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Thread: Have we become more childish in our discussions?

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    Have we become more childish in our discussions?

    I don't think we have - I recall some amazing petulance and sulking at BAUT. But there seems to be a burgeoning meme among the mods that we need to be scolded like children - we had a fine example of it in a recent thread closure, which is what brought this issue back to mind.
    I appreciate the frustration of the mods, and I usually find these little "go to your rooms" tirades amusing rather than irritating, but it is a Truth Universally Acknowledged among managers and HR specialists that treating adults like children tends to worsen, rather than improve, the offending behaviour. And in this particular case brings the risk of festering resentment - because the mod is getting to vent in precisely the sort of childish way that is being forbidden to the reproached members.

    Or so it seems to me.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Agreed on all counts. I quickly learned what ad homenims meant when I first joined BAUT. It wouldn’t shock me that Phil quit partly for this reason.

    I think we all appreciate the moderators for keeping order, and I too enjoy humorous approaches, but good humor also requires timing and it appeared to be as much against the educator as the one relentlessly refusing the education. Perhaps that wasn’t the mod’s intent.
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    Well, we shouldn't discuss the content of a particular thread here. As I say, a particular example brought to mind what seems to be a recent pattern, and that's what I wanted to remark on.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I must admit that I was quite taken aback by the tone of the closing post made by the mod in that thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    I must admit that I was quite taken aback by the tone of the closing post made by the mod in that thread.
    I feel ad hominem debating is a recourse separated from the argument of issues and not the occasional frustration when the issues do not seem to be logically debated.
    It is a huge advantage of this forum when compared with so many social media sites where anonymity encourages outrageous outpourings of bile, that personal attacks are prevented. Personally I agree with Orwell that the essence of free speech is to say what others do not want to hear but he also despised pointless rudeness which we see debases free speech. This forum is very educational and the to and fro of explanations where there are misunderstandings is the whole reason I log in most days.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Well, we shouldn't discuss the content of a particular thread here.
    I don't know about should, but it's certainly allowed. That is, the moderator action content. Not so much the thread content itself, of course, unless required for the discussion of moderator action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Len Moran View Post
    I must admit that I was quite taken aback by the tone of the closing post made by the mod in that thread.
    Yes, that was unnecessary and childish from me (yes, I appreciate the irony). I removed what I think was the offending part. (For the sake of transparency: it read "Right, all of you, to your rooms. Now. Leave your toys here, you may or may not get them back after dinner.")

    I'm sorry. I let the frustration about lack of response to earlier moderator interventions get the better of me, and didn't even consider that I addressed all participants, including the many well behaved, instead of just those few feeding that frustration.

    The rest of the comment stands, though. The thread veered more and more away from the topic, and more into the perceived understanding and/or other motives of members. And that just won't do, especially after those earlier (better phrased than mine) moderator warnings. And if that attempt at correction doesn't help, thread closure is one remaining option. But that wasn't the point of contention here, I assume.
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    The fact that we could have this discussion makes me feel better about this site!

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't think we have - I recall some amazing petulance and sulking at BAUT. But there seems to be a burgeoning meme among the mods that we need to be scolded like children - we had a fine example of it in a recent thread closure, which is what brought this issue back to mind.
    I don't know which thread you are referring to. Maybe you could post a link or give the title.
    Quote Originally Posted by George View Post
    Agreed on all counts. I quickly learned what ad homenims meant when I first joined BAUT. It wouldn’t shock me that Phil quit partly for this reason.
    As best as I can tell, Phil stopped participating because he could make money doing a blog (as opposed to running and contributing to BAUT).
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    I'm going to guess that it is the Gas Behavior thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    This thread was supposed to be about gas behavior, and not forum member behavior. If a bunch of adult people cannot discuss such a topic without bickering about each other like little kids, we'll just close it.

    For the any next threads: please learn to ignore baiting, and re-read every one of your posts before submitting, to check if you're talking about attributes of an idea, or of a person. And if you find that it is about a person, or not specifically about the topic, simply don't post. It's really not that hard. You don't lose anything by not posting a bunch of already typed words, and gain a lesson in thinking before posting. How's that for a new years resolution?
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I don't think we have - I recall some amazing petulance and sulking at BAUT. But there seems to be a burgeoning meme among the mods that we need to be scolded like children - we had a fine example of it in a recent thread closure, which is what brought this issue back to mind.
    I appreciate the frustration of the mods, and I usually find these little "go to your rooms" tirades amusing rather than irritating, but it is a Truth Universally Acknowledged among managers and HR specialists that treating adults like children tends to worsen, rather than improve, the offending behaviour. And in this particular case brings the risk of festering resentment - because the mod is getting to vent in precisely the sort of childish way that is being forbidden to the reproached members.

    Or so it seems to me.

    Grant Hutchison
    I completely agree with slang both on closing the thread and on the phrasing of his closing post. And I don't know that it is a capitalized Universally Acknowledged Truth, but I think the idea is that if adults are acting like children you treat them as an adult would respond to children. You act as an adult and not as a child; don't fall to their level. But if they are not acting like an adult, you might not be able to treat them like an adult. Those two treatments are different.

    I don't think there is a universal plan among all moderators, but I think we generally try to treat people as adults; thus my warning earlier in the thread. If the behavior continues, then we have to step up our response.

    I'm not sure what you would like us to do in this case. Should we ignore the behavior? Should we infract and suspend the participants? Should we have closed the thread with a different comment such as a simple "thread closed"?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    ... I'm not sure what you would like us to do in this case. Should we ignore the behavior? Should we infract and suspend the participants? Should we have closed the thread with a different comment such as a simple "thread closed"?
    The advocation in the thread became a prima facie case of being Against the Mainstream. It should have been directed to the ATM forum as soon as published textbooks, multiple Wikipedia references and derivations from first principles were outright denied as being simply wrong (or 'misconceptions'). That's when the ad-homs started (as expected).

    The onus is now on the advocate(s) to demonstrate the reasons for their denials, (by way of citing evidence of objective test results), and not on a defense of abundant peer-reviewed a mainstream science. As it stands now, and was demonstrated towards the end of that thread, many folk in this forum will now go forward with a view which is not published, nor agreed in the mainstream. There is a 'line', and the advocation in that thread clearly crossed it.

    I doubt that I will be a participant going forward .. my case has been presented and I'll take a break.

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    I for one find that rather sad since Selfsim’s conclusion is not all what i believe and not IMO a good summary of the references.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    The advocation in the thread became a prima facie case of being Against the Mainstream. It should have been directed to the ATM forum as soon as published textbooks, multiple Wikipedia references and derivations from first principles were outright denied as being simply wrong (or 'misconceptions'). That's when the ad-homs started (as expected).

    The onus is now on the advocate(s) to demonstrate the reasons for their denials, (by way of citing evidence of objective test results), and not on a defense of abundant peer-reviewed a mainstream science. As it stands now, and was demonstrated towards the end of that thread, many folk in this forum will now go forward with a view which is not published, nor agreed in the mainstream. There is a 'line', and the advocation in that thread clearly crossed it.

    I doubt that I will be a participant going forward .. my case has been presented and I'll take a break.
    I don't think any of that has anything to do with what slang or myself were concerned about.

    My concern (and I suspect slang's concern) was about the comments about the other participants in the thread.

    We had several Reports about the thread, and none of them had to do with ATM ideas. If someone thought ATM ideas were being advocated in the thread, then you should have reported such. Frankly, I did not inspect the details of the physics of the discussion; that was not my concern.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I don't think any of that has anything to do with what slang or myself were concerned about.

    My concern (and I suspect slang's concern) was about the comments about the other participants in the thread.

    We had several Reports about the thread, and none of them had to do with ATM ideas. If someone thought ATM ideas were being advocated in the thread, then you should have reported such. Frankly, I did not inspect the details of the physics of the discussion; that was not my concern.
    Ok .. understood.

    My above recommendation still stands though ..
    From general observations, ad-homs in the ATM Forum are usually moderated more rapidly than elsewhere .. and rightly so .. otherwise ATM ideas become the norm, no?

    Out of interest, what was the basis of your decision to split the original thread from Q&A and start the new one in specifically, S&T?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Selfsim View Post
    From general observations, ad-homs in the ATM Forum are usually moderated more rapidly than elsewhere .. and rightly so .. otherwise ATM ideas become the norm, no?
    That isn't my belief and it certainly isn't a plan. It may just be that moderators pay more attention to ATM threads, since they seem to get in trouble more frequently, for a wide variety of reasons.

    I also don't see the connection between controlling ad hominems and ATM ideas becoming the norm. I don't even know what "ATM ideas become the norm" quite means. Our rules require ATM ideas be advocated in the ATM section, nothing more. We aren't the mainstream science police.

    Out of interest, what was the basis of your decision to split the original thread from Q&A and start the new one in specifically, S&T?
    From the Q&A stickies; particularly note the next to last quoted sentence
    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek View Post
    This section of the forum is for astronomy and space exploration questions with straightforward, generally accepted answers.

    Questions that are likely to lead to extended discussion about the correct answer, or that have no clearcut correct answer, should be posted in the forum most appropriate to the topic of the question. If a question does lead to such discussion, it may be split off or moved entirely to a more appropriate forum by a moderator. Since it's hard to tell how a discussion will go, posting such questions will generally be treated as a judgment matter and not a rule violation.
    The OP's original question had long been answered and the discussion had lead off into a tangent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I'm going to guess that it is the Gas Behavior thread.
    I was actually trying to avoid naming the thread or mod involved, because it was just a recent good example of more general behaviours and moderator responses that I've been thinking about for a while.


    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    And I don't know that it is a capitalized Universally Acknowledged Truth ...
    Austen had her tongue in her cheek when she used the phrase, and so did I. It can be translated as "a lot of people think this is a good idea; it may or may not be for those actually involved".

    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I'm not sure what you would like us to do in this case. Should we ignore the behavior? Should we infract and suspend the participants? Should we have closed the thread with a different comment such as a simple "thread closed"?
    I had no plans on telling you what to do. My thread title says it all, really. Is childish behaviour more common now? Are mods remarking specifically on childish behaviour more commonly now? Or is that just something I'm noticing more?

    But, since you ask.
    I don't believe we have a rule prohibiting childishness. (If we do, I have a short list of self-styled "humourists" I would wish to see infracted to the full force of the law. )
    These threads are actually being closed, or participants infracted, for breaching the Civility and Decorum rule - ascribing unpleasant motives, making baseless accusations, generally attacking the person rather than the idea. And these are, regrettably, as much adult behaviours as they are the behaviours of children.
    So why not just list the rule-breaking offences, and avoid drawing analogies with the behaviour of children (since behaving like a child is not of itself an offence). Accusations of childishness can come over as ad-hom venting by the mod, just as the mod is in the act of issuing infractions and/or closing a thread because people have been ad-hom venting.

    Grant Hutchison

  16. #16
    Sorry for not having the same since of humor Grant.
    But I have not been in the ATM for a while but I did see this thread. Most of my anti-atm has been focused on youtube videos and writing essays on them for my own site. I probably be doing one on this guy as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    That isn't my belief and it certainly isn't a plan. It may just be that moderators pay more attention to ATM threads, since they seem to get in trouble more frequently, for a wide variety of reasons.

    I also don't see the connection between controlling ad hominems and ATM ideas becoming the norm. I don't even know what "ATM ideas become the norm" quite means. Our rules require ATM ideas be advocated in the ATM section, nothing more. We aren't the mainstream science police.
    ...
    From the Q&A stickies; particularly note the next to last quoted sentence

    The OP's original question had long been answered and the discussion had lead off into a tangent.
    Ok ... thanks for your above responses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    My thread title says it all, really. Is childish behaviour more common now? Are mods remarking specifically on childish behaviour more commonly now? Or is that just something I'm noticing more?
    I don't think either the behavior or the moderator response is any more or less common than it has been. I can't quote statistics on such things.

    I don't believe we have a rule prohibiting childishness.
    No we don't. The specific offenses are mostly a rule 2 violation, with a little of rule 14.

    Accusations of childishness can come over as ad-hom venting by the mod, just as the mod is in the act of issuing infractions and/or closing a thread because people have been ad-hom venting.
    I am absolutely and completely only speaking for myself, but yes, sometimes I am just venting. Sometimes I get pretty tired of the bad behavior. Sometimes I get tired of telling people the same rule violations over and over, often in the same thread. Sometimes I'm tired of being ignored or not taken seriously. Sometimes I am tossing in what I think, in my warped little brain, is a little humor, to try to lighten the situation. Sometime I am being sarcastic. We only have one Vulcan administrator, and it ain't me (yes, that was an example of my idea of a little humor).

    The only parts of it I apologize for are when I have actually posted an apology (I believe I've done so twice).

    As I believe I have said, on several occasions, often after being accused of moderating in anger or in a fit of emotion that you are actually "seeing" me with my best behavior. My normal levels of sarcasm are several notches above what you see here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post

    I'm not sure what you would like us to do in this case. Should we ignore the behavior? Should we infract and suspend the participants? Should we have closed the thread with a different comment such as a simple "thread closed"?
    I wouldn't normally wish to tell Mods how to do their job - I think their role, as being entirely voluntary, is to be applauded no matter what may be said or not said. But, to paraphrase Grant, since you asked....

    I felt that the thread had raised the stakes between two quite differing perspectives and the resultant sparks were no surprise to me and is generally typical in my experience of what happens between adults when views that are often the result of intensive work on the part of the proponents clash. For my part it was disappointing to see the thread closed, I acknowledge that things were getting a bit heated, but in that heat some good things were being teased out and making people (myself included) think about their preconceptions - there were certainly issues on both sides that I wanted to explore further. It wasn't as if the whole show was descending into chaos, most of the participation was polite, mine included. Sometimes discussion overflows into heated personal comment and that is quite rightly an issue for mods to deal with, but when the thread is producing interesting issues, when it is making people think, when the heat is by and large between just a couple of posters, well perhaps it's worth keeping the thread going with infractions or whatever is needed just to keep a semblance of peace. But I do appreciate that it is the Mods who have to try and keep this peace, and their time and patience is not unlimited - so if it is thought that the only way out is to close the thread, then just close it - there is no need to bring in a kind of adult to child scolding that can come across very badly, especially to those who have participated on the thread with no hint of controversy. This was the gist of my previous comment, I genuinely was quite taken aback when I read the closing post from Slang, tarring everyone with the same brush as it did, but clearly (in his words) that was a venting of frustration on his part and so we can forget about that, apart from acknowledging that frustration and rash comments arise in all camps within adults and managing it is not easy.
    Last edited by Len Moran; 2018-Dec-31 at 12:33 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The only parts of it I apologize for are when I have actually posted an apology (I believe I've done so twice).

    As I believe I have said, on several occasions, often after being accused of moderating in anger or in a fit of emotion that you are actually "seeing" me with my best behavior. My normal levels of sarcasm are several notches above what you see here.
    I'm not "accusing" anyone of anything, or asking for any kind of apology. It's a shame if anyone is feeling either of those things, because I've tried to be careful and circumspect in my choice of words.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2018-Dec-31 at 12:39 AM.

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    I think the mod did OK, the thread was left open long enough to complete a useful discourse, and it's likely that it didn't have much farther to go. As for the scolding elements, I don't take it personally-- I hope people won't take personally the things I say, so I return that favor and not take it personally when someone else uses a scolding tone. Especially since the mods are allowed to scold, and I'm not! I do agree with Grant that the scolding in the closing post wasn't necessary or productive, but that now has been resolved. I look more to the fact that the thread was left open long enough to achieve a useful result, rather than closing it immediately when it got a little testy, or when the forbidden "ATM" reference first appeared. The most important comment made by the mod was to restrict the discussion to the physics, avoiding all personal references. I would put my own comments there as 90% physics and 10% personal, but the mods are asking for 100% and 0%, and I think that's reasonable. What I was trying to do was help someone whose knowledge was lacking understand that fact so they could learn, not to win an argument, but the two look more or less identical from afar so it's tricky. That's what makes it so important to avoid anything that could be construed as either personal or impolite, which I probably failed to do! But the physics happened, it's all good.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Dec-31 at 01:13 AM.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    I don't know about should, but it's certainly allowed. That is, the moderator action content. Not so much the thread content itself, of course, unless required for the discussion of moderator action.



    Yes, that was unnecessary and childish from me (yes, I appreciate the irony). I removed what I think was the offending part. (For the sake of transparency: it read "Right, all of you, to your rooms. Now. Leave your toys here, you may or may not get them back after dinner.")

    I'm sorry. I let the frustration about lack of response to earlier moderator interventions get the better of me, and didn't even consider that I addressed all participants, including the many well behaved, instead of just those few feeding that frustration.

    The rest of the comment stands, though. The thread veered more and more away from the topic, and more into the perceived understanding and/or other motives of members. And that just won't do, especially after those earlier (better phrased than mine) moderator warnings. And if that attempt at correction doesn't help, thread closure is one remaining option. But that wasn't the point of contention here, I assume.
    I think in the final post in the other thread, you have an “or” that is supposed to be a “not”.

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    Please don't forget that some types of "childish behavior" need to be encouraged.

    See https://www.classe.cornell.edu/~seb/childlike.html

    I actually have a copy of the physical certificate.
    Selden

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    Quote Originally Posted by selden View Post
    Please don't forget that some types of "childish behavior" need to be encouraged.

    See https://www.classe.cornell.edu/~seb/childlike.html

    I actually have a copy of the physical certificate.
    Ah. Childlike versus childish. Childlike has connotations of approval or at least some sort of affection; childish is always pejorative.

    I guess what sits uneasily with me is this sequence of events: members snipe at each other insultingly out of frustration and annoyance; mods (rightly) step in to curb this behaviour; while doing so, mods snipe at members insultingly out of frustration and annoyance.

    In thirty years of sorting out deeply unpleasant arguments on matters of literally life-or-death importance, I always followed the principle of treating the parties involved as if they were reasonable adults, no matter how petulant or childish or insulting their behaviour was at that moment. Because they actually were reasonable adults, they'd just forgotten how to behave like reasonable adults, temporarily. Treating them like reasonable adults applied social pressure for them to behave like reasonable adults again, and removed some of the defensiveness that had got them into the unhelpful state they were in.

    There are of course deep differences between a forum moderator's role and my role in preventing surgeons and anaesthetists punching each other (or patients' relatives stabbing me) - it's fine and to some extent constructive for a mod to telegraph frustration, for instance. But this business of comparing members to children just seems counterproductive to me - and I recall at least one occasion on which a member was suspended for doing exactly that.

    Grant Hutchison

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    For me, I actually don't think anything very childish did occur in that thread, it was a classic example of physics logic vs. quoting of sources that were leading to misconceptions. When the conversation looks like "here's why the sources are leading you to misconception", versus "but look at what the sources say," then, "yes, they say that, and here's why they are leading you to misconceptions," responding with "but this is what I hold to be true based on the misconceptions I've received from those sources," you can see that you are always going to hit a wall in that kind of dialog. If no one cares if anyone else understands, there's no problem-- I could have just presented the argument once, and let who understands understand and that's that. But if you do care, how do tell someone they don't understand, without it sounding personal? I don't think it's "childish" to want someone else to understand. It isn't even always futile. So this is the basic problem that crops up sometimes.

    That said, we can now ask what a mod is going to do. It isn't really the mods duty to adjudicate the physics, but it is their duty to adjudicate the form of the debate. So they apply some standards to what can and cannot be said, and there you go. I get that Grant is not objecting to what standards were applied, only to the form of the application. Some terms in that form were modified, others left in place. On balance, someone who understands the physics of that thread is always going to have a very different view of the reality of the situation, and that's just the reality of the situation. So we don't all agree on what happened in that thread, but at least the thread was allowed to happen, and that's really the main thing I care about because the record is now there for anyone who really does wish to understand gas pressure-- and they can't get it very easily anywhere else, without meeting the very misconceptions that are addressed there.

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    Yeah, this is why I didn't want to talk about the specific thread. Because the various contentions in the thread just spill over into the feedback thread.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I guess what sits uneasily with me is this sequence of events: members snipe at each other insultingly out of frustration and annoyance; mods (rightly) step in to curb this behaviour; while doing so, mods snipe at members insultingly out of frustration and annoyance.
    Mods are human. They get frustrated with patterns of bad behaviour, being ignored or people repeatedly pushing how far they can go. I don't think it is a general habit of the team here to treat posters like children, although it does sometimes happen.

    And, without discussing content or individuals in that thread my only thought on it would have been that stepping in should have happened earlier and infractions should have started flowing more quickly - the tone shifted to be needling, baiting and personal almost immediately and stayed there. It was a classic example of a thread that was only ever doing to end up closed unless someone took the initiative and de-escalated things. But given that it is the holiday season and I suspect moderators have better things to do than sit and deal with squabbles on the internet.
    Last edited by Shaula; 2018-Dec-31 at 05:18 PM. Reason: Removed a comment about apologies that was out of turn

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    Let me share some thoughts on what could be said and how it should be said. Some sketchy hypothetical cases:

    Poster A: In my opinion the physics is ...(with references)
    Poster B: I disagree...(with references)
    Poster A: In my opinion you are arguing a common misconception.
    Poster B: I think your opinion is ATM.

    Here is where it gets interesting after a few exchanges.

    Poster A: In my opinion you are continuing the same mistaken argument in spite of my repeated addressing of the issue. I stand by my argument.
    Good. Addressing the idea rather than the person.

    Poster A: You dummy, how many times to I have to explain it?
    Bad, insulting the person.

    Poster A: It appears you don't want to learn.
    Sort of bad, worthy of moderator attention, on the basis of what the mods have said.

    Poster A: It should be obvious to anyone with a high school physics background.
    Could be bad if the topic is more advanced than that and Poster A has misjudged it. Since this involves evaluating the physics it may be a harder call for the mods.

    In my opinion the thread in question had reached an impasse between two posters, and it was showing no signs of resolution. In addition tempers were flaring repeatedly despite repeated admonitions from the mods. I think closing it was the right thing.

  29. #29
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower
    Could be bad if the topic is more advanced than that and Poster A has misjudged it. Since this involves evaluating the physics it may be a harder call for the mods.
    "Villains who twirl their moustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged"

    - ST: TNG .. Picard .. Episode: 'The Drumhead', (Written by: Jeri Taylor)

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    And, without discussing content or individuals in that thread my only thought on it would have been that stepping in should have happened earlier and infractions should have started flowing more quickly - the tone shifted to be needling, baiting and personal almost immediately and stayed there. It was a classic example of a thread that was only ever doing to end up closed unless someone took the initiative and de-escalated things. But given that it is the holiday season and I suspect moderators have better things to do than sit and deal with squabbles on the internet.
    I can't disagree more. I think the entire tone of the thread was almost completely focused on physics, and the physics in that thread is fascinating and top notch. Just look at the insights gained by several of the posters, and the comments of other posters who already had those insights.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower
    In addition tempers were flaring repeatedly despite repeated admonitions from the mods.
    I saw nothing in this thread that I would call a "flaring temper", because I've seen flaring tempers, and that wasn't it. It is not a flaring temper to simply tell someone they are not understanding, and why. Sometimes, it is essential for making the point that they do not, in fact, understand something. No one in the thread ever seemed the slightest bit angry to me, can you post any evidence of anger?

    [ETA: before I conflated two different posts.]
    Last edited by Ken G; 2019-Jan-01 at 02:23 AM.

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