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The Silence Is Deafening (devonzuegel.com)
438 points by pagade 87 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 225 comments



I suspect that a lot of the nice behavior on HN is because, for the most part, people value the community, and consider this a "professional" environment, and it's not a bad idea to play nice in places where employers/ees can see us show our butts.

LinkedIn was like that (in fact, sickeningly saccharine), but it's starting to fray.

Slashdot was good for a while, then CNN and YouTube kicked off their trolls, and they all went to /. It's now the place to go, if you want swastika ASCII art.

StackOverflow manages to be a painful place to participate, even though they are sincerely trying to be decent. I think it's way too "gamified," and competitive.

For myself, I'm an old troll. I admit that I was a right bastard, back in the UseNet days.

I am trying to atone.

One of the ways that I do that, is make all my info connected with every place I participate. If I am a jerk, you know where to find me. Alternatively, if I make a good impression, you know where to find me.

I also pay attention to downvotes. If a post I make gets a couple of rapid downvotes, I nuke it. Sometimes, I understand why; sometimes, not. It's just not worth it to me.

I am also making an effort not to engage too much. I may have a one-or-two-post back and forth, just to see if we can come to an accommodation, then it's "Have a great day!". Totally OK to let someone else have the last word. I have better uses for my time.


I'd encourage you to consider NOT nuking a post/comment just because it gets downvotes. We already have too many people afraid to speak for fear of judgement by the mob. You're clearly a thoughtful person, and I believe the silent majority out there would appreciate more diversity of opinions.


A comment that draws mob wrath today is likely to retain that ability into the future. Combine this with the increasing popularity of digging up old comments, taking them out of context, stirring a moral panic, and getting someone fired over them, and it becomes pretty clear that unpopular opinions (and adjacent) in the permanent record represent a serious liability that only increases with time and should not be underestimated.


> Combine this with the increasing popularity of digging up old comments, taking them out of context, stirring a moral panic, and getting someone fired over them

I hear you loud and clear. Signed up for reddit in 2007 and last week finally decided to run "shreddit" and delete my entire post and comment history from the website. No way I'm letting some comment I made 13 years ago get taken out context and ruin my career or relationships.


There are plenty of reddit message archives out there. I often stumble upon mutilated reddit threads while looking for a solution for some technical problem. The only thing shreddit does is wasting a few more minutes of my time.

Edit: why the downvotes? I am genuinely interested. Shreddit does not protect you from anything, it's only an illusion. I think more people should be aware of that.


Even if it's not perfect, it's a significant step towards removing discoverability. The Google crawling will eventually drop the content associated with the username, making it massively more difficult for someone to dig up past history.

A motivated individual could still dig things up, but many people (even most users of reddit) are unfamiliar with the archives out there.


The issue is that regardless of Google/Bing caches, there are sites like Pushbullet that archive ALL comments and posts that were made on Reddit, with APIs that savvy people can use to check deleted/edited comments. Awareness of these archives seems to be spreading through Reddit.


There are quite a few HN mirrors out there, too

https://hacker-news-example.factor.dev/

https://hn.matthewblode.com/

https://nilaykhandelwal.com

https://innerself-hn.com/

I'm not really sure why people would do this, except perhaps some seo shenanigans?


This seems like an exceptionally rare event- for a person to a) have nothing better to do than stalk your comments, going back 13 years, b) be in enough of a position of power that they could use it against you, and c) be irrational enough to not understand how dumb it is to hold a 13y/o internet comment against you.

My opinion is this- if somebody wants to stalk my Internet personality, so be it. I'm willing to sacrifice those relationships.

I guess the problem would be if I ended up with some leadership/management position and a subordinate saw it?


I guess the problem would be if I ended up with some leadership/management position and a subordinate saw it?

Like this guy fired over an article written 33 years ago?

https://nypost.com/2020/07/03/boeing-communications-boss-nie...



The person doesn't need to be in a position of power. All someone has to do is tweet something you said a long time ago, out of concept, and then someone else in a position of power finds it. Or it gets signal boosted by other people until it comes to the attention of someone in a position of power.


Like that time a Developer Evangelist overheard two developers exchange dongle jokes and got them fired for it. It doesn't take much.


> This seems like an exceptionally rare event

A global pandemic is also an exceptionally rare event, yet it's wise to be prepared for such things because sometimes they happen.

As for "be in a position of power", there's a lot of websites with enough SEO to show up in the first page of Google results for your name. How much do you care about what potential employers/co-workers/business partners/romantic partners think of you?

For "be irrational enough", just look at any click-bait headline or random sampling of tweets. There's a lot of people in this world who are quite happy to take things at face-value without thinking too hard.


> How much do you care about what potential employers/co-workers/business partners/romantic partners think of you?

If someone judges me based on some randonm old comment without even talking to me, I absolutely do not want to work with them or be their friend, ever.


> If someone judges me based on some randonm old comment without even talking to me, I absolutely do not want to work with them or be their friend, ever.

This is fine for you and me right now.

It is not fine for persons like one of the guys who was mentioned in the story in "the Atlantic" who had, for the first time in his life landed a good job only to be thrown under the bus at the first opportunity.

I'm fairly certain if a judge haf given him his job back he would have accepted it.

Why? Because I have been in a tight spot myself and while I wasn't fired (I moved to a new city to a job I was promised only to be told on Monday morning that they had reconsidered and wouldn't hire me anyway) I know the feeling of going -in a few hours - from a situation where everything looks nicer than ever before to a situation where I'm begging every nearby company to hire me.


> I'm fairly certain if a judge haf given him his job back he would have accepted it.

From that doesn't follow that one should just say nothing (that isn't utterly benign and impersonal) on the web. This would leave something like participation in public debate to the forever unemployed or bots. If we think that far enough, you could also not communicate with other human beings in private messages, because they might take a screenshot or record it, and so on.

This could very well lead to a world where having a well paid job will come with less freedom, dignity and happiness than even being unemployed does today. I cannot affect the world much with my decisions, but by them I can unilaterally decide what kind of world I would have deserved to live in.


These are good points. Have my upvote.


Signed up for reddit in 2007 and last week finally decided to run "shreddit" and delete my entire post and comment history from the website

If only HN offered that option for people who signed up under identities that could be linked to their real identity back in the day when the Internet was sane(r).

It will live on in archive.org indefinitely anyway.


I remember once signing up for Disqus (I think), or some other “combined” commenter SaaS.

After I had entered my info, but before completing the process, it said “We found all these comments out there. Are any of them yours?”

It displayed a list of ancient stuff; a lot of it posted anonymously (I thought).

I was horrified, and immediately binned the signup.

The Internet can be a downright creepy place.


Hear hear, there are old usernames that I wish I could delete from HN.


Please, no. It makes sense to remove username from a post. Removing content is horrible.


Sure, but it could revert the username to Anonymous Coward, like other sites do. The acid test will be when someone decides to make it a GDPR issue, then HN will need to pull its finger out and implement this simple function users have been asking about for years.


> A comment that draws mob wrath today is likely to retain that ability into the future.

Maybe sometimes, not always.

I generally try to avoid being too controversial or, if I feel the need to make a potentially controversial point, couch it in thoughtful and reasoned terms (except on the rare occasions where I've drunk posted in which case it all goes out the window and I post something that makes no sense even to me the next day - and, of course, I don't recommend doing this).

You obviously can't see how many downvotes or upvotes a post on HN gets, or when they've come in, but I've certainly had situations where the score changes over time in a way that suggests a "wave" of downvotes followed by a "wave" of upvotes, and occasionally vice versa. I.e, comments that started out popular have become unpopular, and vice versa.

The other pattern I see from time to time is that you get absolutely roasted in the comments, but the silent majority upvote you massively. I remember posting something broadly supportive of Microsoft in some way or other where exactly this happened: I got completely slagged, but also picked up a ton of points.

I think this illustrates that the at least sometimes the mob involved in the mob wrath might be a lot smaller, and sometimes with less credible concerns, than you might think.

This is one of the problems I see with twitter: it's hugely adversarial yet only a small minority of people use it so when you go outside into the real world you realise it doesn't - or perhaps shouldn't - have that much bearing even though it's so prevalently cited in the media.


> if I feel the need to make a potentially controversial point, couch it in thoughtful and reasoned terms

Did that save Stallman?


Mob works with keywords, not with meanings.


Exactly, that's a good way of putting it.


I honestly feel it would be a good idea to remove them. Just let people upvote. There's something disproportionately mean about downvotes. They're not just a lack of upvotes, they're like beating someone up with a stick.

They're almost never used for their actual purpose anyway, which is to rank down uninformative or just dumb posts, they always end up being utilized in heated discussions as a way to stick it to whoever someone is arguing with.


It seems like having only (up / down) conflates at least two distinct messages that a reader might want to quickly express. The "official" one is dispassionately judging post quality for moderation purposes. The "wrong" one is expressing personal opinion of the content.

Many users clearly want to quickly express their personal opinion in a low effort manner and are more than willing to "misuse" the voting mechanism for that. There was a post on the front page of HN earlier today about railroad crossings and blaming end users for (arguably) systemic failures. It seems like the current incarnation of social media runs afoul of this quite badly in all cases I'm aware of.

(I'm reminded of an SO comment by Tim Post about comments being their version of a public trash can and the reputation requirement for them roughly equating to a municipality welding them shut. The result is pretty much what you would expect.)


Perhaps downvoting should require more effort, like solving a captcha.


I made a post on SO Meta[0], where I shared a bit of wisdom I learned from teachers:

"Encourage the person; discourage the behavior."

Seems to have received lukewarm response, but it may be an oversimplified approach to a complex issue.

"There's always an easy solution to every human problem; Neat, plausible and wrong." –H. L. Mencken

[0] https://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/398537/what-can-we-...


I agree that upvotes only would make for a better dynamic with less mob abuse. And, if someone is mean or makes a dumb contribution, being completely ignored is a good lesson, much better than a shower of downvotes without any reason


> being completely ignored is a good lesson, much better than a shower of downvotes

Downvotes directly lead to a post being ignored, because they get greyed out and eventually die. I consider that a great self-moderation feature. How would you replace that?


Upvoted comments going up the page and ignored ones dropping down so one has to scroll all the way down to see them.


I remember a lot of people, myself included, questioned Facebook's "like" system when it was introduced because it had no corresponding downvote. I think I agree with you now though.


That doesn't work, because posts with zero upvotes get the same screen space and framing as posts with 25k upvotes.

This is an editorial issue, because those upvotes are decorative. They suggest a post has more reach and engagement, and perhaps is more entertaining. But not that it has more objective credibility - which is of course a reflection of Facebook's preference for promoting the former over the latter.

Voting isn't the answer. There may not be a community-sourced answer, because any system you imagine can be gamed by any more or less organised adversary.

The only workable solution is manual moderation with some attention to tone and content, and the banning of those who consistently troll.


Possible alternative: downvotes that don't affect placement, and just have an additional downvote counter.


I've sometimes wondered about a lifetime upvote/downvote counter as an alternative to upvote karma.

This would work in a secure community, but it will stop working as soon as astroturfing PR firms and state troll farms move in, because on most sites it's trivially easy to create downvotes bots to attack specific names.


There's also something to be said for owning your disliked comments, for better or worse.


I don't like to "just leave them out there." If I can figure out why they are disliked, I may be able to fix them.

Here's an example: A couple of days ago, Antirez made this excellent post[0].

I could completely relate. I have been through the same kind of thing. I have created a project for free that is becoming a worldwide standard, but is tiny, and rather pathetic, compared to redis.

But I could still relate to what he wrote, and I made a post, saying that. I pointed to my own little project.

It immediately started getting downvoted. They were coming fast and furious, so I deleted it.

On reflection, I see that it was perceived as being "small-time loser compares himself to tech god."

I didn't mean it that way, but I'm a bit "on the spectrum," and aren't always too aware of how I come across.

I considered it a lost cause. I nuked it, and wrote a quick "thanks!" post, like everyone else.

The fox just wasn't worth the chase.

[0] http://antirez.com/news/133


Isn't that a little pathetic to write a comment then keep staring at the voting on it?! And then delete it if it gets negative? Be a man, like Eleanor Roosevelt. Write the best comment you can and walk away. Life's too short to obsess over HN voting like that.

> They were coming fast and furious

All 4 of them? You know can only possibly lose 4 points, right?

Also, I noticed that on some topics I know more about than most, the best comments on the page are initially downvoted, then return to the black fairly soon.[0] You may just be penalizing yourself with the panicky deletions. And I'd much rather your comments stay here, if you meant what you said, and what you said and how you said it seemed good to you. Well, maybe you are a real bastard and frequently write horrible comments that should be deleted, but I doubt it. :-)

[0] Maybe/probably this happens with every topic, just I can only see it on topics I know best, where I can clearly see which are the good comments and which are plain wrong/ignorant.


I appreciate your point of view, but we do see things differently.

For example, I have learned that there's very often many different aspects to others, beyond my shallow "first reaction." Although social media (and media, in general) encourages us to think of others as 1-dimensional "avatars," it has been my experience that every person is a marvelously complex being, with many different facets.

Sometimes, it's best for me to just keep my mouth/keyboard shut. Retroactive deletion is not the ideal approach, but I believe that it is better than leaving clearly unsuitable material out there, and I suffer from an overwhelming urge to participate in society, despite my challenges.

It might be a good exercise to consider the possibility that I could also have interests in life beyond HN. In fact, I often delete stuff, because it just isn't really important to me that I be heard. I don't live and die by the opinions of others, but it's important to be a member of society, and that means interacting with others in a respectful manner. If what I write does nothing but cause trouble, and I don't really care whether or not anyone likes it, then maybe the world would be a better place without my "wisdom."

I see that you also have many interests beyond the technical, so I have to assume that there was some point that you wanted to make, other than what appears to be a rather flaccid insult.

I must tender an apology. I don't think I have the capacity to understand your point.


> It might be a good exercise to consider the possibility that I could also have interests in life beyond HN.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say there or why. Just sounds condescending. That you do? We all do, I guess.

> I have to assume that there was some point that you wanted to make, other than what appears to be a rather flaccid insult.

That feels a bit rude, you could have just asked what my point is. I was offering what I hoped helpful advice. Wasn't meant to be insulting at all, sorry. (I assume you meant "a little pathetic"? My comment was meant in a "you can do better than that!" way, trying to lift up, not put down. "Be a man, like Eleanor Roosevelt" is I think a Simpsons quote, I should have put it in " "s)

I didn't write the comment when I first read yours, thinking it wasn't necessary to reply, but an hour later I thought of it again, so came back here to comment. It was apparently something I really wanted to say, which is one good test of whether to comment, I guess.


> If I can figure out why they are disliked, I may be able to fix them.

fix? why would you want to become part of the echo chamber? i do understand the desire to not receive a downvote. Your specific example was indeed perhaps out of place and the downvotes were maybe "correct" and thus you were right to reflect and delete the post.

but more often than not, with contentious topics like donald trump downvotes are merely "i disagree". the pushback you're getting here is about that kind of downvote, and I agree. there's nothing to "fix". HN tries to make sure such topics don't even make it here for discussion, but the filter is steep so plenty get through.


If you don't understand, I can't explain, but I have spent my entire life, trying to measure the reactions of others to my words and actions.


Agreed. Dislikes also let you discover funny trends among the people here. For example, if you say meditation doesn't work, that's one. Even though there is evidence that it doesn't, and if you read something like "Altered Traits" by leading meditation research, they essentially admit as much.

There are a couple other trigger topics, but I can't remember at this time. Oh, one is asking about salary, but I guess that's sort of understandable.


Thanks. I do value this community, and try to be a good citizen.

Like I said, I am trying to make amends. One of the symptoms of that, is that I can come across as "stuffy."

Also, I do want to put out a good image of myself, but that can come across as "self-promotion," something I'm downright awful at. I'm also pretty much terrible at relating (tends to come across as "making it all about me"), so it tends to fall flat, when I try.


There are several places where comments here are archived in near-real-time. Deleting a comment here is a signal, not an actual "no one can ever see it again" deletion.


Maybe it's confirmation bias but it seems that it's getting more and more common to see upvoted posts with the top reply something along the lines of "I don't know this was downvoted ..." followed by a restatement of the OP's comment in a slightly different wording.


Wording matters, a lot. I've even posted a few "I don't know why you're downvoting this when it's correct, and here's why" comments myself.


>I suspect that a lot of the nice behavior on HN is because, for the most part, people value the community, and consider this a "professional" environment, and it's not a bad idea to play nice in places where employers/ees can see us show our butts.

People here also have made it or perceive that they are on the path to making it. They may think that housing costs are too high or the police are too violent or that outsourcing has been bad for the American worker. But we're by and large not without adequate housing, the target of police violence, or in the poor house. It's easier to be less outraged when you're sitting at the top of the heap.


Or, more simply - they give us enough space to express complex thoughts, and there's good moderation.

The problem in the online culture is very, very simple: Twitter. The basic mechanics of the service create an incredibly awful culture. The mentality it has created now pollutes the rest of the internet, as do screenshots of its content. Only narcissists use Twitter. I know a lot of people in my real life - the people I like don't use Twitter, those I don't like do use Twitter. I think we should simply shun people use who use it, and treat them with disgust, as if we found out they get their news from supermarket tabloids or post obnoxious YouTube comments.

Many other internet platforms have risen and fallen before, I don't know why that one still lurches on.


It’s late, and I can’t give this the effort it deserves, but there’s really a huge conflict when you’re saying “only narcissists use Twitter” in a discussion about how to be kind and productive on the Internet.

There’s tons of crap on Twitter, but it’s just absurd to say only narcissists use Twitter.

Disclaimer: I use Twitter, I may be biased against the claim that this makes a narcissist.


Yeah, I use Twitter because it’s part and parcel of being a Twitch streamer. Perhaps there’s a certain level of narcissism involved in being an entertainer but that line of argumentation might be a bit of a stretch.

To me, it’s just one of the most effective communication tools for that particular arsenal. Announcements, updates, and even matchmaking is done there — it’s too valuable to ignore.


I believe there's a fundamental difference. You're using Twitter as a tool, the problematic people use Twitter for entertainment and social interaction. It's like Paul Erdös using methamphetamine vs some random meth addict, there's a large difference in intent and control of usage (and likely also amount).

There are also small groups of professionals and researchers who use Twitter effectively and very tool-like. They don't walk into politics, they use it to update everybody on stuff they find/learn and to be updated by everyone else. On paper, that's the intended way to use Twitter, but obviously they don't spend that much time on the platform, and they certainly don't get notifications on their phone when somebody they follow has tweeted something.


In other words, broad sweeping generalisations about a service’s users are not useful.


Are you genuinely worried about "sweeping generalisations"? Obviously not, as you have no other input on the discussion other than a generalization about "broad ... generalisations about a service's users". Maybe you could address the substance of the point being made? Or are we going to just assume that 140 character snarky comebacks are now the new intellectual standard for humanity? Did you not even notice that your reply looks like a silly tweet? It does not appear like Twitter is doing you or your intellect much of any good.


What exactly is the purpose of this post other than to insult? What contribution did this make?

All you’ve written is snarky insults. I’m not responding to any of that.

From the HN guidelines:

- Be kind. Don't be snarky. Have curious conversation; don't cross-examine. Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.

- When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. "That is idiotic; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 + 1 is 2, not 3."

- Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

- Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something.


Hahahaha, is that sarcasm? You really don't realize that your prior comment I was replying too is breaking many of the same HN guidelines you posted? Do you really think that accusing someone of making "sweeping generalizations" and making no explanation of that accusation is "thoughtful and substantive"? Were you really responding "to the strongest plausible interpretation" of the person's comment? You were not. On the other hand, I actually was doing that with your comment.

Do you see now? Twitter-style discourse is absolved of intellectual rigor and apparently it also is absolved of self-awareness.


> Hahaha, is that sarcasm?

No, but your reply to me was dripping with it.

> You really don't realize that your prior comment I was replying too is breaking many of the same HN guidelines you posted?

In what way? It was only a summary of the points that I and two other users further in the same thread had made.

> Do you really think that accusing someone of making "sweeping generalisations" and making no explanation of the accusation is "thoughtful and substantive".

I made a perfectly adequate explanation of why I think such a sweeping generalisation is invalid; that there are Twitter users who aren't complete narcissists. As the person to whom I responded said a couple of comments higher, "there's really a huge conflict when you're saying 'only narcissists use Twitter' in a discussion about how to be kind and productive on the internet.

My contribution to the discussion was originally to support hyperpape's rebuttal of Mizza's claim that not all Twitter users are narcissists. luckylion's comment further supported this same line of thinking as Mizza and I were following, giving further demonstrations of examples of non-narcisisstic Twitter usage.

My summarisation of all three comments, mine, luckylion's, and Mizza's, was that broad sweeping generalisations about a service's users are not helpful. I basically restated everything we had said in a sentence.

The only thing lacking in thoughtful and substantive contribution has been your absolute obsession with that summarisation, seemingly treating it to mean something other than what it is, becoming rude, abrasive, dismissive, and lacking in the sort of courtesy that most HN users would show to one another.

> Were you really responding "to the strongest plausible interpretation" of the person's comment? You were not.

Actually, as I just explained, you'll find that to be exactly what I did. I was merely summarising a few statements into a sentence.

> On the other hand, I actually was doing that with your comment.

I would disagree. From your tone, leading questions, abrasive wording, and insulting language, you have provided no real evidence of this.

Notice how none of those users seem to have any particular grievances about me having summarised our collective thoughts; just you.

None of them have made any leaps of logic like assuming that my perceived disagreement (and I cannot emphasise that enough, because I and the previous three comments, one of which was mine, were in complete agreement) amounted to a defence of "140 character snarky comebacks as the new intellectual standard for humanity" (something neither of the three of us mentioned); just you.

None of them is indirectly insulting me with lines such as "it does not appear like Twitter is doing you or your intellect much of any good", clearly detectable as ad hominem even if you make the subject of that sentence Twitter rather than me directly; just you.

You seem to be picking a fight where none needs to exist.

> Do you see now? Twitter-style discourse is absolved of intellectual rigor and apparently it is also absolved of self-awareness.

Firstly, I was not defending Twitter-style discourse. I will restate this: all I, as the other commenters, was doing was to state that not all Twitter users are narcissistic. I put no money either way about whether or not Twitter-style discourse is effective, defensible, or whatever.

I made no comment about whether Twitter-style discourse necessarily contained any trace of intellectual rigour or self-awareness.

However, I will hold that last paragraph as the best evidence possible of the pot calling the kettle black: you respond to an argument that neither I nor any previous commenters have made, use abusive and insulting language, and then deign to imply that I or my discussion may be lacking in intellectual rigour and/or self-awareness.

All for a misunderstanding.

All of which could have been avoided by you asking me to clarify my position, to determine whether or not I was being antagonistic (I was not), and to do so without resorting to being snarky, without cross-examining, to make the discussion more thoughtful and substantive.

Simply asking me what I meant, rather than laying straight into me with a series of attacks, would have demonstrated those principles.

Instead, you chose to shallowly dismiss the post without electing to understand its position, in doing so failing to respond to what I said with the strongest plausible interpretation by rather attacking an invented one that is easier to criticise.

Your first comment to me even called names, implying idiocy.

None of these things correctly apply to either my comment to which you replied nor the one prior — but I wouldn't put it past anybody to apply them to the two comments you've sent me.


[flagged]


> ... to say that the Twitter format (and emergent culture) is a global or even local optima for strong intellectual discussion.

To be fair, there's quite a bit of space between "absolute crap" and "optimal intellectual discussion". It could be mostly crap, or some crap and some joking about.


I don't think you are being intellectually fair at all. I never implied that anyone was claiming Twitter was optimal. It was an argument against the idea that there are not more optimal formats than Twitter to use for actual intellectual discussion. Also, I am not sure why you are using quotations as if you are quoting my words.

I am still waiting for the downvoters (or yourself) to actually offer any evidence to the contrary. But they will not because their intellect is built upon Twitter style discussion. Too bad, the internet is making people dumber.


> Or, more simply - they give us enough space to express complex thoughts, and there's good moderation.

This is what it boils down to for me. Slashdot was great because of CmdrTaco and when he left it that was about the time when that site went down the tubes. Hacker news is great because of dang. When the moderators leave, the communities often rot.


I suspect you're judging too quickly. Those you're having low quality interactions with use the platforms in question //recreationally//. Just like with drugs there's responsible use, and limited use for business, and then there's 'pack a day' use.


Many people have often pointed to scientists as an example of this productive use of twitter, but if you look at the recent clash between Yann Lecun and Timnit Gebru that got some attention, it even causes shitstorms between otherwise polite academics who have conversations on what one wouldn't consider to be a mainstream issue.

The medium is the message and sooner or later the twitter mechanisms get everyone regardless whether you have good social media hygiene. It's built for outrage. Instantanious nature, slot-machine like feeds, blinking like buttons, 'getting ratio'd', virality, this is what it's built for.


Plus the format itself. Twitter is inherently optimised for soundbites. Nuance and high-impact, 5-seconds-at-a-time communication don't really mix.

Then add the incentives built into any (anti)social network: they automate piling on. Engagement über alles, users be damned.

[I am painfully aware of the irony of posting a critical post about Twitter, quoting material that was originally posted at Twitter. The notion of pileon automation comes off of this tweet: https://twitter.com/mcclure111/status/1143950836533473286?la...]


There are professional communities on Twitter with collaboration and learning. But it takes effort to curate lists.


I think it's also an effect of the way most Twitter users interact with the feed. I've used Tweetbot for years, and other clients that only show the timeline in order before that, and I'm pretty religious about clearing out people who only post annoying/only political/negative content on their feeds.

I've found it to be a great place for feedback on my own work and also for finding new things, but I also instinctively filter out about 90% of what I see even in my own curated listing that I browse.

Every once in a while I get to Twitter.com and see how the algorithmic feed lays things out, and the experience would be a disaster, like with Facebook.


Fortunately, Twitter lists remain chronological and can be connected to Flipboard to create a print-like newspaper navigation experience.


My thought is it's because how HN was designed. It doesn't display images and videos, not even for the ads. Also the reply notification is minimal. When you got a reply, HN doesn't use a great effort to notify you. When you don't notice reply that much, you wouldn't reply to the troll that much. Replying to the troll doesn't yield any good outcome for you because troll just want to troll and not intended for a good argument.

In old Japanese 2ch forum, there used to be a saying "Ignore trolls" and if a person behaving bad, they were said, "Be ROM(Read-Only-Member) half an year." It was a wise word.

Also, the number of users is quite small compared to... say, Reddit.


I just deleted my reddit account of 13 years.

Reddit has become overly toxic, and the premise of this article is definitely in effect on reddit. The trolls are winning over there.

HN was a sometimes-read for me, but now it's becoming a daily-read replacing reddit, because it's just less toxic here (I hope).


Self censorship is not a way to progress society, most of society progresses by challenging the main stream narrative, the main stream science, etc.

Like wise anonymous speech has a huge and vital role in much of our history prior to the internet. Since the invention of the printing press people have used pseudonyms for their speech for a wide range of valid reasons

Further still the idea that "Real Names" curbs extremism has been clearly proven false, in fact is drives extremism, precisely because is drives out moderate voices and only the very extremes of the mob is left of yell at each other

Moderate voices will "If a post I make gets a couple of rapid downvotes, I nuke it." that is not a model for healthy debate or discourse


That's a really good point. I'm not sure that it applies to my own situation, though.

This isn't a place for me to challenge stuff. I come here to learn and to contribute.

Actually, let me amend that. I do like to present a "challenge," in that I want to model respectful, considerate behavior. It has been my experience that this is not always received well. I guess that people feel as if I am being "snooty."

I guarantee that it's far preferable to the way I used to interact with others on teh Internets tubes.

"Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement."

I have a lot of experience. I have often cleared minefields by dancing through them.

One of the things that I enjoy, is being corrected, because I often learn that way. It may sting a bit, but I am constantly pushing boundaries, and learning new stuff. I write a bit about that, in the referenced Medium post[0].

I have been working with...difficult...people for almost 40 years. I have learned that it's not particularly productive to ram stuff down people's throats; especially if they are someone with a history of violence.

Being "wishy-washy" is also almost as unhelpful, so you will see that I do make strong points, in areas in which I have the authority to do so.

There are those that look at any appearance of moderation or self-restraint as "weakness," as you can see, from this very thread (in fact, one person actually came out and said that), and I often encounter people that mistake kindness for weakness.

They don't like me, when I end up calling them on it.

But I am also keenly aware that it isn't a good idea to hurt someone, if I want them to take me seriously. I have often made inadvertent utterances that have offered hurt, where none was meant. I sincerely regret that. In some cases, I sacrificed valuable relationships, because I made snap judgements, or ran off my mouth.

I am a very kind person, but I am not a weak one. I know that it may not seem like it's possible, but it's quite common to be both kind and strong. I have spent my entire adult life around people like that.

I value the people here. Note that I emphasized "people." I think that the modern social media landscape has encouraged us all to think of the folks on the other end of our communications as "not-people."

[0] https://medium.com/chrismarshallny/thats-not-what-ships-are-...


I think most of my downvoted posts are bad jokes, which is pretty similar to real life for me! I used to take it hard when I had a bad reaction but now I realize that you sometimes take a swing and miss, and that's ok!

I do appreciate that HN is definitely not like reddit where the most of the top comments are one-liner jokes or puns.


> I suspect that a lot of the nice behavior on HN is because, for the most part, people value the community, and consider this a "professional" environment, and it's not a bad idea to play nice in places where employers/ees can see us show our butts.

As I work in dysfunctional industry (enterprise software development), being professional would ruin a lot of the fun of being on HN, as I would have to parrot their dysfunctional beliefs... Hence, I always write from anonymous accounts and decomission them often to make sure I'm not doxxed.


Downvotes (like "flagging") can be valuable signals that say more about the micro-communities downvoting than the content being voted upon. There are also downvoting brigades. It may be useful to have a "best of downvoted" HN content, like Slashdot meta-moderation.

e.g. threads involving specific companies or topics can have more polarized voters and commenters.


Slashdot was good for a while, then CNN and YouTube kicked off their trolls, and they all went to /. It's now the place to go, if you want swastika ASCII art.

ASCII art trolling is not new. Penis Bird Guy was a hugely famous Slashdot poster back in the 90s. I agree Slashdot doesn’t seem as good now as it was then, but the problem isn’t that.


I agree with you on StackOverflow mostly but their penchant for moving 1v1 arguments into extended chat and then providing a link to said chat for anyone to see is something that I wish was adopted by other sites.


This is true. It does work, except that whenever they invite me to chat, they ignore what I have to say. It's like the teenage game of "snipe hunt," where they take you out to "catch the snipe," then all go home, leaving you out there, holding the bag.

They have found very polite ways to be rude.


When one of my comments get downvoted, I usually reread it trying to figure out why. Quite often, I realise I didn't explain my point very well and add some better explanation. That usually stops the downvotes and adds some upvotes.

On very rare occasions, I make a point that turned out to be just wrong and not salvageable in any way. If it lead to an interesting discussion, I leave it in place because it still provides context to that discussion, and I admit I'm wrong in another comment.


> I also pay attention to downvotes. If a post I make gets a couple of rapid downvotes, I nuke it. Sometimes, I understand why; sometimes, not. It's just not worth it to me.

I almost wish downvotes meant enough here I could do that in good conscience. As it is, I have absolutely no idea why I get the downvotes I get, when I get downvotes, so they're not a learning process for me. They might as well be handed out at random. (I hesitate to make accusations.)


i dont think deleting posts is fair or a good idea better to apologize or correct IMHO


I don't agree with removing posts due to downvotes. If you made a mistake sure, but if not, stand by what you said. It's not virtuous to be weak


> It's not virtuous to be weak

Wow. Just...wow.


I watched the famous movie 12 Angry Men for the first time recently (I think it holds up well today, BTW).

There is a scene where a man goes on a racist tirade. Instead of engaging in argument or ignoring him, they stand up and turn their backs.

Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXlHKTPfLVA

This is much like the disapproving glare mentioned, but what's the online equivalent?

I play a few online games but not much multiplayer. Public voice chat made it a much less enjoyable experience. You can mute people of course. But as far as I know, they don't get told. What if each time it happened it popped up a message "4 people have muted you today", "3 out of 8 teammates have muted you"? It could be a useful feedback mechanism.


Negative feedback and dislike features can reduce engagement or drive people away, so social media platforms are incentivized to avoid such mechanisms.


And I think they're just chasing local maxima. Over the long term, they devolve and people leave.


This is a very important observation.. It parallels the real-world chase of short-term profits in business, and short-term "points" in politics.

If the major platforms took a longer view of their communities, and asked themselves how do you build the _best_ community, not the _biggest_ community, we might all be better off..

But then their stockholders wouldn't be better off, so it hasn't happened.

That said, now with businesses and advertisers (the actual customers of social networks - because the users sure aren't) starting to pull ad dollars, we may see some of this change? One can hope..


Yes, but that is what needs to happen: reduction of negative engagement.


Yes but if you're doing it by driving people away you want to get rid of trolls not those engaging in good faith.


There was a remake of that movie made in the 90s with Tony Danza, a different take but also worth watching. In that movie the racist tirade is made by a non-white juror who is stopped by the grandfatherly German juror in a calm tone: “You just shut your filthy mouth and don’t open it again.”


1 person muted you however am bring retaliation toward assumed 1 person.

As in, muting is "safe" in the sense that aggressive person is not getting information and thus can't treat your mute as you being hostile. And abusive people would see mute as unfair hostility and would retaliate.


The assumption is that you can't see who muted you etc, which is already standard.

Those sort of people will get aggressive anyway when someone doesn't reply to their jabs. So you could use that to argue against any sort of mute feature in the first place.

The line has to be drawn somewhere and I think too many assume silence is assent, because many players are reluctant to speak up for fear of being targeted and this makes people feel that they have support for what they say. So have the game do it instead.


If I antagonized one or two people, I can guess who muted me. That us what I mean.

So while this would work in general "annoying to everybidy" case, it would be bad for those who are singled out target.


that’s an interesting idea.. the analog to real life would be if someone turned around and walked away, effectively muting your speech to their ears. I’m working on a new public chat app sqwok.im, actively thinking about these issues, and may consider this, thank you


It needn't be active muting either. What if some sort of engagement metric were shown e.g. Votes divided by views (or some more sophisticated variant thereof)?


It's also social pressure on the others to also mute / turn their backs and join in.

That's more difficult online for non engagement.


A big part of in person conversations are about building equity in the relationship. Even from the first encounter, you express what you think about and how you think about it and look for places that your thoughts intersect with others. Those that have a beneficial intersection you're likely to explore further, invest more and build more equity.

Online, there is little chance that you'll establish a new relationship and build equity with other users. You've got hundreds or thousands of followers, so do they and in many cases, the person you respond to may never see your reply, let alone remember your username for more than a few minutes.

These exchanges can be so fleeting because you're both typically anonymous. Anonymity is antithetical to trust and trust is required for equity. There is little that an anonymous person can do for you, and little you could do for them.

Contrast Twitter and LinkedIn. Both have feeds and allow messaging and conversations. But since you know the people you're interacting with on LinkedIn, many times personally, you are civil, helpful and courteous because one day they may actually be able to do something to benefit you. You invest in them and building equity in your relationship in expectation that if there is something you can do for them, or they can do for you in the future, it's there to leverage.

Twitter just feels like, I dunno, looking for love in all the wrong places?

People have a multitude of purposes for engaging online anonymously. Learning or trolling, ego support or battling boredom, maybe a better solution would be to target those purposes as independent platforms and structure the dialog to support the purpose.


Yeah, friends have occasionally encouraged me to use Twitter, over the years since the mid 00s. But it's never appealed to me, and so I have ~no experience with it, except from following posted links.

But anyway, you say:

> Anonymity is antithetical to trust and trust is required for equity. There is little that an anonymous person can do for you, and little you could do for them.

While that's generally so, I have developed many more-or-less long-term anonymous relationships, over the past couple decades. And some of them have led to interesting collaborations, and even paying work.


I was with you until you pinned the problems on anonymity. Correlation does not imply causation. In this particular case there are (IMO) many counterexamples regarding anonymity, including HN in particular.

A different comment here points out the (effectively unquantifiable) risk that more or less indelible comments can pose in the future if they can be trivially linked back to a permanent identity.

Interestingly, your explanation in terms of equity actually holds up without considering anonymity. If you instead frame it in terms of purpose for visiting the site it makes sense that Twitter would have a disproportionate number of users who exhibited little concern for building equity. This is also consistent with the toxic behavior that often occurs on Facebook, where real names and interacting with people local to your area are by far the norm.


There are a lot of people IRL who blabber on, usually people ignore them/consider them obnoxious. Somehow they haven't developed this ability online


This article made me realize, part of the quality of the conversation on HN comes from the ability to downvote.

I’ve never thought about this before, but one of the effects of Twitter and Facebook only having positive reinforcement is that you don’t get the “disapproving stare.” It’s possible for a person to “like” with some degree of anonymity and no effort, but not possible to do the reverse. Worse, since the Algorithms heavily bias content based on “likes,” there’s no recognition of content that is actually broadly liked versus content that is polar.

Also, for individual posters in places with downvoting, the little dopamine hit you get from upvotes is heavily countered by the bad feeling of downvotes.

I know that in my own participation on HN I will occasionally think of a snarky thing to say, but usually don’t post it because I know it’ll get downvoted, which I don’t like, and that moment of hesitation is usually enough for me to think “yeah that is actually unhelpful and not worth posting.”

This all probably very obvious to most of this crowd, but I honestly haven’t considered it before. How different would the world be if Facebook and Twitter merely had dislike buttons to go along with likes?


> This article made me realize, part of the quality of the conversation on HN comes from the ability to downvote.

It also comes from persistent, patient moderation. Here's one example from Dan[1] that recently opened my eyes to just how valuable it can be:

"Please don't post snarky dismissals here. Maybe you don't owe Quora better, but you owe this community better if you're posting to it."

His comment proactively dissuaded me from joining in the fray and posting something that wouldn't provide some measure of value for the HN community.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23646883


Most high quality communities have active moderation. And many times, the vast majority of moderated activity is as simple as the mod privately telling a member to chill out or adjust their attitude. Don't need bans or downvotes even, most people will happily comply with a mod request simply because the request was made.


* and permitting the civil discussion of differing views.


This is a striking point. In most "real life" communities, there will be someone who gets the final word on whether something said is acceptable. Think mom or dad at the dinner table, the CEO at a private company, or the principal at a high school. They are effectively the moderators of the public forum they physically inhabit.

We do, however, structure this moderation as a hierarchy and it self organizes. The mom has the final say on acceptability, but in her absence, the older sister takes this role. We rarely see this structure in online communities. Should downvotes be weighted by the karma of the voter?


> Should downvotes be weighted by the karma of the voter?

While a good idea in theory, I'd hate for people to have yet another incentive to want "good karma". Would prefer tiered levels of moderation where long standing community members get promoted to 1st-level moderators. Their actions get moderated by the next action, etc. etc.

I remember being an @op at an IRC trivia channel when I was ~13 years old or so, back when we had dial-up. I played in it daily, for a lot of time during weekends, was nice to everyone, gave tips to newbies, hung around. Was asked to join the team, as a "level 5" op. Loved the "behind the scenes" so much, the op community, fell in platonic love with a chick 14 years older than me (actually met her IRL 6 hours away by car about a year later, so cringe!), kicked trolls and spammers... then later as I learned mIRC scripting helped write a new trivia script, a bunch of tools, etc. Ended up being "promoted" to level 10, started training new operators, then 20, started making longer plans for the channel, then 50, 100, then "founder" status. All of a sudden I was calling shots at 15 years of age, with ~500-1000 concurrent users in the channel during peak activity. That experience of ensuring people were having fun, cultivating a community of friends among users and operators, teaching new people how to be moderators, etc. was incredibly rewarding and left such a huge imprint in my life. There were no points to be earned, no karma to show anyone... You wouldn't even know the channel unless you were on BrasNet (unlikely!) but I was eager to contribute everyday just because there was a real community behind it.

That sort of community is all but gone from the internet with its fake internet points

You can say the OP status was a points system of sorts, but not really... Users didn't know my level, and you couldn't click on my username to see how "big" I was. Most importantly, one couldn't click on one's own nickname and get a dopamine hit from seeing a number next to it like one can when their post makes the front page of HN, reddit or any other platform, or when they get 100 likes on FB an IG


> Should downvotes be weighted by the karma of the voter?

As a person with 60k karma I would find it enjoyable to downvote comments to the center of the earth, but I don't think everyone would agree.


I think this is right, but would add that it is also key that the vast majority of here have a lot of trust in YC + moderators and nearly universally view them as good faith actors. This wouldn’t work on CNN.com.


I respectfully doubt it, since YouToube and many news site comment sections allow up and down voting. And they are still generally dumpster fires.

My vote goes towards quality moderation being the key difference maker in the quality of discourse.


The downvote on YouTube comments does nothing.


That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of YouTube.

FWIW I also understand how valuable moderation is and I think it is more impactful than downvoting. I just had never considered before that downvoting was, at least potentially, a valuable tool to increase civility.


I've come to the opposite conclusion about downvoting. To me, downvoting is the most useful to people with an agenda to push. They can "push" the agenda by both upvoting posts that support it and downvoting posts that are against it, regardless of post quality. Either action is equally beneficial for the narrative. It essentially gives people two upvotes. Normal users, not trying to push an agenda, do not have this "two upvote" advantage, since they are generally not upvoting/downvoting content in a narrative-consistent way.


What I like about HN's approach is that the comment's score is hidden from the public, so you don't as often get the dogpiling effect.


If you take that view, then it appears downvoting is much more potent than upvoting. An upvoted post would at most rise to the top of its tree, but a downvoted post will eventually disappear.


You are also encouraged not to give feedback in such cases, as I believe you cannot up/down-vote threads you participate in?


I think with hn, it's more than just the downvote, it's the subtle greying out of the comment each vote below zero until finally being killed at -4.

This is a bit different than say reddit where downvotes can just keep going on and on and a comment with -120 votes is just as visible as a comment with -1 and only a quick click away from being as visible as positively voted comments.

Hn's comment greying reminds me more of just silently being shut out or ignored and gives you immediate visual feedback as to the relevance, or lack thereof, of what you said.


I see the value in having a limit to down votes, but that shouldn't elminate the comment. Like every community HN has norms. If you have an opinion that's not popular - valid or not - it can get down voted. That doesn't mean the voice shouldn't be heard.

Mind you, if something is a violation then let the moderators handle it. But there is a difference between unpopular and violation, even on HN.


> If you have an opinion that's not popular - valid or not - it can get down voted. That doesn't mean the voice shouldn't be heard.

HN does have the "vouch" mechanism to compensate at least somewhat for this. Someone with enough karma to vouch can give a downvoted post that they think deserves to be heard a second chance.


That and there is always show dead mode for those that have an account and wish to see those comments. They're just generally hidden from casual browsers and must be turned on by those who want to see them.


I use both functions, the latter more than the first one. Both are pretty useful.


I'm much more likely to upvote a post if it's grey, and much less likely to downvote it. I think you'd see a lot more downvoting if you removed the grey effect.


The default New Reddit experience does hide heavily downvoted comments.


yeah the problem I have with that type of system is it’s easy to be muted simply for not engaging in group think...


In my personal experience, the Reddit comment-hiding system only gets triggered for particularly horrible comments, not just controversial ones. It must take into account the upvote-to-downvote ratio.


HN uses downvotes for disagreement, not just because someone is being a jerk. How is that good? The top comment becomes the group-think comment.


I want to elaborate:

Downvotes are good for BAD COMMENTS. Things which do not add constructively to a discussion.

If someone DISAGREES however, that is what a reply beneath stating the disagreement is for.


There's always going to be, subjectively, a lot of overlap between those two categories in looking at the comments of others.

I know I'm not a troll, so obviously if someone downvotes me it's because they disagree and therefore unfair. But maybe not from their perspective.

You can also downvote and reply; I don't know how common that is. But given the number of people who say they don't know why they are downvoted, it seems to me like a reasonable thing to do.


Yes. "Look at this cool thing MS/Google is doing!" and "Look at this evil thing MS/Google is doing!" can both be seen as trolly agenda comments and relevant ones, depending on where you stand.


I really hope FTC or at least the Europeans will stop that merger...


Perhaps there should be another voting option, for 'disagree', with a visible counter beside the post


I agree.

Would be cool if "downvote"(for relevance)and "disagree" would be mutually exclusive (either/or).

You either decide this post is not relevant to the discussion at all or you disagree with the argument.

"Upvote" for relevance and "disagree" could be combined.

You decide this post is relevant to the discussion but you disagree with the argument.

Of course everything depends on users using the tools in good faith. But it would be an interesting approach to decouple "downvoting" from "disagreement".


the problem is that it can be abused too easily


> This article made me realize, part of the quality of the conversation on HN comes from the ability to downvote.

It’s a little more nuanced than that. The downvote alone gave rise to the “Bury Brigades” and the ensuing Groupthink that killed Digg. HN used to suffer the same problem, though not fatally so, and I think @dang has made some code mods to curtail that. Plus his awesome efforts as our moderator.


Reddit has downvotes as well and its conversations are uniformly bad. Slate Star Codex has a creaky old antique of a comment system without voting at all, but its conversations were of the highest quality. So are LWN's. I don't think voting mechanics affect discussion quality as much as you think. What matters a lot more is a sense of mutual respect, shared purpose, and, honestly, a certain level of average intellectual horsepower.


I'd argue that it's the norms that a community develops.

LWN and SSC had excellent discussion because their respective communities focus on both promoting quality and policing bad behavior -- go off the rails, and you'll get a bunch of folks trying to help you get back on.

It's Peelian policing[1] for internet forums.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peelian_principles


I'm a huge fan of Scott's writing, but the forum discussions at SSC did not seem particularly good (for any value of good - niceness, erudition, signal-to-noise, etc) to me. Certainly they were much worse than HN on average.


Not sure what you mean by the 'forum discussions'. The open thread discussions were almost uniformly of higher quality and depth than most HN threads.


Could you link to some examples? My impressions so far have agreed with GP's...


Maybe they seemed especially bad next to Scott's essays which were all very well thought out in comparison. I do agree though that I've found them more disappointing than HN comments on a pg essay.


Reddit will ban you if you vote the "wrong" way. (HN has similar mechanisms in place as well.) Previous discussion:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23601595


> Slate Star Codex has

Had, sadly. Still deleted.


I think it's specialism. The topic that defines the community, dictates what kind of people are likely to join.

If youTube only server IT-related videos, it wouldn't be 1/100th as popular, but the comments would probably be much higher quality.


I 'd really like to see some research on this. Is there any studies from reddit etc to show whether positive or negative reinforcement works better?


quality = min(community, interface)

If the community is bad, it doesn't matter what tools you use, people are going to write and upvote bad stuff, and sometimes downvote good stuff if such option exists, flagging will be misused, etc. There is no way to conjure a good discussion out of bad actors.

On the other hand, any community will contain a few bad actors. If not now, then definitely when the community becomes famous. The good guys may try to stop them, but it depends on user interface how comparatively easy it is to wreak havoc vs police the behavior. If the good members outnumber the bad ones 10:1, but it is 100 times easier to post bad stuff than to remove it, the website is doomed. Ideally, fixing problems should be so easy that moderators won't get tired doing it.

Related problem is that an online community cannot work on pure democracy, because it is simple to create sockpuppet accounts, and also unless the community is huge, it can be easily overrun by hordes of real people coming e.g. from Twitter. Again, a reasonable user interface will assign greater powers to established users over the newcomers. But it needs some metric to do so, for example the total karma gained. Again, if the core members are bad, they will abuse the rules for petty reasons.

When people complain about some features of the interface, typically about downvoting or even karma as such, they usually correctly point out how the feature can be abused, but forget to consider how a lack of the feature could be abused. For example, downvotes can be used to suppress dissent, and karma can lead to hive minds. However, websites without downvotes are easy to spam (whether by literal ads, or just a small group of people pushing their agenda everywhere, upvoting each other). The standard solution to spam is blocking, but then we have gone full circle, because blocking can also be used to suppress dissent, except it is done per user instead of per comment. (A good website needs both mechanisms. Sometimes there is a bad comment from otherwise good user, but also some users consistently post lots of bad stuff.)

Also, ultimately there is no way to build an online community that would make everyone happy, even if we exclude the obvious trolls. People have different opinions, duh. Most people don't like the environments where the opposite opinion is a norm; many dislike even when the opinions are balanced; and for some even hearing the opposite opinion, no matter how small the minority that supports it, is beyond the pale. Deep in our hearts, most of us want to live in a bubble; we just don't want to retreat to the bubble and give up the places we enjoy, we would rather prefer the bubble to grow and swallow the places we enjoy. We all can't have it this way, so someone is going to complain no matter what.


There are two services (one built by me) out there which have this in mind, providing an online space for deep public discussions around a topic.

Taaalk (https://taaalk.co/) is mine. It is currently less focused around debate, and more around exploring topics:

E.g. OCD: https://taaalk.co/t/exploring-obsessive-compulsive-disorder Eating disorders: https://taaalk.co/t/discussing-eating-disorders Bitcoin: https://taaalk.co/t/bitcoin-maxima-other-crypto-things Flag design: https://taaalk.co/t/the-power-and-significance-of-flags Chess: https://taaalk.co/t/how-to-think-about-chess Psychedelics & Mental Health: https://taaalk.co/t/falling-inward-discussing-the-role-of-ps...

Etc...

Another alternative that is built by a fellow HNer is Debubble (https://debubble.me/). It is more focused around debate than Taaalk. There are a fixed number of messages / discussion.


I quite like the approach of https://www.kialo.com/explore/featured

Discussions in a more visual tree format for easier navigation and reduce duplication of points (I appreciate hn and Reddit are trees already, but this takes a different direction)


Oh, wow... I clicked on one of the topics on your site, a topic of great personal relevance, and I really like what I see so far.

I’m on a quick break, but later on I would like to join the discussion, because it seems like a healthy environment that is oriented around understanding, inclusivity, and mutual aid.

I’m sorry to be so vague with my feedback, but I figure it is still at least a little bit useful, and hopefully even a little encouraging as a small validation of the concept. Thank you!


No problem, thank you for it.

If you want to email me about anything, my email is in my bio.


This was so interesting I posted it to HN now. Often when I do someone has already done so and my posting becomes an upvote, but not this time.


Good observation. I have noticed that people very vocal online do not do so well in person. They forget what it's like to have people looking at you disapprovingly or to be forced to express your views coherently the first or second attempt, without the chance to craft the perfect 140 char response.

Unfortunately, as more and more young people grow up with digital spaces as their primary domain, they are losing the ability to communicate in person. I have a few friends that are high school teachers, and they all notice this trend. Every class discussion involves short sentence answers, low effort, very little passion. But if you let them use a digital space to post opinions (like a class discussion forum) things can become polarised, or at least more passionate than they were in class.


Toastmasters! Public speaking is an incredible valuable skill that you need in all walks of life. People should check out their local chapter: https://www.toastmasters.org/


I've come across people mentioning Toastmasters online at least 3 dozen times in separate contexts over the years. Yet no one IRL knows what the hell it is or where to find one. How can something be so commonplace here and completely alien outside of online spaces. I've never been to one or had the word toastmasters ever mentioned in person before. Is this like an alcoholics anonymous, but for public speaking?


I think maybe the difference is that a digital space allows you to not focus on the number of people you're addressing, so people act more like they are having a conversation with a representative member of their audience.

I don't think it's fundamentally about the digital aspect so much as writing vs. speaking.


I have a few friends that are trying to "solve this problem" -- ranging from ideas on better, more inclusive social networks, to vetting (news) sources and ideas, to self-governance, to curation-heavy communities.

I personally don't really think it's a "problem" -- people simply, on average, just don't care about other opinions (especially opposing ones). This happens on both sides of any debate. Why learn about, study, and discuss the moral implications of abortion and wade through its ethical morass when you can just share some provocative meme? Why actually read the W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington debates when you can just share some celebrity's shallow BLM Tweet? Hacker News is a rare gem[1]. Most people aren't educated, curious, and willing to accept when/if they're wrong. This is exacerbated by the re-emergence of yellow journalism in mainstream media (where accountability for misleading or even false headlines is nonexistent) because these days it's all about the clicks.

So we're left with Twitter and Facebook. And people, on average, like their echo chambers. They don't want to be challenged or poked or prodded. In 2020, Socrates would be banned from Twitter.

[1] Although, perhaps as a sign of the times, even this post is getting downvoted without any discussion.


I fear you are being over cynical. I think most people don't have the time or energy to care about so many different things. The person we imagine in the conversation will care deeply about family, friends. Possibly about their work and maybe one or two "big" issues - but grief there are a lot of issues being top-of-lungs- screamed right now and ten more to come.

Take our persona abi e and put them on a citizens jury and give them two weeks paid time to get involved in an issue (like Irish did on abortion laws) and we will see nuanced balanced decision making (which we may or may not agree with).

And for the very big issues that become part of the "public conversation" this does happen - I am pretty sure that most people in the UK considered the issues around Brexit as deeply as they wanted to - there was time motivation and information available to all.

So for most issues yes they fly past us all, covered in fake news and attention grabbing antics, and sometimes we get angry but most of the time it's just wallpaper.

I don't like the wallpaper and don't think it's conducive to pleasant conversation but I doubt few people are actually fooled.


Brexit was dominated by misinformation and bad prospectouses far more than any recent election. People voted against things that were not going to happen any time soon, and in favor of things that were never going to be delivered, like the extra NHS money.


You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.

It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.

-Marcus Aurelius


I'm a big fan of Meditations. Having read both the Gregory Hays translation and the George Long, I have a hard time mapping these very different translations as referring onto the same text. My first impression was, "clearly the George Long translation is a real translation of the text, whereas the Gregory Hays is a contemporary attempt to restate the thesis of each lassage without strict adherence to the original." But without the ability to read the original, this is pure speculation/ignorance on my part. Does anyone have any insight into which translation is the most faithful to the original?


Yeah, it would be nice to learn Latin and read the originals.


Interesting tidbit: Marcus Aurelius, despite being a Roman emperor, wrote Meditations in Koine Greek.

I once had a conversation with a Koine Greek scholar (also a Lyft driver, he was driving me to the airport -- turns out the job market for Ph.D.s in Koine Greek was/is not great), and he claims that most native English speakers should be able to achieve reading proficiency in Koine Greek in a matter of 6 months. It's apparently a very regular language.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditations


Interesting indeed, thanks for sharing.


There are things which might be under my control or should be under my control, about which I am in doubt. These are painful to consider; if they aren't truly my failures, then other people might consider them such.

Focusing on things which are obviously not under my control seems like an instinctive displacement mechanism that's fairly generally applicable. It's futile from the perspective of actually changing anything, but serves a purpose.

So I try not to tell other people to fix themselves, because it may be an illusion that they try to escape from through "silly" behavior; I'd question logically/philosophically whether anything can operate on itself.


> Just try to escape your own.

I'd tell Marcus:

> It’s silly to try to escape

And there's a kicker lurking in that direction: trying to "escape escaping" won't be any smoother ride, just one meagre step closer to infinity.


It means you can't control others. People have faults and it's on them.


Wow, this changes how I think about online discourse more than anything I can remember.

It actually makes me feel a lot better - rather than feeling like the whole world and all my friends are angry and unreasonable, it reminds me that, no, most of them are just being invisible. And that even the ones who seem unreasonable are just a product of their environment.

The funny thing is it could really be solved with a "that" feature on Twitter, to quietly keep track of when others disapprove, and even to anonymously and privately let the tweeter know.


A that feature? Is that a typo?


Sorry, yes, that was autocorrect - I meant "tut", which had been suggested by someone else on the thread


The digital "tut" is perhaps a inter-social-media protocol we could create.

Like a downvote, it indicates disapproval and starts trying to, as this article persuasively says, move social nuance online.

Twitter, Facebook et al could all have this alongside a like button, on a RESTful interface so it's agnostic about the client.

Many, many years ago I stumbled across a web page hosted on a white supremacist site but was third in google's ranking for Martin Luther King search term. It struck me then that what would be useful was not for me to link to that site (hence adding to its pagerank) but to link to that site with an href attribute that indicated something was wrong about the facts presented.

I think overall this is the same problem of short selling - and it's not clear how to fix it.


Humans seem to have evolved to live in small-ish societies where being given the "cold shoulder" or being ostracized was a great danger. I'm always mixed though whether abandoning that is good or bad.

On the one hand in liberal societies we're more free to express ourselves than ever, love whomever, etc. On the other hand, it does seem like anyone can find a subculture for whatever they believe in, even if it's destructive.


Well, Usenet has its own version of "tut": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plonk_(Usenet)


I think the problem I have with this argument is that it assumes 'Angry Alice' is there to argue in good faith. Unfortunately I've learned that there are many, many 'Angry Alices' out there that exist solely to rile up people and they get validation out of misleading people or tricking reasonable people.

At the dinner party it's much harder to pull off this sort of trick because you're dealing with very real people face to face. Once you've caused large amounts of friction with people in reality, they're less likely to engage with you and will outright avoid you.

But when you're on the internet, you have an endless supply of people that you can troll. And often it's become harder and harder to separate the trolls from what people actually believe.


The author does mention that though, except they call a bad-faith arguer a "grifter" instead of a "troll."


The distinction I keep is that trolls do it for fun and grifters do it for money. There is a lot of money in the outrage industry and lots of prospectors looking for gold.


I suspect that they mean "griefer". A grifter is a conman.


"The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots." -- H.L. Mencken


I’ve been trying to have more 1-1 conversations with friends these days about some of the more controversial topics in the news when it comes up, basically an IRL version of a DM, and it’s been interesting to see how people’s opinions align against the Twitter opinion spectrum. About half have been much more moderate than anything I’ve seen online, but the other half actually do align with the more radical and loud voices shouting about whatever it is that’s trending on Twitter at that moment. I always thought that Twitter wasn’t really representative of what most people thought/believed but now I’m not so sure. Of course this is just based on personal anecdotes. And to be fair, all of the 1-1 conversations I’ve had have been productive and each time I’ve been able to walk away with some ideas that I haven’t had before.


Love this. One of the most frustrating aspects of social media is the lack of feedback, or maybe more accurately the one-sidedness of the feedback. I personally assume that means no one cares about what I write, but maybe they just don't have the energy to tell me off. Either way, this hits the nail right on the head in my opinion


On top of all this there is an arbiter (social network) that filters and decides what is important enough be shared maximally. Before anybody even hears your conversation it has been filtered to a degree, there is no organic interpretation of the situation by the group like there would be in real life.


It seems like too much work, and not sure if it is a good use of someone's time to keep answering and writing long facts to people, or random strangers.

It isn't realistic to expect everyone, or the majority of people, do this on the internet.


A single bit of disapproval may be too little information. In the southern US last century, "So, when are you inviting me over?" not only conveyed reasonably non-confrontational disapproval, but also the specific message that one shouldn't speak too much of one's own acquisitions in a wide public. "Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter" is a similar stock phrase to gently suggest online that someone is not preaching to their choir.

Someone asked a few days ago on HN what to do about clearly racist rhetoric in the twenty-first century. Maybe we ought to discover a similar stock phrase, such as "All that matters is can the fine horse see" or "Nobody's saying they don't appreciate what Jenny did" (or perhaps something from Blazing Saddles? "So, when are we stampeding cattle through the Vatican?").

(but, even assuming such a phrase were discovered and originally used in a targeted fashion, how should we avoid the nearly-inevitable Godwin-treadmill flak thereafter?)


Here you go, server is currently giving me 503

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https:/...

On a side note, why does Google make it so hard for mobile users to use its cache feature?



Yes, but it's a bit slower too.


Good luck trying to do this with every single participating entity. The "problem", if there is one to be defined, is not the "silence" of the user, but the default behavior to not surface the access of the data in question to others who are accessing or discussing the data. Basically servers need to divulge all meta data about an endpoint, including access and times.

Its a "security flaw" of the Internet and web services, as they are currently defined. If someone would get around to integrating Lightning with the 402 HTTP error code, it might make it a bit better. Then again, someone has to convince all the users to use new browsers and technology, which will take forever.

In the meantime, a service which shows who and where the content is being accessed, and a revenue model that fits with that viewing would be interesting.

Vote me down, but no discussion is just more of the same meta problem. Users vs. hidden/unknown corporate control.


Downvoting is one way disapproval is expressed, so the premise is the article is flawed. However, we must also remember that the point of speech is to convey truth, not crowd pleasing, not stirring up conflict for the kicks, not bland milquetoast niceness. What the appropriate tone or style is, or whether engagement makes sense at all, will depend on the situation and here we need prudence (in the classical sense). Feedback can be of help in shaping prudence, but it is not the final arbiter of the correct course is action. It must be examined for validity.

So please, do not couch your language. Be clear and direct. Let your yeses be yeses and your noes be noes. Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. Listen to to your interlocutors, but speaks plainly and honestly. Let the chips fall where they may.


> It gets worse—Angry Alice only sees feedback from extremists, so she doesn't receive more nuanced signals that might actually cause her to reflect on her behavior

But this works both way. Actually, it works all ways. That is, the person who marginalizes Alice is also marginalized by someone else. And so on and so on. Eventually, everything is binary. There's little if any grey area.

No doubt a small minority actually deserve to be marginalized. Those existed long before the internet. The internet is different. You don't need to work to understand or even engage. Instead, many seek to minimize friction and maximize positive feedback. The validity of the source is irrelevant. Digital love is good regardless of the source.


Best kind of disapproval makes people reflect and change behaviour. That kind of disapproval works best if it comes from people in your in-group or from people you respect.

Anonymous downvoting like in big forum is just for moderation that excludes people.


I've long thought that the problem with Twitter and Facebook is that there's no downvote button. This article is about something different though. What if we had a platform like these but posts had a metric of likes or shares per view displayed on them rather than absolute numbers. I really want to see how that goes actually. Simply displaying views might give a totally different interaction as well.


I think he hits the nail in the head. He's main observation is this:

"...digital spaces generally have no equivalent of a disapproving glare. You're stuck choosing between staying silent and entering the fray, with few options in between. If you have little reason to believe that other reasonable people will back you up, you're going to stick with the default: silence."

In this permanent work from home situation, I can relate...



Ohh, thanks for pointing that out.


Being anonymous seems to be an exception to this. Social barriers are removed and then its just a question of the energy needed to type somethong out. Of course there are all kinds of tradeoffs, but it's striking how much online communication has been de-anonymized over the last 20 years.


I think this direct message technique has always been going on.

The reason people on Usenet would say "The lurkers support me in email" (until they learned that saying that was taboo) is that the lurkers were supporting them in email.


Well good ideas, but maybe Twitter should have a disapproving glare button and a way to incentivize it's use by reasonable people.


Polemics require belief that subjectivity is born out of battle. What has changed is that belief.


A deeper issue is the cultural shift to an overly judgemental culture which has been built thoughout the decades. The media always, always has thrived on creating moral panics, but the public wasn't always so gullible to them.

There's a noticeable shift towards conservativism and a constant preoccupation with their public image among younger generations. It's even noticeable in statistics , e.g. disapproval of nudism.


Curious if this is related to the Balaji Srinivasan/Taylor Lorenz spat on Twitter.


Arguing online is a complete and total waste of time. Designed to make you spin your wheels. You aren't doing _anything_ productive.


DM = Direct Message


>speak out

>get attacked

>stay silent

>get attacked

It used to be that the only way to win a losing game is to not play, but even now that's not an option anymore.


How do you exactly get attacked by staying silent?


A common slogan these days is "Silence is violence.".


But what if Alice is right and silent majority is wrong? I would say silent majority is mostly wrong in recent times.


The linked article suggestions would work on a holiness-neutral topic like emacs vs vi, but I don't think the suggested tactics would work against holy virtue signalling.


Can we ditch the "virtue signalling" meme? It comes across as a simple dismissal, which doesn't improve any situation.


The term can be overused. But we need a way to describe the very real underlying phenomenon, of expectations that everyone ought to endorse and actively promote promote a particular moral stance. Trying to talk about modern activism without the term "virtue signaling" would be like trying to talk about churches without the term "religion".


The term "virtue signalling" is a derogatory term for something that every person does in pretty much every form of communication. You can perceive it in everything from scientific papers, to song lyrics, to professional conferences, to children's conversations.

The use of the term is purely to denigrate the person by vaguely deriding the values that they've presented as the basis for their argument.

If you use the term you've chosen to argue against the character of the person, and not against the content of their statements.


I don't agree. The way I normally see it used, "virtue signaling" refers to a pretty specific phenomenon where you go out of your way to make sure people know you hold the correct moral views. It can occur in pretty much every form of communication, but it's far from universal.


I think it also relates to things like "humble-brag".


I thought the GP's comment was the best I'd read in a while on HN, but you're right that it refers to a more specific phenomenon. The GP nailed it, though, with

> The use of the term is purely to denigrate the person by vaguely deriding the values that they've presented as the basis for their argument.

– which is the way it normally seems to me used on here. Someone says X, then someone else who doesn't share the feeling that made them say X, accuses them of virtue signalling. It's a bad faith, hostile thing to say - you wouldn't talk to your friends like that.

It seems similar somehow to a term we have in Australia, a bleeding heart, applied by someone on the political right to someone on the political left who expresses, for example, sympathy with poor people or mentally-ill people. To someone without those sympathies, it will sound like the person is faking that emotion, being "politically correct", just saying what they think they should, morally, and not sincerely expressing how they feel, since the person on the right doesn't share that emotion. Such people are called bleeding hearts. (...I just looked at your comments and see you're in Oz too. Hi!)

Actually, we (you, me, GP) are talking about two different things - one is the alleged signalling itself, which your definition describes. The other is the act of labelling something as virtue signalling, which the GP describes in the part I quoted. And like 'hater', 'whining', etc, people may be haters, may whine, but saying that to their face is an unfriendly, bad faith move. No-one feels they are a hater, or whining, or virtue signalling. They feel they're doing something else, and you're presenting your guess that they're wrong about that as a certain diagnosis. You claim to see clearly what they can't see at all.

Seems to me, the use of the term "virtue signalling" as a weapon in a fight/debate is itself a pungent form of virtue signalling, and is the main one that bothers me! It attempts to signal that one is above virtue signalling, and like "You can trust me!" or "I'm not racist", raises its own doubts about that, for me at least. I don't like the term, avoid using it, and don't think it does any good.

Which brings me to my so-called Arsehole Theory of the World - that those who spend their lives calling others arseholes, are themselves arseholes. Those who often call other people idiots, are idiots etc. It's not easy to be human and not a hypocrite. Easier to tell the other guy he's one.

"A man should be very sure that he himself is not what he has always in his mouth." – Hazlitt, On Nicknames


As a random aside, I'm in Oz too :-)

Heya to my neighbors! It's actually not too unlikely that we're physically not that far apart. I'm about 5km as the crow flies from the Sydney CBD.


Hi! Funny coincidence.

Entirely depends which way the crow flies though. Petersham here.


Huh! We're basically neighbours. Newtown here ;-)


> a bleeding heart ... who expresses, for example, sympathy with poor people or mentally-ill people. To someone without those sympathies, it will sound like the person is faking that emotion, .. since the person on the right doesn't share that emotion.

You've essentially redefined that word/phrase to imply that anyone using it is unsympathetic, which is very convenient to anyone who finds themselves accused of being one. It reminds me of definitions of SJW at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice_warrior - the first two seems accurate, then the last one is:

> Allegra Ringo in Vice writes that "in other words, SJWs don't hold strong principles, but they pretend to. The problem is, that's not a real category of people. It's simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice."

Allegra essentially redefines SJW as meaningless, by claiming that such people don't actually exist - that the phrase is purely a dismissal of Social Justice. Problem is, people who use the term don't believe that, and while it can be used, disingenuously, or erroneously to dismiss Social-Justice, the unproven claim it makes about a person is what defines its formal meaning, and not whether that claim is accurate or not. As such, you can't say "this claim is never true, therefore this term means something different" - atheists still understand what "heaven" means, even if they don't believe it exists - this is how meaning and usage differ, even though there is a complicated relationship between the two.

Now consider that "such people don't actually exist" is a claim or belief, well use of the phrase "SJW" implies the exact opposite, it requires they exist to be meaningful (well, not really, you can still talk about angels and unicorns abstractly, but in this case we are applying it as a label to a real person) so redefining the word is as unnecessary as an atheist redefining "god" - they can still talk about the term, but instead simply switch to the crux of the conversation: that they don't believe in the basis of the phrase.

So by all means, ask for evidence a person accused of virtue signalling is being disingenuous, but don't gaslight phrase itself.

As for the aspect of tone e.g. calling someone a "whiner" etc. It think in that case the insult "whine" comes from the fact that words like "complain" exist, meaning the accuser purposefully chose a more insulting word to use i.e. tone Perhaps there are less insulting phrases than "virtue signal" e.g. "disingenuous", but I'm not sure. I can't think of an equivalent to "SJW" (I think there should be one, it's becoming as meaningless as "racist"), but I think there is a greater context to consider; there are terms that are partisan, SJW has a right bias, "mansplain" has a left bias (and isn't obviously any different from "arrogant", except with the gendered implication that it applies to men). It seems to me impossible or unfair to police tone without doing it in a bipartisan way, but anyone trying to do so usually leans one way or the other, hence "tone-policing" usually ends up as "tone-of-other-policing".

I think before we get to that stage we need to agree on what level we are discussing at, and what phrases, on both sides, are not useful to that level. And one thing is clear; public politics operates at a level way lower than we might want.

I'd also mention, as a tangent, Trump lowered the tone of public political discourse, but it wasn't great before - if anything he disabused some of the notion that it ever was; I'd argue that he was the first politician to drop the pretence of high-quality public discourse unashamedly cheat and lie. But Trump didn't break anything, he just advanced things to their inevitable conclusion; It was divisive politics that put him in the WH in the first place, no surprise he now promotes it - removing Trump will slow the advance of divisive politics, but it won't stop growing, or even accelerating. In fact, it may be more accurate to describe Trump as phenomena resulting from high division in society, rather than as a cause of division - as such removing Trump without reducing division, or causes of division, will just be an exercise in waiting for the next Trump.


Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

> You've essentially redefined that word/phrase to imply that anyone using it is unsympathetic

I don't think I've redefined it. That's how it seems to me and, I guess, others on the left. To those on the right the definition would be necessarily different, I guess "people who pretend to feel sympathy with poor people etc." I just think the people who I've heard it aimed at aren't pretending to have such feelings, thus the definition I gave first is the accurate one. The phrase seems a way to try to mask deficiencies in your own character by accusing others of lying/pretence, consciously or not.

Sorry, I don't know enough about SJWs or SJW-labellers to really understand the rest of your comment – neither are at all impressive, and I try not to hear, see or say anything about Trump, fairly successfully so far.


Thinking about it more: I probably think the people I've heard "bleeding hearts" aimed at aren't pretending, because I share their emotions. And if I didn't, I might well think they're just pretending.


> The term "virtue signalling" is a derogatory term for something that every person does in pretty much every form of communication.

There are different virtues though. A lot of online debate is between those who want to signal intelligence and those who want to signal morality. I'm on the former side, as intelligence signaling gave us civilization, while morality signaling is mostly about painting targets on people.


In many ways, morality is an emergent phenomenon of intelligence. It takes intelligence to come up with nuclear / chemical / biological weapons, but it takes morality to avoid their use. You could say that this particular morality is based on game theory, but you could also say that people, in general, don't want to hurt other people. The reality is going to be some mish-mash of states between those two theories.

Virtue signalling as a concept may be about advertising morality, but that morality is probably going to be informed by intelligence.

Let's assume that in any given debate interaction each side starts with n points. If you "virtue signal" you gain zero points, if you make a fact based / logical argument you gain 2 points. If you make a non-fact based/ illogical argument, you lose 2 points, and if you make and ad-hominem / derogatory comment you lose 1 point.

You can win this debate by a combination of insults and facts, but you'll win it faster without the insults.

Conversely, you'll lose the debate really quickly by not presenting any facts / logic, and only resorting to insults.


Join a MENSA community and you'll soon see the vice of "intelligence signalling".


Just as "virtue signalling" is not the same as virtue, "intelligence signalling" is not the same as intelligence. Some would say it's the latter that "gave us civilization".


Sure, though signaling high intelligence could actually be the main use of intelligence, if it's a Fisherian runaway. And it's plausible that such use led to civilization: figuring out a beautiful theory feels purposeful in the same way as building a beautiful nest.


Who decides if something is a "derogatory" term?

Are the following also derogatory?:

* Nazi

* racist

* mansplain

* TERF

* alt-right

etc. My own metric for an "derogatory" would be "does this person apply this (negative?) label to themselves, or does some (antagonistic) other apply it?". That's not to say all labels a person doesn't apply to themselves is inaccurate, just that applying it is antagonistic so there should probably be a higher standard of definition, evidence and relevance in using it.

Quite a few of the above terms invoke what is often called "identity politics" which fits the description "argue against the character of the person, and not against the content of their statements" - although less "character" and more "demographic".

That said, "virtue signal" more accurately attacks a persons motivation, not just their character; Ad-homs aren't necessarily bad, if a persons motivations are relevant.

In summary, I disagree VS should never to be used; it is a derogatory term, but if accurate, and relevant, there's no reason not to use it. This differs from terms that are pure insults which generally lack enough meaningful information to be relevant, e.g. bitch, jerk, etc which don't really mean anything other than a pure expression of disapproval/negativity; of course, what level of accuracy meets the condition "relevant" depends on the nature/resolution of the conversation, and the context in which the word is used - in much the same way that "light-years" is a relevant unit for space travel, but not for land travel.


micro-societies decide if something is a derogatory term, and there is no uniform micro-society.

Some people will wear the labels of "Nazi", "racist" or "alt-right" with pride. The terms aren't to do with "identity politics", they're to do with objective damage to the over-all society in which they live. Can you provide any evidence of the over-all positive effects of Nazism, racism or the alt-right? If so, then we can debate those. (Sorry, I'm avoiding "mansplain" and "TERF" as I'm a male and can't really add anything of authoritative substance to those debates, but can only listen and learn.)

> Ad-homs aren't necessarily bad, if a persons motivations are relevant

Ad-homs are a zero signal. They amount to nothing except to lower the likelihood of the person you're talking to responding to you. If you're of the belief that you win the argument because you had the last say, then that can be a satisfactory strategy, but it's not really helping anyone in the long run.


> some people will wear the labels of "Nazi", "racist" or "alt-right" with pride

But that isn't relevant to all situations. If you call someone a label they do not attach to themselves, the fact that other people willingly accept that label isn't relevant. In fact, it would be a case of trying to associate a person with a group they do not belong to (or do not self-identify with).

> they're to do with objective damage to the over-all society in which they live

In which who live? Actual, self-confessed "Nazis", or people labelled as such by their enemies?

> I'm avoiding "mansplain" and "TERF" as I'm a male and can't really add anything of authoritative substance to those debates, but can only listen and learn

Who does have "authoritative substance"? If you don't consider yourself qualified (or permitted) to comment because you are male, there's your "identity-politics". This is especially pertinent in the case of "mansplain", since it is a label usually used to attack men.

> Ad-homs are a zero signal .. If you're of the belief that you win the argument because you had the last say

I'm not sure what you believe an "ad-hom" to be, but I take the definition "attacking a person versus their arguments" - which is relevant in case of argument from authority when a person lacks the authority they are invoking (which is also an ad-hom), or any situation where a persons status or reputation is seen as boosting their argument e.g. pointing out hypocrisy; since political debates are usually about a person being given some kind of position of power, their person is usually relevant. Also, any situation where personal judgement, or testimony given that trust is relevant in those situation, so any reason to think someone is compromised, biased, or untrustworthy is relevant.




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