View Full Version : Nitpicking
I've been a regular on the SDMB since December of 1997. During this time, I've seen a lot of different posting styles. One of these styles seems to have rubbed off on me: that of taking the other person's words and systematically replying to each concept they present separately. Being with the SDMB for so long, I adopted this style of replying to others.
I'm having second thoughts on this, though. It seems too much like "nitpicking," taking the other person's words apart and taking advantage of their particular wording, logic, and style of writing. So I'm asking, is this sort of reply the "norm" in the world of debating? I've never had a debate class, so I'd like to know. I don't want to be seen as a person who takes advantage of others' words, or as someone who will be "nitpicky" (is that a word?) with every post.
C K Dexter Haven
08-25-1999, 10:09 AM
Snark, IMHO, it can be an effective technique... but usually isn't. It usually makes for a VERRRRRRRRRY long post, when one quotes five or ten thoughts from someone else and then responds to each of them. I find the topics more manageabobble when the responder is more focused and more selective.
08-25-1999, 10:33 AM
And Snark, I'd respectfully disagree with CK. While I think that it would be nice if every post on these boards addressed one issue clearly and concisely, the fact is that most of them don't. Everybody has their own point of reference, their own world view, and that colors everything that they say. This isn't a bad thing. However, what often happens is that other tangential issues are raised unconsciously or unintentionally when someone responds to a post concerning a topic that they feel strongly about. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing: I've always sort of enjoyed seeing the evolution of various threads on the boards. But if you're trying to make a point about A, and someone disagrees by saying, "Well, A A B B A A B B B B," if you want to continue discussing A, then you're going to have to deal with their response one section at a time.
What I try to do to minimize the "long post" syndrome that CK mentioned is to cull the unimportant stuff from the response. This doesn't always work: sometimes I accidentally leave stuff out that the respondent truly believes is directly related, and sometimes I go back and read one of my posts and realize that I should probably have left out more. But I still think it's better to be explicit about which points you are responding to if you really want to stay on track.
08-25-1999, 10:38 AM
I agree with Bill and C.K. I've always viewed a message board to be more like writing a letter. This concept of cutting and pasting an entire post and responding to each line reinforces my observation that letter writing is a dead art. If I wanted conversation, I'd sign on to a chat room. But the point by point, quote by quote response becomes a very tedious way to deal with another's post, particularly when the response is something like "YEa right." We can do better than that, folks.
"Its fiction, but all the facts are true!"
08-25-1999, 10:47 AM
It's a really good way to look better--especially if you've run out of logical arguments.
Is there a term for that?
According to Pliny
08-25-1999, 11:12 AM
Personally, I find the practice very annoying. To me, it seems like nay-saying for the express purpose of bolstering one's own ego at the expense of someone else. These people could all use lessons in tact from people like Dex and Tom (tomndeb)
There's some people on this board who's opinions (valid though they may be) I simply ignore because I dislike their style of debate. I'm tempted to name names, but they know who they are and now they know why I avoid any interaction with them.
08-25-1999, 11:45 AM
Nitpicking is pretty annoying, I'm with you guys there! The problem is, with message boards, since there are no other cues (no body language, no tone of voice) as to what people mean, it gets really easy to misinterpret and pick whatever they said apart. Half the time, I think people get attacked on these boards for no other reason than phrasing their ideas poorly.
I try to just quote enough to make it clear what point I am commenting on, for instance:
corvidae said "Nitpicking is pretty annoying..." and I agree that it often is.
According to Pliny
08-25-1999, 01:21 PM
If they have, Veg, I haven't noticed. Maybe they do it in a way that doesn't just "cut/paste/bash" as Byz has so well described it.
08-25-1999, 01:33 PM
Hmmm. . . I guess it's all a matter of degree, then, Snark. You can not quote anything when responding, which has the upside of sounding more like "letter-writing," as SoxFan mentioned (although, personally, I don't see this as that much of an upside, since I *do* consider this forum more of a chat room than a series of correspondences), and which some people find more effective, but the downside of having points get lost as the thread evolves. Or you can "cut/paste/bash" as others have described, which has the upside of keeping points on track, but the downside of typically long posts which many find annoying. Or you can go somewhere in between. That's what I do, although, given several responses here, I guess I should try to cut down on the quoting. I just find it hard to keep the topic focused that way. Maybe, as someone pointed out, the "Great Debates" forum just lends itself to a quote-heavy style. . .
08-25-1999, 02:14 PM
I may have misunderstood, but I thought the point Snarkberry was making was NOT about quoting and responding to comments made by other posters.... I thought it was about trying to discount/discredit the point made because of words that were possibly misused.
( Case in Point: Abortion Cures Crime thread in GD where Slythe jumped on my use of the term "PC" )
Am I correct?
I interpreted Snarkberry as talking about the type of response where the original poster wrote: "Sentence A. Sentence B. Sentence C. Sentence D." and the respondent's post consists of:
Picks apart Sentence A.
Picks apart Sentence B.(etc.)
Without taking into account how the individual sentences work together to form a point that is missed when the post is picked apart sentence by sentence.
08-26-1999, 12:16 AM
IMHO - I like posts that just express the posters own opinion. I can read and think critically and I can see on what points you differ with another poster. I don't read or post much in the GD and in a forum like that I could see the necessity of quoting but not when it goes on for page after page. A short quote as above (TennHippie) is a style that I personally like and have used.
There are some posters out here that I don't even bother to read because they feel they must cut/paste/BASH and then give their opnion. I wish they would just give their opnion in the first place. I don't think you need to quote someone just to bash them and express the opposite.
The moon looks on many flowers, the flowers on but one moon.
08-26-1999, 12:35 AM
Am I misunderstanding Snark's question? I've seen Dex and Tom quote people and reply to specific parts of their posts lots of times.
08-26-1999, 12:46 AM
The master of the massive cut and paste of other people's posts, followed by a one or two line reply is Big Iron and his are among the most annoying on this board.
Yeah, Kat is right, that's what I was thinking of. Imagine you're a newbie here and someone picks apart your post that way. My reaction would be to find a different message board in that situation. Of course, I think there are times when responding to each point separately can be helpful, but I also think that common courtesy should dictate when this should happen and when it shouldn't. It's a tough call.
This concept of cutting and pasting an entire post and responding to each line reinforces my observation that letter writing is a dead art.
I dunno, Sox...a lot of my friends on the internet who write to me practice the chop-it-up-into-bitesize-pieces technique in their letters to me. I do the same with them, with one exception: if I don't have anything to say about a certain passage of their letter, I cut it out entirely. And moreover, if I feel their words are understood without having to quote them, I don't.
What I'm talking about is when an ENTIRE post is copied, then taken apart ("nitpicked"), regardless of how irrelevant the content. I'm not against quoting, I just think it should be used more selectively. :)
C K Dexter Haven
08-26-1999, 04:20 PM
<< Hmmm. . . >>
C'mon Veg, you shouldn't put spaces between the stops. Makes for a much longer post. Also, Hmmmm has four m's (that's one of Ian's requirements.)
<< I guess it's all a matter of degree, then, Snark. >>
Is the Snark a boojum?
<< You can not quote anything when responding, >>
Well, sure, depends on the context, eh?
<< which has the upside of sounding more like "letter-writing," >>
A lost art!
<< as SoxFan >>
Sigh. I can't get him to convert to the Cubs, no matter what I do. He's wrong in his religious preferences, too.
<< mentioned (although, personally, I don't see this as that much of an upside, since I *do* consider this forum more of a chat room than a series of correspondences), >>
My Lord, what a long parenthetical remark!
<< and which some people find more effective, but the downside of having points get lost as the thread evolves. >>
Ummm... I think I lost my train of thought.
08-26-1999, 04:59 PM
Well, since ckdh beat me to the parody cut-and-paste, I'll just make my point... :)
The cut-and-paste response can be valid when:
1. It's a complex topic with many parts. Hey, some things just aren't simple.
2. It's easier to requote and give a simple response to each point, rather than have to restate everything in long prose paragraphs. It just saves time.
3. You're replying to several people and you want to make it clear what you're responding to.
4. Sometimes a pretentious twit needs to have all their points torn apart to show that they don't know what the hell they're talking about.
The cut-and-paste can be abused when:
1. The cut-and-paster is the pretentious twit who's just generating noise.
2. It would be simpler to stick to a single, important point on which all the other points are hinged. No need to argue minor points when the base point is unresolved.
3. The topic is more than just complex -- it has spun off tangential topics. In this case, start a new thread in the appropriate forum.
In short, it's a writing tool that seems to be common to internet communication. Like all tools, it can be used effectively and it can be abused. Don't abuse it.
CK Dexter Haven wrote:
"the"? What are you implying here?
That's my name, don't wear it out!
So which is it, "the" or "a"? Get your articles straight. Sheesh!
Well, there's no need for name-calling here. Hmph!
08-27-1999, 03:13 AM
[[The master of the massive cut and paste of other people's posts, followed by a one or two line reply is Big Iron and his are among the most annoying on this board. ]] C3
Coming from the likes of this maroon, I'll genuinely take that as a compliment.
Frankly, I have little patience for those who gripe much about this -- the one or two who have for whom I have respect also generally are able (unlike many posters) to assemble coherent paragraphs that can be addressed as a whole and do not have to be addressed piecemeal due to the uncouth writing style.
08-28-1999, 12:44 AM
As far as nitpicking, the thing I hate is when people contradict you over semantic issues as opposed to try to refutr your points. Even if you don't like my choice of words for expressing a particular idea, it is plainly obvious what idea I am talking about. Don't attack the language, talk about the idea... Some people seem unable to tell the difference between the two.
And what about people who spend their time finding fault where none was made? If I say that "The earth goes around the sun." I'll often get a response saying "Your totally wrong. The earth goes around the sun in an elipse." Do you folks see my point? Is it too much to ask that if someone doesn't have anything to say to either support or refute the content of a post, they should just keep quiet?
Jason R Remy
"No amount of legislation can solve America's problems."
-- Jimmy Carter (1980)
08-28-1999, 12:53 AM
jason, you mean like the time you rained a shower of shit on someone for how they asked a question about lightning rods on the Vatican?
08-28-1999, 01:54 PM
Semantic issues are everything. Ideas do not exist independent of language, and you cannot expect anyone to know what you "mean". Say what you mean, and mean what you say. And if you don't know how to express it accurately, shut up. Or go to a board with a less intelligent and discerning population.
08-28-1999, 01:59 PM
Oh yeah, and in specific reply to this topic: if you are going to debate, be prepared to defend (or re-think or abandon) your beliefs down to the minutest detail.
There is nothing so annoying as someone who will ONLY address the points made in a post that they believe they can, and ignore the rest. Pick your nits! Nits absolutely count.
08-30-1999, 11:52 AM
Semantic issues are everything.
I have to say that I completely agree with this. Although I'm surprised at who I'm agreeing with. . .
08-30-1999, 02:29 PM
Well, I think we can all tell the difference between useful nitpicking and ridiculous nitpicking, and your example falls into the latter...
Assuming that the debate is not ABOUT whether it is circles or ellipses or some other shape.
Too often, we lose sight of life's simple pleasures...Remember, when
annoys you, it takes 42 muscles in your face to frown BUT it only takes 4
muscles to extend your arm and SMACK the person right upside the head.
08-30-1999, 04:13 PM
Yes, that is exactly the point I intended to make.
08-31-1999, 12:26 AM
<< as SoxFan >>
Sigh. I can't get him to convert to the Cubs, no matter what I do. He's wrong in his religious preferences, too. >>>>C.K.
Now these are fighting words! Rip apart my debating skills, tear down the foundations of my religious beliefs, but disparage the White Sox? Heavens to Murgatroid!
The Kids can play, C.K.! Remember, the only bright spot on the Cub roster cut his teeth with the Sox. And the Vegas line is now 3 to 1 that Mr. Sosa will finish with more home runs than the Cubs have wins.
(Before I am chided for being off topic, let it be known that this post is a public service announcement for Chicago's Underground Baseball Society Shunning Unctious Cubs Krap)
"Its fiction, but all the facts are true!"
08-31-1999, 12:48 AM
Stoidela, I agree with you up to a point. It's certainly true that, especially in a text-only forum, separating "The Idea" from "the words used to express The Idea" is difficult to impossible. So a certain amount of nitpicking is unavoidable, and even desirable, in a good debate.
However, there are situations when attacking semantics does not contribute anything meaningful, and in fact just detracts from the discussion.
To hijack an example from jayron 32, a post to an astronomy thread might contain the wording, "...and scientists have found what seem to be planetary systems circling other stars." It would hardly make sense for someone to attack that post by stating that planets move in ellipses, not circles, and that astronomers must therefore be observing some other phenomenon.
I'm not a warlock. I'm a witch with a Y chromosome.
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