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Author Topic: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse  (Read 18050 times)

Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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The purpose of the TIGHAR Forum is to pool the resources of its participants, share information, and allow participants to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each other's arguments.

The purpose of this thread is to develop some rough-and-ready guidelines for civil discourse in the Forum.  Suggestions and criticisms most welcome.  I or other moderators of the Forum will update this lead post periodically to help participants understand the kinds of expectations we have for them.

Please use your full name in your User Profile.  Here is a tutorial on how to make that change.  This is not an anonymous forum.  We expect posters to take personal responsibility for the views that they express here.  If for some reason you find this too onerous, please send an e-mail to webmaster@tighar.org to obtain permission to use a pseudonym.

The following points are exhortations, not law.  They are written on recycled electrons and can be revised as the Forum matures.  There are exceptions to every rule (except the rule that there are exceptions to every rule, of course); these are ideals to strive for, even if no one of us reaches them consistently.


The Prime Directive
  • Have fun!  Please don't let these guidelines get you down.  This is not a test.  It's not a job.  Enjoy the give-and-take in the Forum as best you can.  A discussion group with no discussion is no fun.

"Rules" of Evidence

  • Document the claims you make.  Provide links to web-based resources or page references to printed material.  This may sound pedantic, but it is essential for "peer review."  Other people want to see your sources and examine the credibility of the sources for themselves.  It is possible that having others read what you have read will help you to understand the sources better.  Two heads can be better than one when it comes to evaluating research and developing persuasive arguments.  Please make it easy for your audience to check your work.

    Note well : "We can discuss Japanese Capture on this forum if anyone can offer the first inkling of actual evidence that any such thing happened.  I will, henceforth, remove postings that are pure speculation" (Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR President, 9 June 2011).

  • Avoid conclusory statements. "Mere conclusory statements do not constitute effective summary judgment proof and need not be given the same presumptive force as allegations of fact.  ... A conclusory statement is one that does not provide the underlying facts to support the conclusion" (Houston Case Law Monitor).
  • Avoid ad hominem remarks: insults, stereotyping, sarcasm, or ridicule.  If you have nothing objective to say, don't say it.  Please pass over the character defects of other posters in silence.  Deal with the substance of an opponent's position, not with the moral shortcomings, character defects, or motives of the other person.  "Even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn."  What matters is the objective content of a claim being made, not the the claimant's qualities of character.

General etiquette.

  • Feel free to disagree with others, but avoid being disagreeable.
  • Agree to disagree.  There comes a point in most arguments when all of the available evidence has been laid on the table by both sides and where all of the sticking points have been defined.  At that point, mere repetition of what one has already said causes the signal-to-noise ratio in the Forum to deteriorate.  Let the facts that you have presented and the views that you have expressed speak for themselves once this point is reached.
  • Allow antagonists to disengage.  If someone indicates that they no longer want to contribute to a topic, leave them alone.
  • Don't take things personally and don't make things personal.  Presume reason and good will on the part of those who disagree with you.  Give their remarks a charitable interpretation.  Don't take insults where none are intended.  Even if the insult is intentional, let it slide.
  • Avoid contests of manhood and honor (known in the vernacular as @#$%*& contests).  "Never wrestle with a pig because you'll only get muddy and the pig enjoys it."
  • Please don't try to change the behavior of obnoxious posters.  That is the job of the moderators.  Keep the focus of your posts on-topic and assemble your argument as clearly and as persuasively as you can.  That is how you will help TIGHAR improve its collective thinking, such as it is.
  • Correct mistakes in a kindly fashion.  We all make typos.  Stuff happens.  The Forum draws participation from all walks of life and from many different cultures and countries.  Try to focus on the meaning intended by the other poster in spite of errors in grammar, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and rhetoric.  Deal with the issues, not with the mechanics.
  • "Verba volant, scripta manent"--"the spoken word vanishes, what is written remains."  You are not typing into a computer system; you are communicating with real people in a way that is very public and that is preserved for posterity.
  • Please trim quotations from your posts as much as possible.  Anyone who wants to read previous posts in the thread may do so.  Please quote only those portions of previous posts that are absolutely essential for the point you wish to make in your post.  Make sure that the new material in your post is outside the quote tags so that is easy to distinguish visually what is being quoted and what is being added to the conversation.
  • Please don't feed the trolls.

Please help us improve these guidelines.


If you know of already-developed sets of guidelines from which we could borrow (with proper references, of course), please provide a link to them or a citation that would help us find them in a library.
LTM,

           Marty
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« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 06:36:32 AM by Martin X. Moleski, SJ »
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Chris Johnson

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2011, 07:16:20 AM »

One thing that springs to mind is that as an 'International' Forum we need to be aware that some posters may only have English as a second language and only a few have the Queen ’s English as their first.

Also from a personal point and I’m glad to see it hasn't reared its ugly head but some forum users may have conditions that mean they make genuine spelling and grammatical mistakes.  I know because I am one of them.  Please be aware and not be too pedantic over minor spelling/grammatical errors.  Nine times out of ten I will compose in word, spell check and post but sometimes not :)

Before checking this post had nine errors that needed correcting.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2011, 07:49:15 AM »

... Please be aware and not be too pedantic over minor spelling/grammatical errors. ...

Added. Thanks!
LTM,

           Marty
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2011, 08:01:36 AM »

... the forum should be plenty of fun, but within reasonable bounds because it must also be about the serious business of TIGHAR's work.

Added.  Thanks!

Quote
I also like the guideline material you are putting into the forum for us to be educated by.  That might seem tedious at first - but the idea of having a resource by which we can polish our posting skills is really nice.  There is an academic standard for papers and such - and why not strive toward that kind of discipline here?  This is a serious academic site, really, and we deserve to treat each other with with some degree of academic respect if we truly seek to add to the knowledge, or to gain real knowledge.  Excellent!

The Forum is a one-room schoolhouse.  We have all grades represented here, from kindergarten to post-doctoral researchers.  Much of the material is not rocket science or brain surgery, but we have some rocket scientists and brain surgeons in the mix. 

I don't want to scare anyone away.  I have only realized in the last month or two that I have standards and expectations that were unexpressed and that were being violated--unintentionally and understandably!--by other posters.  The Great Link Jihad drove at least one poster away from the Forum and may have frightened off others.

Putting some of our expectations of each other into writing might help improve participation in the Forum.  This is something on the order of a social experiment.  (It's not a real experiment, of course, because we don't have defined and controlled variables.)  I'm interested to hear what people think in this thread.  I hope it will help keep such meta-discussions out of other threads.  TIGHAR provides this forum to discuss various topics related to historic aircraft recovery.  Discussion of how to discuss politely is, from that standpoint, off-topic in the boards that deal with aviation history.

Quote
Thanks for the thoughtful topic and emerging guidelines!

My pleasure!   :)
LTM,

           Marty
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2011, 08:37:59 AM »

In one of the recent threads, Ric Gillespie asked a poster to provide his full name because this is not an anonymous forum.

I had not been enforcing this policy, but it makes sense to me, now that I think about it.

I've changed my username in accordance with this policy and respectfully request others to do the same.

Here is a tutorial on how to change your User Profile.
LTM,

           Marty
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Mona Kendrick

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2011, 11:06:45 AM »

Thanks Marty, for an excellent and thoughtful set of guidelines.  If I think of any suggestions for additional guidelines, I'll make my suggestions in a civil manner.  ;)

--Mona
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Chris Owens

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2011, 11:56:16 AM »

There is, I think, one principle that is particularly worth keeping in mind:

Quote
You are not typing into a computer system; you are communicating with real people in a way that is very public and that is preserved for posterity.

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John Joseph Barrett

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2011, 12:38:28 PM »

Ah, If only everyone who posted to the internet would and could remember that. Once it's out there, it's out there. No recall, no Mulligans. Love the guidelines Marty. I seldom post but do follow the forum nearly every day (even when it's slow) and don't much care for it when people get snotty. We all have our own ideas and thoughts that influence how we view what may have happened to our heroes. We all come from different educational, social, economic, etc backgrounds which affects how we view things. But, any one of us may have a "eureka" moment that answers a question for the rest of us. Cordial disagreement is fine and is to be expected. It's the petty stuff and condescending tones we need to avoid. Makes me feel like I'm at work. This is supposed to be fun. Let's keep it that way. And now back to my regularily scheduled Friday....LTM
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Ashley Such

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2011, 01:18:00 PM »

Marty,

The guidelines look good! Thanks for putting those up! And, I agree to abide by these rules. :)
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2011, 08:10:55 PM »

There is, I think, one principle that is particularly worth keeping in mind:

Quote
You are not typing into a computer system; you are communicating with real people in a way that is very public and that is preserved for posterity.

Added.  Thanks!
LTM,

           Marty
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Chris Johnson

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2011, 04:08:21 AM »

A quick check on other forums that I am active on and none of them have such a useful guide as this available to members and non-members.

Yes they have a set of 'rules' that you agree to when becoming a member (don't read and tick the box) but there is no aid memoire to remind us on how to behave and enjoy the experience.

Looking at one forum, the intolerant behaviour of some members has always made me a watcher rather than a doer.

This guideline is less 'Link Jihad' and more a life skills manual.

2 errors prior to spell check and preview spots another  :-[
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Chris Johnson

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2011, 04:57:23 AM »

Just a thought but after the recent navigation war it seems appropriate to put any professional credentials up front.  A search on the net (excluding TIGHAR hits) does indicate that some forum members are what/who they say they are.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2011, 06:52:28 AM »

Just a thought but after the recent navigation war it seems appropriate to put any professional credentials up front.  A search on the net (excluding TIGHAR hits) does indicate that some forum members are what/who they say they are.

For the moment, I'm content with leaving that to the good taste and discretion of Forum members.

Aristotle noted that argument from authority is the weakest form of argument.

Argument from one's own authority must be the weakest form of the argument of authority.

Holding credentials from a school does not make one's presumptions, opinions, judgments, or calculations infallible.

Don't ask me how I know.   :D
LTM,

           Marty
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Michael Frazier

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2011, 03:12:21 PM »

Marty,

I'm a newsgroup user since the days of dialing-in via 14.4 modems,
so I'm a little experienced in this area. You have asked for some
input so I'd like to share a few thoughts. I frequently visit your
site and never came across anything really annoying. The guidelines
and policies in question are more or less what's commonly accepted
on usenet. Of course re-thinking can't do any harm but I don't feel
like this forum needs anything more elaborate. On the other hand
you may have good reasons for this.

IMHO if you want to enhance quality all together - and what else are
we talking about - there's no way around a moderated forum. Reading
the possible postings in advance is equal in time and effort compared
to reading it later but there is a big difference in rejecting a posting a priori
or to ban someone after the event. I'm aware in the end it's a matter
of taste how to conduct a forum and we could easily discuss the pros
and cons for weeks, but why waiting 'til the damage is done when one
has control? A possible posting to the TIGHAR forum doesn't require
immediate action and there is no need for any realtime performance.

A 'troll' is merely annoying but I've seen serious but non-moderated
newsgroups going nuts on silly threads beyond belief, which is a real
menace. We are all human and none of us is free from emotions. Many
professional newsgroups are moderated to prevent this and keep it
strictly on-topic. I consider this very adequate.

A moderated forum doesn't necessarily mean preventing discussion
unless the possible posting is completely off-topic. The moderator of
course isn't forced to overact in this regard. Talking to others by means
of a forum can be an interesting thing even on a non-expert level.
Lateral thinking and asking the right questions is quite as important as
giving the right answers. In my experience a moderated forum doesn't
constrict this.

Regards,
Michael
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: How to play nice and fight fair--guidelines for civil discourse
« Reply #14 on: July 04, 2011, 10:13:57 PM »

I'm a newsgroup user since the days of dialing-in via 14.4 modems,
so I'm a little experienced in this area.

I started as a participant and later a sysop on a 1200 baud modem back
in the mid-80s.  (I am a time traveler; I come to you from the past!)

Quote
You have asked for some
input so I'd like to share a few thoughts. I frequently visit your
site and never came across anything really annoying.

Me, neither.  The vast majority of posts are on topic and the vast majority of posters have been courteous and welcome guests.

Quote
The guidelines
and policies in question are more or less what's commonly accepted
on usenet. Of course re-thinking can't do any harm but I don't feel
like this forum needs anything more elaborate. On the other hand
you may have good reasons for this.

Up until I started this thread, we were doing OK with no guidelines in writing (at least according to my taste; YMMV).  As I started removing posts that I thought crossed the line, I thought it might be good to mark some of the lines that people shouldn't cross a little better than they had been in the past.  "Ignorance of the law is no excuse"--if the laws have been published somewhere where the interested parties can find them.   ::)

Quote
IMHO if you want to enhance quality all together - and what else are
we talking about - there's no way around a moderated forum. Reading
the possible postings in advance is equal in time and effort compared
to reading it later but there is a big difference in rejecting a posting a priori
or to ban someone after the event. I'm aware in the end it's a matter
of taste how to conduct a forum and we could easily discuss the pros
and cons for weeks, but why waiting 'til the damage is done when one
has control? A possible posting to the TIGHAR forum doesn't require
immediate action and there is no need for any realtime performance.

I've been a Usenet moderator since 1998, served on the Board for the Big-8 since its inception, and acted as co-chair for the Board for a couple of years or so.  My experience has been that unmoderated groups are generally more lively than moderated groups, even when the moderation is quite light and eminently reasonable.  I prefer the problems of retro-moderation to pre-moderation.

I am only one member of the moderation team.  I serve at the discretion of TIGHAR's executive officers, so it's possible that they will want to take your advice.

Quote
A 'troll' is merely annoying but I've seen serious but non-moderated
newsgroups going nuts on silly threads beyond belief, which is a real
menace. We are all human and none of us is free from emotions. Many
professional newsgroups are moderated to prevent this and keep it
strictly on-topic. I consider this very adequate.

Understood.  We can tighten up if we have to.  In my view, we're not there yet.

Quote
A moderated forum doesn't necessarily mean preventing discussion
unless the possible posting is completely off-topic. The moderator of
course isn't forced to overact in this regard. Talking to others by means
of a forum can be an interesting thing even on a non-expert level.
Lateral thinking and asking the right questions is quite as important as
giving the right answers. In my experience a moderated forum doesn't
constrict this.

I've helped to set up lots of moderated Usenet groups, so I know how they can bring a great deal of relief from people whose tastes in dialogue run counter to my own.  I was opposed to the creation of news.groups.proposals, but I was wrong.  The group has worked as you describe above--posts are pre-moderated and good discussions have taken place.  Moderation can definitely work.

Thanks very much for your thoughtful feedback--much appreciated!
LTM,

           Marty
           TIGHAR #2359A
 
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