January 25, 2004

"The Internet isn't good for that." (NYT, reg req'd) "If I'm going to try to persuade someone, I'd save it for in-person." Quite relevant, on some abstract underlying level, to most any discussion on this board, imo. MoFi manages to avoid many of the pitfalls mentioned in this article, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought all views felt welcome to post here, or of course even that they read this page in the first place. Is there anything else we could be doing to broaden our perspectives?

I'd say we have it better than our big brother with regard to flame wars, but maybe a jerk's perspective is important to have. How can we encourage the greatest wealth of perspectives (assuming we want to) while still keeping the clientelle happy? It seems self-defeating to even try and maintain a community of solely open-minded people.

  • It seems self-defeating to even try and maintain a community of solely open-minded people. I don't get this. Since when is there a problem having only open-minded people? It's not good to have only like-minded people, but I don't see how any community benefits from having closed-minded people in its midst. As for flame wars: there's obviously a fine line between responding passionately to something said online and flaming. I see no reason why intelligent people can't disagree with energy and even rage, without being disrespectful or petty. Of course, I'm assuming no one is advocating more tolerance for stupidity.
  • The blogs are also doing the best campaign coverage. I am not talking about the blogs supporting the candidates or Daily Kos (who is a consultant for Dean.) Atrios has done excellent fact-checking on AP reporter Nedra Pickler.
  • I exercise judgement. You are closed-minded. He/she is a fucking bigot. The problem that I see with "disagree[ing] with ... rage" is that it quickly devolves into either "post as therapy" or "circle-jerk ranting addressed solely to your freeper/MoveOn colleagues." While one may see no reason why it can't be done, I never see it done in practice. As a result, the medium polarizes. We're going to get jerks' perspectives whether we like it or not. What we can avoid is the subsequent pileon and/or meltdown. I like the ancient Usenet mantra, sit on your hands, sit on your hands. Sometimes I even abide by it.
  • Off-topic but possibly useful: For the convenience of those who hate registering for newspapers they rarely read, I have just registered "monkeyfilter" with the password "filter" at the NYT. Monkeyfilter is female and, in honour of tracicle, lives in New Zealand, where she works as a consultant in the computer industry. I had to lie about her age though - I don't think anyone under 6 months old is allowed to register at the NYT. I like disrupting commercial demographics collection : )
  • scartol: But, stupidity can be in the eye of the beholder. You'd have to explain your meaning for the word before I could decide whether I could tolerate it or not. And what does not tolerating something entail, in your mind? Back to the article. I'm not sure that the internet is all that different from "real life." Maybe in schools (secondary and up) folks actually get together to explore ideas and have a good time disagreeing with each other. That's rare later in life, in my experience. I haven't read many community blogs other than the MxFi's, but I have been impressed there that people are willing to put their thoughts on the virtual table and chance having to defend or justify them. Flames, trolls and hurt feelings do sometimes happen, but usually the general tenor is much like that of group discussions I had in school - passionate but not exclusionary. Group discussion I've observed over the years since have mostly been among like-minded people who seem to be practicing arguments that they could use against heretics till their self-satisfaction and comfort with their positions are confirmed. I've occasionally thrown in a conflicting opinion, but that broke the surface tension. Outside like-minded groups, people seem to be much less inclined to take a chance on espousing opinions that could cause controversy - unless they're under the impression that everyone agrees. It was usually my boss of the moment who did the latter, by the way. Well, I was in Corporate America for longer than I will admit, so maybe my experience is skewed. As for MoFi, there have been a couple of really interesting discussions that could have led us to the brink of needing a MoTa page, but didn't turn out that way. We're either a lot more tolerant of other opinions, or we're still on our best behavior. Only time will tell. (I'm betting on the former.
  • No Fear of Freedom posts an excellent reason why the internet is so conservative. This leads to why the net may not be as demcratic as bloggers say it is. He posted a link to what Oliver Willis wrote about his experience at BloggerCon. "During one of the Saturday sessions a member of the audience referred to the assembled crowd as "utopia". Now, yes, I loved the blog camaraderie but quite frankly I don't want to be the only black person in utopia. I was the only black person in that room, and was one of a few minorities. I'm not whining about that, but simply stating the fact that a technology that is mostly the pursuit of upper middle class white males does diddly to change the real world. I'm a geek through-and-thorough but when I hear tooth gnashing about issues like copyright as if they were the most important issue in the world - it tells me that the blog world is somewhat out of touch."
  • Sullivan: I wasn't there, so I can't be sure, but maybe the dramatic "utopia" meant to the person who said it that wasn't an all "white" audience, even though there was only one black and a few hispanics. Kinda sounds like a revival meeting, but the intentions may have been honorable. Willis doesn't give me enough background to decide. In case you think I sound racist, my family has about every color you can think of melded into it, which is really fun. And, issues like copyright are so completely apart from the race issues that I'm not sure where you're coming from. The RIAA suits are threatening a lot of people, regardless of color and deserve discussion. Do you have a list of issues in order of importance, which we should only discuss in that order? Look, I think your idealism is great, and appropriate in some ways, but the internet world isn't going to limit itself to your priorities. Discuss what you want to and ignore the rest, is my advice. EEW! Did I just do ad hominem?
  • RIAA? I'm commenting on the New York Times article. Here's the headline to it. Politics of the Web: Meet, Greet, Segregate, Meet Again
  • How can we encourage the greatest wealth of perspectives (assuming we want to) while still keeping the clientelle happy? There aren't many ways. Well, actually that depends on what 'greatest' means. Ideas that seem absurd might be tolerated simply because they seem absurd. Ideas that are somewhat different can be encouraged and might be good discussion fodder. Ideas that are radically different but aren't superficially an absurd construction are the most difficult to attract. They're the ones most likely to attract a flamewar yet also hold the greatest potential for learning. Such participants will primarily be attracted only if emphasis in discussion becomes depersonalised and shifts from ideology-defense to open-ended idea examination.
  • Sorry, Sullivan, I didn't pay enough attention to the end quotation marks. It was Willis who complained about copyright issures. Mea culpa.
  • "Changing people's minds is overrated" Amen. I'm just here for the p'tata salad. Or as my grandfather always says, "Everybody's entitled to their own stupid opinion."
  • *beckons to waiter in monkeysuit* P'tata salad for forks, please. And a big b'nana with it, too, ok?
  • I think a big problem is how people debate issues. Mostly, they don't. Our society (and i can really only speak for the USians out there, but i have a feeling this a common theme) places more emphasis on proving the other guy wrong than finding a workable compromise. It would be fine for the Dean supporters to crash the Kerry boards (and vice versa) if the focus was on ironing out their differences to the benefit of both. But its more often a "my candidate can beat up your candidate" contest. That's why I think everyone should be required to spend time with Quakers. It's hard to get in a tizzy when there's a contemplative pause after every comment and no votes are taken, when everyone agrees then you go home. Also, when you call every "Friend" its hard to really tear them a new asshole.
  • That's why I think everyone should be required to spend time with Quakers. That and the cool hats and the oatmeal. BTW, Friend Spooky, you're an asshat. ;)universal symbol for good-natured sarcasm
  • Is it just me, or did this seem like a lazy article? I've been a member of online communities since about 1994 (waaay back in the days of text-based bbses)and I have found them to be much more dynamic than those described here. The author singles out blogs/websites that are inherently geared towards a single-minded point of view (campaign sites) and then cites a bit of research that says that partisan is more popular. That may be the case, but it seems like a lazy over-simplification to imply that the web can't actually do non-partisan discussion. I think we do a fairly decent job of it here, and while MeFi certainly leans to the left, there never seems to be a shortage of right-leaning individuals.
  • ...while MeFi certainly leans to the left, there never seems to be a shortage of right-leaning individuals. Yes, but none of them had the nerve to attend the L.A. MeetUp. One thing I really respect about Matt is that, in spite of some obvious provocation, he stays the course of being the sole moderator of MeFi while not letting it take over his life. If he addressed every troll, gnome, mole, badger or wacko-of-every-wing that flung poo at the First Filter, it would be a very dull place (and also lacking the positive contributions of many part-time trolls, gnomes, moles and badgers). Most of the memorable posters at MeFi (self included) have been guilty of pushing the envelope until it shreds in one way or another. The Monkey House has attracted some fine voices (I was glad to see Sullivan had come over from the less-successful MetaPop), but without your equivalents of quonsar, Postroad or Miguel, you may never get quite as 'edgy', but you might also be more likely invited into the Big Tent by Matt. I don't know where I'm going with this...
  • ..you mean to say we're 'nice' - damning us all with faint praise... *shakes fist at wendell*
  • Wendell, you just answred a question I had. I now know who my other reader at MetaPop is. ;)
  • Nah, Sullivan. I knew who you were before you joined MoFi and was glad to see you sign up. :)