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Old 11-25-2019, 05:17 PM
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Elections: How do we make it work?


In discussions with Jenny this afternoon I suggested a sticky thread for discussing ways to make Great Debates and Elections, well, great again.

Forgive me.

Anyway, I'll host this discussion here. What I'm looking for is commentary and brainstorming ideas for ways in which we can promote discussion and debate while minimizing the vitriol and pointless acrimony that seems to dominate things these days.

Vision: I want Great Debates and Elections to become more inviting places for people outside the normal run-of-the-mill people that are so used to arguing with each other that there's really become little point. I'd like to see threads on topics other than politics and policy that count as Great Debates and I'd like to see more threads in Elections that are more than the two sides of American discourse slagging each other. It doesn't all have to be real world, nor does it all have to be American politics.

What I want in this thread:

Ideas, suggestions and bluesky ideas.

What I don't want in this thread:

Accusations, hatred and nitpicking. I don't want this to turn into another round of 'your idea is dumb', 'no YOUR idea is dumb'.

Note, also, that suggestions along the lines of 'ban everyone with whom I disagree' are not particularly helpful. That sort of thing is a non-starter. So if you want all democrats/republicans/Cubs fans not to be able to participate, you're not going to get it.

I will accept ideas for new and different kinds of sanctions that may give the - hopefully expanding - moderation team different and potentially better means by which to establish and enforce societal norms.

Lastly, if you missed it, there's an open call for posters to apply to become moderators. If you're interested, I'd be glad to hear that you've applied. Not everyone - or even most - who apply will get selected but I promise all applicants will be reviewed fairly. You've got my word on that.

Let's do this thing, my friends. Great Debates and Elections are the least participated of the major fora. Let's see if we can make them the most popular.
  #2  
Old 11-26-2019, 12:08 PM
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My idea is simple: stop letting the threads get so damn long. Start a fresh thread once one gets to 3 pages or so. That makes it easy for someone new to jump in without needing to read War and Peace. In the Game Room, thereís month discussions for MLB and the NHL and a weekly NFL discussion, so itís easy to jump on in at any time.
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  #3  
Old 11-27-2019, 03:54 AM
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What I have found interesting is that in the recent Canadian general election, there was one thread in the Elections forum. Another one popped up, after the election, to discuss Mr. Trudeau's cabinet after the election. But that's it: two threads about Canada's election.

I note also note that there is one single thread about the UK general election, to take place in December, 2019. There is one thread about the Israeli election.

But in the "Elections" forum, there are many threads that have nothing to do with the American election in November, 2020, but everything to do with American politics. Really, what are we to make of threads like these, which are apparent in the "Elections" forum:

-- Trump's neurological health - a rational discussion please
-- Let's create a Republican "Squad"
-- Hurt for Biden
-- Any data on people who vote Republican out of aversion for left rather than an embrace of the right?

I don't see where any of these threads, or others like them, have anything to do with an election; as was discussed in the Canadian thread, the UK thread, and the Israeli thread--rather, I see GD threads, IMHO threads, and perhaps the BBQ Pit.

A better approach might be to rename the forum to "Politics In General."

Last edited by Spoons; 11-27-2019 at 03:55 AM.
  #4  
Old 11-27-2019, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
What I have found interesting is that in the recent Canadian general election, there was one thread in the Elections forum. Another one popped up, after the election, to discuss Mr. Trudeau's cabinet after the election. But that's it: two threads about Canada's election.

I note also note that there is one single thread about the UK general election, to take place in December, 2019. There is one thread about the Israeli election.

But in the "Elections" forum, there are many threads that have nothing to do with the American election in November, 2020, but everything to do with American politics. Really, what are we to make of threads like these, which are apparent in the "Elections" forum:

-- Trump's neurological health - a rational discussion please
-- Let's create a Republican "Squad"
-- Hurt for Biden
-- Any data on people who vote Republican out of aversion for left rather than an embrace of the right?

I don't see where any of these threads, or others like them, have anything to do with an election; as was discussed in the Canadian thread, the UK thread, and the Israeli thread--rather, I see GD threads, IMHO threads, and perhaps the BBQ Pit.

A better approach might be to rename the forum to "Politics In General."
The name change has been debated to death in ATMB. Call this forum a ham sandwich if we must. Just like how MPSIMS has plenty of threads that are definitely not Mundane nor pointless, if the target audience is political in nature, then I think it belongs in Elections even if itís not directly related to an election. I think most dopers would prefer that the number of political threads be kept to a minimum outside of GD and Elections. There will always be a few in the Pit, but I donít think IMHO or MPSIMS needs a lot of threads about politics.
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Old 11-27-2019, 02:47 PM
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I don't think you're going to like this answer, but it's impossible to have reasonable discussions about politics without vitriol and pointless acrimony in the current environment. The Republican Party has abandoned reason entirely, and now defends its positions exclusively through the techniques of lying and ad hominem attacks. So you have to either ban the Republicans or live with the trolling, which is going to drive most people away. This is exactly the Republican strategy, to make political engagement so unpleasant that people will abandon politics altogether rather than deal with the rancor.

Short of that, I think things might paradoxically be improved by loosening up the moderation. The political discussions on Giraffe Boards seem to go more smoothly than the ones here, although there are fewer participants. There, when someone posts something to which the only rational response is "Shut the fuck up, you fucking troll", you can just make that response and get on with the conversation. Liars can simply be identified as such.

On this board, you have to pretend that you think the poster is sincerely attempting to engage in rational discussion, which greatly increases the frustration level and eventually leads people to snap. Certain posters seem to revel in baiting other posters into getting warned, while staying just within the rules themselves. Adding more and more restrictive rules isn't going to help with that problem, as long as the intent of the rules is to force people to treat other posters with respect, even when they continually demonstrate that they aren't worthy of respect.

We already have a great solution to this problem, called the "ignore list", but clearly many posters are unwilling to make use of it for some reason. Maybe one new sanction that might be effective is to force pairs of posters who clearly can't play nicely with each other to put each other on ignore?

Lastly, whatever changes you may decide to make, you shouldn't go into it with the idea that GD/Elections should be the most popular fora on the board. Politics just don't interest as many people as Cafe Society or Game Room topics do.
  #6  
Old 11-27-2019, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dalej42 View Post
My idea is simple: stop letting the threads get so damn long. Start a fresh thread once one gets to 3 pages or so. That makes it easy for someone new to jump in without needing to read War and Peace. In the Game Room, thereís month discussions for MLB and the NHL and a weekly NFL discussion, so itís easy to jump on in at any time.
In some cases, that makes sense. But in the case of large, overarching topics like "The Trump Impeachment" or "The 2020 Democratic Primary", I think it's fine to have omnibus threads that people can pop into to share their thoughts on breaking news. Those threads are by their nature pretty wide-ranging, and I don't think anyone really feels like they can't participate in them if they aren't fully caught up on the first 75 pages of the thread.

On the other hand, I think it's fair to say that threads focused on more specific, narrow questions often get sidetracked, and perhaps tighter moderation may help with that. That might include closing threads when it becomes apparent that the OP has been addressed and the thread has turned into "Re-litigating The 2016 Democratic Primary, Part 40,307".
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Old 11-28-2019, 01:01 PM
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Yeah, the more I think about it, it would be really helpful for mods to crack down on sidetracking threads which have narrowly specific OPs, especially when the sidetracks lead to ground we've already been over a zillion times.

Another thing that frequently kills threads is arguments about the precise definition of one particular word that someone has used, an argument which is almost never remotely pertinent to the real point of the thread. If someone starts a thread title "Trump is a Traitorous Felon and Should be Impeached", it would be reasonable to respond with arguments as to why the Democrats' case doesn't justify impeachment. But too often what we see around here is people rushing to their dictionaries to argue about the precise definition of "traitorous", or asking for cites that Trump has ever been convicted of a felony (he hasn't), leading to a fascinating discussion of whether the use of the word "felon" is therefore inappropriate in this context. Not letting people do that would greatly improve the atmosphere around here IMO.
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Old 11-28-2019, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Thing Fish View Post
Yeah, the more I think about it, it would be really helpful for mods to crack down on sidetracking threads which have narrowly specific OPs, especially when the sidetracks lead to ground we've already been over a zillion times.

Another thing that frequently kills threads is arguments about the precise definition of one particular word that someone has used, an argument which is almost never remotely pertinent to the real point of the thread. If someone starts a thread title "Trump is a Traitorous Felon and Should be Impeached", it would be reasonable to respond with arguments as to why the Democrats' case doesn't justify impeachment. But too often what we see around here is people rushing to their dictionaries to argue about the precise definition of "traitorous", or asking for cites that Trump has ever been convicted of a felony (he hasn't), leading to a fascinating discussion of whether the use of the word "felon" is therefore inappropriate in this context. Not letting people do that would greatly improve the atmosphere around here IMO.
Well, shouldn't people be equally responsible not to use hyperbolic language in their thread title? Would you not quibble if someone described Sanders as a traitor? His wife a felon?
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Old 11-28-2019, 06:37 PM
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Well, toning down the hyperbole is never a bad idea. But I’d like to think that, if I even bothered to respond to such a post, I wouldn’t be trying to score points by demonstrating the obvious fact that the accusations are literally untrue, I would try to figure out what the poster had against Sanders and address those concerns. Maybe I wouldn’t; I’m not perfect. But if I was able to be my best self that day, that’s what I would do. And I think moderation should aim at nudging us all toward being our best selves.
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Old 11-28-2019, 06:44 PM
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And while your point is a good one with regard to actual thread titles, very often this will happen with regard to casual comments made in a thread. One poster’s use of hyperbole can’t be an excuse for another poster to completely derail the entire conversation.
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Old 11-28-2019, 06:47 PM
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The lame point scoring is indeed the problem.
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Old 11-28-2019, 06:54 PM
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For such things I would, as moderator, rule thusly:
"Moderator note:
From here forward, unless the OP comes in and contradicts me, consider that "Traitorous" and "Felon" were used in loose colloquial language and don't intend a strict legal meaning. Legal discussions of the terms will stop. I will caution the OP to be more careful with hyperbolic titles in the future."

Eta: Thank you for your time and consideration.

Last edited by CarnalK; 11-28-2019 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 11-28-2019, 07:04 PM
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I suggest we either rename it Politics, as others suggested already, or make it strictly Elections only (so everything that isn't strictly about an election goes into some other forum, like GD.)
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Old 11-28-2019, 07:10 PM
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What will that do?
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Old 11-28-2019, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarnalK View Post
For such things I would, as moderator, rule thusly:
"Moderator note:
From here forward, unless the OP comes in and contradicts me, consider that "Traitorous" and "Felon" were used in loose colloquial language and don't intend a strict legal meaning. Legal discussions of the terms will stop. I will caution the OP to be more careful with hyperbolic titles in the future."

Eta: Thank you for your time and consideration.
Yes. We are in total agreement here.
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Old 11-28-2019, 09:05 PM
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And that's not much of a change, rule wise. It's just being slightly more proactive and wise about curtailing purposeful hijacks we've seen a million times.
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
I suggest we either rename it Politics, as others suggested already, or make it strictly Elections only (so everything that isn't strictly about an election goes into some other forum, like GD.)
Only if we rename MPSIMS. How about, Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share Except When I Post About Death, Sickness, Job Loss Or Other Things In Life That Suck.
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Old 11-29-2019, 05:22 PM
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Elections works pretty well as is.

Yes there is overlap between it and GD on some political threads that are not strictly about an election, but that is really not a big issue.

Sure post in eye roll worthy ways here and there but not so often as to poison the well of discussion and moderation has been fine.
  #19  
Old 11-30-2019, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Thing Fish View Post
I don't think you're going to like this answer, but it's impossible to have reasonable discussions about politics without vitriol and pointless acrimony in the current environment. The Republican Party has abandoned reason entirely, and now defends its positions exclusively through the techniques of lying and ad hominem attacks. So you have to either ban the Republicans or live with the trolling, which is going to drive most people away. This is exactly the Republican strategy, to make political engagement so unpleasant that people will abandon politics altogether rather than deal with the rancor.
May I just politely note that in a thread asking about how to make discussions about politics and elections work, if the goal of a post is banning nearly half of US voters from the discussion, that goal doesnít really contribute towards what the OP is trying to achieve.
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Old 12-01-2019, 01:38 PM
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Elections works pretty well as is.

Yes there is overlap between it and GD on some political threads that are not strictly about an election, but that is really not a big issue.

Sure post in eye roll worthy ways here and there but not so often as to poison the well of discussion and moderation has been fine.
Exactly, just as thereís overlap between IMHO and MPSIMS. In general, Iíd say, ĎNew Alabama abortion lawí threads would go in Elections since itís something with immediate political impact whereas a discussion of Roe vs Wade or the history of abortion laws is better for GD. I find the endless nitpicking a bit annoying.
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Old 12-02-2019, 04:47 PM
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Much like Great Debates, as long as the threads are moderated without bias and the rules are clear I'm not sure how much better the forum could be. Maybe get rid of a bit of the most over the top demographic attacks could be a slight improvement with regards to the tone.
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Old Yesterday, 02:29 PM
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I've mentioned in ATMB that I think that silly, disparaging nicknames (Obummer, Tramp, Hitlery, Shrub) have no place in the debate forums, but that idea was already shot down. So, I'll suggest that broad-brush attacks on Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and liberals should not be allowed in Elections. Statements like, "well, Republicans have no heart and would <employ bad tactic>" or "Democrats are all socialist crazies and will <do bad thing>" almost never add anything to a debate and is just a rant. So, it belongs in the Pit.

Let's debate the issues without the name-calling and broad brush attacks.

Also, I'd love to see tighter moderation of sea-lioning, goal-post moving, and gish galloping. It's maddening to try and debate someone who refuses to be pinned down as to their actual position and points.
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Old Today, 12:31 AM
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gish galloping?

Color me bemused.
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Old Today, 07:57 AM
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gish galloping?

Color me bemused.
I'm not sure if you're bemused because you don't think it happens here or because you don't know what it means. In case it's the latter:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop

Quote:
The Gish gallop is a technique used during debating that focuses on overwhelming an opponent with as many arguments as possible, without regard for accuracy or strength of the arguments. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott and named after the creationist Duane Gish, who used the technique frequently against proponents of evolution.
Here in Elections and GD, a poster will make some bad argument which is quickly shot down. Rather than acknowledging the bad argument, the poster then moves to another bad argument. Rinse and repeat. You can't pin them down to a specific argument and they won't acknowledge the holes in the previous arguments.
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