behavior pattern and your proposal is an interesting behavior modifier. I think it's particularly appropriate, given my inclination to believe that the frequency of political posts is likely to taper off in the near future. So addressing the particular behavior pattern we're seeing seems like a better focus for success in the long term.

      12 votes
    3. GoingMerry
      Link Parent
      I like the rate-limiting idea! Aside from the effects you mentioned, it might also encourage users to post a more “thorough” response, knowing they won’t be able to clarify for x amount of time.

      I like the rate-limiting idea!

      Aside from the effects you mentioned, it might also encourage users to post a more “thorough” response, knowing they won’t be able to clarify for x amount of time.

      7 votes
  2. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    I do think that politics has taken up outsize space on Tildes recently and am in full favor of efforts to make our conversations better, but I will also say that I very much value Tildes because I...

    I do think that politics has taken up outsize space on Tildes recently and am in full favor of efforts to make our conversations better, but I will also say that I very much value Tildes because I feel like the quality of political discussion here is miles better than nearly anything else I see online. Against my better judgment and sleep schedule, I've spent the past month or so trawling other sources of news and political discussion, and I am not exaggerating when I say that nearly all of the political commentary I see elsewhere consists almost entirely of pithy hot takes, blanket accusations and name-calling, and contentious arguments steeped in bad faith.

    We certainly have our frictions here, and my view is undoubtedly skewed to the positive partially because I haven't witnessed some of our worst moments on account of @Deimos's ever-vigilant moderation, but I think it's genuinely worth celebrating that we have had many political threads come and go and they haven't been complete dumpster fires.

    One thing I love about Tildes is that we're not happy to merely hold ourselves to beating such a low bar of "better than a dumpster fire". So many people here have a yearning for community improvement and betterment that I find inspiring, and I think this thread comes from that place. I do think, however, that in our strivings for more we should take accurate stock of where we currently are, and the truth, as I see it, is that our political conversations do not even come close to the horrific depths I see elsewhere. Yes, there are some things that are wrong here, but there is also a lot that is right too. Let's not lose sight of that.

    37 votes
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      You have a way with words! Thank you.

      You have a way with words! Thank you.

      7 votes
  3. [6]
    precise
    Link
    For what it's worth I haven't seen much of any unproductive discourse or bad faith tactics around politics here. As others of said, that's to @Deimos' credit thankfully. I would like to bring up...

    For what it's worth I haven't seen much of any unproductive discourse or bad faith tactics around politics here. As others of said, that's to @Deimos' credit thankfully. I would like to bring up the increasing reach of politics in almost every section of conversation. It seems in this "hyper-partisan age" politics infiltrates where it wasn't meant to exist. Seemingly common sense stuff that should be bipartisan like climate action, racial justice, etc. I mean maybe this is my bias showing, but these all seem like no-brainers and that they have become politicized is a shame. I have no problems with limits on political discussions if people feel they are too detrimental. I have no problems with special rules around political discussions to promote quality content. I think I would have a problem with a blanket politics ban.

    I also think that if we are to grow as a community, not necessarily in size but in status and quality, fostering difficult conversations into productive discourse is important. That said, that's really easy for a non-moderator to say.

    16 votes
    1. [5]
      RNG
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      You sketched out a good reason why we shouldn't do anything about politics on the site. Everything is political. I disagree that this is due to being in a partisan age. Your rent, your career, the...
      • Exemplary

      You sketched out a good reason why we shouldn't do anything about politics on the site.

      Everything is political.

      I disagree that this is due to being in a partisan age. Your rent, your career, the pandemic, climate change (and everything that affects it,) your sexuality, your race, your economic background, tech company mergers, moderation, your medical bills, truly everything is political. It's hard to find any subject worth talking about that, when analyzed, isn't political.

      And that's okay.

      If we either banned, rate limited, or otherwise did away with "politics" we'd find ourselves more often then not having nothing of substance to talk about. Lastly, it's important to remember that political neutrality always favors the privileged. It is far easier the more privileged you are to avoid considering the political content of a discussion (e.g. "colorblindness", uncritical discussion of criminal justice/foreign policy, etc.)

      Politics always exists whenever one imagines a way the world could be better. Limiting political discussion always benefits those wishing to maintain the status quo.

      17 votes
      1. [5]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. RNG
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I really appreciate the difference you articulated here. This is a really good way to think about it. I don't really care about "politics" regarding how progressive someone thinks Biden will be...

          I really appreciate the difference you articulated here. This is a really good way to think about it.

          I don't really care about "politics" regarding how progressive someone thinks Biden will be open to being (I honestly don't read threads where his name is used,) whether Trump get's charged (I'd rather never see or hear that name again,) what happens with congressional rules being decided upon, whether a republican get's banned or "cancelled", etc. I do care about what businesses do, about the pandemic and the millions who've died worldwide, about international affairs, about the criminal "justice" system, about the relationship between tech monopolies and society, etc.

          I don't know where exactly to draw the line, as there is bleed through around the edges, but I agree with the sentiment that the former is boring and exhausting, and the latter is really the only things worth talking about.

          10 votes
        2. [3]
          bloup
          Link Parent
          I definitely agree with the substance of what you have written, however I think you are actually describing the opposite of "overloading" the term "politics". And I personally feel like if...

          I definitely agree with the substance of what you have written, however I think you are actually describing the opposite of "overloading" the term "politics". And I personally feel like if anything, people have a much too narrow understanding of what "politics" means. Specifically, the popular conception of "politics" is basically "the affairs of states" (and I think you captured that idea pretty nicely with your 'a bunch of (mostly rich and old) people playing favorites with each other and being annoying on TV' remark). But really "politics", in general, is simply any situation where you have some kind of association of individuals who are trying to make decisions as a group. Which I think covers basically any source of discourse around, and anything that you can talk about that is truly apolitical amounts to little more than smalltalk and taste-sharing.

          4 votes
          1. [3]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. [2]
              bloup
              Link Parent
              Well yes, this is what I thought you meant, however it seems to me that the problem is that "politics" doesn't mean enough things anymore.

              Well yes, this is what I thought you meant, however it seems to me that the problem is that "politics" doesn't mean enough things anymore.

              4 votes
              1. [2]
                Comment deleted by author
                Link Parent
                1. bloup
                  Link Parent
                  Yeah but I don't think anyone is including those sorts of politics when they say stuff "The two things you should never talk about are politics and religion". But maybe I see what you mean by...

                  Yeah but I don't think anyone is including those sorts of politics when they say stuff "The two things you should never talk about are politics and religion". But maybe I see what you mean by overloading now.

                  4 votes
  4. tempestoftruth
    Link
    I wouldn't agree with establishing a guideline like this. Academia tends to focus on certain aspects of politics (like the ones you mention) to the detriment of others (popular movements, debt...

    One way in which this could be accomplished here is that politics be discussed in a framework of academics. For example, we could discuss things such as constitutional law or parliamentary democracy.

    I wouldn't agree with establishing a guideline like this. Academia tends to focus on certain aspects of politics (like the ones you mention) to the detriment of others (popular movements, debt strikes, tenants' unions). There is more to politics than just the state and restricting political discussion to what academics have created frameworks for would exclude a lot of activity that counts as politics and is worth discussing. Just my two cents.

    As someone who occasionally does get caught up in those highly contentious threads, I agree with the proposal to mark certain threads and limit the speed with which people can reply to one another. It would help me keep things in perspective when those threads heat up, so to speak, and I'd guess it would also lighten the moderation load by quite a bit while still allowing those discussions to take place.

    15 votes
  5. nukeman
    (edited )
    Link
    It might be inspiring to look toward subreddits like r/Moderatepolitics, r/NeutralPolitics, r/geopolitics, r/CredibleDefense, and r/Tuesday for rules. Some possibilities include: Requiring...

    It might be inspiring to look toward subreddits like r/Moderatepolitics, r/NeutralPolitics, r/geopolitics, r/CredibleDefense, and r/Tuesday for rules. Some possibilities include:

    • Requiring submission statements for link posts

    • Requiring sources for comments and text posts

    • A whitelist or blacklist of sources

    • A focus on policy rather than politics/politicians where possible

    • Tone/argument policing (e.g., assume good faith)

    Thoughts? Those subs, which have at least one of those rules, tend to have much better, more substantial discussion, and less hot-takery. Not all of them may be right for Tildes, but it is a useful starting point.

    Another option is creating a ~politics, although I know that is more of a last resort. It could help contain overtly political talk to one area. If not a group, maybe a harder tag that is easy to filter out?

    13 votes
  6. [3]
    mrbig
    Link
    I agree with Deimos here. Current politics is inherently contentious and those discussions probably do more harm than good. Abstract/historical/philosophical/distanced/unemotional discussions...

    I agree with Deimos here. Current politics is inherently contentious and those discussions probably do more harm than good.

    Abstract/historical/philosophical/distanced/unemotional discussions about politics that concern ~humanities and ~finance, however, should be allowed in my view.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      and ~tech, ~enviro, ~health, ~news, ~science, etc.
      6 votes
      1. mrbig
        Link Parent
        I suppose so. But I cannot see how ~news could ever house political content without it being current (in other words, ~news is about news...).

        I suppose so. But I cannot see how ~news could ever house political content without it being current (in other words, ~news is about news...).

        3 votes
  7. [2]
    MonkeyPants
    Link
    I have a contrarian view. I think discussion on politics is extremely relevant in regards to the pandemic. In Germany for instance, the German government very carefully did not pre-empt any other...

    I have a contrarian view. I think discussion on politics is extremely relevant in regards to the pandemic.

    In Germany for instance, the German government very carefully did not pre-empt any other countries, even though the first vaccine was developed in Germany. Germany waited patiently for Europe to approve the vaccine and mostly stood in line with the rest of the European Union to receive vaccination doses.

    Germany now has huge vaccination centers that are sitting idle, as there are not enough vaccines.

    Europe negotiated a very good deal on the vaccination cost, but countries like Israel who spent a little more are a quarter vaccinated.

    Of course, I can't speak to the capacity of deimos to moderate political arguments.

    5 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Maybe when a subject becomes important in real life, it's a topic in itself, not a subsidiary of "politics?" One example: we have a weekly thread devoted to the pandemic, and this includes the...

      Maybe when a subject becomes important in real life, it's a topic in itself, not a subsidiary of "politics?"

      One example: we have a weekly thread devoted to the pandemic, and this includes the politics of the pandemic but goes beyond that.

      Also, I imagine immigration would be discussed differently if we had people discussing what it's like to live in a different country, and the various challenges associated with it, including immigration law but going beyond that.

      It seems like political discussions are more likely to go bad when nobody involved has personal experience. The controversy becomes everything.

      4 votes
  8. [2]
    Five
    Link
    I’m personally not a fan of the political posts it always seems to bring the worst out in people and swamp websites especially recently, I think the solution could be to have comments turned off...

    I’m personally not a fan of the political posts it always seems to bring the worst out in people and swamp websites especially recently,

    I think the solution could be to have comments turned off on political links and stop people posting political topics without a link attached, that way we still see the links content if we want to read it but don’t have a debate on every single topic posted.

    If the comments were turned off on political links we could then have a weekly scheduled political topic Where people can discuss political topics they have seen posted the previous week,

    Because people would have to wait until the weekly topic it would give them time to think about what they wanted to say and would stop them from commenting out of anger, it could result in a more civil intellectual scheduled political debate

    5 votes
    1. Good_Apollo
      Link Parent
      I would prefer this idea to a complete politics ban. +1

      I would prefer this idea to a complete politics ban. +1

  9. [4]
    Good_Apollo
    Link
    I think there’s room for politics on Tildes. Maybe keep it to a weekly/monthly thread only? Still it’s problematic because what’s politics? Any event, sociological, technological, and whatever can...

    I think there’s room for politics on Tildes. Maybe keep it to a weekly/monthly thread only?

    Still it’s problematic because what’s politics? Any event, sociological, technological, and whatever can bring politics into the picture because politics are a part of our world and affect everything.

    If people can’t behave then they get suspended or banned...isn’t that already the solution here?

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      I get it and I agree. I just believe that @Deimos is, personally, overwhelmed with moderating some of the heated and/or inappropriate comments. Maybe it is time for some of us here to have more...

      I get it and I agree. I just believe that @Deimos is, personally, overwhelmed with moderating some of the heated and/or inappropriate comments.

      Maybe it is time for some of us here to have more moderating powers other than just the creator of Tildes?

      4 votes
      1. Deimos
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Nah, it's really not that. It's mostly about the effects that politics has on the site culture, and especially how it makes people treat each other. Politics tends to make people extremely...

        Nah, it's really not that. It's mostly about the effects that politics has on the site culture, and especially how it makes people treat each other. Politics tends to make people extremely adversarial, more than they'd be for almost any other subject.

        People are almost never interested in changing their opinion about political topics at all, so arguments never make any progress, and both sides start resorting to condescension and hostility to still be able to feel like they're "winning". Relatively minor disagreements quickly escalate into people treating each other as enemies.

        It's not so much the moderation itself that's frustrating to me, it's that political content is the main contributor to turning Tildes into an environment that regularly needs moderation. Politics pushes the site in that direction far more than any other topic does.

        10 votes
      2. hungariantoast
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I think having at least one other user around who can lock topics and remove comments, even if they live in a similar timezone to Deimos, would be very helpful. When the topic about the storming...

        I think having at least one other user around who can lock topics and remove comments, even if they live in a similar timezone to Deimos, would be very helpful.

        When the topic about the storming of the Capitol got locked was the latest instance that I really felt the wish to have at least one other moderator.

        That topic was locked specifically because Deimos couldn't hang around and keep things civil, but it was also a historic moment and I would really like in the future if we could avoid locking those kinds of topics. The ability to share links and information about events like that in real-time here on Tildes is really helpful for me to stay up-to-date with an event throughout the day. I don't have a Twitter account, I generally don't want to visit Reddit, and I don't know of anywhere else I can find such a broad range of information in a pinch (and if anywhere else does exist, I seriously doubt it's comparable to Tildes).

        So yeah, we have this neat thing going on where we all come together and share news in real-time, facilitated by other social media sites, and it's usually just really nice. I enjoy it quite a bit, and it sucks for me when a topic like that gets locked.

        So having someone else who could have hung around and kept things functional would have been really great.

        5 votes