Suggestion for a new board.

Two of the biggest problems with G.D. are thread hijackings and pile-ons. To counter these unfortunate, but inevitable trends, I propose the creation of a new debate forum.

The forum would host highly structured debates between two posters. Posters would PM the forum moderator with a request to hold a structured debate with another user. In this PM, the poster would include (A) The formal debate topic (B) the number of posts each user would be allowed to make © the approximate maximum length of each post. The moderator would then PM the other user and inform him of the challenge. There would be no negotiating over terms proposed by the challenger. The recipient of the challenge can either accept or decline. If the challenger wishes to propose different terms, that’s up to him. Once the other user accepted and agreement over the terms had been reached, the moderator would open a thread dedicated exclusively to that topic.

The rules of the forum would be as follows:

  1. Absolute civility at all times. No insults, no snark, no sarcasm, no sly backhanded complements. Posters should make a conscious effort to assume the best of their opponents at all times and speak as they would wish to be spoken to.

  2. The poster who issued the challenge would make the first post.

  3. Debate topics must not be too broad “Which is the one true faith?” or too narrow “This particular website is racist”.

  4. Posters have a maximum of 7 calender days to respond to an opponents post. If this time limit is breached, the thread will be closed. Posters may ask the moderator for an extension via PM but no more than once per debate.

  5. Quotes from sources will always be included in a post’s word count. Only use relevant quotes.

  6. Posters citing an article must include a quote from the article to prove its relevance. This is designed to stop posters bombarding each other with links.

  7. The outcome of debates will not be voted on. Non-participating readers are free to read along but they will not be provided a forum to air their views on specific debates.

That’s all the rules I can think of for the moment. Input is appreciated. If this gets the go ahead, I suggest converting the soon to be obsolete 2010 midterm forum. This structured debate forum is designed to supplement G.D. and obviously not to replace it.

I very much doubt that this will ever be implemented. This system would take up entirely too much moderating time. We don’t have enough moderators to babysit individual threads on a regular basis. Plus, the way I read it, you want threads with only a couple of active participants. Very few people are going to want to read such threads. If you want to debate with someone one on one, just take it to email or PMs. There’s no reason to have a message board hold such debates. Yes, TV and radio shows do this…but they usually don’t have random people as debaters. What benefit would this bring to the SDMB as a whole? It might be satisfying for the debaters, but not so much for the readers, and it would be a definite pain in the ass for the moderators.

Something very similar to this has been proposed before, and has been turned down.

Note that this is not an official answer, but I AM drawing on my experience as part of the moderating staff here.

Something similar, but not quite the same, was discussed here not long ago:
The proposal was actually not turned down, the GD Mods had no problem with it. After we got the go-ahead, nobody ever started one.

Great idea, hypothetically, but that sort of “debate” forum never works in practice. Usually because the “participants” wind up not “participating”. Also the audience generally doesn’t bother to watch. End of point for doing it.

Your first point would be mitigated by having the participants agree to the terms and the scope beforehand. I don’t agree with your final point at all… the peanut gallery threads on other boards I’ve visited are often more fun than the debate threads, themselves.

That’s also what I thought of after reading the OP. If people want to have a debate on their own terms - a set number of replies or a word count limit or something like that - they’re free to go for it as long as they are not violating any Great Debates rules. Asking us to enforce their rules would be kind of a pain, though. It would be more workable if the posters explain their terms, stick to them, and either ignore or work with posters who don’t abide by those rules.

I take it that’s an official declaration that doing such would not be junior moderating.

Also, isn’t this what Liberal tried to do with his “Aesthetic Jesus” threads? How did they go?

I’m thinking along the same lines–no actual moderation of the debates (within the existing rules, of course) should be necessary… but there’s always gonna be that one guy who assholes his way into the debates, then takes a dump on the whole thing. Being a jerk, you think?

It’s pretty close to what Liberal suggested here.

part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

What do you think?

I think this is about the umpteenth time I’ve seen this suggestion. I think it’s born of a false hope, which is that anything that happens on an internet messageboard means something. It doesn’t. It’s dust in the wind. It’s a way to pass the time between one thing and another.

Threadshitting again, Rand? Personally, I think it would be ok to pass time between one thing and another by having some one-on-one, or at least more formalized, debates.

Threadshitting again, SoulFrost? You know, why have I never seen your posts outside of ATMB (where you seem to be quite prolific)? Are you concerned only about this messageboard in the abstract?

Well, at least I’m prolific… constructively.


Pointless and unhelpful as Rand’s initial remark was, if you think another poster is threadshitting it’s best to report it rather than jumping on it yourself. In any case, let’s stop bickering in ATMB.

So… you’re taking the Con position?

I’ve found the SDMB helpful in identifying the main lines of argument on certain contentious subjects. There’s a fair amount of chaff of course: in my experience some posters simply operate at a higher level than others. For example, good rhetoricians are capable of absorbing arguments that confound them, rather than feeling obliged to offer a counter on every subpoint. Oddly enough, some of the most insightful remarks concede the points of others – then show how they don’t really matter so much. Also, GQ can on occasion generate helpful information on certain google-resistant queries.

The OP makes an intriguing proposal. But it would involve the recruitment of both posters and an ad hoc moderator (call them a referee?). Methinks that the experiment might be tried on a satellite board, one that is slower moving than GD. Admittedly I would be uninterested in participating. For one thing, I’m pretty good at passing my eyes over chaff. And anyway this board specializes in fighting ignorance and making wisecracks: one without the other falls outside of its core mission.

It’s all pretty much dust in the wind if your perspective has a lot of distance. But for a little while, passing the time between one thing and another will do in a pinch. And for some it can be very creative.