by Frank Schnittger
Tue Jan 1st, 2008 at 11:04:15 AM EST
I feel like the half deaf person at a party who keeps missing out on key conversations and then has to asks a bystander what it was all about. So I'm asking the ET community, what have the recent spats been all about, am I missing something? Is it all a lot of misunderstandings or do we need to revisit the values on which ET is based?
First Metavision in I apologize for bad form. writes a long apology to all and sundry and I'm wondering what THAT was all about. Now Melo in Arrivederci ET announces his disillusion and temporary withdrawal from participation from ET and I seem to have missed that conversation as well.
Jacob Freeze (aka FPS Doug) did have a go at me on The Real Men Want To Go To Moscow which ignited a firestorm of controversy and culminated in his comments being hidden and his ability to delete his diary (and all associated comments) being withdrawn.
As ad hominem attacks go, it was pretty mild, but I felt that a clear and consistent line was being drawn - you can attack an idea, but not a fellow member, and you can't delete other people's comments just because you don't agree with them, and you can't troll post pictures and videos all over the place - and that all seemed fair enough to me.
What impressed me was that so many people were concerned to uphold those principles and made me feel that this was a place where reasoned debate and membership participation was being encouraged. It is important that a community which seeks to promote values of equity, fairness, and reasoned debate in society as a whole should also practice what it preaches in its own domain.
It is, of course, important that the ratings system isn't abused to downgrade comments that represent a point of view with which the ET community disagrees, but which are presented in a reasoned way. Similarly the powers of frontpagers shouldn't be abused to squash dissident contributers. But I don't think that was the issue here.
That Jacob Freeze (aka FPS Doug) can write knowledgeably and intelligently is not in doubt and I personally would like to read more of his stuff. I was horrified at some of the BOOM! HEADSHOT videos he has posted on Youtube, but then computerised war games aren't my thing and I suspect he comes from a very different place to many ETers. However disagreeing with his views (on say Islam) is not a reason for freezing his account - although I am also conscious that there are laws against inciting religious hatred.
We walk a fine line between having rules restricting the means by which views are expressed and restricting certain types of views in themselves. I personally feel that line was observed in my case but Melo may take a different view in relation to the controversy he is referring to. It's hard to get it right all the time.
Perhaps now, at the beginning of a new year, and in the context of a redesign of the ET website is a good time to have a debate about what values we are all about, and how these values should be expressed in the "About us" section of the website. In that way newcomers and old stagers alike can be in no doubt as to what sort of behaviour is likely to be restricted.
It is clear that FPS Doug feels he is being down graded for his content, rather than for his behaviour:
The first sour note on the Chopra thread came from JakeS:
Chopra? Gimme a friggin' break! The man is a class-A woo-woo.
This insulting and obscene comment was still rated 4.0 the last time I looked...
And for some reason metavision is apologizing and the "community" graciously accepts the apology.
Are there actually standards, or is it just tyranny of the majority?
Insouciantly, Jerome a Paris replies:
It's even worse than that, you know (none / 1) It's the tyranny of a minority. No need to hold your punches for us!
He got a "4" from Doug (and only Doug) for that one! And it is indeed up up to all ET members to rate whatever content they like in whatever way they want without having to justify their preferences. Undoubtedly it is not just brilliantly expressed comments that get high ratings, but also comments with which most people tend to agree.
Dissident/minority viewpoints are more likely to get fewer positive ratings and more negative ratings, but that is the nature of community itself. However Troll ratings are reserved for trusted users, and these, presumably are regarded as having sufficient judgment to identify offensive rather than just dissident comment.
I don't have a problem with accommodating myself to the norms of a community if it is a community I want to be a part of. In my first Diary here, OOPS what am I doing here? I explicitly tried to find out what those norms were, with a view to trying to decide whether this was the right place for me. I was astonished by the warm welcome I received from people who didn't know me, felt very positively towards the ET community, and who wanted to share their experiences of of it.
So my advice to Doug or anyone else who is feeling unloved here, is to take the trouble to explain who you are and where you are coming from, because misunderstandings are very easy when people only have text to go on. For instance:
I rated you down for being an <expletive deleted>.
Pakistani man wants the life that sixty generations of him have been living ever since the Prophet spelled it out, and it ain't for sale!
I think Migeru misunderstood your comment. I think you were arguing that the average Pakistani wants to be able to live his Islamic religion as his forbears have dome without being taken over by Western military/political domination and consumer culture and that this is a valid religious choice which is not understood by Westerners who you caricature as:
He's Economic Man, still trying to buy Waziristan for a plasma TV and a Cadillac, and he still hasn't got a clue that it ain't for sale.
Some people want to live their faith and don't want to sell out to western "values" and this is incomprehensible to people who think that they can buy everybody and every thing. Seems a good argument to me even if (IMHO) it caricatures both Pakistani and "western" attitudes.
But you can't bully people into accepting your point of view. You have to make your case and relate it to where other people are coming from, and sometimes you just have to accept that you are in a minority. Respectful communication is the name of the game. You have a track record of insulting others, so don't be too surprised if others sometimes mis-read and down grade your comments in return.
The key issue and defining moment for any community is how it deals with conflict. Dealing with opponents respectfully, trying to understand their point of view, clarify misunderstandings, trying to find common ground, and when all else fails, agreeing to differ in a civilised way is part of what I have come to value about ET. What are the key values implicit in ET from your point of view, and is it time we made them more explicit in the "about us" section of the site?