Best Practices: Fighting Ignorance in GD: alternatives to repeated requests for a cite.

greenslime1951 made a dubious claim which Ibn Warraq asked 4 times to back up without success. Then things got meta. tomndebb moderates:

Ok. Let’s take it as given that tomndebb wears jackboots and watches cat videos on Youtube. What I’m trying to work out are best practices: I mean surely there are constructive ways to correct an obstinate poster, right?

What I think the right thing to do is to repeat the questions until they refuse or you reach the 5th repetition. Then make the best interpretation of the situation that you can. Try to step back and not personalize the argument.

I am puzzled that Poster X has refused to elaborate on what Arab countries he believes are Islamic Republicans (other that Saudi Arabia or Sudan). I’m afraid I really can’t evaluate his argument, though I can speculate that it is grounded on information-poor sourcing. I think it would be hard to claim that Jordan or Egypt are, “theocracies that profess Islam as their guiding light” for example. Looks like I failed in not personalizing it.
Now if I were in Ibn’s shoes, I’d simply try not to be a dick: but that advice is situational, vague and not especially helpful. Heck, I’m not sure I’d do any better.
2. It seems to me that in-thread harrassment as defined by tomndebb above would be acceptable in the pit. Or am I mistaken?

  1. Again. I’m asking about best practices. To be clear I’m not happy with my attempt. That’s why I’m posting this thread. If you want to bitch about moderator moderating, start another thread and have at it.

  2. …but my guiding star here is “Fighting ignorance.” Sometimes ignorance deserves a good smacking.

No one-sided requests for cites. Anyone who asks for a cite in a thread should provide cites for every claim they make in the thread.

What kind of correction are you expecting to have happen?

If the point is to further conversation, then the intent of a request for a cite is to justify a comment that on the face does not seem solid. Thus, if a person is making what seems to be baseless comments and fails to provide justification, then there isn’t much response left but to state something like

“I have requested citations to support your assertion ___ several times, which you have failed to provide. Therefore, I reject your assertion as unsupported. I do not accept your continued arguments along these lines as valid.”

If they continue to make the same unsupported claim, then what? Is is “harrassment” to post rebuttals after every instance to the effect

“You keep saying that, but have failed to provide a citation to back it up.”

We’re intelligent enough to see BS when it’s being spread, we don’t need no stinkin’ cite.

I think it eventually self-corrects, in that at some point the repeated asking for a cite/refusal to provide it consumes the entire thread. At that point a) everyone gets fed up and leaves, b) the Mods either close it or c) move it to the Pit.


Well, the Mods do wear jackboots, right? Or maybe a slap upside the head with a SDMB coffee cup?
Or (shudder) bring out the goats? :slight_smile:

Asking for a cite a couple of times is enough. We’re quite capable of coming to the appropriate conclusion when a poster ignores requests to provide one.

The sort of correction that fights ignorance in the most effective manner.

In case it wasn’t clear, this thread is about proper member conduct, not proper moderation. Thus it is also not about acceptable member conduct. There is a lot that is acceptable, but does not constitute best practice.

When it’s clearly BS, i think you’re right.

The problem is greatest, though, precisely at the margins, where some claims that seem plausible might actually be bullshit, and other claims that seem implausible might actually be true. And such margins occur more frequently when the issue is a particularly arcane or complicated or specialized one.

Another problem here is that our willingness to believe assertions also depends, in some measure at least, on our prior knowledge of the poster. If a lawyer like Bricker or Oakminster or Gfactor makes a statement about what a particular law says, i’m reasonably likely to take their word for it, even if their assertion flies in the face of my prior understanding. If someone who’s not a lawyer made a similar assertion, i would be more likely to ask for some sort of evidence, such as a link to the relevant statute.

Yea, I think this is the answer. Once a poster has ignored three or four requests for a cite, its pretty clear to anyone else reading the thread what the score is. I don’t see any point in belabouring the point further at the expense of taking over the entire thread.

I have a related technique.

Whenever a poster makes a claim and I ask for a citation, and the poster pulls the old “do your own homework” or “search for it and you’ll see,” I simply tell him that I did search for it, and found that he was completely wrong. When he in turn asks for proof, I say “do your own homework. Now you know why you need to back up your claims yourself.”

The poster in question, I think, has been known to do that in other threads too – persistently refuse to give cites despite multiple requests from (I think) multiple other posters. If multiple users request cites, is that still harassment?

I felt, even the first time I saw that poster’s behavior, that he was behaving in ways that board rules forbid me to name, potentially moddable on a couple of counts. (Not that anything this says interests me, which is why I never speak up in those threads.)

I think it’s one thing if someone behaves like that in a thread that he started – I think an OP should have a certain degree of extra leeway throughout his own thread, on the grounds that it’s his thread and anyone else who doesn’t like it can damn well butt out and not go back to that thread. Hey, works for me. (Well, all this, within some reasonable limits.)

It’s different when someone behaves like this in someone else’s thread. Then it’s just threadshitting. But I don’t think it should be considered possible to shit one’s own thread.

I write this on general principles because I see this kind of stuff on this board just a bit more that I like. I didn’t specifically read the particular thread under discussion here, and I don’t know who was the OP of that thread.

tomndebb as quoted in the OP here: “Persistent badgering for an answer is harrassment and it will stop.”

The phraseology alone there is where the jackboots are showing.

But anyway… Persistent badgering for an answer? Hee Hee. Have you taken a look at that ancient GQ thread, many times zombied, debating to death and beyond whether .999… = 1 ? New guy, just signed up, reanimates it (exhumed for at least the third time) just to argue it all over again. How many times in that thread have numerous posters tried to explain it and prove it, and how many times has he just rejected everything everybody has said only to demand PROOOOOOOF? The count has been increasing without limit?

Why isn’t that harassing? At what point does it begin to appear that all responders are feeding a troll?

Well, okay, responders can keep responding all they want until they decide to quit. Then they can quit. I have. Others can do likewise when they are good and ready. I don’t see tomndebb or anyone moderating that particular issue. I don’t know why anyone should, unless it’s starting to fill up the SDMB disk space. (It’s getting there!) Let them all just blather.

So, how is that much different from the issue of THIS thread, that repeated and persistent requests for cites is or isn’t harassment? If I demand proof that .999… = 1 five hundred times, rejecting every response, is that harassment too?

It is not harrassment, but it will certainly begin to look like trolling long before 500 posts of of “Whyyyyy?” or “Nuh uh.” We do tend to be lenient. (“Too” lenient is a subjective call, of course.) However, eventually some limit will be reached and the thread will be shut down or moved to The BBQ Pit.

Actually, in that .999… thread, it’s apparently okay, as the various respondents are getting more and more involved with various tangential issues that they find interesting, and are more-or-less increasingly ignoring the most recent re-OP guy or otherwise not taking him seriously.

Anyway, Exapno Mapcase has a hilarious rejoinder here.

This! Given lemons, we’re making lemonade. This is why I stick with lengthy threads that don’t seem to be getting anywhere: I learn a lot from side-discussions! The “problems with relativity” thread, too: it was extremely frustrating in some ways…but hugely educational in others; I learned some nifty stuff from it. I also got to practice my own skills at explaining complicated stuff; it was profitable, in the long run.

(And what a long run it was!)

Well, at this point, the whole thread has just barely exceeded 500 posts and the source of irritation is at 167 posts, just 1/3 of the 500 limit. There is still time. . . .

I disagree. I’ve seen Polycarp constructively deal with a poster with a pronounced and largely unaware tendency to focus on superficial imprecision. I’ve seen Marley handle a perpetually butthurt fundi with plodding patience. I’ve personally applied a repetition technique to 2 stubborn posters: one shaped up and the other shipped out. I’d prefer the former of course: the latter is 2nd best.

The margins occur a lot: my example is unrepresentative. But simpler cases are likely to be relitigated here, and my point is more general. Obstinance often occurs with middling and even otherwise high quality posters.

That was something I didn’t appreciate sufficiently when I wrote the OP. The thread in question was under threat of derailment.

To address the OP, I think the answer is to expand one’s pallet: cultivate the ability to write in more than one tone of voice. If the poster is new and ignorant a friendly voice might be called for. I’ve done that successfully in the past with those I disagree with. Then again, I encountered a genocide apologist/denialist once: friendliness was out of the question, but I wanted to keep things away from the pit. So I posted with icy coldness - not intentionally, though that was the way it came out.

Still, perhaps a casual approach could be affected in this case, where the new poster made claims about Sharia law and medieval Arab government systems. When asked multiple times for examples of such Arab governments aside from Saudi Arabia, Sudan (and unmentioned Iran which is not an Arab state), the new poster explicitly refused, saying, “Most people would realize that when a request/demand is ignored three times, it’s unlikely to be fulfilled upon a fourth such demand.”

Here’s one try: Sorry, but I thought you made an attempt in post 43 – though I didn’t see any clear examples offered. At any rate, it’s your perogative to refuse to answer a question, though I find it puzzling. We’re here to fight ignorance on this board (look at the banner) and when somebody makes a claim, it’s expected that they have either the ability to back it up - or the grace to back down and qualify the argument.

Taking it as given that only a couple of countries in MENA are explicitly Islamic, I would say that authoritarian governance in the region is more a result of the sophistication of their economies (excluding the oil sector), though a habit of scapegoating also played a pernicious role. [Or whatever… here I’m trying to continue the argument forward, assuming that the subpoint was conceded. Don’t take the particular argument I made seriously… I don’t necessarily buy it either.] Anyway that’s one attempt.