There’s some very helpful feedback on the recent commenting/housekeeping/debate tactics post. I’m going to highlight and briefly respond to a few people, and then hopefully we can get back to content-y posts to practice constructively commenting on!
I’m really wrestling with at what point I need to walk away from even reading comments here. The tone and mix of commenters has really changed a lot recently, and frankly, I think Adam’s right. I’m glad you’re writing in a measured and thoughtful way toward your new audience but trying to take part is turning me into a jerk a little bit – instead of being able to engage in reasoned debate for very long, I find myself bubbling up with what feels like “righteous” rage all the time, trying not to express much of that counterproductive emotion in writing, and then just ranting to my husband about it. Basically, I’m spending way too much time and energy in “someone’s wrong on the internet!” mode.
This isn’t a “you should fix this” complaint. It’s your blog and this whole post was about why you’re running it as you are! It’s just ironic that as one of your somewhat long term Christian readers, I’m finding your site far more morally challenging now that you’re a convert than when it was an “atheist” blog. I thought Catholics and Protestants had more in common than not but we seem to be able to set each other off pretty well.
I sympathise, and I appreciate Emily speaking up. I don’t want the roughness of the blog to make every discussion feel like a war (even if we manage to make it a really polite war). I don’t want engaging with the people I most disagree with to drive off the people I sometimes disagree with.
When people feel like Emily does, speak up, and let me know if there have been some comment threads that felt particularly useful and some that were particularly wretched. Was there anything you noticed that helped save a discussion or derailed a debate? I don’t want a quiet majority to become quietly absent. There’s room for experimentation.
I’d actually quite like to try out weirder comment rules for specific threads at some point on the future:
- Paired threads where you argue your true belief with an opponent in one chain and both of you switch sides for the other. Do the second one first, so you can see what your opponent thinks you think.
- An ‘only polite’ thread where any comment about how stupid or hateful someone is gets whited out by me (or flagged and people show possible ways to rewrite).
- A ‘rewrite’ thread (inspired by an improv game) where we take a couple assertions and try to rewrite them on a 1-10 scale from least aggressive to most aggressive
But, in the day to day blog, my normal approach is not to stay on a very crazy topic for too long. I came back to gay marriage because I thought the “How would you react to someone trying to break up your marriage” reframe was new and helpful. I assume I’ll leave the topic lie for a while unless I think I might say something you haven’t heard before or just see a really helpful case study in how to change your mind in a discussion.
The next big thing I’ve got coming up is the Sondheim discussion (still time to watch Company on Netflix), and I imagine that will lend itself to better discussion, since people aren’t trained to see every conversation on this topic as an intensely political fight. (Though, remember, my example of being personally unable to walk away from a fight is from an argument about Sondheim’s Assassins).
Of course, my last, favorite resort is just blogging about how much I love math and science until the trolls are muted slightly. Pulchra vincit omnia.
So let me know when you think a topic change is in order, if you have suggestions to improve discussion, or just better ways to avoid falling into the Someone is wrong on the internet trap. Personally, I’ve started taking aikido.