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Reflections on Forum Rules

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I occasionally visit this forum, and just noticed the new rules of discourse a little late in that I (and another poster) have already been strongly warned about violating the guidelines and, in my case, had come >this< close to being suspended.

I am not protesting the warning it seemed reasonable in light of the rules against responses that are rude, hostile, or condescending towards others and I was told to watch my tone (I characterized someones contributions as vapid and suggested his political stance to be equivalent to supporting the Taliban).

However, Id like to put a word in for tolerance. This is not an appeal for free speech, but for moderators to appreciate that this is mainly an entertainment forum. No one is forced to participate, and I learned sometime ago that if one wanted to be in the Kitchen, one had to stand the heat.

Remember, the forum serves many purposes: for some it is to learn something, for others it is to practice their writing, for others to exchange barbs and invective with the like minded, and for others to test their ideas against a hostile audience.

For me, it is to experience polemics and to test my ideas. Nothing is quite so entertaining as rhetoric, and the greatest orators (e.g. the Greeks) violated these guidelines routinely.

Consider, if you will, H.L. Menken: disdainful, condescending, even hostile yet pointed, amusing, and among the great in 20th century commentary. His work is littered with vivid words boobs, savages, yokels, mountebanks, lepers, buffoons, quacks, pin heads, asses, and half-wits directed at those who disagreed with him.

In the 1960s Buckley and Mailer virtually made a cottage industry out of insult, suggesting more than once (to Mailers face) that while Mailer was a genius, politically he was an idiot. Conflicts like these kept viewers entertained for years.

Of course, the newspaper column is not as personal as a forum. And I fully understand that extreme rudeness and ad-homonym insults are out of line. But please do not sanitize the board to a point of faked politeness and dry as dust exchanges. There must be some room for those of us who would like to call our opponents a geyser of pish-posh or "purveyors of hooey" or even 'vapid'.
post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by MaxParrish
There must be some room for those of us who would like to call our opponents a geyser of pish-posh or "purveyors of hooey" or even 'vapid'.

You can be artful and not directly call someone those things.

Instead of:
"Everything you say is vapid"

...you can say:
"When people say such vapid things it just hurts their cause."

Instead of:
You are a purveyor of hooey"

...try:
Why risk being known as a purveyor of hooey when you could just be less hard-lined about your opinions and listen to others?"

I'm pretty sure you can get away with that.

Hell, I have for years. it's called tactfulness. You can still be a prick, just be tactful. Kidding (about 5%)
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post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by johnq
You can be artful and not directly call someone those things.

Instead of:
"Everything you say is vapid"

...you can say:
"When people say such vapid things it just hurts their cause."

Instead of:
You are a purveyor of hooey"

...try:
Why risk being known as a purveyor of hooey when you could just be less hard-lined about your opinions and listen to others?"

I'm pretty sure you can get away with that.

Hell, I have for years. it's called tactfulness. You can still be a prick, just be tactful. Kidding (about 5%)

Tactful....that may be difficult. I'll try for artful and hope my levity shows through; either that our I'll use arcane insults: "Well well folks, here comes another soap house charlie" that no one gets (including me).
post #4 of 22
This thread belong to suggestion. Moving it here.
post #5 of 22
In the area of put-downs and ad-hominem attacks I suppose one has to draw a distinction between the entry-level journeyman hack and the true master.

Destroying someone's position can, like anything, be raised to the level of an art form. Admittedly, today's political 'thinker's (perhaps more correctly termed 'mass debaters') are perhaps not the most inspiring of opponents in terms of raising the level of oracular skill in the cut and thrust of debate, but they do have the advantage that if one raises one insult level merely a notch above the mundane it often becomes invisible to them and hence, amusing - of course only to oneself but then that's all we can expect in today's 'ultra civilized bastion of freedom and sophistication'.

Insults are all relative anyway (I'm often outraged to be called a liberal) and then there is the cultural aspect. Wasn't it Paul Theroux (an American) who said:

"No-one can be as calculatedly rude as the British. Americans do not understand studied insult and can only offer abuse as a substitute."

Ps Bush sucks.

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post #6 of 22
I'm for anything that ups the general level while turning its back on cliché, even if at base the exchange is about derision. However, what could be called a witty riposte is definitely in the eye of the beholder -- like pornography. So if you're going to be insulting (or do pornography?), do it with class.

BTW: for those who like withering dialogue of the English variety I've been entertained by Edward St Aubyn's trilogy Some Hope. In it, everyone's a prat trying not to be a bore...perhaps a familiar problem for these boards?
post #7 of 22
funny, not to take this thread off-topic, but this same topic is being debated in current politics due to the-tone-of the banter at the Radio City fundraiser in NY a few days ago...

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post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Timo
I'm for anything that ups the general level while turning its back on cliché, even if at base the exchange is about derision. However, what could be called a witty riposte is definitely in the eye of the beholder -- like pornography. So if you're going to be insulting (or do pornography?), do it with class.

BTW: for those who like withering dialogue of the English variety I've been entertained by Edward St Aubyn's trilogy Some Hope. In it, everyone's a prat trying not to be a bore...perhaps a familiar problem for these boards?

All good suggestions by everyone, but I must look up your author's works - sounds entertaining.
post #9 of 22
While it's true that there have existed orators whose work would have violated the guidelines here, it is not our intention to breed a new generation of H. L. Menckens (for one thing, I don't think it's too much to ask that people be capable of telling a Puritan from a Victorian...). The forums were founded with the express intent that they would be thoughtful and moderate in tone, and we've tried to preserve that to the extent possible. As much as it might make you feel better to unload on someone, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask you to take that elsewhere, or to do what i've done many times and vent wildly into a text file and then delete it.

None of the constructive uses you mention are against the guidelines: It is certainly possible to test ideas against a hostile audience here. If anything, rants and insults and ad hominem distract from the ideas and turn the debate toward fallacies, irrelevancies and bad feelings that spill over from AppleOutsider into the topical forums. Similarly, it does not serve any notion of rational or truly political debate to polarize ideas into two caricatures and use them as bases in a game of team deathmatch. If you want to play team deathmatch, fire up Unreal Tournament and start whomping on people. UT and its ilk are much better suited as forums for that kind of entertainment, if only because you're far less likely to derail a serious discussion in those games.

AI has grown and prospered for years as a quieter, more thoughtful forum than some of our neighbors. I would very much like to keep it that way.

Thanks for you suggestions,
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post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorph
While it's true that there have existed orators whose work would have violated the guidelines here, it is not our intention to breed a new generation of H. L. Menckens (for one thing, I don't think it's too much to ask that people be capable of telling a Puritan from a Victorian...). The forums were founded with the express intent that they would be thoughtful and moderate in tone, and we've tried to preserve that to the extent possible. As much as it might make you feel better to unload on someone, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask you to take that elsewhere, or to do what i've done many times and vent wildly into a text file and then delete it.

None of the constructive uses you mention are against the guidelines: It is certainly possible to test ideas against a hostile audience here. If anything, rants and insults and ad hominem distract from the ideas and turn the debate toward fallacies, irrelevancies and bad feelings that spill over from AppleOutsider into the topical forums. Similarly, it does not serve any notion of rational or truly political debate to polarize ideas into two caricatures and use them as bases in a game of team deathmatch. If you want to play team deathmatch, fire up Unreal Tournament and start whomping on people. UT and its ilk are much better suited as forums for that kind of entertainment, if only because you're far less likely to derail a serious discussion in those games.

AI has grown and prospered for years as a quieter, more thoughtful forum than some of our neighbors. I would very much like to keep it that way.

Thanks for you suggestions,

Given the dismissive 'thank you for...' closing, I suppose what I've written has just raised the 'goat among the sheep' alarm among board herders - so I'll wrap it up.

There is room between "rants" and "unloading on someone" and "quiet" and "moderate" discussion, and in that area of impassioned and personal disagreement there are constructive uses. Your correct, it's not unreasonable to take ad hominem insults and demeaning rants elsewhere but I think its a bit much (and a little Orwellian) to police the 'tone' of someone's post, fearful of creeping rudeness.

As one of the above posters suggested, a little more artfullness is not abuse and while we may not be Menken's or Mailer's, we can have a little fun.

In other words (HL's), Although you are a "blue-nose" and "Puritan mullah", only some of what you said is taken as "hooey".
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by MaxParrish
Given the dismissive 'thank you for...' closing, I suppose what I've written has just raised the 'goat among the sheep' alarm among board herders - so I'll wrap it up.

Well, this much isn't true, rest assured. For one, I doubt Amorph is being dismissive at all; that's never been his MO. Also, there's a very limited amount of intra-moderator banter, most of it either little "out be out this weekend" notifications and, with greater frequently, "I can't take AO much longer" variety. The mods aren't really this little club who gossip about the rest of the membership, keep an enemies list or anything like that. I do let the others know when I've sent a warning or we need someone banned, and I think everyone is familiar with the usual suspects in their own mind anyway. (FWIW, only one person was banned quite a while ago for their behavior in AO.) We're acquaintances who try to support AI in the same way.

Personally, I've gotten to the point where I don't fee like waiting for the inevitable venom spitting in the AO political threads, and I will send out private messages to members when I think their talk is heading down that road, regardless of whether it's instigating or reacting to others' invective. I don't feel like waiting for the proverbial poop to hit the fan.

There's a reason why I send PMs and why I don't make announcements in the threads most of the time. For one, private messages are private. They don't distract from the real topics, they give the people who receive these messages a place to retort without worrying about reprisals, they don't get a peanut gallery in the middle of things, and it can save members from any potential indignity where a public admonishment could otherwise be embarrassing. Most importantly though, they give us a chance to head these things off before they get worse by hopefully bringing people to their senses and without interrupting the flow of discussion (if there really is one) in the thread. I'm sad to say that, from my experience, strong words get results and a softer tone has in the past produced some spiteful reactions in the forums a few times.

Actually, I would encourage some members to make greater use of this PM feature. If things get too personal or heated, private messages are a good way to settle things between members. Members often like to gang up one one another in AO, so I'm not expecting much quite frankly. I try to look for patterns of belligerence because a lot of people here like to test the guidelines and aren't quite explicit enough in their behavior to say that post xyz is out of bounds.

I think I've let a lot go, but if people have an issue with my performance, let Amorph, Jambo, Kickaha or Powerdoc know. This is strictly volunteer work, so there's no schedule, contract, perks, harm or politics involved in their decision or with what I do either way. Frankly, I have much less of a problem with the occasional emotional outburst than I have with the constant demeaning attitude and close-mindedness that's pervasive in the political threads. Maybe I'm the only one and this is welcome, acceptable behavior. If so, let me know -- through PMs.
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by MaxParrish
Given the dismissive 'thank you for...' closing, I suppose what I've written has just raised the 'goat among the sheep' alarm among board herders - so I'll wrap it up.

BuonRotto has said something on this, but I feel it's important for me to underline what he said: My "thank you" was not meant to be dismissive at all. It was sincere. The whole point of this forum is to air suggestions about the forum. If we didn't honestly want suggestions, we'd just delete it.

Quote:
There is room between "rants" and "unloading on someone" and "quiet" and "moderate" discussion, and in that area of impassioned and personal disagreement there are constructive uses. Your correct, it's not unreasonable to take ad hominem insults and demeaning rants elsewhere but I think its a bit much (and a little Orwellian) to police the 'tone' of someone's post, fearful of creeping rudeness.

Poor Orwell gets thrown around a lot. That is a needlessly conspiratorial way of looking at it. Pragmatically speaking, if you want to discuss issues, then the best way to do so is to discuss issues. Anything in your post that distracts from that discussion defeats you. In a discussion that involves more than one person, it's only logical that you tailor your delivery to be understood and appreciated by your audience.

My argument has nothing to do with whether an argument is "impassioned," merely whether it can even be called an argument in any substantive sense.

Quote:
As one of the above posters suggested, a little more artfullness is not abuse and while we may not be Menken's or Mailer's, we can have a little fun.

In other words (HL's), Although you are a "blue-nose" and "Puritan mullah", only some of what you said is taken as "hooey".

Ah, yes, the great myth that Puritans were against "fun." They were against 'fun' at the expense of other humans (dwarf-tossing, for instance), and they would almost certainly have frowned on the sort of things that Schopenhauer found so relieving to the human soul. But when a ship arrived, they dropped everything and partied for three days.

The accusation ignores history. First, you did get one thing right: I'm a Congregationalist, and that was one of the Puritan churches. However, even a cursory read of Calvin reveals that he did not hesitate to indulge in "impassioned arguments" himself. My personal opinion is that he'd have been a better writer for refraining. Certainly, other famous Puritans (Locke, Newton, Milton among them) were no strangers to "impassioned argument." So, as usual, Mencken ignores reality in favor of a substance-free cheap shot.

But I am one of those pesky Calvinists. The ones who published all kinds of previously unavailable literature &mdash; including pagan literature &mdash; in the vulgate languages. The ones who ones who insisted that the only measure of a government's legitimacy was the fair and generous treatment of its subjects. The ones who spread mass literacy, adapted Arabic script to the printing press, described as self-evident the doctrine that all people are equal and holy, and generally did things like this that infuriate the likes of H. L. Mencken. And so, because I have no desire to suppress ideas or dialog, I find it useful and even urgent to discourage those things which suppress ideas and dialog: Mau-mauing, ad hominem, abuse, mockery, etc. If that makes me some sort of tyrant to you, I suppose there's nothing I can do about that. I think you will find that I have a light hand for a tyrant. But I cannot stress enough that what a lot of the rhetoric your defending actually does, and is actually intended to do, is suppress discussion. As the Administrator of a discussion forum, I have an understandably low tolerance for anything that suppresses discussion.
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post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorph
BuonRotto has said something on this, but I feel it's important for me to underline what he said: My "thank you" was not meant to be dismissive at all. It was sincere. The whole point of this forum is to air suggestions about the forum. If we didn't honestly want suggestions, we'd just delete it.

Poor Orwell gets thrown around a lot. That is a needlessly conspiratorial way of looking at it. Pragmatically speaking, if you want to discuss issues, then the best way to do so is to discuss issues. Anything in your post that distracts from that discussion defeats you. In a discussion that involves more than one person, it's only logical that you tailor your delivery to be understood and appreciated by your audience.

My argument has nothing to do with whether an argument is "impassioned," merely whether it can even be called an argument in any substantive sense.

Ah, yes, the great myth that Puritans were against "fun." They were against 'fun' at the expense of other humans (dwarf-tossing, for instance), and they would almost certainly have frowned on the sort of things that Schopenhauer found so relieving to the human soul. But when a ship arrived, they dropped everything and partied for three days.

The accusation ignores history. First, you did get one thing right: I'm a Congregationalist, and that was one of the Puritan churches. However, even a cursory read of Calvin reveals that he did not hesitate to indulge in "impassioned arguments" himself. My personal opinion is that he'd have been a better writer for refraining. Certainly, other famous Puritans (Locke, Newton, Milton among them) were no strangers to "impassioned argument." So, as usual, Mencken ignores reality in favor of a substance-free cheap shot.

But I am one of those pesky Calvinists. The ones who published all kinds of previously unavailable literature &mdash; including pagan literature &mdash; in the vulgate languages. The ones who ones who insisted that the only measure of a government's legitimacy was the fair and generous treatment of its subjects. The ones who spread mass literacy, adapted Arabic script to the printing press, described as self-evident the doctrine that all people are equal and holy, and generally did things like this that infuriate the likes of H. L. Mencken. And so, because I have no desire to suppress ideas or dialog, I find it useful and even urgent to discourage those things which suppress ideas and dialog: Mau-mauing, ad hominem, abuse, mockery, etc. If that makes me some sort of tyrant to you, I suppose there's nothing I can do about that. I think you will find that I have a light hand for a tyrant. But I cannot stress enough that what a lot of the rhetoric your defending actually does, and is actually intended to do, is suppress discussion. As the Administrator of a discussion forum, I have an understandably low tolerance for anything that suppresses discussion.

Having read portions of William Bradfords Of Plymouth Plantation several adjectives describing New England Puritans come to mind: brave, resourceful, pious, and dauntlessbut somehow fun did not leap from its pages. And now you tell me those great satirists Locke and Milton were Puritansoh joy.

Oh well, in defense of HL. Of course he was an intellectual tease, whose mockery was a source of great humor and witty turns of phrase. He enjoyed mocking Americas venerated, including the pre-Methodists who settled New England - he asked how these bilious theologians could be considered noble fellows that cherished the fruits of the intellect the same fellows that produced a codfish civilization?.

I cannot speak to the truth of it, but I certainly have laughed about it.

I have no idea if you are a tyrant or if this is a Stepford forum, I suppose that will have to be experienced to be known (and its been along time between board visits for me).

Until then you can count me among the Weston colony, having parted ways with the Puritans in New England and was later found drinking, debauching, and living with savages...and were surprized when the armed Puritans marched into their colony to 'save' them from their degraded condition.



Max
post #14 of 22
Personally I've been disappointed by the situation. I don't mind the personal attacks directed at me, and was happy enough to stop them myself. But after months of continuing to get them, reporting them, PM-ing mods about specific problems, etc. I only ever got one response (thanks again Powerdoc) from a moderator about an attack. Ultimately I gave up because no one that attacked me was ever reprimanded and the mods didn't bother to let me know why. I've asked for clarity on many occaisions and received none.

Still, more than once I've been PM-ed and warned about something I've said. Just yesterday I was accused of "talking out of my ass" and rather than repeat my futile attempts to help the forums like I've done during the previous months by reporting it, I told the poster they were full of shit. Naturally I get a PM threatening to ban me.

Again, I don't care what the rules are and I have no issue with "freedom of speech" or any crap like that. This is YOUR forum, but if you want to bust my balls I'd rather you do it consistently. Otherwise I guess you should ban me because I'll continue to resond in kind to posters that attack me.
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post #15 of 22
people reap what they sow.
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by alcimedes
people reap what they sow.



It's a shame that someone voices a concern only to get an asshole type response.
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post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by bunge


It's a shame that someone voices a concern only to get an asshole type response.

and with replies like that you wonder why people are mean to you?

post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by alcimedes
and with replies like that you wonder why people are mean to you?


I sure don't care if someone's going to be 'mean' as you say, it doesn't bother me in the least. I'm here because I'm curious about the moderating, not myself. If you reread my orginal post you could probably see that.
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post #19 of 22
You better watch out for this stuff, people. I made a thread people didn't like even though the content was clearly acceptable, mouthed off about it, and then got banned. Apparently the mods are only comfortable laying down the law in private, and get a bit jumpy if you post the contents of a PM out in the open. I think that you shouldn't say anything in private to a person on a message board that you aren't willing to say in public, but hey, that's just me.

I'm on the straight and narrow now, though. I only post about computers, and if I even have the gall to think about saying something biased or judgmental to another member, I check that natural human desire. After all, the goal of the AppleInsider message board is to converse like a bunch of robots, and I'll make sure I only do that from here on out.
post #20 of 22
Oh, persecuted souls! Whoa is thee! Hear that? It's the sound of the world's smallest violin playing. :P

You'll be happy to know that I've respected your complaints and have given up my moderator role. It's for the best for everyone. I think the comments that my moderating has been uneven are true in some respects. My coverage has been spotty and is only going to get worse in the next few months. I have gone several days to even a week at a time without visiting here, and when I do visit, I mean to take a "mental" break, not babysit. A couple days ago, I must have spent two hours in the middle of my work day to deal with the AO forum, send PMs to members and so forth. I can't keep that up. I'm even busier after work, and I often didn't visit the site at all in the evening, when I really should have been "on duty".

If anyone thinks that I enjoyed this role, that I was taking sides or that I was singling out members, they're wrong. And if anyone thinks that the rest of the admin and mod team has all these agendas, power structures, vendettas or whatnot, they're wrong about that too. There's a lot of paranoia in this thread, and with a lot of people who are part of the problem in AO in general. But it's all in their heads. No one can be bothered to give that much scrutiny to others' social ills, least of all me.

Frankly, there are a lot more people who find AO a drag than those who think it's fun, but for the cast of characters that have commandeered AO I must assume they think the latter, as perverse as it sounds. I just disagree so much with what's going on there now, how people act towards one another, that either I had to leave my post or all the usual suspects there would have had to go. This way was easier for me.

And so it's up to you members who make up AO to either keep the status quo or try to improve the situation. With that, we come back to alcimedes' comment, which I think sums it up rather well.
post #21 of 22
To clinch my argument, I'll quote you:

Quote:
Originally posted by MaxParrish
Given the dismissive 'thank you for...' closing, I suppose what I've written has just raised the 'goat among the sheep' alarm among board herders - so I'll wrap it up.

This is exhibit A of the effects of hostile speech on discourse: You thought I was being dismissive, so you threw up your hands. I clarified that I was not, and we've had a run of entertaining posts. See where I'm coming from?

As for the Puritans, they're far from perfect, but that's not the point (after all, nobody is perfect). They acknowledged their own imperfection and strove to be better than they were. If you want a positive example, look at the debate around the Unitarian split. Despite the fact that the split was over a point of doctrine &mdash; the Trinity &mdash; that got a great many people burned alive, neither side in the debate even claimed the authority of the Bible for their side, not a shot was fired, and the two sides contested chiefly by trying to build as many colleges as possible. Not bad, as things go. And that's the sort of thing I'm trying to foster. There was absolutely no lack of passion whatsoever. People literally spent every dime they had and ran themselves into the ground over this. But there was not a shot fired, nor any claims that God or the Bible were on one side or the other, and the result turned out much better than most such splits turn out (including, instructively, the acrimonious split between the Puritans and the Quakers not a hundred years earlier).

But I'm only riffing on Puritans because you called me one, and as it turned out I happen to be one. As far as this forum goes, the spirit I'm trying to keep up is the original spirit of the forums. I don't believe that their father, Mark is a Calvinist; I don't know if he's religious at all, actually. But he's thoughtful, and temperate, and fostered that tone in the forums, and the forums prospered. Since I've taken up his mantle, and since I've seen and appreciated the tone he set and the success the forums have had as a result, I'm eager to keep the tradition going.

Now, then: We're currently trying to pull AO out of a low point. It's inevitably going to be a little rough, because moderation is not the best solution. It's a last resort. The end result is that we hope that the tone, on average, is civil &mdash; not dispassionate, but civil. Occasional infractions are fine. Everyone's lost their temper at least once on this board, and that includes me. We just don't want personal attacks and vituperation to become the norm.

Thanks.
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post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by Amorph
Now, then: We're currently trying to pull AO out of a low point. It's inevitably going to be a little rough, because moderation is not the best solution. It's a last resort. The end result is that we hope that the tone, on average, is civil &mdash; not dispassionate, but civil. Occasional infractions are fine. Everyone's lost their temper at least once on this board, and that includes me. We just don't want personal attacks and vituperation to become the norm.

Thanks for the explanation. This is what I felt I asked for on a number of occaisions but never really got a response. But I'm well aware you all owe me nuthin'. Thanks either way.
"Hearing a corrupt CEO like Cheney denigrate Edwards for being a trial lawyer is like hearing a child molester complain how Larry Flint is a pervert." -johnq
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