Nine circles of moderation

Well, I didn’t say the frustration unwarranted. My point, as a moderator, is that the quality of the conversation quickly degrades when people publicly vent their frustration on the forum and start getting personal, aggressive, and/or or otherwise uncivil.

We may think the other person is an idiot for not understanding the obvious. We may suspect that they have a polemic agenda. They may seem irrational or have a completely foreign belief system. We may be frustrated that they aren’t addressing our questions or facing the clear data that destroys their argument. But, when emotions rachet up and people get defensive and exasperated, it does very little to build constructive dialog and tends to de-humanize one another in the sense of seeing an argument to win rather than a dialog to building understanding. By that point, the people left in the conversation tend to just be the ones that are in it for the battle.

So what’s the solution? I am becoming a bigger fan of just disengaging from conversation when I start feeling frustrated and it seems like I’m saying the same things over and over again. It doesn’t feel natural to leave a conversation “mid-battle” and it can seem like we’re giving up or conceding defeat. I’ve just had to get over it, frankly, and not worry as much about how it’s perceived. Lately due to my job situation I really don’t have as much time as I’d like for PS, but it should also be okay for people to disengage in order to lower the heat. Ideally, we are a community that should allow each other to come-and-go from conversations as they need. That means not pestering people for answers if they have indicated they have to limit or end conversation. It also means, importantly, not taking silence as concession or approval.


That’s backwards. People start to vent their frustration after the conversation has degraded.

Was the conversation ever graded in the first place? It started with a long, incoherent rant, and it’s hard to go downhill from the bottom of a hole.


Is there a smooth descent to the bottom, or are conversations with creationists generally randomly walking around on a noisy landscape full of local basins of attraction?


And are the moderators playing the part of a selection bias opposing the intrinsic attraction of creationistic discoursive degeneration?

I’ll get my coat…


I think that since the thread started incoherently, and the “hypothesis” has been becoming even more incoherent since the beginning, it’s time to get some post-modernist criticism in. We could start by declaring evolution by natural selection to be a crypto-colonialist construct designed to support imperialistic triumphalism, and go from there. I’m not sure what the postmodernist criticism of creationism would be, but I’m sure one could be hammered together using some sort of postmodernist random text generator and a pint of corn whiskey.


I was going to post something about the taxonomy of conversations and whether they fit into kinds or a nested hierarchy but sometimes its hard to convey light-hearted satire in text without somebody getting bent out of shape.


Definitely a fair point, but I was thinking about it a bit more from a moderator’s perspective rather than a content perspective. Our general moderation approach is to try to be fairly hands-off when it comes to quality of content (people from all backgrounds and opinions are welcome to contribute … or make a fool out of themselves, take your pick) and focus on keeping “tone” of the conversations from getting out of hand. However, you’re probably right that frustration most often occurs when one side or the other feels like the quality of the content or engagement is lacking.

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I encourage everyone to closely examine the assumptions being made before responding, and to always questions those assumptions first. To respond directly might be a tacit acceptance of bad assumptions, which it the cause of many long and pointless arguments.

you are aware that one of those exists on the web, correct? I always wondered if it could be modified to produce ID rhetoric.

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Conclusion: moderators are not content.

I love English…

Indeed I am aware of that – it’s hilarious. As for the ID version, I think that’d be a good project (though I’m not sure, judging from the quality of its recent books, that the DI doesn’t already have one of these).

Years ago, my wife wrote a primitive version of this sort of thing – it worked by simply creating a database from the source text of all word pairs occurring in the text stream. Then it would start by picking one word at random, and choosing a word pair beginning with that word to begin the text. It would then choose another word pair which began with the second word, and thus generate the third word, and so on. It was quite funny. Some of the sentences were quite confused simply because the sentence structure would get messed up, but much of what it generated fell into that “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” sort of zone where the sentences are pretty nicely structured but just make very little sense.