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Why I am here

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 08:47:32 AM EST

Colman wrote a front page story recently in which he lamented the development of too cosy a consensus on ET and the lack of robust challenge and debate.  I opined that:

When mutual respect and trust breaks down people retreat into their bunkers and do their own thing.  There have been too many personalised exchanges for people to feel safe about adopting unpopular positions or making arguments which could be misconstrued. .
To which afew replied:
If you think mutual respect and trust have broken down, Frank, why are you here? (No, that is not to be read as hostile. It's a serious question).
and Migeru responded:
Doing his own thing from the bunker, like everyone else? (not snark, but a serious answer)
and Melo suggested that
because trust is a renewable resource?

I avoided engaging the question because I wanted to think it over, but did allow that if Poemless wanted

...a Faustian bargain?
that this might be it:  In other words, if you want the benefits of engaging with a pile of other people on a relatively open platform you don't necessarily get to write or enforce the rules and people will express views and make decisions you don't always agree with.

Every now and then the ET community get caught up in a bout of introspection - usually in the wake of some flame war or other.  This is emphatically not an attempt to reprise same.  At the same time I find myself coming here less and less often, and wanted to reflect on why this might be.


But before I get into the bones of that, I want to make a few points clear:  Firstly, I am full of admiration for what Jerome and his team of front pagers have achieved: a vibrant, lively, and usually convivial place where a lot of information and ideas are shared and debated.  From my own experience of voluntary work in other spheres I would say that it is often the hardest thing to do.  Not only are you not paid for your efforts, but you are sometimes subjected to an even more rigorous scrutiny than you would be if you were in a paid job!  At least if you are being paid, you know who you are answerable to. So often, in voluntary work, you seem to be answerable to everybody, and most severely to those who probably wouldn't touch such voluntary work with a barge pole in the first place...

So if I have ever disagreed with a particular comment by a front pager, it is not that I don't support the need for a moderation process, don't appreciate the efforts they have put in, or indeed the large degree of success they have achieved.  It is simply that I believe that a very few disputes could have been handled more skilfully, and that we could all save ourselves a lot of heart ache by reflecting on how things were handled and perhaps doing things slightly differently the next time around.  Nearly always these "mistakes" as I would see them, involve allowing an intellectual disagreement, however fierce, to become confused with a personalised derogatory comment of some kind, an ascription of dubious motive, or an allegation of bad faith.

We've all done it from time to time.  No one can claim to be 'holier than thou' on this one.  Sometimes its just ennui, tiredness, laziness, or an ill-chosen attempt at sarcasm or humour.  Often the offence isn't even intended, if perhaps an unconscious expression of antagonism at some level.  Sometimes, not only was no offence intended, their wasn't even an underlying antagonism.  It was simply a misunderstanding which can so easily develop and grow in the the imperfect world of keyboard communications.

But where real and serious differences of intellectual, political or moral views exist, the rules of engagement have to be clearly expressed and consistently applied if things are not to be in danger of getting out of hand.  So my answer to Colman's plea for more Devils advocates on ET is that people have to feel confident that they won't be abused or ambushed in some way if they take an unpopular position or argue a perhaps not very well thought through line.

Since I have come here I have seen a number of instances where people adopted positions at variance with the views of key frontpagers, perhaps didn't defend that position very skilfully, but nevertheless felt extremely hurt by the severe debunking they received.  And what has surprised me is that their harshest critics were often not ordinary members, but members of the frontpage team.

Which brings me to what I feel might be a role conflict between a frontpager as a leader of intellectual thought on the blog, and a frontpager as moderator and resolver of conflicts and smoother over of hurt feelings which can also be a vital role in the popularisation of a website.

An intellectual leader is primarily concerned with the rigour of views and their expression, by the quality of evidence adduced, and the ideological context in which the narrative takes place. People who aren't necessarily very good at that can feel very intimidated when the heavyweights appear to line up against them.

A moderator, on the other hand, once he/she becomes aware that someone may be feeling hurt in a particular situation, is far less concerned with continuing or winning the argument, and far more concerned with protecting the perhaps more vulnerable member from digging an even bigger hole for themselves, or being even more exposed to harsher criticism.  It is a different orientation and skill set.

Which brings me to why I think I am getting less and less enthused by the ET project.  It is not the quality of some of the diaries or the robustness (or lack of) of the debate, but a sense that ET is never going to achieve its potential as perhaps the leading European Community blog so long as we don't get a lot better at dealing with flame wars and managing the hurt arising.

What frustrates me personally is not that no one seems to recognise my genius - I am fully aware that I am much more of a populariser than an originator of ideas - but that ET seems destined to be a case of a few illuminati preaching to the converted - which can be a good way of very good originators of ideas lending support and critical guidance to each other - but which is never going to appeal to a very much wider audience.  

And what attracted me to ET when I first came across it, was that it seemed to represent a concept which could become very big indeed:  A place where a much wider range of people, of varying views and intellectual abilities, could get together to discuss both the serious economic, political, and environmental issues, and the relatively trivial personal, hobbyist and cultural which you get in the Open Threads, Photography, Travel, Train and more personal blogs.

But in more recent times, I have despaired of that ever happening.  I have withdrawn from the ET future project, and sworn never to get involved trying to resolve a flame war again.  And when I write now, it is usually for a different or more general audience.

But that is not to say that I think ET isn't still a very good place to be, that I sometimes enjoy being here, and that I am full of admiration for many who write and devote so much of their free time trying to make this a better place for others.

And so in answer to Afew's question:  Why am I here?  The answer is that whilst I am here a lot less, I still admire and enjoy the place.  It just doesn't happen to be the place I would like it to be - which is a much more widely read and blogged place - and I have lost some faith and confidence in our shared determination to make it so.

And that too is OK.  There is a great and growing role for more intellectually rigorous specialised websites.  Places where you won't read about rugby or some such trivial pursuit, but where you go to on occasion to catch up on the latest in economic analysis or debate.  It isn't for me to define what ET is or where it should go.  At one point I thought we had a shared vision and the problem was more a case of putting in place a structure that could make it happen.

Now I think our visions of what we want to do are just a bit too different, and so I am spending more time on-line elsewhere.  For me the Faustian compromise is not that ET isn't perfect - ET does what it does probably better than any other site in the same intellectual space.  It is simply that I feel myself drawn to other things.  I hope that answers your question, Afew, but what I want to stress is that whatever the rare disagreements I have had with others on this blog, I am full of admiration for what you have achieved and wish you all the best for the future.

Display:
...is because ET is capable of this quality of discourse.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 09:04:19 AM EST
  1. Because ET is a source of information I did not find elsewhere.  I'm much better informed, and therefore better able to plan for the future, than other people who physically surround me who don't visit ET.

  2. A lot of the ETers have become like family.

  3. I have a gut feeling about the future.  I'll leave it at that.


The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 09:35:14 AM EST
Frank, you would surely make a very good Ombudsman at any level. This diary is one of many examples of careful and fair moderation. imho.

I come from a different thought and work space than many people here, but I believe that an Operational Researchy kind of multidisciplinary cooperation is what is needed to analyze, confront and improve the entrenched views of the multiple problems this planet faces. But this hasn't worked out at ET in the way I thought it might.

I too spend a lot of time these days on a couple of other blogs, and in fact I'm involved in developing new ones: a gonzo journalism blog to print site, a Web 3.0 site, and theoretical metropolitan advocacy site that cannot be implemented until city-radius wireless networks are up and running. Nokia recently withdrew from WiMax support., but not from large area wireless such as LTE.

I remain interested in ET for 3 main reasons: as a reader (but rarely contributor to) of diaries that dissect subjects that the msm offers a distorted view of, as an admirer of several people here who express heretical ET views (ie the Devil's legal team) and for the quality of creative writing (Nomad, poemless etc) that is both entertaining and informative.

And of course that ET is a place to quickly find links to interesting stuff 'out there'.

In the Hacker's code of conduct, you upload a third of what you download. Others are (but this way way back in '84):

  • Access to Computers - and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works - should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!
  • All information should be free.
  • Mistrust Authority - Promote Decentralization.
  • Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.
  • You can create art and beauty on a computer.
  • Computers can change your life for the better.

So with ET - upload a third of what you 'download'. In that I am remiss.

For the moment I don't have time for all these blogs. But I would like to find the time. As we colleagues keep saying here in Finland - this may be the storm before the calm, workwise, so we are devoting ourselves to the RW at least until the summer.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 10:31:03 AM EST
I'm sorry I have no time now to reply further than this: my question certainly was not a hostile rejoinder. As you know, Frank, I've said to you before in suitable/unsuitably expressive terms that I was tired of people complaining about ET: so I'm all the same interested in why it is that one can say something as absolute as that mutual respect and trust have broken down, and yet still keep coming here. Your comment makes the place sound horrible. So I think my question was a fair one.

I'll get back to this tomorrow, I'm on my way out.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 12:06:20 PM EST
Thanks, Afew or your response. I appreciate how exasperated you are at almost any criticism of ET no matter how diplomatically couched, and how little credit you feel frontpagers get for the very time consuming and difficult job they do. There are also, of course, many positives about ET which I have tried to do justice to in this diary and which are why I do come back form time to time, even if in a less fully engaged way.  

Ultimately you have, collectively, the power to pull the plug on ET which is more or less where the last spat ended up.  It was clearly enunciated that it was your way or the high way and that people shouldn't assume that ET would be continued indefinitely.  That is absolutely your prerogative and I don't have a problem with an editorial board making editorial decisions.  

I am a guest here and don't want to outstay my welcome.  I would rather leave ET altogether than see it fold.  However I also feel that some of the problems have been exacerbated by frontpagers who take any criticism of ET or other dissenting views in a very personal way and have occasionally responded in a very personalised way.  That is not to say, of course, that all those criticisms or dissenting views on other topics have been justified.  Simply that (in my view) they could best have been handled differently.  

I am going to leave this conversation at this point because my experience is that my views on this simply aren't accepted and seem to inflame others.  My intent in posting this considered diary response to your challenge was to be constructive and helpful, not to dig up old wounds.  I DO think that a lot of mutual respect and trust has been lost, and this certainly explains my reluctance to engage further.  But I also don't see any way of resolving that problem any time soon, which is why I think it best that we just walk away from the issue at this stage.  Being a Devils advocate can damage your health.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 12:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been rather busy with fundamental life changes - and I feel a bit like an outsider. I also deal with written language poorly. So I haven't been around all that much in the last few months.

That said, ET was extremely important in my wife and I in our planning on how we were going to cope with the economic downturn - (and hence our fundamental life changes.)

We weren't confident enough to short AIG - but we did "bet the farm" more or less. Part of what gave us the confidence was ET.

I have on occasion, briefly popped in and peaked at what was being posted. One of the people I have always looked for was you, Frank. I like to read what you have to say, and I want to read more.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 02:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't bet the farm on my economic advice!  Hope things are going well for you...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 03:03:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's too early to tell. We bought just under 9 acres - most of it wooded and with a stream (and under environmental protection) and are entering very early retirement on a shoestring with a moderate mortgage but no other debt. Our fear was that we would be entering a depression on massive debt and high leverage with a somewhat recession proof, but not depression proof form of self employment.

We did some talking with stock brokers who seemed to be of the opinion of:

  1. things aren't gong to get that bad
  2. things are better in Canada than the US and aren't going to get that bad.
  3. invest in stocks - they are a good investment and things aren't going to get that bad.
  4. even if things get that bad it will be soon over and you should invest in stocks.

The discussions in ET were of significantly higher quality.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 03:43:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ET is not disconnected to the rest of the world, it reflects it.

the human flaws i see daily in the big world showed up here, and were (un)dealt with in exactly the same way.

the good things about this place covered up the damage and routed round it, but the damage was never undone, because there lacked the courage collectively to name the real problems, and the issues went back to sleep.

any time ET fails any of us, there is a salutary effect, namely that we cast further into the blogosphere for truth, and stop lazily wanting one-stop shopping. this then gets sometimes fed back into ET to enrich the mix.

as with many enterprises ET started with a smallish family, which then grew to a big one, to a tribe, to a large pool of invisible lurking nameless eyes.

some will stay, some will go, some will amp up, some down, all in asymmetric cycles!

but i wouldn't be surprised if in 5 years there hadn't been at least one 100% rotation of all the FP's, and many poster who now are daily fodder will have melted away or moved on.

there was a moment there where i thought we were out into the blue and bound for the sun, untrammelled by the usual banalities of most human groups, then the same old double standards we see so often in meatworld popped up here and were officially entrenched into the very structure of the edifice, but hey...

we still want to learn more about the worlds we inhabit through vibrant discourse, and we still have (most of) that, thank FSM.

why i thought ET would be so special as to avoid the oldest traps in the human psyche is beyond my weak brain to understand, pretty dumb that way, i guess that's why i said trust is a renewable resource.

to cut to the chase, i think there are some funny looking lumps under the rug, and have learned to walk around them and appreciate the company and decor of the place anyway.

(just like meatworld, heh...)

has it got less fun lately? yup.

would it have been better if the flamewars had been moderated more um, respectfully? i think so, but who cares what one blogger thinks? i won't really know until i have my own blog and something similar happened. so easy to criticise from the outside...

sometimes it's fitting that the individual adapt to the surroundings when he solipsistically realises he's been expecting the opposite, lol!

it's been a great experience, for good and ill.

just like real life

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 10:34:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem (or the problem itself) is that we are all of us ignorant of how to constructively conduct disputes online (granted that it's hard enough in meatspace).

With the best motives imaginable, we are apt to say something to set someone off stating something on the basis of our own unexamined assumptions. For example:

Frank Schnittger:

I appreciate how exasperated you are at almost any criticism of ET no matter how diplomatically couched, and how little credit you feel frontpagers get for the very time consuming and difficult job they do

That sentence contains two different surmises, to which I personally would assign different likelihoods (my own personal surmise!), but neither of which I consider by any means a certainty. When he reads those lines afew might (or might not!) consider them condescending, mistaken or beside the point, and... well, onward and downward, really.

I don't mean to pick on you, merely illustrate unintended consequences.

Frank Schnittger:

I am going to leave this conversation at this point because my experience is that my views on this simply aren't accepted and seem to inflame others.

Come on, is that really fair?

And is it really accurate to speak of views in a meta diary? I always thought they were about feelings?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 09:02:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dvx has picked up on a couple of obvious points in your comment, Frank, and (though he takes care not to say it that openly) they can fairly be read as inflammatory.

I appreciate how exasperated you are at almost any criticism of ET no matter how diplomatically couched

Thank you for "appreciating" that I may not have stopped beating my wife. Or, in other words, there's an implied ad hominem there. My comment to you above seems quite measured to me - you might quote "your comment makes the place sound horrible", but that I maintain: your comment denigrated ET very clearly and openly. It's more than a criticism, it's a slur, ("diplomatically couched", not so much.) Yet I did not reply in an "exasperated" manner.

and how little credit you feel frontpagers get for the very time consuming and difficult job they do

Not so, I have never asked for credit. I have asked people to stop endlessly knocking ET. Not the same thing.

I am going to leave this conversation at this point because my experience is that my views on this simply aren't accepted and seem to inflame others.

I'm leaving the room so you can beat your wife as usual?

Being a Devils advocate can damage your health.

If I were to stick around I know you'd beat me too?

So, having read your diary, I was going to discuss some of the ideas in it. Having read this comment, so apparently nice and full of humanity but in fact full of underhand ad hominems, I'm not going to waste my time.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 03:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There have been quite a few discussions of the meaning of life blog, lately. Really, they leave me totally uninterested.

This sort of in fighting or back scratching (depending on which side you are on) is why I now just lightly skim dKos. Sites develop personalities and a core group of followers and participants.

You can't really turn them into something else without chasing away many present visitors. This is what happened with dKos as it spawned blogs by people who couldn't get along for one reason or another. The thing about the blogosphere, as contrasted with the newspapers or opinion journals, is that if you don't like what you are reading, start your own site or move elsewhere.

At the risk of overgeneralizing I'd say that the more conservative sites are less open to contrasting view points than are the more liberal ones. However some "liberal" sites have gotten a bit dogmatic themselves and have become less interesting as a result.

Feel free to keep posting these introspective diaries, but I'll (mostly) continue ignoring them, there are too many really big issues that need addressing and life is short.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 03:18:00 PM EST
A somewhat short-sighted view to those of us who believe that forums like this will develop into agents of change, and that understanding how they work and how to improve them will accelerate change. We are a long way from that now - accepted. But the potential is there.

Every single day I see more evidence of the way people are collaborating in doing practical things that make small differences. Things that no government is capable of thinking up or implementing. Two examples from today: one is called Couchsurfing - a network of people around the world who are open to travellers sleeping on their couch, the other is Autostop - a Finnish site where lifts and shared travel can be arranged.

Nothing special in these two cases - just saving some money and making new contacts.  But these types of sites are growing everywhere, and they are based on the e-bay type of reputation and trust. Some of them will be banal, some of them will change all sorts of social mechanisms - and, I believe, change the nature of top down government, by bypassing it.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 04:24:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
a Finnish site where lifts and shared travel can be arranged.

As a former hitcher myself in my student days I've thought for a long time that a hitch-hiker's guild, combined with a hitch-giver's club could be an interesting application with a bit of mobile technology thrown in eg texts on pick up/ safe arrival and ebay style ratings/ kudos or whatever.

We need to bring the trust back in to hitching.

Interesting interview snip re

Mobile Payments

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 05:52:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]

ET seems destined to be a case of a few illuminati preaching to the converted

Now I'm depressed. Thanks.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 06:03:35 PM EST
Don't be depressed.  Colman asked for more open dissent, we have it here.  i don't agree with all that Frank posted, but i absolutely respect his insight and intent.

I would only ask Frank to consider that given the unbelievable circumstances in which we must now operate, global meltdown and all, agreement with the basic premises of progressive thought is a bit deeper than "illuminati preaching to the converted."

Come all, we're searching in the darkness for a way out, and this forum has to be at least a reasonable way forward, and likely much more.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 06:42:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Crazy Horse:
Colman asked for more open dissent, we have it here.

No we don't!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 06:50:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have it here... in this diary.  That's all i meant.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 06:56:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He was dissenting.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 07:09:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ooops that was just me joking in a serious Diary again.... ;-)

On a serious note I might soon have a little 2 x 2.5 Mw turbine gig I would need a bit of "meta consultancy" help with.

A proof of concept energy partnership.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 07:11:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Make it happen.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 07:18:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am interested in heading in the same direction with wind power. I have been doing a bit of surfing. A savois? windmill might make a good first project. Cheap, and perhaps relatively easy to build, but rather limited in max power output.

The best spots for easily accessible wind power in Ontario are maybe a third of a km from my house. "Unfortunately" I am in a microclimet that reflects temperatures 150 km to the south. IE. sheltered valley (and lake effect.) That said, it appears that we get some wind, especially in the winter.

Unfortunately, I am in a very different place in my knowledge on wind power construction than you. I need to find the information necessary to begin close to the beginning. Most of what is out there assumes more knowledge than I have.

Buying ready made is just too expensive. On our budget we can't afford a 30K indulgence for a fancy commercial wind mill.

I would also be interested in some "consultancy" - ie: try this book or this web site. It might be a bit before we get our garden in and everything, but it is a project that is definitely on my list.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 08:06:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Colman asked for more open dissent, we have it here.

This is not dissent, this is just telling us we (I) failed. True or not, it's depressing in both cases.


i absolutely respect his insight and intent.

I'd like to know what his intent is, because I don't get it.

As you know, my theory is that you get from a blog what you put in it (whether it's information, courtesy, respect or their opposite). Maybe I'm too buned out and that's what I get from the blog in return: exhaustion, misunderstandings, and signals of failure.

In which case maybe I should simply take a break so that the community can continue without my poisoning it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 10:54:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
this is just telling us we (I) failed

Might that not be overstating the case?

I think we all realize that this blog will never reach or bond with everyone. It's a shame that Frank has to be the one to demonstrate this truism, but there it is.

This is not a "failure", but a limiting condition.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 12:59:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

a sense that ET is never going to achieve its potential as perhaps the leading European Community blog

"never"


ET seems destined to be a case of a few illuminati preaching to the converted


 It just doesn't happen to be the place I would like it to be - which is a much more widely read and blogged place


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 01:09:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could be wrong, but I think that Frank expected to be integrated into the inner circle (the FP status?) given his efforts. From what I read, this didn't happen - and created a lot of frustration. "... a few illuminati preaching" is evidence of this. He didn't feel that he was part of the few... and as a result he felt preached to.

So it boils down to what your vision is of ET. A truly collaborative space - in which case you need a process to integrate new FP-ers. Or more of a top-down communications exercise focusing on a defined political agenda - in which case... you don't need the above process.

by vladimir on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 01:22:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Umph. I got on Frank's case about his surmises upthread, so understandably this makes me a little uncomfortable.

This discussion is challenging enough when we take Frank's diary at face value.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 02:06:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The FP process, like others on or about ET, has been a consensual one, involving the existing FPers and a number of regulars (typicaly those that have been to meetups or are present very regularly), and Frank has been involved. There have been no new FPers for a while, as we did not even have the time to work on it, for various reasons. It was a mistake that we're now trying to correct. But Frank seems to exclude himself from all this.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 02:55:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To add a little precision:

we did not even have the time to work on it

We were down to three or four active front-pagers throughout the past winter.

It was a mistake that we're now trying to correct.

More than trying: we've been working on changes for the past few weeks, and a new editorial and site management group will be announced very shortly.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 02:35:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't that first quote slightly out of context? (Though if you want to argue that in the quote in context he's setting the bar for ET higher than for other community blogs I'd have a hard time disputing it.)

But even were that not the case, I think these quotes rather substantiate my point than otherwise:

You can't expect to reach everyone. You can't even expect to reach every thoughtful individual who substantially shares your values. That will always be one of the limiting conditions.

That doesn't mean ET is a "failure", or that you are. You've achieved too much to have to wear that hat.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 01:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh...

Sometime I feel this site spends far too much energy on introspection and too little energy on the enemy. Ask yourselves: what would Rommel do?

Really, this is quite worrying as it gives me the exactly same feeling as from the failed leftist sects of the 60's and 70's: people who all have the same basic opinions but who schism over differences so tiny that no outsider can even grasp the nuance.




Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 at 03:27:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And yes, I've been wanting to say this for a long time.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 at 03:29:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel this site spends far too much energy on introspection and too little energy on the enemy.

Well, a certain instigator of mass murder probably explained that one;-
 "Henry Kissinger once said: "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

We aren't making a difference in the european dialogue, so we lack an underlying project which drives our conversations and keeps it on-track. We are reduced to being a group of disparate individuals who share a roughly similar political view. And given the multiplicity of our cultural backgrounds sometimes, in a written medium, we're gonna get things wrong in terms of how we say things or "hear" them said.

It is the biggest value of the meetups is that, seeing people face to face makes you much more tolerant of their foibles because you have an imprint of the individual as a person rather than just a faceless sig.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 at 03:45:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's probably true - but as I keep on saying, this is quite a new empowering phenomenon (online collaboration) and a certain amount of introspection is important (if not the meaning of life itself) in order to develop a dynamic organization.

This introspection imo is something that has to be gone through to realize the full power of what this empowering enables. I do not know what this will all lead to - but I suspect it will change the face of 'democracy'. I always have this very simple outlook: there are more of us at the bottom than at the top - so we are we getting fucked?

Yes, there are a lot of problems to be addressed immediately, but there is no short-term solution. We have to find out how to work together. To be proactive, rather than reactive. And that means questioning our own democratic values.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 at 04:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ET seems destined to be a case of a few illuminati preaching to the converted
I think this is somewhat overstating the case.  There are some among us who would like to discuss some subjects with others on this site who are of like mind, but don't, because those subjects tend to arouse antagonistic responses from others.  There are others who feel aggrieved that they feel they must restrain themselves from making as full a response as they might like to those who are discussing subjects which they find objectionable.  For some reason my limited brain seems unable to comprehend, an increase in tolerance as a solution does not seem to be acceptable to all.

The only consolation I derive from this diary is that, at least, people are not talking about totally withdrawing from ET or shutting ET down.  I would find an ET without Frank, Sven, Mig, Coleman or any of the regular posters a much poorer place, hope it does not come to that and see no reason why it should.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 01:08:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
Now I'm depressed.

Don't be. Even when the gears grind this place does a lot better in dealing constructively with differing viewpoints than any comparable site I've seen.

I think that no one really knows how to do conflict resolution/conflict avoidance on a community blog. A diary like this is part of the process of figuring that out.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 08:45:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I second every word, Frank and I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your diaries.  

I still visit here because there are many people I care about and write inspiring diaries, but it seems the spark and the creativity there was a couple of years ago has become repetition, so I find them in other blogs where I contribute and in becoming active.

In the meantime, requests for becoming less rigid and more welcoming, so that nobody needs a suit of armor, have not been implemented.  The NUG changes were made to add more FP controls over the members, instead of choosing some trained moderators.  

So after temporary ´non-censoring´ that was never dealt with,
being ordered to ´stop commenting´ and submit to FP´s personal opinions,
having ratings canceled for a week because I applied the nugs to FP´s,
direct insults from some of them,...
without any retraction,
it´s, sadly, not worth the effort.

Equal treatment, appreciation, credibility, respect and trust have to be rebuilt from scratch, with social skills, if ET is going to get 4600 silent members to contribute their new ideas.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Apr 4th, 2009 at 07:18:40 PM EST
metavision:
I still visit here because there are many people I care about and write inspiring diaries, but it seems the spark and the creativity there was a couple of years ago has become repetition, so I find them in other blogs where I contribute and in becoming active.

Well, I think one of the problems we now have is of success. The system is fucked, as several here led by Jerome said it would be. More than that, many of the solutions (state ownership/intervention) are being implemented on an epic scale -  albeit in an often wrong-headed way.

I have a strong sense of anti-climax.

I'm reminded of Robert Redford in "The Candidate", having won on a wave of criticism of the opposition, saying "Now what do we do?" at the end......or the look on a hitch-hiker's face a few years ago, when I finally dropped him off in Belgium a day early having driven up from Cannes in the day....

Not that I personally feel a sense of anti-climax, of course. For me, it's just the End of the Beginning. Every day I read the FT and my smile gets broader....because I'm convinced there's a better way emerging, and I'm doing my best to be part of it.

Not everyone here is as optimistic as me, though, and I routinely get up noses for that reason.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 09:18:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The plain fact is that nobody has yet figured out the recipe for running a community website with a consistently high level of intellectual quality and debate that deals constructively with conflict). Despite that - even when this site falls short of our ideal of what it could (should) be, it is a lot closer to being a well-rounded, intellectually challenging and dispute-friendly site than any other I can think of.

We are all of us making it up as we go along - the FPers necessarily more than anyone. Essentially we are all clueless.

Which brings me to:

European Tribune - Comments - Why I am here

An intellectual leader is primarily concerned with the rigour of views and their expression, by the quality of evidence adduced, and the ideological context in which the narrative takes place. People who aren't necessarily very good at that can feel very intimidated when the heavyweights appear to line up against them.

A moderator, on the other hand, once he/she becomes aware that someone may be feeling hurt in a particular situation, is far less concerned with continuing or winning the argument, and far more concerned with protecting the perhaps more vulnerable member from digging an even bigger hole for themselves, or being even more exposed to harsher criticism.  It is a different orientation and skill set.

Well yes, in a perfect world these two functions should be separate and distinct, and we could hold the FPers to that standard.

But for fuck sake, this is a blog. The FPers are all amateurs (did I mention they were making it up as they go along?), as are the rest of us, in an endeavor in which there are no professional standards, no roadmap, no rule book.

Maybe we need develop approaches or methods for conducting disputes without hurting feelings too much. (Maybe that's even possible.) Maybe we need to do a weekly "dozens thread" a la the late PFF where anything goes.

Certainly this place sometimes falls short of what we want it to be. It will in future as well. And people will get pissed off.

But still: look what's been achieved.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 09:43:13 AM EST
Yes, absolutely. I do wonder sometimes who some imagine the FPs to be. As you say, they aren't experts, they're regular people taking time out from their lives to do this as best they can. There's no training, no pay and damn little gratitude it seems.

We're a small, popular but not well-populated blog and we seem to do very well with limited resources. Not perfect, not self-satisfied, but doing okay.

Have we become repetitive with a small elite lecturing to a bunch of uncritical followers ? On economics, possibly. I know I know jack about the subject, but I know there's a heck of a lot wrong with the way things are and am glad to read a group of people here who can make sense of most of it and point me to people like Krugman for the rest.

We have been quite eclectic in our diaries, it's just that right now international economics is the only game in town, so it's gonna get discussed. A lot. So it skews the impression of the site. But that isn't how it was 9 months ago, nor is it how it'll be in 6 months when most of the stuff we're discussing will have been played out. We'll either be rising or falling but we won't be in this wait-state.

I dunno. Meta is okay, occasionally. But it can get overblown and emotional. Jerome does not wear his underpants on the outside of his trousers and ET is not gonna save the world; seems like we ain't even gonna Stop Blair after all. Sure we'd like to have consequence. And I'd like a pony, but it's not gonna happen

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 10:23:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a concrete way would be for FP:ers to split the duties among themselves - as they probably in some ways do today - with an eye towards seperating the tasks of producing high-quality material for the front-page and the task of moderating the discussions. Frank has in my view outlined the two tasks pretty good.

In my experience, organisational growth and specialisation needs often to go hand in hand. This looks like growth pains to me.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 9th, 2009 at 05:51:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The use of a marked moderator (or 'sheriff' as they are known in Finnish chats) means that a temporarily designated member - with the designation clear to all from the changed nick - can do various moderating tasks with temporarily assigned editorial powers.

In the Finnish case, these are planned assignments by the owners or operators of the commercial chat, where trusted members of chats are given these powers, and they are usually rewarded for their moderating work. They work shifts, often moderating several threads concurrently.

The rewards are small - usually 'in kind', such as free membership.

In sheriff mode, these members do not take part in the discussion, but they can easily switch identities. Often the sheriff member will be taking part in the discussion and only switch to the sheriff mode when moderation is needed.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Apr 9th, 2009 at 06:13:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is annoying. In my mind one of the things that ET does is strive to seek to develop a broad narrative from a perspective that may be different to the dominant one 'out there' at the moment.  And reaching that is by no means complete and has involved so much discussion with many different views piling in. And perhaps some rough consensus forms on some issues.  Perhaps some people aren't going to be convinced by certain perspectives but it doesn't amount to them not being valid and not being given the space for discussion just because Jerome isn't on board or any other FPers.  There's no list of 'must not be spoken of' topics.

Plenty of debate has gone on around equality issues in diaries of mine that have never reached a consensus. or are you only thinking of an apparent consensus that exists around banking and finance?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 04:15:38 PM EST
To that I would add that, in some cases, where we have had controversies and hurt feelings, it has certainly not been a case of FPrs vs. "others."  There have been FPrs on both sides of the same argument.  It seems to me that part of what we need are thicker skins.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 5th, 2009 at 10:09:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
It seems to me that part of what we need are thicker skins

How dare you imply that I need a thicker skin!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 07:17:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think what we need right now is for somebody to mention the nazis so that we can call "Godwin" on this discussion and move on.

Uh hey, I just did, didn't I

GODWIN!

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 10:41:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel compelled to comment since I'm mentioned up there above the fold...

First, this should be obvious to everyone, but in case it is not, my mention of a Faustian bargain was simply a silly attempt to make light of Colman's title metaphor.  Honestly, I did not then and do not now and have not for the past several dust ups had any idea what the source of such dust ups were.  Seriously - no clue.  There seems to persist some inability to communicate grievances between FPers and members, but I can only guess at the nature of those grievances.  They don't appear to have been resolved.  

I'll say this in the hope it might improve whatever it is that needs improving (I am still very unsure what that is):

If these grievances have originated, been discussed, metastasized outside of the public forum of this blog, like in private conversations between FPers, between some FPers and some members, or between members, please remain cognizant of the fact that those private conversations outside of the public forum of this blog are completely unknowable to the VAST majority of those who come here and read this blog, that the VAST majority of those who come here and read this blog cannot be expected to know what the bleep y'all are talking about, and the VAST majority of those who come here and read this blog may feel like whatever issues people have with each other or off the blog probably should like remain there because this is a public blog and not a private therapy session.

If you think your grievances, however personal in nature or whatever, are appropriate content for a public blog, stuff you think the whole world or whole readership might benefit from discussing, can you please come out and tell your readership as explicitly as humanly possible, WHAT or WHO exactly it is you are having WHAT specific issues with?  

And check it out: if you think doing that, naming names, pointing to specific problems, complete with specific exhibits and proof and objective arguments in support of your specific grievances, if you think you don't want to go there on a public blog because you are either too polite to be honest or too afraid to lay all your cards on the table, then think long and hard before posting diaries or front page stories about such grievances.  

I'm not saying this as an attempt to stop people from posting stuff they care about.  I'm saying that as an attempt to encourage contributors to put some thought and effort into these things and think long and hard about what you are trying to accomplish by posting such things before they hit the post button.  I don't care if it's an FP who spouts of a few sentences in frustration with absolutely NO allusion to WTF they are talking about, or members who write long detailed diatribes about how to fix ET when there lacks widespread consensus that anything at all is wrong with ET, or that if something is wrong, WTF it is.  All of it comes across as too vague to be constructive and too weirdly personal to be meaningful to most readers.  I can't figure it out, and I'm a former FPer who talks to ETers I've never met on the phone.  I CANNOT begin to imagine what the new member or reader who comes here for news & analysis makes of all this.  I mean, I have nada against being weirdly personal and airing dirty laundry online.  I do it all the time.  But I try to do it in a way that ensures that even if someone has no freaking clue what I'm talking about, they might learn something new, or have a laugh.  I've screwed up more than anyone here & I try to learn from those embarrassing episodes.  You can learn from them too.  Learn from me and you wont even have to go through the embarrassment yourself!

The past week has been one Important International Thing after another, all in Europe.  This morning there was a terrible earthquake in Rome.  I have a feeling those are the types of things most people come to ET to discuss.  Not this.  

Time to recruit a new generation of FPers who have the time and energy this blog needs.  Time for our members to write more topical diaries.  Myself included.  

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky

by poemless on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 11:39:53 AM EST
Awesome.

This is probably the post I wanted to write, if I could have. Or otherwise, it would've been dvx's, if I could have.

Rock on.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 11:50:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 12:34:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Me?!  

"Talking nonsense is the sole privilege mankind possesses over the other organisms." -Dostoevsky
by poemless on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 12:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I´m travelling at the moment and running out of time and the coins which freed this machine in the hotel lobby!  So I can´t respond individually or do justice to the individual conversations.

My main concern, is, as always,  that these conversations always seem to become reduced to personal criticisms of individual people, or people feeling that general points are being surrepticiously applied to them.  This shouldn´t be about me, Jerome, Afew or any other Frontpager in any personal sense.  (If I have misrepresented your views above, Afew, I apologise.  I wasn´t trying to get at you, simply expressing what I thought were your pretty strongly expressed frustrations - many of which I actually agree with, in the sense that you would want to be a genius with a lot of time on your hands to do all the things a Fper is supposed to do well).

My most general comment is that I think that our moderation and dispute resolution processes can be improved - particularly if we want to appeal to a wider audience - but that pretty much everything else about ET is outstandingly good - especially if we can deal with some of the technical and presentational issues with the scoop platform)..  So I wouldn´t like anything I say above to be taken out of that context.

I really do have to go now and, again, my apologies if I have opened a can of worms without being around to help address any issues arising in a positive way. When I said, in the diary, that I wished you all well, I really meant it.  It wasn´t a cover for any other intent - Jerome - it really is as simple as that.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 6th, 2009 at 12:42:16 PM EST


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