Nov. 2nd, 2011

yeloson: (Default)
There's a thing I see happen a lot, that helps lead to a wack internet.

There's this idea that if you run a discussion space, that you have to try to maximize the breadth of possible discussion topics, and ways of talking about a topic, that this is somehow necessary for "Free Speech", and therefore, moderation should be minimal.

What this misguided approach does, is lead to problems, in the form that sites become terrible places.

What do I mean?

Myth #1: Minimal moderation leads to breadth of opinion

Start with this flowchart: "So you're mad about something on the internet...

So, the most rational people do the best thing- they disengage. They leave your site, they stop contributing.

Everyone else who remains, ends up going back and forth, and ultimately, there's only two ways this can go:

1) Pile-on - the majority expresses their displeasure on the few, which could be useful if the few are asshats and the majority is fighting for civility and calling out bad behavior, and is shitty when it's vice versa.

2) The endurance test - the people who are dogged/obsessive, keep posting, and posting and posting. If you look back at the flowchart, not only is the problem that the odds are these people are terrible people, but even the good people at this point are likely simply repeating more and more obvious statements (or being further and further sidetracked into derailing) at trolls.

Notice that both breadth of opinion and quality of discussion die.

Myth #2 Continued debate leads to truth

This one is especially problematic, because it overlooks a core premise: that everyone involved is actually discussing in good faith and hoping to find the truth, instead of simply dickwaving, or worse, simply trolling for lols.

When you look at the scientific community, there's debate about some things, but other things aren't given the time of day... for example, the people who argue the Earth is flat. Do we really need more debate on this? Do we need to put our best minds to re-proving this?

No, we accept some people cannot be convinced and move on, so we can work on things that are worth discussion.

You can go to any public, mainstream site that is not, or barely moderated and find tons of racism, sexism, homophobia and idiocy. If unmoderated or barely-moderated discussion would naturally lead to truth, we'd be looking at Youtube comments for insightful commentary instead of being aghast at humanity.

Myth #3 Your site is not all the internet

"You're destroying free speech!".

Well, no, actually. Governments which block entire sites (that aren't, say, child porn or bomb making), or track everyone's emails, those are places that block free speech. Not being able to post on one site or forum, really doesn't block someone from going to any of the many other sites, or creating their own.

That said, it is worth noting, though, the difference between the silencing of voices like in Myth #1, where you let people shout down folks vs. actively banning people. The reason moderation works, generally, is that it lets someone use judgment as to whether the complaints are about being silenced by asshats or asshats being silenced.

For the moment being, I'm going to assume you actually want a space that isn't Asshatland (since, there's a lot of sites to compete with, and while the demand is high, the supply is even greater), so think about what you really want from your site and how you're going to go about getting it.

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yeloson

November 2012

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