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De-escalating social media conflict (nickpunt.com)
583 points by npunt on July 4, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 335 comments

I think this work is great and interesting, and I respect it. One of the things I feel like it lacks is a discussion of the broader context: we all sort of suspect that one of the reasons Twitter does not generally allow for de-escalation (like FB not censoring misleading news articles) is that such escalation is in fact part of their revenue stream (escalation=more engagement), so while I think ideas like this would be great if Twitter decided to incorporate it, the issue of course is that Twitter wouldn't want to as they actually love the cancel culture mill, it generates engagement.

I genuinely however like the ability to admit guilt such that replies are disabled because as the author notes, it explicitly ends all engagement. Any following engagement would require more work (subtweeting, screenshotting) but actively put a damp on the first derivative. But that said, reducing engagement is in fact not in Twitter's interest, as I said, so I don't see them doing it without some outside pressure.

"Engagement" is the "paper clip maximizer"[1] of the modern software industry, or more generally an example of "instrumental convergence." Optimizing engagement without regard for negative externalities is a catastrophic ethical failure of the major players in the software industry, and we are finally seeing a backlash both from mainstream advertisers and widespread public outcry.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_convergence#Paper...

Engagement can also ultimately at odds with retention. We see people leaving Twitter and Facebook all the time due to exhaustion with the toxic conflict. So they become self-reinforcing cess pools of thought that (hopefully) gradually lose relevance.

>So they become self-reinforcing cess pools of thought that (hopefully) gradually lose relevance.

You've referenced engagement first, but then, you've ignored about it in your conclusion. That is, as long as the inflow counters the outflow of participants, the situation will not improve or will even worsen - just as we've experienced in the last decade.

Inflow is partially bots and sockpuppets-- and their share probably goes up the more toxic the environment is.

Have you seen the truly awesome GPT3 authored navy seal copypasta?

Perhaps twitter will eventually be autonomous machines throwing vicious and brilliant insults at each other.

Bots are humans until advertisers decided they aren't.

So, like COVID, have FB and Twitter gone to equilibrium or are they still gaining traction?

People leaving is not necessarily a problem, if the new ones come faster. If you are small, you can grow exponentially even if literally all users left in a month. But this becomes a problem once you grow so large that there is nowhere to grow. Which is probably the case with Twitter -- everyone already heard of it, and everyone who was tempted to try it already did.

On Facebook, I think the only reasonable way to use it is to create groups and only debate within them. Also private messages, but only 1:1.

Thank you for posting this. I rarely see anyone in tech discuss the negative sides of our success.

We revel in the adrenaline that chasing numbers provides yet rarely ponder the destructive nature of achieving those numbers.

Capitalism is the paper clip maximizer, non-metaphorically.

Science fiction is pretty much always just about things that already happened. “What if we maximized a non-human value?” is just a subconsciously repressed way of asking “Did anyone notice we’ve been maximizing non-human values for a couple hundred years?”

It happens in capitalism, and it happens in socialism, because it happens everywhere. It is like saying "entropy increases in capitalism"; technically true, but misleading.

Things like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law happen regardless of political regime or economical system. In different situations they take different forms: in capitalism, companies try to maximize (short-term) (perceived) shareholder value; in socialism, they try to maximize the favor of the ruling party. In capitalism, your values are important proportionally to how much money you have; in socialism proportionally to how good political connections you have. In capitalism, sometimes people starve to death; in socialism, sometimes people starve to death.

The world has many problems, but lack of military dictatorships controlled by a communist party is not one of them.

Of course, unless you meant "actually, true socialism has never been tried yet". In which case, sure, as a rule of thumb, imaginary countries do not suffer from real problems (unless the plot demands it).

There was a time before capitalism.

Are you replying to the wrong comment? There's no mention of "socialism" in the parent comment?

He's just using it for contrast and flair

Expanding on a topic necessarily encompasses a superset of cases such as the contrast provided

>The world has many problems, but lack of military dictatorships controlled by a communist party is not one of them. //

There's N.Korea, but that's not controlled by a communist party. It's notionally controlled by people who call themselves Communist, but they don't appear to do anything ideologically communist.

World politics isn't my strong point, where did you have in mind?

I note that your structure was "in capitalism, {capitalist ideological outcome, those with capital own the means of production and leech off the value of others labour}; in socialism, {activity directly opposed to socialist ideology}".

I'd say 99%, at least, of companies are run under capitalist ideology; to accrue wealth for the owners. So why blame socialism for the upshot of capitalist activity.

Capitalism's a loaded word. Most people who would call themselves pro-free market aren't in favour of rent-seeking monopolies, just like how most people who would call themselves socialists aren't in favour of putting dissidents in gulags.

I have no idea if https://dprktoday.com truly is[1] DPRK or someone else's black propaganda (nor do I read korean) but the pictures on it are congruent with those from former communist countries.

New factory, with athletic courts (and maybe a stage/multipurpose hall?) for the workers: https://dprktoday.com/content/great/4/sajin/image/2020-05-02...

Kids wearing red kerchiefs in botanic: https://dprktoday.com/photos/18301

Inspecting big industrial things: https://dprktoday.com/photos/18390

Party meetings (other pics show voting by holding up cards, but the colours don't seem very distinct to me): https://dprktoday.com/photos/15113

Ski resorts: https://dprktoday.com/news/43327

Doctor's outfit, multi-ethnic star: https://dprktoday.com/photos/18257

Rods instead of chains on swing sets: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200527-03-1.jpg

Makeup only in demure colours: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200527-01-2.jpg

Apartment blocks: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200318-01-1.jpg

Karaoke (was this actually soviet, or only post-soviet?): https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200418-01-2.jpg

Comrades painting: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200502-02-2.jpg

Gender-balanced propaganda statues: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200421-pt18041-1...

"75 years victory"?: https://dprktoday.com/content//photo/2020/20200318-pt17942-3...

[1] traceroute is useless these days, and its whois registrar appears to be chinese.

Bonus /r/fullcommunism: "let's study" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukBcC-sK3wQ Unless they're trolling hard with the english subs, the chorus is about studying for a better future. I know grades were important for early selection in the Young Pioneers, but can't immediately think of such a swotty song in the soviet catalogue (choreography and backing band, however, is spot on). Closest I manage at the moment is the educational background of the main characters in the movie "Three Plus Two."

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. If it's "DPRK is communist", you're not really doing that because nothing you mentioned has anything to do with communism.

I'm not trying to say "DPRK is communist", especially because I believe the Warsaw Pact countries considered themselves to be socialist, on the way to communism. What I am trying to say is that, of things that strike me as having been different between western and eastern europe in photographed culture, today's DPRK shows the same differences. So I'd consider it firmly in the "second world", insofar as that old cold war trichotomy makes any sense in the twenty-first century.

For instance, I consider "Девушки фабричные" to have been a soviet trope (an image search reveals factory girls existed in the west as well, but don't seem to have been so frequently propagandised) and sure enough, here they are in the DPRK, even clasically at textile machines:



(among the machines I spotted on the site is a mask-making machine. Covid is a common denominator this year.)

This doesn't work because humans are the consumer. Humans purchase things based on their own person values. Capitalism has the instrumental goal of maximizing human values. In addition, humans engage in every stage of the process. Some of the biggest failures of capitalism are actually the results of human values: racism, sexism, nepotism. I can think of some issues with unregulated capitalism, but none of them seem to be a paperclip maximizer unless you're taking the phrase to be so non-specific that it essentially just means "unwanted side-effect."

There's definitely something of the paperclip maximizer to capitalism. It's due to corporations having the instrumental goal of maximizing shareholder value - which usually translates in making as much money as possible. If there is a way to convince people that paperclips in excess is what they most need, that's what they will have to do.

Sexism, nepotism, and xenophobic predate capitalism, but racism does not. Racism was created as the explanation for why African slavery, which was much more brutal than prior slavery, was okay after all. African slavery in turn was because of mercantilism/capitalism. They were getting out of debt by ruining people’s lives. It was quite inhuman.

Why should a for-profit enterprise have any kind of ethical consideration at all? It seems that's your mistake.

Companies have competing constituents:

1) Shareholders 2) Debt-holders and financiers 3) Executives 4) Suppliers 5) Customers 6) Staff

... and may have a charter or mission, or even an established culture which sets guiding principles.

Various forms of legal power (ownership, right to collectively bargain, fiduciary/oversight responsibility, first rights to assets on liquidation), social power, market power (price negotiation), and individual intention (everyone, even bankers make decisions based on something other than just money) form, a kind of dynamic equilibrium.

So a company is going to end up being or doing whatever the combined weighted intentions of those forces imply.

It's not 'shareholders' that can do anything willy nilly. Sometimes customers have all of the power and indirectly dictate everything. Inversely maybe buyers do: Apple is a dictator to many of its suppliers. Sometimes Unions run the show or have incredible influence (auto industry, government), sometimes the debtors. Sometimes the 'CEO' particularly a founder even without 'majority shares' has considerably more influence than anyone else, with the board afraid to replace them.

A non-profit is almost the same minus shareholders.

Like altruism, ethical behaviour is ultimately an expression of enlightened self-interest. People know this on an individual scale, and it's just as true on a corporate scale. When a company acts unethically, it is almost always paying a high price later for a small immediate win. We see this kind of behaviour a lot in companies that have been taken over by short-term MBA-style management, who temporarily boost quarterly revenues by burning years or decades of accumulated reputation and good will.

> Like altruism, ethical behaviour is ultimately an expression of enlightened self-interest.

I somewhat disagree on a generalized form of "altruism is in the individual's interest" (as in "always"), but for ethical behavior, this essentially means that their is no ethical behavior for companies, only a mirroring of the perceived values of customers.

You need very different actions to not tarnish your reputation when you're dealing with very different customers. Since large companies typically do, there would only be very localized ethics, and they could be diametrically opposed (e.g. "expose & hunt down gays" in Riad, "expose & hunt down bigots" in Berkeley). Ethics is the wrong term here, as the company's actions are not based on principles but on the expectations and principles of the environment, their values are reactive.

>Ethics is the wrong term here, as the company's actions are not based on principles [...] //

The principle "do anything of any moral values that brings me value from others' labour" is still a position wrt ethics, though one can't really call it "ethical" without confusion.

Complete moral plasticity according to what "sells" seems to define our age quite well.

Since this is a widely held view, it is worth debating. I would argue for a contrary position: 1) every organization has an ethical responsibility, and 2) corporations not only do have an ethical responsibility but have a higher one. A few, abbreviated reasons are as follows.

Every member of a physical grouping (e.g. neighborhood, community, city, state, etc.) has an ethical responsibility to other members of that group. Organizations, like individuals, are members of a physical group. Therefore organizations have an ethical responsibility to other members of that group.

Those who are granted special privileges by the group have a higher obligation to the group as a result. Ethical responsibility represents one of those obligations. Corporations are granted special privileges such as limited liability, hence they have a higher obligation.

Similarly, those organizations that are granted disproportionate political and economic power, assume disproportionate obligations. With, again, ethical responsibility being one of those obligations. This is the "to whom much is given, much is required" principle. Also, since an organization with disproportionate political and economic power necessarily has a disproportionate impact on a given society, it is entirely reasonable for those granting that power to expect it to be used benevolently.

For-profit corporations acting as a source for public good was the case for a good, long time.

The idea of "maximize shareholder value" didn't really kick off until the 80's, and it's been an absolute disaster for the country ever since.

This shouldn't have been voted down. It is actually a sound question and one that should be examined.

Edit: I looked at the previous replies. All of this talk of 'society' this and 'we' that is of no use whatsoever when you are talking about global phenomena and companies like Facebook/Twitter/etc. Under the given circumstances, the ethical questions are much larger. The problem is probably totally intractable.

In a world of pure capitalism without ethical considerations at all... these sorts of issues can be "resolved" through assassination markets against the owners and operators of enterprises that become too great a public nuisance.

Is that what you want, or would you instead prefer that ethical considerations be back on the table?

Honestly we could use an assassination market right about now.

Reminds me of Black Mirror Season 3e6. It's all fine until you mess up and piss off the mob.

Because we live in a society with social norms and a moral code. If anything, we should expect more morality from institutions that avail themselves of limited liability legal forms.

This "corporations should be cynical sociopaths" idea is even newer than the limited liability corporate form, which is itself a modern invention.

Before the current era of hyper-institutionalization and hyper-legalism there was a concept called "natural law". It basically meant morality, as understood at the time.

Often, society is wrong and capitalism is right.

When society is prejudiced against a group (not the fake prejudice that society complains about - major broadcasters like Fox and CNN are both probably championing groups who have plenty of support from society, but maybe other groups are actually marginalised but it wouldn't be broadly OK to say it if they were) then it's not society's moral code that helps them (if anything it hurts them), it's businesses that only care about money who will still deal with them.


Latinos and people with mental illness (and fat people) are kinda still acceptable targets. Poor whites. Men in some contexts. Asians in some contexts. One of the biggest issues with the whole anti-discrimination movement now is that it is inherently reductionist - it has to be some grand intersectional operatic fight with clear goodies and baddies who are always winners or losers in some deep conspiratorial structure of society, they can't appreciate that discrimination isn't always so black and white and that often context can matter because for the "theory" to work it always has to be about some imagined power struggle.

What? That isn't the argument most anti-discrimination people make.

Most argue that subconscious bias and wealth inequality due to historical reasons are a significant part of discrimination. I've not met someone 'anti-discrimination' who believes there is a deep conspiracy of people working to instill discrimination across society.

In modern times in the western world, conspiratorial sort of discrimination seems to me to occur more in pockets or if the culture of an organisation goes bad and festers. But it's rarely overt or widespread. More subtle and nuanced forms of discrimination are still everpresent of course, but everyone I discuss and work with in these issues knows this all too well.

Oh I've definitely encountered rhetoric that suggests middle class white-appearing males have intentionally and in bad faith created discriminatory structures because their power complex is what gets them off at night. I did go to a very liberal college though. I hope that stance is not becoming mainstream...

Because corporations are not a natural entity and exist at the behest of society as a whole?

If that means nothing to you then read the link. Literally killing your own customers to make the line go up isn’t a sound business strategy.

Because externality is everywhere, and a society where organizations pay attention to this is preferable to one that suffers a thousand cuts by ignoring it.

Inadvertently, this is a great argument for government as the public needs a coercive force able to require companies to internalize costs.

Companies only exist as legal fictions granted privileges by governments.

Patently untrue. The organization known as corporation, sort of. All of this is a red herring related to the point of cost internalization.

If there's anyone out there who wants to earn money from advertising there are two words you need to be aware of:


No well known advertiser wants their brand associated with something unpopular or toxic. This is why YouTube is demonetising any video that mentions Covid-19. YouTube themselves technically probably don't care, but brand safety conscious advertisers certainly do, and so YouTube must too.

They've realised that Twitter and FB, and others, are currently toxic platforms. The discussion threads can be awful, driven by fascists on both the far-left and far-right of the political debate. They no longer want to buy this advertising space, it's too much of a reputational risk (I will say that advertisers outsource the buying of advertising space to Ad agencies who may not be as savvy since they're under pressure to spend allotted advertising budgets).

Hence the news about big brands pulling budgets from social media.

Another issue that I've never seen discussed is that if Twitter (and other social media platforms) relies completely on advertising revenue, it can be forced to only allow content that advertisers approve of. In other words, advertisers can in theory control political debate. Social media platforms then ban or remove content that's undesirable for advertisers because they can't monetise it.

> it can be forced to only allow content that advertisers approve of

This was already the case before social media, mainstream media has always been controlled by the powerful. By "the powerful", I don't mean a secret cabal of white men deciding what happens, but that only people with enough resources, right connections can have an influence over what gets published. This is a pretty small group and not representative of the general public.

Today's backlashes against social media platforms is just the existing elites trying to take back their control. I think they're going to succeed, and we'll go back to a higher barrier of entry in terms of influencing public opinions, which can be both a good and bad thing.

> Today's backlashes against social media platforms is just the existing elites trying to take back their control.

That's not really the case, as can been seen by the hate given to both FB and Twitter on HN.

HN is largely populated with the 1%.

I doubt that is true. SV crowd may be loud but they aren't the majority on HN.

Here's how I would group HN based on income, what keywords make them click and demography.

1. Old system admins, FOSS lovers, and retired due to age folks.

Around median income.

Keywords - vim, Emacs, firefox, awk, unions, inequality, privacy, new tech bad, linux, open source projects, go, haiku, history, and against-big-tech.

2. Fresh college graduate/ enrolled in CS or equivalents, teenagers, hermits, and recently laid off.

Below median income or none.

Keywords - education, degrees, FAANGs, interviews, privacy, income inequality, against-the-popular-social-media, against-google-apple, firefox, chrome, free-speech, thought-crime, and twittter.

3. SV crowd, founders, and employees of a big company.

Above median income.

Keywords - rent, homelessness, parenting, investment, CA, economics, happiness, open source but the profitable or commerical kind (kubernetes tool, cockroachdb, materialize), startups, climate change, big-company-profit-loss, apple, security and immigration.

4. Researchers and retired by choice.

Above Median or low/no income.

Passive consumers so they click on wide variety of keywords. Occasionally, participate in something related to their field.

5. Long time active HN members.

Above median or median income.

They click on most posts on the front page but comment in their own silos or interests. They help direct the site by filtering from new or stopping hoard of initial comments.

6. Marketers, sales and non-tech crowd.

Median or lower median income.

Keywords - medium article, heres-why, how-I, growth, crypto, ads, effective-ways-to, and the likes.

This is only my observation so it will be biased and wrong but I definitely don't think hners are 1%.

I like how all of these groups have some reason to oppose big-tech and social media. It's like the one thing we can all agree on here at HN.

I don't agree with either of these things.

Median by what bar? Global, Silicon Valley, relative to their local area?

Relative to the local area.

I feel like you omitted an obvious category; devs who don't work in SV

I didn't single it out to SV. But yes, I did omit a huge portion of devs. I couldn't find any patterns. A dev living in [country] will talk in threads about their [country]. Such details are obvious. But SV crowd talk about rent details of other countries or states which is a trend.

Perhaps, in the financial sense.

But that's very different to the people who are typically refereed to as "the elites". That typically includes - for example - journalists - who aren't well paid at all.

Journalists aren't the elite. They're the PR people working for the elite.

I think the whole "elites" terminology is silly.

As a very broad generalisation it seems to mean "people who are richer or have a bigger voice than me who I disagree with.

These generalizations and plattitudes are off the mark and dangerous. Sure, there are those working as PR for the elite, or they are honest journalists that work for MSM that is in the hands of the elites. Most journalists, especially investigative journalists want to do their job as well as they can, in an environment that is increasingly hostile to good journalism. We need these people to help keep our democracy intact.

Using elite as a term of derision is rather silly anyway. Who else would you want running the country than the most skilled and accomplished?


I want a country where the median person is educated and grounded enough to make good choices about their community.

This might not be possible. (“Myth of egalitarianism”)

People who have my interests in mind.

I think you'll be waiting a long time for that. The most I hope for is that politicians interests might align with mine.

> if... it can be forced to allow only content that advertisers approve of.

Your comment seems to state explicitly that not only can they be forced to, but they actively are, and already have been for a while.

However, this fits with my intuition (especially in the now-advertiser-driven “news” space), so I may be jumping to conclusions.

> No well known advertiser wants their brand associated with something unpopular or toxic.

That's pre-historic thinking. No reasonable long-term user of Social Media would think that a Frozen ad showing next to some BLM/white supremacist content means that Disney endorses violence/racism. It just means that you've liked Frozen (or similar things) before.

The dinosaurs will die out. They'll be replaced by social-media-savy advertisers.

That may be true at some point in the future, but I believe we're quite far away from it. Most users on the internet are not savvy at all, and I don't see that changing.

I had expected the younger generations to be "digital natives", but they're not. They know their apps and services, but it's not a generalized understanding to how things work or what's common. Imho the fact that adblocker-usage isn't approaching 100% is a powerful demonstration of it.

Additionally, there's the subconscious effects. Even if they consciously understand that it's based on their ad profile, brand will likely still not advertise there. There may be some exceptions (Benetton comes to mind), but I don't think Disney ever wants their ads to be displayed in an article about Auschwitz.

This is so weird to me. When I saw an ad for Toyota whilst watching Unsolved Mysteries in the nineties, I didn't think for a second that Toyota thought aliens were real or whatever. There has always been a complete disconnect between ads and content for me. In fact only recently has that shifted with e.g. podcasts and YouTube channels having sponsors that are explicitly worked into the content and are topical because that's a better way (or the only way for the case of podcasts) to do targeted advertising in these contexts.

I imagine TV before I was born was a little more like this since you could't just buy generic ad space - you needed to deal with the producers of a show specifically to get into their ad slots - but for TV when I was growing up, ads were ads. They'd target your age group (ads for kids toys during breakfast cartoons), but it just never occurred to me that anyone would think it was an endorsement of anything.

This is such a confusing concept to me. Do people really think like that? I know they do now, because it's a self-reinforcing concept. Yelling loudly that ads are an endorsement of content makes it true - since if you're an advertiser and you know that attitude is out there, and you still run an ad, that's now a conscious decision and everybody knows it. But it seems like this came about artificially, via activism, rather than people naturally making the link that ads imply endorsement.

No, they don't think like that. They just don't want advertisers to financially support extremist content.

Maybe it's that TV itself is mostly bland and ad friendly, non-controversial for that very reason. Content that is obviously for entertainment purposes is cool to put ads on. TV had few channels and programs that weren't for the general population, so you wouldn't have The KKK Weekly or Cool Communism that advertisers would have to avoid.

That's different on YouTube, where the content is much more heterogeneous, where you have super-optimized, ad-friendly influencers with millions of subs who take great care not to offend (and are therefore great to throw ads at) next to fringe political ideas and people with mental health issues presenting their world view.

I believe funding is often considered as an endorsement, and ads are the primary source of funding for most media companies. Similarly, you'll often see disclaimers on Twitter "retweet != endorsement" because people tend to understand it as such.

I believe that the bigger deal is subconscious association. I have no idea whether it's true, but putting McDonald's ads next to a documentary on factory farming seems unwise.

Why are you calling people "unsavvy" for understanding the complexity of how money works and how they can influence th behavior of billionaire elites?

You can understand different things to different degrees, you can have a better or worse understanding of web-technology (and computers in general) than of consumer activism. I don't believe that the average consumer has a great understanding of either, but my experience is that they certainly don't understand the technology they use more than they need to.

>BLM/white supremacist content means that Disney endorses violence/racism

Are you trolling with this comparison? In a thread about de-escalation it seems a bit unwise to casually tie BLM to violence and suggest that it's somehow comparable to white supremacist extremism. I get that you were trying to choose one example from each 'end' of the political spectrum, but I think this particular choice was badly misconceived.

No. First, it’s not a comparison, just 2 examples. Second, I’m pretty sure that many on the opposing end of political spectrum (compared to you) might find it offensive in the other direction. But yea I did expect it to be badly received here on HN.

I think that white supremacists are off the end of the political spectrum, and that we shouldn't worry too much about what offends them. But the issue isn't just the comparison, it's the suggestion that BLM is inherently a violent movement (so that endorsing BLM would equate to endorsing violence). BLM is a broad movement. It's not only people on the left - and certainly not only people on the far left - who support it.

No matter how much you detest them, how can the members of the ruling party, in a country that until very recently had their views enshrined in law, be off the end of the political spectrum?

I mean that white supremacists are outside the range of reasonable political debate.

I would really like to see less of this kind of content on hn.

Me too, but it's a tough situation. There's a lot of 'nod nod wink wink' alt right stuff on the site, and since none of that is banned by mods, I think there ought to be a response to it too. What do you think we should do instead?

> Are you trolling with this comparison?

How long have you been on HN? Begin by assuming good faith, please.

> it seems a bit unwise to casually tie BLM to violence

"unwise" reads like a threat at worst and a warning at best but since I've invoked good faith I'll accept it's poor wording… but what do you actually mean? Is disagreement with your view something that should be avoided on HN? Will the mob (is this what HN readers have become?) descend on anyone for dare suggesting that BLM has been associated with violence or extremism?

>How long have you been on HN?

Considerably longer than you, as you can easily tell by looking at my profile to see when my account was created.

>"unwise" reads like a threat

No, it doesn't. Don't be silly.

>dare suggesting that BLM has been associated with violence or extremism

Most large-scale protest movements attract violent extremists. There are always some violent idiots out there. The point is that BLM is a mainstream political movement, not a violent extremist movement. (Most polls show a majority of Americans supporting the protests.)

Yes it does, and if you’ve been here considerably longer than me then you should know the rules just as well, so try sticking to them. It is not trolling to point to the violence that follows BLM around or you wouldn’t need to produce an apologetic for it. Try the principle of charity and try not to tell others what they should think or write simply because you disagree.

My original post obviously did not contain a "threat". The rest of what you're saying similarly seems to be based on a misconceptions. I think my previous comments speak for themselves, so I'll leave it here.

> "unwise" reads like a threat

reads like. I asked you to clarify but all you've done is dig yourself in, ironically on a post about providing mea culpa. If you don't wish to clarify, that's your decision, but please show some awareness in the way you write as what else should one conclude other than you really wanted someone else to shut up? The absence of any other explanation and your unwillingness to avoid clarifying or providing an apology and accepting it was a mistake is unhelpful.

What's unwise about it? I guess we'll never know.

I just meant that it's unwise, i.e. not a good idea, to suggest in passing that BLM is an inherently violent movement, as this kind of inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory statement is not likely to lead to a productive discussion. I am not sure why you think I meant anything else.

Thank you for being good enough to clarify, I appreciate it. My objection was sincere, I accept that your words were and are sincere too and not designed to elicit a malign outcome. Hopefully what follows will allow you to see why I would think they might have.

> this kind of inaccurate and unnecessarily inflammatory statement is not likely to lead to a productive discussion

I disagree that it's inaccurate, and hence is not unnecessary nor inflammatory. However, instead of being bald men fighting over a comb about whether prominent BLM members calling whites "sub-humxn"[Toronto] and calling for violence implicitly[NY1] or explicitly[NY2] is any kind of evidence of BLM itself being inherently violent (I accept it may or may not), let's focus on the general point by leaning on J. S. Mill's words from On Liberty[Mill]:

> Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being "pushed to an extreme;" not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case. Strange that they should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility, when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain. To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side.

My favourite part of the whole book.

> I am not sure why you think I meant anything else.

Threats are often given as ostensibly well meaning advice that dissuade, or attempt to dissuade, someone from continuing on a course of action via an unspoken alternative that is personally bad. The discontinuance will happen to benefit the kindly person. Was the advice about unwise things…

- apparently well meaning? - attempting to dissuade someone from continuing their action? - would it benefit you? - did you make explicit what the alternative was?

Then it may appear like a threat.

We also live in an age of increasing censorship, by government, by corporation, and by groups in society who are willing to shut down discussion by their opponents. It used to be "conservatives" burning books and railing against gangsta rap, now it's "liberals" with cancel culture and pile ons. To hear an attempt by a (possible) supporter of BLM, on an online forum, to be quiet, that is clearly in threat territory. I've experienced threats online of many kinds and they're not fun, and they often look similar to this case.

Like I wrote above, I fully accept your explanation and I hope you accept mine.

[JSMill] https://www.bartleby.com/130/2.html

[NY1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fz4ZpZGkkw It's out of context because it's short but it's not misleading because…

[NY2] https://youtu.be/NZEulL30vdY?t=26 …he repeats it too often, and with less of the "figurative" nature. "or we will burn this country to ashes", to a crowd is incitement to violence in my book. The speeches are full of violent rhetoric.

[Toronto] https://thenationalpulse.com/news/blm-white-folks-govt-award...

I did not make a threat. If you think you need to write paragraphs and paragraphs to explain why I did, you are probably just off base on this one. I am also not calling for anyone to be censored, so most of your post is irrelevant.

The length of an explanation has no connection to the complexity, validity or soundness of any point, concept or idea under discussion, anywhere, at any time, in any language, so if we're looking for irrelevancies we should start with your complaint.

I would suggest that if you don't wish for your utterances to be examined or misconstrued then you might try to avoid speech that appears threatening, and instead inject more sincerity in any defence you make, otherwise your opponent will feel justified in their scepticism of your intentions.

In short (since you appear to favour succinctness), you'd be wise to be more careful in future ;-)

> How long have you been on HN? Begin by assuming good faith, please.

You should really take your own advice considering you asked them to assume in good faith but then immediately prior did not assume good faith at all.

I gave them the benefit of the doubt explicitly and reminded them of the rules - what more do you want?

Their reply shows I was wrong to give the benefit of the doubt and that they really need a reminder of the rules. Feel free to come up with more “no it’s you” replies if you like but they’re unhelpful, unwanted, unwarranted, and directed towards the wrong person.

You should follow the rules when you're attempting to claim someone else is not following the rules.

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

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

I didn't dismiss anything, nor did I take the weakest plausible interpretation - I followed up by asking for a clarification.

Anything else you would like my help with?

Edit: Ah! I see now. You're bothered by my response to you the other day https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23730545

That's childish. Please, go and play somewhere else.

I didn't even see your reply until you brought it up. More often than not for things like that I'll drop my perspective and leave. Otherwise if I took umbrage with your comment I would've actually replied which since you seemed to look through my post history you can also see I'm not one to shy away from an argument for better or worse.

But it seems like you're not interested in sticking to the rules yourself funnily enough. If you want to assume there was some grand conspiracy instead of me just reading a thread and seeing a bad remark by all means.

> But it seems like you're not interested in sticking to the rules yourself funnily enough.

Telling someone they appear to be breaking the rules and then asking them to clarify (something they refused to do or walk back) is uncharitable?

What is the best way to interpret that comment? I'd love to hear.

> No reasonable long-term user

There are a lot of unreasonable people out there. There are also people who get a kick out of causing a scene. All it takes is one Buzzfeed (or whomever...) article about this exact situation to make other advertisers run to the hills.

It's what YouTube's Adpocalypse was all about.

>No reasonable long-term user of Social Media would think that a Frozen ad showing next to some BLM/white supremacist content means that Disney endorses violence/racism. It just means that you've liked Frozen (or similar things) before.

It's not that simple. The other angle you're missing is that advocacy groups (as a proxy for some customers) pressure advertisers to stop funding entities they don't approve of. E.g. the "Stop Funding Hate" to pressure companies to stop advertising in conservative newspapers.

Therefore, it's not enough if Disney itself doesn't approve of white supremacists. It's also not enough if Disney's customers also know that Disney doesn't approve of neo-Nazis. Instead, protesters would insist that Disney to take further measures of "not funding white supremacists" by not advertising (or allowing Google to show their ads) next to Nazi content.

Thus "brand safety" isn't just about association. It's also about how customers connect the dots between the company and the funding of activities they disapprove of.

[btw, I didn't downvote your comment.]

Any brand wants potential customers

And social networks have hundreds of millions of them

Do you think Coca Cola cares if KKK members drink it and bottles of Coke are shown in pictures of their rallies?

Brand awareness is more important to them

Starbucks cups with name spelled wrong are the perfect example: people think they are funny and post the picture of the cup with the Starbucks logo making the brand more popular

So what seem an honest mistake is actually a well thought brand awareness campaign

You're right, Coca Cola does not care if KKK members drink their product; a sale is a sale.

They most certainly do care about being seen to be actively targeting the KKK audience.

> fascists on both the far-left

While I appreciate your comment otherwise, fascism is universally agreed to be a far-right ideology and claiming otherwise at this point in history can't really be taken as anything but inflammatory, which isn't what belongs here in an otherwise insightful comment.

There is not universal agreement that the earth is round.

But a better word choice by op might have been extreme authoritarians, but a sub-optimal word choice hardly makes a comment intentionally inflammatory.

Left and right are arbitrary labels applied to the two largest opposing parties in a country. They aren't ideologies.

Left and right are indeed not ideologies but properties of ideologies and they are well-defined in mainstream political science models of classification. In all of those models, fascism is a far-right ideology.

Good people on both sides...

Actually the full quote is:

> fascists on both the far-left and far-right of the political debate

According to Merriam-Webster, fascism is:[0]

> a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

It's true that some on both the "left" and "right" (which is an absurdly simplistic one-dimensional distinction) are over-the-top extremist and forcibly suppress their opposition. However, that's only one aspect of the definition of "fascist".

Even so, Merriam-Webster doesn't restrict fascism to the right wing, so I defer to it. But Wikipedia does.[1]

Last, I note that the Soviet Union was arguably fascist. While it didn't exalt any nation above the individual, it did exalt the Party, and more generally the state. And its government was certainly autocratic and dictatorial.

0) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

>the Soviet Union was arguably fascist //

You appear to be starting from an assumption that everything USSR did, politically, was left-wing; and thus concluding that fascism can be left wing.

A dictator is diametrical opposed to left-wing ideology.

What you're doing is like saying uxoricide (murdering your wife) is part of FOSS, because a proponent of FOSS did it.

> You appear to be starting from an assumption that everything USSR did, politically, was left-wing; and thus concluding that fascism can be left wing.

No, I did not. Basically I'm arguing that the USSR pretended to be "left-wing" but were actually "right-wing". So perhaps they were fascist, but that doesn't imply that truly left-wing governments and movements are fascist.

The USSR is what happens when you take left wing to the extreme. Go too far replacing free speech with right speech and you get censorship. Censorship requires a heavy police state to enforce.

It's the natural progression.

> the Soviet Union was arguably fascist

No, it wasn't.

Fascism is not simply "what you don't like"

If USSR was arguably fascist, so are the USA then.

Do you think bombing other countries for their oil or to seize control of countries close to the enemy borders (like in Vietnam) looks more democratic or fascist?

USSR has been at war in Afghanistan for 9 years, mainly because USA financed the resistance, creating and arming those mujahideen that years later became "terrorists" simply because they weren't needed anymore...

USA has been at war in Afghanistan for 19 years now (and counting) and the evidence to go to war were falsified.

Fascism is a specific thing, if we broaden the meaning of that word, anything can be called fascist.

We are long past the point of "fascism" meaning anything but "government that hurts people"

As Italian, with a grandfather imprisoned by the fascists and the other sent by the fascist regime to die in Russia, I can tell you what fascism is and what is not and I can tell you we never thought it meant "government that hurts people" like nazism is not just "people who wear swastikas", if you use it that way, you are wrong.

My grandmother died few moths ago, she was from 1922 and escaped from the fascists on one side and the Marocchinate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marocchinate) on the other side, while my grandfather was in jail even if he was ill with tuberculosis, my father house was occupied by fascists and he had to hide from the day he was born until he was five, and when the war ended his father never came back.

I think it's not long past when people that suffered from it are still alive, don't you think?

You're oversimplifying something that's been very hurtful for my country, the history of my continent and for my family.

But let me make a simple example for you: fascism was about separating people in classes, USSR was about eliminating classes.

Fascism was about colonialism and they did unspeakable things in North Africa, justifying their actions with he excuse that "black people are not humans, they are like animals"

USSR never did something similar, because of people's race.

Fascism was about individualism, USSR was about colletivism.

Etc. etc. etc.

Just to exemplify for you what fascism is and what is not: US is more fascist than USSR could ever have been.

And not because I like USSR, but because words have meanings and it's not for you to decide what fascism means when we are the ones who faced it, in our houses, fought it, defeated it, and rebuilt from the ruins and the trail of dead fascism left.

BL matters, Italian lives matters too.

That might be what it used to mean, but it certainly does not mean that now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#"Fascist"_as_a_pejorat.... You can call it wrong all you want, but the use of the word has been diluted enough that the meaning that you seek is not people believe when they use it.

Fair enough. So now it's just an insult.

But that doesn't mean that it's lost its actual meaning, when used professionally.

I agree with most of your comment. So I guess that I wasn't very clear in mine, if it elicited yours :(

> If USSR was arguably fascist, so are the USA then.

I wouldn't argue too hard against that. It's just that the US hides it better. Or at least, it seems that way at times.

But my main point is that the term "fascist" is being misused to mean extremist and intolerant of opposition. So many today who are "left-wing" are so, but that doesn't mean that they're fascist.

I don't think twitter is not allowing de-escalation as much as they haven't figured out how to do it. The product itself hasn't changed much in a long time, and there are likely many internal reasons for that that have little to do with revenue. Meanwhile the FB misleading articles example is a much more nuanced problem that has less to do with engagement than simply being a political hot potato and a really challenging question of top-down authority (as well as a straight up massive cost center).

While I agree that in the short run, drama = engagement = revenue, businesses have to consider both short and long term risk. One of the biggest long term brand risks to Twitter is how toxic discourse can be. Twitter's mission is to "give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers", in other words to be a kind of global commons where everyone may participate. To preserve that position means making sure discourse is constructive, because if it is not, that represents a "barrier" that will cause people to churn and revenue to fall.

I'm glad you bring up the high friction paths of subtweeting & screenshotting. These things are still going to happen, but in design it's about how easy things are to do. We have to make the constructive things easy.

Another way to put it is: if Twitter were a friendlier place, wouldn't that increase users and engagement? If you're not completely sure this would be false, then it's worth experimenting.

I should temper my above comment (my own sort of mea culpea :) ). You're right, given that I don't work for Twitter, I don't know whether there is an explicit desire not to reduce toxicity due to revenue concerns. I will say whether I am right or not, there at the very least does exist the incentive especially if they ignore the long term issues as you mention. Some evidence that at the very least they don't have an incentive to detoxify is that twitter has been toxic for years, almost a decade at this point. One of the most often cited essays on twitter toxicity from a leftist perspective was written in 2013[0] but the opening discussion sounds like it concern today.

All in all, I think you're quite correct about how the toxicity is a long term risk, but perhaps people there need to realize how much of a threat it is for the platform.

Finally, I think your article was really great, as I said before. I came with a negative perspective but you convinced me otherwise. I still believe that certain cultural and mindset issues need to be addressed that might be beyond design but I definitely feel you're right that the UX design could help reduce toxicity.

[0] https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/exiting-vam...

Thanks, I enjoyed our exchange. Your concerns resonate with many people here because there's real truth in them.

People in companies like Facebook and Twitter debate and disagree all the time about features and their effects, and that has a real impact on how culture and ethics are defined in organizations. Part of the goal of this project was to empower them with ideas to advocate for and drive change. I'm a strong believer in thinking about value over longer time horizons (ala Warren Buffett) and find short-termism a real cancer on our society, and I hope we as a society can come to realize incentives need to be more aligned around long term value and effect. This does require a different mindset than some companies take, but if we can get people to think longer term, it will trickle down to individual product and design decisions that I think can have big impact.

I'll take a look at this article, I hadn't read it before. Cheers

> I don't think twitter is not allowing de-escalation as much as they haven't figured out how to do it.

I think what they are doing is perfectly in line with their mission statement.

"Give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers" lacks functional constraints such as "let the better ideas propagate more", "put some barriers around good judgement, rationality, relevance, factuality" etc. If a human mind operated through twitter algorithms, it would be equivalent to some sort of psychosis, every voice in one's head valued equally without due discrimination on reality checks, uncontrollable, irrational, amplifying irrelevant viewpoints, unable to conform to reality. Unsurprisingly at times our collective behavior fueled by twitter (and any other social media that operate through such filtering/amplification functions) resembles mass psychosis.

I find twitter to be friendly and helpful. It depends on who you follow what experiences you get.

You can have real or filtered experiences. Twitter is going in the real.

The problem is twitter brings in so many people to the discussion tribes form. I would elimate tribes by removing identity.

When you reply it is no longer in your name connected to your profile, the identity is a secret. This allows users to go back and continue the discussion but not follow users around the platform.

What stops people from "signing" their opinions and tribal behaviours arising purposefully?

People Be Having Just amazing creativity when it comes to working around imposed restrictions.

The earth is still flat, the moon landing never happened, Darwin denied evolution.

What I mean is, when a thing is said, a recant usually doesn’t matter. Even if the recant is from a subject matter expert.

(Not debating truths of the above examples, they’re just examples)

Probably one should also see this less one-sided, de-escalation is not the answer to everything and escalation is not bad in every single case. Without ever escalating anything, everything that is hard to change is likely to stay the same. Too much escalation is of course a toxic thing but in moderation it's actually very useful and it wouldn't be so entangled in everyday lives if there was no use.

That said, admitting guilt does not work when the other person is actually hostile since it can be used against oneself. (Just imagine what would happen if the current protest movement in the US would apologize to Donald Trump...) Apart from that, there are still online forums which work very well and don't turn toxic despite occasional rants. Twitter should take that as an example...

“Enragement is engagement”, in other words.


Rather than encourage better behaviours of those targeted by the mob, it would be better to encourage better behaviours of the mob itself.

Forgiveness is absent in every social media or comment section and yet it's one of the crucial ways we get along with people. Having others visibly but perhaps silently forgive another would allow social proof that its okay to forgive this perceived offender. Forgiveness also allows a person to signal a change in views.

Where before they would only be able to signal disapproval, now they can still pile on and be toxic but then later signal forgiveness. Not being able to correct and reflect upon your own potentially negative actions would be one of the aims. By forgiving others you can forgive yourself of past negativity.

Forgiveness might say "I recognise you did something wrong. I do not expect public repentance, but I forgive you and go about my life feeling better".

Agree. Forgiveness is great. It's where I started, which led to me questioning why I do it even. And the conclusion I came to was that the anger I felt was... useless, ineffectual and thus a total, unadulterated and complete waste of my time and energy.

And so forgiveness led me to acceptance.

Accepting all the things has made me very, very content. And occasionally even happy. Because who cares man. Frivolity aside, if I did care I feel I should DO something. Not complain or write angry diatribes or even forgive, but to physically do something to change the status quo. Whether that moves the needle on chosen issue or not.

If I'm not willing to DO something about the thing I take issue with, I have no call to say anything about it either. Which brings this full circle back to... acceptance.

This is a great concept. It's one I've improved at a lot of my life, and I think many people would be happier if they did as well. Reminiscent of the serenity prayer.

On the topic of things you can do, there's one thing that could actually be very effective. Don't public reply, but directly DM the person and explain how their person hurt or impacted you, not in a judgemental way, but in a way intended to share your personal experience. This often gets the poster to see others as people for long enough to recognize what they have done. And importantly, it gives them the space to retract or apologize without caving to the mob. And also, even if they never respond or acknowledge you, you've just given them a memory that may stay in their brain forever, and there are few things more powerful than that.

That's a very interesting thought. I wonder which other patterns of behaviour like this are absent from online communication. If the scheme set up by the website doesn't allow a certain action which would naturally occur in IRL interactions, this will distort how people and groups see each other and treat each other. Edit: I think the constant feedback provided by facial expressions is a huge thing missing from these things.

There's a special way to interact with systems. If you try to modify then crudely, without employing systems thinking, you will end up worse off than you were at the outset.

And, certain changes are straight up impossible, including directly changing the behavior of the masses.

Looked at through a systems thinking lens, the OP solution is quite good.

The author goes into that in the next section of the article.

Forgiveness starts with an apology.

Forgiveness also requires our being right. That's not a given. If not, it's not an apology, it's shouting at someone until they're too exhausted to defend themselves any more.

So, we should start by not assuming that. Especially when large numbers of people agree with us.

Forgiveness certainly does not require being correct. The "mistake" language is excellent, because it covers cases where you may not have been badgered at all. You could feel it was a mistake to post something based on its timing (eg a tasteless joke)

Forgiveness doesn't require rightness. Consider Dumbledore's analysis of Percy Weasley abandoning his family: "it is easier to forgive others for being wrong than for being right."

Unpacking, it means Percy knows he is wrong and it's much harder for him to swallow his pride because he is not right.

> Forgiveness starts with an apology.

This is often claimed, but I'm not sure I agree. Why can't I forgive someone who wronged me even if they didn't apologize? Or perhaps even if they don't see that they wronged me.

This whole thread is a disaster of people not reading the article or even discussing it really. You are all instead just holding forth on your pet theories of shame/forgiveness/face-saving social interactions. It doesn't even have the benefit of being interesting or based on research.

I do not forgive you all for not reading or discussing the article, at least not until you all apologize and post something interesting relevant to the article.

I do, however, give myself permission to file this away under "topics HN can't reasonably discuss", which is unfortunate because the design of our social media systems, reifying cultural norms, is super important to today's society and discourse.

I forgive you.

Forgiveness doesn't start with an apology. I forgive you which makes me feel better and to let you know that you shouldn't feel bad.

I also do not expect an apology nor for you to forgive me in return. Forgiveness is a gift.

That's great. I'm happy for you.

Do you want to discuss the article? e.g. forgiveness in the context of social media systems? What you're demonstrating is "performative forgiveness" in public, which is pretty counter to the usual experience of forgiveness in offline culture.

Forgiveness requiring an apology isn't true forgiveness, it's more akin to revenge.

And if you wait for an apology, you'll never be able to forgive, remove that burden from yourself, from those who have wronged you who are dead. Many instances of anger and a lack of forgiveness are multi-generational - or even parent/child.

People can rightly forgive without the other party even knowing about it. In fact, I'd argue the best kind of forgiveness is done completely silently, personally, and the only way anyone could figure you that you have forgiven someone is through your subsequent behavior.

I don't think there's anything unusual about being prepared to forgive someone who is contrite and has apologised, but not being able to if they are unrepentant. It's nothing like revenge.

Forgiveness gives most benefit for yourself. If I forgive you, I feel better and can move on.

If I don't forgive you until you do something I expect, then I will continue to feel worse and you will be the cause. It's better just to forgive.

If someone has done wrong and they know it, they may not want to forgive themselves, but it shouldn't stop others forgiving them

There is no way that something that is not enforceable will succeed though.

Plus forgiveness works only on then forgiver side, nothing stop others to keep doing what they are doing after you forgave them.

I would argue that the main reason we get along is laws, not forgiveness.

Any society has written (laws) and unwritten (social rules) norms that regulate the interactions between members.

People don't yell in public, usually, because they've been taught it's wrong and people, generally, tend to respect what they've been taught on certain degrees, especially when it is easy to verify those teachings: nobody yells in public, those who do are reprimanded, it must really be a wrong thing to do.

If you forgive someone yelling at kids because their basketball ended up in their garden you could feel better, but are enabling bad behaviour that should be challenged instead.

> If you forgive someone yelling at kids because their basketball ended up in their garden you could feel better, but are enabling bad behaviour that should be challenged instead.

In the proposed solution of the article one would only forgive if the offending person did apologize. Probably after getting challenged or called out for what they posted.

So the comparison would be more that someone yelled at the kids, was called out for it and then apologized for their bad behaviour. Then they get forgiveness from the person calling them out.

> Plus forgiveness works only on then forgiver side, nothing stop others to keep doing what they are doing after you forgave them.

This is the case outside of social media too. It's why forgiveness requires courage and sincerity, and not a little strength.

> People don't yell in public, usually

How do I know you're certainly not from Southern Europe?)

I guess the original poster is Italian...

Maybe it's about stereotypes still very strong against southern Europeans?


I'm south European myself and spent months cycling the whole thing, out of love. It's a joke, hence the ) at the end.

Unfortunately for you I am exactly from southern Europe, from Rome in Italy to be precise.

I think you should visit here, I would show you how much noise people from other countries make, especially Americans.

I'm sure you made it as a joke and I don't mind it, but this stereotypes must stop, for a simple reason: there is more to Europe than jokes about southerners.

We simply spend more time outside in the open because the weather is usually better, but any country has its weirdos, sometimes public is a park or an open market, sometimes it's a pub.

Swedes scream from their windows at night


Finns sweat a lot


Danish leave their kids outside in the strollers in the cold while they are inside a caffè or buying groceries


Germans wear sandals with socks


English are dunk and violent


French are rude and the fact that they try to hide it behind "other people don't understand us" makes it even more obvious. Ironically they think the anglofones are the loud ones and I mostly agree on this with them.

And, of course, Americans are obese


Anche io, era una battuta - saluti!

Pure io e ha un po' rotto le palle che davanti agli americani che si sparano per cazzate noi continuiamo a fare la parte della scimmietta simpatica che strilla per le strade

Sono molto peggio di noi

> By admitting a mistake, the poster stops the runaway train of replies and amplifications of their mistake, and the reputation damage that follows.

No matter the apology of the mistake, those who demand them to apologise will still reject it and push further for calls for the accused to be cancelled. The replies and amplifications will divert into real life instead of Twitter.

The nice thing about this proposal is precisely how it replaces the problematic "apology" dynamic with a neutral retraction. Apologies may or may not be rejected as insincere, but a retraction is simply a factual statement that the user no longer stands behind what they wrote, while preserving the content itself (unlike tweet deletion, which in practice tends to escalate reposts) for the sake of transparency.

Well, if you have someone determined to go after someone else, the most nuanced approach is not going to get you much. The attacker just rephrases it as they wish.

Which is to say, when you have a medium like Twitter, where the entire world can march in and get involved with conversation X, a proposal for de-escalation seems futile and a bit absurd. Among other things, a lot of media personalities have built their engagement by not letting go of opportunities for kicking whoever when they are down - giving this up would literally cost them money.

It seems like plans for de-escalation would do much better in situations where the participants are actually building a community, a group sharing values, a part of a reasonable forum/medium, not a stand-alone thing.

Twitter isn't just one thing, it's composed of many communities of various sizes and closeness. Some communities are toxic and enjoy kicking people when they're down, others less so. We tend to recall only the extremes of these big personalities doing bad things.

People model behavior every day on Twitter. If people only see or recall others kicking people when they're down, that's what people will expect is the norm, and this will sway future behavior. If there are tools that offer alternatives, then we can alter those norms, and make change among the many people not at the extremes, swaying them toward more productive and respectful discourse.

Twitter isn't just one thing, it's composed of many communities of various sizes and closeness.

That's true tautologically in the sense that different people follow different things and interests tend to cluster. But Twitter doesn't have communities that can easily kick people out of their entire group, IE, the only enforcement comes from Twitter's own lax rules.

People model behavior every day on Twitter.

Sure, on average. But determined person, say a troll, is in no way constrained to model anyone's behavior. That's kind of general problem of bullies - most people model the average and bully does what they want, so the average moves towards the bully over time.

> But Twitter doesn't have communities that can easily kick people out of their entire group

Agree that's a problem, it puts a limit on how close a community can be if it solely relies on Twitter to operate (rather than on their own online or in-person fora). This is one rather legitimate reason for cancelling - its a way for communities to excise members they do not want in the community, using the rules of social engagement available to them on the platform. Cancelled people may still have accounts and be able to interact in other groups of people in the broader twittersphere, but largely become pariahs in the communities they are a part of on twitter. This is why cancelling on twitter is not uniformly a bad thing, it is simply a way for communities to maintain some level of cohesion and shared values within the rules available to them.

As far as trolls, yes that behavior will always exist to some extent online. Mea Culpa is just one way to improve discourse, not a complete solution. The issue in public fora like Twitter is that these types of personalities tend to have outsized impacts on the community, and that's still a problem to solve.

> Well, if you have someone determined to go after someone else, the most nuanced approach is not going to get you much. The attacker just rephrases it as they wish.

They can do this but they no longer have plausible deniability, since they're attacking something that the other user has unambiguously disclaimed. They'll just look like a loser who is obviously not acting in good faith.

Will they care? Plenty of people got "cancelled" because of something they did/said/did not/did not say years ago. Imho, the actions aren't the reason they get attacked, they are the tool for the attack, so retracting them might make the attack weaker, but it won't make the attackers back down.

It's either a tribal thing ("I can hurt the other tribe if I hurt that individual because they are part of the other tribe") or purity signalling ("Look, I am clean and virtuous, and I purge even our circle from the unclean").

The tribal thing is somewhat reasonable from a collective stand point (which is why groups tend to look at their members' differently than the actions of competing groups), the purity spiralling is counter-productive in the larger conflict, as you're hurting your own group, but individuals have individual interests as well, and to advance those, they may be happy to sacrifice allies.

I appreciate you bringing this up, it's an important subtlety I wanted to be made clear in the design. The emotional/behavioral difference between retracting a mistake and a full apology is pretty huge, despite their conceptual similarity. Some people really have trouble apologizing, and apologies are really laden with a lot of cultural baggage and potential for misunderstanding.

Neutral is contextual.

If you consider social interactions, they can be described as an interaction where signal is identified against noise - given a specific context. Its natural then for a context to exist such that the signal and noise are inverted, or neutrality is lost.

Not everyone can afford a mea culpa.

That said this is precisely the kind of interesting dynamic that is worth testing out to see what sort of affordance it creates, and how the medium changes to incorporate mea culpas.

Not effective. Now you have “a history of” making this or that statement.

It certainly won't work for all cases of conflict, but don't you think it would work for some? The goal was not a complete solution but a step towards changing community norms.

Apology can go a long way, but in my experience (USA) all the successful ones that I have seen were done from a position of strength. That is, the person apologizing felt that after apology his opinions would still be respected and listened to, not dismissed as "another stupidity from that fool". In this case, it could be very powerful. It is also seen as voluntary.

On the flip side, I have never, ever seen an impactful apology that was extracted by demands. Such demanded apology is usually a punishment. Call it by what it is -- flogging (that strong inflict on the week). My 2c.

To be fair, in the language section I point out this is explicitly not using the language of apology (for some of the reasons you bring up), but is instead a more neutral admission of mistake.

It would only work in situations that are not actually problems, like being confronted with a mob of reasonable people.

You are 100% correct. It seems like a majority of the twitter crowds scream for the destruction of a person's reputation, livelihood, and family ties because of stuff that got said 15 years ago. It's pretty sad and why I don't bother at all. It's total swamp in my opinion, beyond salvation.

An apology, to the cancel crowd, is merely an admission of guilt. There is no such thing as redemption. By the time someone apologizes, the mob has moved on to a fresh outrage. In their wake are ruined reputation and careers.

Depending on how severe the mistake is, part of apologizing may be removing onesself from places of power where they made the error. For example, a hiring manager who is found to discriminate against gay people should no longer get to hire anyone and may no longer get to manage people for a period of time. The internet has a relatively short memory, so I expect once an apology and suitable make-up-fors have been doled out the amount of anger is much less.

Damn straight. Never pay the Dangeld.

For the benefit of any who may not know the reference: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_danegeld.htm

> A.D. 980-1016

Would you happen to know what this refers to?

Those years in English history.

[edit: E.g see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_activity_in_the_British...]

Remember that conversations are being read by people beyond those replying. They're less likely to be so invested as to smell blood from an admission of wrong.

And if there is no audience beyond a person you think is fighting instead of debating, then why reply?

> apology of the mistake

This is not an apology.

You should not have to apologise for mistakes.

This is part of the problem, it's ok to make mistakes and most mistakes don't need an apology.

Think not in terms of black and white (there exists / for all) and how in aggregate, this would put a hamper on further escalating toxicity.

I think we can distinguish apologies into two top-level categories: meaningful and meaningless. Meaningless apologies can be further subdivided ("I'm sorry you were offended", or "It's just my culture to be a jerk"), but I'm not interested in that - they're all meaningless.

Meaningful apologies can be easily found via the search engine of your choice, "How to apologize" brings up lots of hits. The thing they all have in common though is an acknowledgement (in one form or another) that the person apologizing was legitimately in the wrong, and that they will endeavor to not do that again.

It's that last bit that is important. It's not sufficient for a company to apologize for dumping oil in the ocean or a person apologize for using a racist term. A real apology acknowledges harm caused, and shows how the entity apologizing will rectify past harm and prevent future harm.

This is why, in my opinion, at least, so few apologies legitimately improve anyone's standing. It's not that "cancel culture needs heads", it's just that people expect to say, "I'm sowwy", rub their toes in the dirt, and be let off the hook without doing anything to really undo the harm caused. People rarely even acknowledge the harm they cause, let alone do anything about it, in these so-called apologies.

So no: people who demand apologies don't just reject them after they're given. It's just that most of the time, the apology is meaningless.

One of the explicit design choices in this was to limit people's tendency to screw up apologies in the heated moments when they haven't yet internalized the outside world's perspective of their message. I'm glad you brought up the searching of how to apologize - it's one of those super important life skills that we haven't done a good job of teaching people about. We have to design with this constraint in mind.

One of the things I think about most in design, especially in design of social products, is limiting self-sabotage. This is because there's really significant emotional risk in social systems of feelings like being exposed, misunderstood, etc.

This is why I favored the approach of not including a Follow-up or further explanations. It makes the choice Mea Culpa very simple, favoring cooling off of conflict over continued debate. Basically people can go back in their corners and think about things, and figure out how to approach things again later if they choose. It is an intentional choice to favor respectful debate over maximal information exchange, acknowledging the medium's tendency to escalate conflict and the presence of many bad faith actors.

Also note this feature does not take the place of the apologies you're talking about, it just offers an acknowledgment of mistake and an opportunity to forgive.

The awareness of the user's emotional state leading to the possibility of self-sabotage is a brilliant aspect of this design. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate that line of thinking in this context. It's lovely to see consideration of the user's emotions modelled as a practice that should be more common, as, after all, social media is a form of computer-mediated human interaction and all human interaction leads to emotions.

Yes, I agree with your overall thesis. A feature like this can help normalize people publicly admitting that they made a mistake, and walking back that original Bad Tweet (or whatever).

Sometimes you get "sorry I got caught" non-apologies, other times people are dog-piling and Twitter doesn't show new arrivals the entire apology discussion if it were a sincere apology.

Exactly. From what I have seen an apology only makes things worse.

It always emboldens the mob. They aren't after an apology, they're pursuing harm against the target and typically won't stop until they get it - unless you can show strength to the bully behavior and can stand-off against them (which not everyone can do). If you can, they'll give up and pursue another easier target. The mobs have weaponized job firings, which puts most people in a position of immediate weakness where they're afraid to stand their ground.

A badly-executed apology divorced from change makes things worse.

Apologising to people who would consider it an acceptable political outcome if you lost your job and killed yourself tends to embolden those partifluar people.

Appeasing bullies doesn't work. They want to see you squirm and beg, because it's fun make someone grovel before you. The object-level discussion is secondary.

Some people call this dichotomy good and bad faith, right?

I think at the same time there are circumstances in which the acceptable outcome is indeed a loss of job. (And to some moral codes, a loss of life- see advocates for the death penalty.)

EG. A Manager who pressured people into sexual favors for promotions should lose the job of being a manager.

Sure, but the point is that if people who want you to lose your job are screaming about you on twitter, it's bad advice to apologise in an attempt to appease them- because the twitter mob won't be happy till you're in the ground. Whether you would be in the mob if the circumstances were turned around is a striking, but secondary, question.

Yes, my preferences may include that some people should lose their jobs. But in my case, I think it should only be when that manager is convicted in court, not when someone or some mob) accuses them on twitter. And, actually, if they really did something bad- then let the legal system punish and rehabilitate them!

And then don't try and stop them from ever having a job again. Aren't we liberal? Aren't we meant to be for rehabilitation rather than emotion-based punishment? Restorative justice? Or does all that go out the window if you're not politically useful?

"Sure, but the point is that if people who want you to lose your job are screaming about you on twitter, it's bad advice to apologise in an attempt to appease them- because the twitter mob won't be happy till you're in the ground."

I haven't personally observed this nor have I witnessed studies about it. Could you link to me anything like that? I've seen people who have credibly discussed their abuses on twitter and people apologize. Criticism of the apologies are often 1) it is incomplete, 2) it is a non-apology, 3) it has not be followed up with action.

I haven't myself seen criticism outside of these things, which are valid critiques and not the sort of overdramatic spectacle you're describing. But I think it's valid that I just am in different circles than you, so I'm curious if you could educate me about this.

(Additionally, the legal system is inadequate to address nuanced power structures. Rape, sexual assault, and being a creep are extremely hard to gain redress for, and often make victims blacklisted from the industry. Why are we concerned about the careers of people who do bad things, and not concerns about the careers of people who are their victims? The victims often struggle to find work or are completely blacklisted from their industry.)

Why are we concerned about the careers of people who do bad things

It turns out that Twitter mobs sometimes do not have the most discerning standards of evidence.

Also, I'm pretty sure you'd have a very different reaction to someone arguing against criminal justice reform on the grounds of "why are we concerned with the welfare of people who do bad things?"

No, any admission of fault or error makes things worse.

The public is utterly bombarded with claims that this or that person or group was wrong or did wrong with respect to something or another.

It's extremely difficult to sort out which of these allegations are true or false. Unless you admit fault, then its obvious to everyone.

I've heard this argument made (I believe I've even made it myself at some point), but in practice, it turns out to be less effective than people think. "Be silent and it'll just blow over" is increasingly ineffective as a strategy because the Internet has a longer memory; as one looks up information on a person, allegations will jump to the surface. And increasingly, people seem to assume that absence of a counterpoint is implicit admission of possible truth (there's the perpetual "when will you stop beating your wife" argument, but a lot of other allegations are in far more plausible categories, where silence can imply a lack of ability to defend one's reputation).

I agree with what you're saying there, but instead of responding by apologizing people are often still better off by going on the attack, calling the allegations baseless nonsense, or personally attacking the people spreading them.

That works unless they aren't baseless nonsense.

Usually I don't actually see this, but I do seem to see a pile of "You shouldn't have apologized! They'll make you apologize for everything else once they know you're weak!" comments (which certainly don't help anything).

I think there is a disconnect between people in different communities because reasonable people naturally avoid the places where extremists congregate, so you only encounter them if you either venture into their den (which reasonable people rarely have any incentive to do) or you become one of their targets. If neither of those describes you, you may scarcely be aware of their existence.

This also explains why both sides commonly feel victimized. Each only sees reasonable people on their side and not vicious extremists because they don't hang out with the vicious extremists and the extremists on their side are out victimizing the other side and not them. But they can see the extremists on the other side when they come to attack.

I've always had a policy of promptly admitting when I'm wrong.

It worked great, when I worked at a Japanese company. The Japanese respected it.

The Americans, on the other hand, looked at it as a sign of weakness, and tended to "go for the jugular" (Carpe Jugulum).

I think that explains why so many folks "double down," when asked to correct statements.

Also, lawyers.

A standard piece of advice at American accident scenes, is "NEVER say "I'm sorry!""

I think the reasoning behind advice for accidents (in the US) is completely separate because after the accident, there are big implications of who is at fault. As the lawyers and insurance on both sides would often battle on technicalities and sometimes appearances, the advice is to let the professionals do it and not give the opponents' side extra ammunition.

This has nothing to do with human emotions or reducing pain for the other side, this is just the nature of the (gov't regulated insurance) beast. My 2c.

> this is just the nature of the (gov't regulated insurance) beast.

It's cultural for it to even go to lawyers. In the UK, in most cases the person at fault would just admit it and give the other person the contact details for their insurance company.

Just to clarify -- even in the US I think the proportion of cases that do go to lawyers is pretty small. But those that do can have a major financial impact.

For example, over the last 20 years I saw maybe 10 car-related accidents in the extended family and all except one of those were simple to deal with -- never went to lawyers, just provide insurance information and move on. But one remaining case, where a school bus hit a family member walking on a sidewalk, took years for two insurance companies to litigate.

Very good observation. The significance of an apology is entirely dependent on the cultural context.

The fallout from BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill comes to mind. British executives failed to provide the gushing (but meaningless) apology the Americans expected until it was too late, and they were skewered in the American press for it. And that particular example concerns two closely related cultures. The results are often more jarring when quite dissimilar cultures are involved.

BP did a lot more to admit culpability than Exxon did with the Valdeez. BP was penalised more than Exxon because of this.

The higher penalties was probably the result of more than just admission by BP. Environmentalism had much more of a focus by both the American public and the presidential administration than it did with Exxon’s disaster. The calls for consequences were much louder and supported.

This is precisely what is going on. You can see that dynamic at work here on HN on a daily basis.

I have apologized before on HN and people vote it up, so no I do not see it. It feels much more like people just dig in their heels due to selfish reasons.

I wouldn't be so sure. I read a book about rhetoric (basically the bread and butter of politicians, marketing and PR) and it strongly advocated never( or almost never) apologizing. I can't remember the exact reasoning but the the assertion was that it rarely has the desired effect and often weakens your position and your ability to actually fix the situation.

Interesting. Do you know what book this was?

Yeah, it was this one: Thank You for Arguing: What Cicero, Shakespeare and the Simpsons Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion

From chapter 23. Recover from a screw-up

```Don’t apologize at all. The problem with an apology is that it belittles you without enlarging your audience. Belittling yourself fails to un-belittle the victim. That’s why apologies often don’t work. They rarely seem sincere enough or extreme enough. And many people—especially men—try to couch their apologies in ways that avoid belittling themselves: “I’m really sorry you feel that way.” Apologies like that only increase the belittlement, implying, “I really wish you weren’t such a sensitive flower.” Try this sometime. Shrink your audience to the size of a plant and watch the anger flow.

Whoa, wait. Aren’t we splitting a hair or two here? When I told my boss how terrible I felt about misplacing a volcano, wasn’t that the same as an apology? Actually, no. Look closely and you will find a critical difference. When you own up to falling short of your own expectations, you emphasize your high standards. Focus on the standards, and you can actually make your ethos bigger in your audience’s eyes. Say you’re sorry, and you shrink.```

I've had apologies in response to corrections be downvoted sometimes. But certainly much less frequently than on Reddit: there, if you apologize, prepare for your original comment and apology to be buried in downvotes.

Exceptions, rules and so on.

Ironic response :)

Well, give jac their fair dues. They said "You can see that dynamic at work here on HN on a daily basis." not "Every single post where someone admits a mistake on Hacker News is guaranteed to be capitalized on by outrage seekers"

Not entirely by accident.

A time proven technique for saving face when you say something stupid is to switch sides by replying to yourself.

That trick never works!

This time for sure.

(It has worked for US political parties: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/pierce.... "The democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man's right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar.")

> is "NEVER say "I'm sorry!""

Unless it's followed by "that you're an idiot" ;)

Joking aside, I think in American culture it's often more important to say "I did $x badly" than "I'm sorry about $x". I feel like many American's (especially in white collar work) assume a certain cut throat mentality and don't believe that you are actually sorry, but they do agree you fucked up. Generally when talking to people you want them to be mentally agreeing with you and not thinking that you're lying to them.

And the car crash thing is just litigation, it doesn't apply to 99% of screwups.

The same goes for the Japanese.

Empty apologies are empty. They need to know that the issue is "owned," regretted, a solution/amend is offered, and it won't happen again. Not a fun time.

Americans, in my experience, don't care. They just find satisfaction in being a bit "better than" I am, and their reactions are purely emotion-driven. They usually would try to pile extra transgressions (that I was not responsible for) onto my apology. Lots of shaming involved.

It was annoying, but I got used to not reacting. Since most of my bosses were Japanese (not really a fun bunch to work for), I didn't need to face the music with Americans too often.

I will say that the end result was that I was given an awesome level of trust and respect. It was the kind very few foreigners ever have.

What profession were you in? I’ve worked at ~10 software companies throughout my career and fessing up to causing an issue was seen as much worse than admitting you fucked up.

I was an engineer and a manager of software development for a very well-known, arch-conservative Japanese optics corporation.

I worked there for just shy of 27 years. LOTS of 14-hour flights (shudder).

But I am not Japanese, so it's quite possible they treated me differently from others.

My experience was, they had a difficult time, trusting non-Japanese. They tended to pull me in, when dealing with westerners.

It was not a "peaches and cream" job. In many ways, it was quite difficult and stressful, but I was in a "silo" of extremely honorable, incredibly high-quality people for a couple of decades.

In all, it was a very different experience than many Americans have had. I am glad for the experience, but also relieved to have it behind me. Although I am an excellent manager, I am most comfortable developing software. Being good at something is not the same as being happy doing it.

I'm not-so-bad at software development, but it's a much bigger pond.

Coming from that corporation, into the modern development landscape in the US has been a...revelation.

> I was in a "silo" of extremely honorable, incredibly high-quality people for a couple of decades

Have you written more about your experiences during this period? I would love to read them!

Not especially. It is a corporation that is very protective of its privacy and secrets.

I tend not to name it, even though it's fairly easy to figure out.

I don't want to cause them any stress or harm. Even though I wish things had gone somewhat differently, I retain the greatest respect for the corporation, and its employees and officers.


No. Feel free to check out my SO Story: https://stackoverflow.com/cv/chrismarshall

I don’t mention them by name, so my comments don’t show up on their radar screen.

I don’t think I ever say anything that would be an issue, but I don’t want to be in the position of having to explain myself. They protect their brand ferociously.

Once you see who, you will understand.

I'm very much convinced that one should never admit a mistake on social media after a dogpile. I think there is too much bad faith for a Mea Culpa option to even work. Apologies work well in smaller circles because an apology implies a correction in behavior that's necessary for those around you to trust you again.

In social media people are signalling they don't like your behavior but they don't actually care about you individually.

If Twitter really wants to fix this they should make it against the rules to screenshot or share deleted tweets. It will be much harder to dogpile after someone deletes their tweet if people can't just keep resharing the offending tweet for likes.

I don't see how the stance that you should never admit a mistake after a mob dog pile means the feature described here would never work. There are plenty of cases where people just straight up make real mistakes and don't feel pressured to apologize out of desire to appease the mob but rather simply have aggregated additional input, and reassessed their original statement in light of new information, and decided it needs correction.

Apology in personal contact does not imply correction. It is just about closing conflict so we can continue working together.

This reminded me of Polis:

https://pol.is/ https://github.com/pol-is/

Taiwan use it for their multi-stakeholder decision making to find points of agreement. Their application of it to the Uber vs Taxis situation was quite interesting.

https://debconf18.debconf.org/talks/135-q-a-session-with-min... https://blog.pol.is/pol-is-in-taiwan-da7570d372b5 https://blog.pol.is/uber-responds-to-vtaiwans-coherent-blend...

That is excellent. Tools like this get us close to the kind of granular democracy that our ancestors could only dream of.

An imperfect system for granular democracy could be built fairly easily, or bolted onto an existing system (Facebook has the largest global membership I'd think).

There's nothing stopping anyone from building one (other than maybe reasonable fear of being suicided if it gets too much traction, etc), yet I don't think I've ever heard of anyone who's tried. It's so obviously useful that the lack of attempts almost seems like a glitch in The Matrix.

There is an obscure party in Australia whose platform is to allow people to vote on every issue in parliament. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Direct_Democracy

Very interesting!

> Online Direct Democracy does not have any policies. Instead it has pledged to conduct an online poll for every bill that passes before Parliament. Anyone on the Australian electoral roll would be allowed to register to vote in these polls and will be allowed one vote per bill. The MPs would then be required to vote in accordance with the clear majority (55%-70% and more than 100,000 votes). If there is no clear majority they will abstain from voting. A beta version of the system is operating and available for public use. This system has been designed to highlight the possibilities on online democracy.[2]

"required to vote in accordance with the clear majority" seems a bit problematic (in the short term anyways) - in this case it is only on a per ODD-elected MP basis so that's probably fine, but jumping straight to a direct democracy based system from what we have now likely would be a bit messy.

What I have in mind is setting up a completely independent parallel political system, that has zero power (direct power anyways), which would allow time to work out the numerous kinks and complexities, while simultaneously allowing for the first time ever for the true (or, more true at least)will of the people to be known...as opposed to the obviously untrue "will of the people" we've been sold on for hundreds of years.

Someone will eventually see this elephant in the room and do something about it, and things should start to get pretty interesting then. Although, my spider sense tells me that time may be running out, the propaganda techniques seem to be becoming so effective that it's hard to find independent opinions on most any topic - framing direct democracy as dangerous and evil strikes me as something that would be a very easy sales job in the current state of collective consciousness.

That said, there are also a massive number of obscure, disconnected communities who all seem to be coming to the same general conclusions about what is going on here on Planet Earth, perhaps the sum total of all these obscure groups is actually a very large number, it's just that they're undetectable.

It's important not to apologize if you don't honestly believe you have done something wrong.

When faced with a mob claiming victimhood or hurt feelings, apologies can confer legitimacy to complaints that don't deserve it.

The forced submission and contrition gives the mob its payoff, and thus feeds it further. This appeasement encourages the runaway social media mobs which have now spilled into the real world, murdering and looting.

If you have done nothing wrong, do NOT give them the satisfaction of an apology. It is the first line of defense in beating back outrage culture.

The point I got from the article wasn't this one.

Forgiveness is a two way street. The sinner and the rest of the community have to come together to heal the wounds.

Looking at the community antagonistically and suspiciously isn't the way forward. Each side has to take a leap, knowing full well that they can end up in the mud. That's an essential part of this, the risk. Saying that one side is incapable of understanding and kindness isn't what the article was rousing us to do.

I felt the article was saying to both sides: take the risk, it's worth it.

The world (or the totality of Twitter) is not a community.

You can do this among people who know one another, but among the broader internet? No, too many full time trolls, factionalists, bot farms, advertisers and lunatics.

Even increasing the content limit will go a long way towards deescalation. I find that, on Twitter, one often has to resort to oversimplified hyperbole and sarcasm because it's very difficult to fit more thoughtful and nuanced messages in the content limit.

Yes it's possible to write multiple tweets. But that takes significantly more effort.

Twitter/FB just aren't the right platforms for nuanced discussion. I don't know why people keep trying to treat them that way or keep wanting them to become such. Easy for me to say as someone who has already come to this realization and has actively avoided building dependency on Twitter/FB in my daily life, I guess... But honestly I wish people who wanted to have real meaningful discourse with people would gravitate towards other forums. Maybe the reality is that no good alternative exists? I don't really know of any platforms built for "at scale" social discourse. Discords and Slacks and chats and whatnot work great for localized (in the graph-distance sense) discussion. I have yet to come across a tool built specifically around having nuanced discussion of real social issues at scale in a way that doesn't end in scorched earth.

The reason people want social media to host more nuanced discussion is because we are stuck with them...we can not convince people to stop using the services, so let's convince the service to adjust to the people.

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing, just stating their case.

I suggest investigating old-style web forums - the kind without individual upvotes/downvotes on posts, where replies in a thread are in the same chronological order for everyone

They still need close moderation, however

Because they’ve become the dominant platforms for debate and dissemination, so many of us want to fix them. Agree that it seems pretty futile, as the platforms will by design push back against the improvements we want.

agree! It’s a challenging problem to solve. Im working on a new project that’s a sort of hybrid between twitter/slack/discord, and actively thinking about these issues... Still young but my aim is both scale and nuanced convo! (example post https://sqwok.im/p/TU2ba6D-iDEYuQ)

Is sqwok that project?

I'm curious to know some of the ideas you have in mind for increasing nuance, have you written them up anywhere?

Hey sorry late response, yes it is the project.

I don't have it written anywhere publicly. In the immediate I'm focused on solidifying the foundational conversation features, which center around fast, open, low-friction live conversation. It should be possible to take advantage of the live nature of it with features like alternate conversation modes, branching, and other ways to signal feedback to users that are engaging. The ranking algo uses chat activity and other data points instead of using voting. Anyways, I'm hoping to engage with others interested in such things to see what types of ideas could work in a new site like this!

The oversimplified hyperbole is also a primary key to twitter's success. If you remove that feature it just creates a vacuum for some other aggregated micro-blog to fill.

Both of these things are probably true, and a good argument for why it can’t be fixed at all.

Then you'll just get increasingly large walls of text as each person refutes every single sentence + adds a few more zingers of their own

The thing is, a long wall of text usually reveals how truly eloquent and thoughtful the writer is.

In a mere 280 characters, some random person could sound just as smart as Paul Graham. It is the essays that set them apart, and not easily replicated the by drive-by-reply-guy.

It doesn't take an essay to convey nuance.

The only winning move is not to play.

I think that is indeed true on the individual level, but when a large percentage of people are on Twitter such that cancellations lead to actual real world circumstances, it in fact matters that people who are not you do in fact play because it might affect you.

I mean, maybe that is a sign that Twitter should be cancelled.

Social Media is increasingly becoming a major source of power for political movements and political organization.

Both Obama and Trump campaigns were signified by a major online, social-media presence. I'd expect that many future Presidents will be determined by their command of Social Media.

Social Media is the new television, the new Radio. Its the new media that is most significantly consumed by the population.

By "not playing", you resign your power to others who take advantage of this new form of media.

I disagree. By not playing, you're protecting yourself from future retribution, deserved or (more commonly) not. And not being on social media - or more precisely, not posting on social media - doesn't mean you're out of touch or lacking in influence. Not by a long shot.

To that, genuinely curious - what is the alternative you see to social media to build influence and visibility? One of the key benefits of Twitter is that you can make your work, be it in the arts, software or literally anything else, visible to a large audience. What’s the alternative if one is not to use Twitter? How do you publicize your findings or insights to a broad population?

> What’s the alternative if one is not to use Twitter? How do you publicize your findings or insights to a broad population?

If you can, you do it behind the shield of a faceless corporate entity (that you own) doing the promoting, rather than tying statements to your own personal identity. You don't stop using Twitter or Instagram et al., you stop using them to project your personal opinions out into the world. Your opinionated discussions are reserved to people you trust and to smaller in-person environments where you can have a real dialogue of understanding and exchange.

If you want to build value in your own identity, you take on the risks to chase the rewards. I'd suggest strictly talking about work, and never deviating from that. If you leave that lane, these days everyone knows the risks they're taking, it's blatantly obvious.

You publicize your findings, you don't spout off about such and such highly charged partisan social cultural revolution topic that is just begging to get you in trouble if you twitch the wrong way. I think that's really plainly obviously the way you handle it. What's so hard about that? Oh I just couldn't help throwing out my meaningless 2cents on BLM while discussing my work on using machine learning to recognize giraffes standing next to stop signs; I just had to get my opinion about black-white relations out there in the open, because what I have to say about BLM is super important and could change the world. No, just publicize the findings.

In other words: self-censor. Sorry not my style.

I believe you have good points about keeping your work and personal lives as separate as possible and I believe your advice is very pragmatic. I don't, however, think it should be necessary nor is it realistic. Let's all go into sterile work environments for 8+ hours a day where we have to self-censor based solely on observations of how other people fucked up and angered the mob. Let's never celebrate each other's humanity at work in case they accidentally "twitch the wrong way", as you put it. Let's all just sand in line, the oppressed among us silent and powerless because they've been told they have no voice.

In reality, people's work is important and meaningful to them. People need the freedom to express themselves without having to calculate whether it's worth finding a new job tomorrow because a mob sniffed them out.

You're going to self-censor on twitter, regardless. Might as well just not be on twitter. It's bad for your brain, anyways.

I don't think he was implying that you have to live by what he perceives as an out to the social quagmire to be found in social media. Let the screaming masses have it and they'll eventually destroy themselves or move on to another quagmire.

> Let the screaming masses have it

Ultimately, those "screaming masses" will vote and determine the future of this country. And by "eventually", I mean in less than 4 months.

> they'll eventually destroy themselves

Not before Election Day.

The social media groups have proven themselves to be powerful coalitions of voters, capable of coordinating mass movement and determining the future of our country.

what is the alternative you see to social media to build influence and visibility?

Releasing yourself from the need to build influence and visibility in exchange for a life of genuine authenticity and virtue.

Don't consider this a personal need but a game theoretic challenge. Those who pursue influence and visibility also end up shaping public perception, policy etc. Considering how much channels like twitter tend to amplify foolish ideas than nuanced and balanced perspectives, participating in that discourse in the name of reason and wisdom becomes virtuous itself.

* Don't consider this a personal need but a game theoretic challenge*

You do you, but my intentions here were absolutely rooted in the former.

> By "not playing", you resign your power to others who take advantage of this new form of media.

You also set an example among members of your cohort. The incentive to "play" is social, and removing yourself from the game not only gives you more time and energy to devote to games with better ROI, but also increases the odds that people you know will do the same.

Is it really worthwhile to pursue "power" on social media? Wouldn't it be better if people weren't so susceptible to that sort of influence in the first place?

It used to be quaint and fun and of limited damage potential back in the days of MySpace, but now it's just a mess. All I use are the messenger functions of facebook to keep in touch with old friends and a few semi anonymous sites like reddit and hackernews.

A game theorist has emerged! :)

I loved that movie.

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