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Post #466 • January 30, 2005, 10:08 PM • 19 Comments

Community opinion came down heavily, although far from exclusively, against comment moderation and for leaving things open. No one disagrees, though, that things got out of hand this week. I'm going to try a social engineering solution before a technical one, and we'll see how it goes.

I have posted guidelines. Feel free to cite them on the boards as a way of reining things in when the need arises. In short:

No ads. No outing. Make sense. Address the writing, not the writer. Advance the conversation. Assume community. Make Franklin happy.

Although the circumstances weren't the pleasantest, I'm grateful to be in this position. If I was getting three comments a week, there would be no need for this. The very fact that guidelines became necessary is a tribute to the success of this site, and I want to express my gratitude for your readership.

Next post - Tuesday morning, with images from the show at Space.




January 31, 2005, 7:21 AM

I can get behind that.

(I still cannnot get behind having to see that Cézanne quote on every single page.)



January 31, 2005, 5:44 PM

I think this is just right. Franklin has spelled out the main problems and indicated what will be done about them without inhibiting discussion in any way. I would elaborate only slightly, as follows:

1. Anonymity is a blog staple for two reasons: one, because it encourages people to submit opinions, and two, because it forces the focus on what is said rather than who said it. Anonymity is the WD40 of blog discussions. Compromising it compromises the nature of the activity. Calling it "cowardice" only exposes the desperation of the accuser.

2. The "address the topic not the writer" rule, like the "make sense" rule, probably needs a little applied flexibility, and i am sure Franklin will be flexible. A modicum of "you are full of crap" should be and probably will be allowed in the heat of debate, as should a bit of nonsense now and then, especially if either are done in an interesting or amusing way. The problem is the bitter, personal, dumb nastiness that only shows the weakness of the attacker. Franklin gave some examples, but I remember a lot worse.

The guidelines are simple and clear. We should argue and hassle without inhibition just as we always have done. Franklin is a very good moderator and I am sure that he will be as allowing as possible.

As for the carrot, Alesh, i think it is better than the stick.



January 31, 2005, 6:06 PM

Alesh - good, thanks.

What, you have something against carrots?

Oldpro - thanks. Any rule becomes useless without smart application, and I'll do my best to exercise that.

I wouldn't mind seeing less of the "you are full of crap" kind of comment - the internet is a poor conduit for tone and what sounds like ribbing to my own ear sometimes comes off as an insult to the receiver. "I totally disagree with what you're saying here" doesn't create that problem, and conveys a more specific meaning.



January 31, 2005, 9:20 PM

Let's say someone writes about one of my posts "you are full of crap" or "I totally disagree with what you're saying here". (They mean the same thing as far as I am concerned and are equally troubling / "personal".) And then they make a solid statement that appears to back up their contention. And they do it with great skill of language - to the point, lots of common sense, lots of theory that sounds good, etcetera. They just walk all over what I said.

It is entirely possible my opposition is nonetheless wrong, off base, headed in a direction that should I adopt it would hurt my painting, and so on.

So I lose the "argument". Arguments don't settle what's what in art.

The best thing about opposition that "crushes" you is that it gives you the chance to find out what you know. When you've been crushed and you know the crusher is wrong, that is valuable knowledge indeed.



January 31, 2005, 9:52 PM

I don't know if it is exactly knoweldge, Flatboy, but it sure as hell is a motivator



January 31, 2005, 10:18 PM

flatboy, there's a big difference between "you're full of crap" and "I totally disagree with you", one is arguing against the person, the other is expressing how "I feel" with respect to the argument at hand. One is fallacious, the other isn't. I think it's obvious.



January 31, 2005, 10:38 PM

seudo-artist, I guess you are talking about the "ad hominem" fallacy. Your discrimination between the two phrases in question is too tight for me. "You're full of crap" means what I said was full of crap. "I totally disagree with you" also means what I said was, well, "totally wrong" if you don't want to use the other phrase.

There have been some true ad hominems posted lately on this blog that I don't care to repeat. But they were truly "against the person". "Full of crap" is a figure of speech. I often use it with some of my best friends.



January 31, 2005, 11:09 PM

Flatboy, let me ask you to consider the two phrases semantically. While I agree that they might mean pretty much the same thing, "You are full of crap" directs the action at the person, while "I disagree with what you're saying" directs the action at the thing being said. You seem pretty tough and the first comment probably wouldn't bother you much, but in terms of which road the conversation goes down when other people are involved, there could end up being a big difference between the two.

I don't mean to sound prudish about this - I'm not planning to jump all over people for minor infractions of the guidelines. I would just like to get the car back on the road when it starts heading into the ditch, and think about how the car starts veering into the ditch in the first place.



January 31, 2005, 11:54 PM

I understand your anxiety, Franklin.



January 31, 2005, 11:59 PM

PS: If someone said "your statements are full of crap" that would probably be just as provocative as "you're full of crap" to someone who is susceptible. What I'm suggesting is the corallary to what you are trying to accomplish ... let's not find personal insult when it is just a figure of speech.



February 1, 2005, 12:18 AM

hey flatboy, I don't find that expression provocative, I find it disrespectful. It may happen because you mistake habits among friends with public norms: it doesn't work that way. Besides, it's not difficult to argue a point relentlessly if necessary without having to recur to, "you're full of crap."



February 1, 2005, 12:33 AM

Seudo - i think Franklin will manage this - he seems to be very good at it.

My fear, and maybe Flatboys (although it find it difficult to ever predict what he will say), is that we do not want to get into an mode of prescribed politesse. If I am pissed and pounding away at my keyboard to lay into something I think is monumentally stupid I do not want to go over it and make it nice. Outing is no problem because it is so clear cut - no one should ever do that. So is calling names, and so is putting down the person, although that is a bit more subtle. But the argument itself should be absolutely unbridled.

I may change the thought of "you are full of crap" to "your argument is a pile of crap", but if it is crap it is crap.

And, don't forget, if someone is being a jerk you can always call them on it.



February 1, 2005, 1:16 AM

Pseudo-artist: I'm not one to "argue a point relentlessly" even though I'm starting to do it here. Oldpro is right that "prescribed politesse" will take the bang out of this blog and I don't want that anymore than he does.

Oldpro said I don't know if it is exactly knoweldge, Flatboy, but it sure as hell is a motivator. The reverse is true too. Not too long ago I won a big public debate. I convinced everyone in the room (except two), without question. The losers were pissed and would not yield. A couple of weeks later I realized I was dead wrong. And if I let the idea I had so successfully defended influence my painting, it would probably make it worse.

It is not smart to take these arguments too seriously.



February 1, 2005, 1:24 AM

Oldpro, if you're pissed and pounding away at the keyboard it may be time to assume community. Identifying something as stupid is one thing and there may be a place for it. Persuading someone they're mistaken is another matter entirely, and likely will likely require a different tack.

I agree, I'm not interested in mannered niceness. I see it more as a strategem - I've noticed, by virtue of experiment on this blog, that I'm more likely to shift someone's opinion if I approach them respectfully, even if I am pissed and I see eight openings to take their head off.

Pseudo-artist sees my point. I'd add to everyone that should I percieve something as disprespectful to me, I'm going to do my best to brush it off. We'll see how well I do.

"It is not smart to take these arguments too seriously." Well put. My brother does volunteer ski patrol up in Oregon, and the motto their is, "We take our work seriously. We do not take ourselves seriously." Words to live by.



February 1, 2005, 2:39 AM

Flatboy's point, which everyone seems to be missing (or ignoring) is this: It's possible to loose an argument, yet be right. It's possible to win an argument and be wrong.

It's a very interesting claim, and one which I agree with. But I'm suprised Oldpro and Franklin aren't jumping all over it. I guess we're agreeing about how important it is to be cordial.

My only reservation is this, Flatboy: If you "loose" an argument, yet you still remain convinced you are right, wouldn't you be able to say "you have still not convinced me because of XYZ," where XYZ is the hole in the logical wall your opponent is building. Then they respond, either patching the hole (and convincing you you were wrong, after all), or forcing you to re-define the hole, OR explain why their argument still doesn't patch the hole.

The above continues until both parties agree about who is right, OR until YOU admit to having a thought, idea, belief, etc. which you are NOT ABLE TO VERBALLY EXPRESS.

Would you agree?



February 1, 2005, 2:51 AM


Thank you for getting my point.

Let me start out by saying there are not many things I'm "convinced" of. "Convinced" might not really be the right word - "know" sounds better. Even those are subject to unknowing.

Holes in a "logical wall" are not particularly compelling, either. They are always everywhere, on all sides. Arguments can go on and on as the participants discover them and plug them. And I usually never have a problem "verbally expressing" things.

But I love the discussion.

What it gets down to is protecting my painting - from myself as well as others.


pseudo artist

February 1, 2005, 3:13 AM

...and regarless who wins or looses, civility always pays, because since arguments will not necessarily settle things permanently, whatever the outcome (at least) will invite further discussions --or why not-- conversations.



February 1, 2005, 3:27 AM

I am not trying to make you unpopular, Flatboy, but you often say things I could have said myself (or maybe did, sometime or other).

Like you, I love the discussion. I am not disagreeeing with you Franklin, or Alesh, but I just do this because it is fun and keeps my wits sharp. For me all the managerial finesse and whether you lose or win or persuade is part of it but quite secondary.

And as for "protecting my paintings against myself" ... you say you are in graduate school? Half the work one does with graduate students is getting them beyond that "my precious self-expression" stage. You seem to have chucked that without even half thinking about it.



February 1, 2005, 7:03 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Oldpro.



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