More Civil Discourse


Continuing the discussion from Soylent on Fox News (via FB):

The fact that we’re getting more and more people in the board is in fact an Awesome Thing. We have experts in specific fields commenting and adding to discussions, new perspectives on the whole DIY recipe paradigm (I think there are at least four or five ‘camps’ forming between food analogues and pure-powder-forms), and a number of questions being asked that simply haven’t been considered before.

This said, that larger range of people, by sheer statistical inevitability, will include those that are quick to react, are just here to vent, are overly emotional about a subject, or are simply mis-/un- informed, leaving the intentional troll aside.

So far we’ve been able to handle ourselves pretty well, but in light of a recent subject that is on the verge of being barred from discussion entirely despite the interest many have in it (and the need for a thread of said subject that doesn’t degrade into a gripe fest), this is starting to become a Problem.

For now, this has been a case of a couple bad apples, and some folks that aren’t familiar in how to respond.

So, the intention of this topic is to discuss how best to handle said behavior, from both a community perspective and a moderator perspective. Keep in mind that posting on the thread ‘don’t feed the trolls’ itself fuel to a flame war. That can more easily be moved to a PM to the feeder; they’re probably more reasonable to talk to anyways.

I’ll leave @Rick to continue from here, with a couple [additions]:

Another suggestion for moderators would also be an ‘n° Strikes rule.’ This isn’t a ‘three strikes rule,’ it’s a n-degree strikes rule. I think it’s fair to assume that three minor infractions shouldn’t cause a suspension or ban when after two major strikes a third probably shouldn’t be given the chance.

As for the community at large, my best suggestion so far is to encourage the use of the flag system (‘off-topic’ and ‘inappropriate’ are underused, me thinks), and if it fits under neither of these, strike up a conversation in private, and learn about your fellow human. You’d be surprised at what you may find.

Moderators, do you have any input in this regard? What can the community at large do to make your jobs easier?

ps: maybe we should just create a ‘logical fallacies’ or ‘common misconceptions’ thread and point people there in PM when they slip up. I doubt we’ve seen the last of the ‘soylent green is PEOPLE! ew!’ threads, after all.


I concur with the recommendation to use the “off-topic” and “inappropriate” flags, although that does require trusting the moderators. So far they’ve done a great job :smiley:

Re “logical fallacies” - do you mean something like Your Logical Fallacy Is, or something more Soylent-tailored like “You’re assuming that just because we’ve always eaten this way in the past, that means it’s the best thing to eat”? By the way, I think the present tense is better than the past, because the person in question is in the process of believing something for a fallacious reason, at the time it’s pointed out to them.

I do think that setting up the delay between setting-up-account and posting is good, but it would have to be done in conjunction with clearly stating to a not-logged-in user that this is being done (somewhat akin to the way EU regulations now force websites to announce that they are setting cookies - this is usually done with a one-time banner across the bottom of the page).

In the spirit of “hold off on proposing solutions”, I note that:

  • most members of the community are (or appear to be) good at not replying angrily in haste, and therefore presumably know when other people shouldn’t be replying;
  • it would be nice if everyone knew how to behave, but that is quite hard to teach
  • it would also be nice if everyone didn’t mind being told how to behave
  • an angry person is not guaranteed to read any resources we have on not being angry, and may well just get angrier

With that in mind, the thing to do (it seems to me) is to have some kind of flag that makes it either compulsory or optional for the author of the post to tap out for a while. If compulsory, it would give lots of power to a single person (what about married people?), but we already have a person with lots of power - namely, the moderators. So I think that a flag for “recommend to a moderator that this person be unable to post in this thread for at least an hour” is an option. Although I don’t have time to get my head around the Discourse code to add it myself, it seems like it would be a fairly easy thing to add, as the flagging mechanism is already there.


If the discourse code & database are easily accessible / modifiable, that would be awesome. Though I have to giggle a little bit at the idea of enforced ‘time-outs,’ but it actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ll admit, though, this discussion does start feeling like an attempt to reinvent the wheel. BBS has been a part of the internet since near its inception, and forums the web over have numerous methods to keep negative behaviors to a minimum. From waiting periods, to registration quizzes, to a number of other methods (see also: things I can’t remember, but feel I have encountered before.)

So, I guess in that same spirit, I wonder if there are any other recognizable behaviors or patterns that tend to crop up in discussion forums? What else can we make ourselves aware of so that we are not subject to similar pitfalls?


Unfortunately it seems that the worst thing you can do to a forum on the niceness front (aside from mandating an insult each post) is to let it grow - it’s a problem with people, not forums. Specifically, people behave very differently in person to how they behave in text, and the behaviour is exacerbated in certain cases - in particular, when meeting new people. Odd, because you’d have thought that the fact that everything’s happening so publicly would make people behave - scope insensitivity, I suppose. Perhaps a counter below each post/comment showing how many people have viewed the post/comment? That could possibly counter scope insensitivity, or at least make the issue more explicit.

I’ve never seen any solution actually work, but then I’ve not really frequented many forums, so I wouldn’t really be expected to. This is certainly the nicest forum I’ve ever been on, though, as with only a couple of exceptions, everyone seems to be friendly all the time. Possibly an example of that effect whose name I can’t remember, where people band together and form much more cohesive groups when they are collectively subjected to mockery from outside the group?

This isn’t meant to be holier-than-thou - I am, after all, a person, and hence I come under the category of “people”! (Achievement unlocked: Turing test pass.)


Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

The best solution I’ve seen in any community I’ve been part of is harsh and frequent elimination of obvious idiots. It takes a crack team of moderators with very clear guidelines.


I can see your point; statistically speaking this is definitely the case. We’re going to have an influx in population, and with it the curious as well as those caught up in the novelty of anonymity. Just as likely, though, we’re going to have the population die down. The difference is how we sort of ‘lead by example,’ and also, as you say, remove or deal with those that can’t handle anonymity with an audience.