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comment by goobster
goobster  ·  657 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: PSA: We are no longer in the midst of an experiment.

We also need to recognize that not many people communicate well via long form text-based media, like most posts/comments here on Hubski.

Writing and debate are learned skills, and learning to communicate a clearly structured thought/story via text is not a talent many people have. (See: All of the emails you get at work.)

There are a few of us Hubskis who actually have made our living (and vocation or avocation) from writing professionally - me, KB, veen, etc. - while others may have equally valid points or thoughts, but simply have a hard time putting them into well-structured arguments/stories.

I see many conversations on here devolve specifically because the structure of the person's argument is incorrect or misleading, and might be obscuring a perfectly valid point they are having a hard time articulating.

And I think there is a generational divide with these forms of communications, too. I've been debating online since the mid-1980s, so I just simply have more experience in this form than almost anyone else on here.

That doesn't make me right more often, it simply makes it easier for me to make a fully compelling argument in support of my position more quickly and effectively than someone without that experience. Or, to tear their argument to shreds when they fall into logical fallacies and internal logical inconsistencies in their position.

And getting called out on your lack of skill by an imperious "old person" is never going to go well... which is something I try to remember...

... but is also why I am muted by at least two prolific members of the Hubski community today. (Hangs head.)

mzykels  ·  657 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think you're right - there is a tendency to see discussion as something adversarial, particularly among people who strongly tie their identities to their ability to make a compelling argument in a written format, regardless of the actual validity of their points. Doubly so if writing is their profession. Writing/debate skills could be an obstacle for participation for a lot of users, however I personally feel that navigating eccentric personalities in an insular community with strongly held values can be a greater challenge.

I can also see how generational differences could factor in. I know I am often inhibited by my fear of being accidentally disrespectful - an inhibition not always shared by older folks, in my experience. Though, I expect this tendency is likely to fade as I age and learn to care less about what others feel about my opinions.

I guess I just don't see why a conversation should "devolve" because someone chose to "rip" the other person's argument "to shreds" instead of furthering the discussion, the latter of which can sometimes require a little more finesse.

Case in point - my very first comment on this site was actually a response to a post of yours about the use of the phrase "wine-dark sea" in greek epic poetry. Another user commented dismissing the post outright as stoner-level navel-gazing. I also disagreed with the presuppositions in your post, but I thought the idea was worth talking about, so I said something.

I think there's a huge difference between pointing out where someone's argument or thought process fails, and just being an asshole to relieve some pent up angst (often the easier option).

Of course, as a newbie here, it's likely that I don't yet understand how all the old-timers relate to each other, so what may seem like blatant disrespect at face value could just be old friends sparring with no ill intent. Another point in favor of letting me have my own "don't post this for six hours" switch, haha.

goobster  ·  657 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I remember your comment! And appreciated your input. I still think only you and I understood what I was talking about in that thread, though... :-)

    ...I guess I just don't see why a conversation should "devolve" because someone chose to "rip" the other person's argument "to shreds" instead of furthering the discussion, the latter of which can sometimes require a little more finesse...

It's a defensive response when someone blows holes in your comment, logic, or presentation.

Professional writers are used to getting feedback on their writing, logic, and how the ideas are presented. We take editing at face value, and try to lock our hearts/feelings away in a fireproof safe before reading the editors' notes. It's part of the job.

But non-professional writers feel very personally attacked when their argument/logic/position is shown to be flawed in some way.

Rarely, if ever, do they come back with a better-framed argument, or rewording their position to be clearer and more legible by people with different backgrounds and biases.

The knee-jerk natural reaction is to punch back, because they feel like the feedback was an attack. They are retaliating.

So things devolve into them being rude, because they don't have the same agility with words that their 'attacker' has... so they resort to their base instincts: to fling poo instead of learning where their argyment was deficient and iterating on their debate tactics or points.

(Funny aside: I am active in several "helpful" sub-reddits where people ask questions, and look to others for answers. I am frequently accused of being a shill for a product/person/company because my writing style is informative, thorough, and I use formatting like bold section headers, italicized notes, and links to sources. But it's just a side effect of the nature of my work as a writer. That's what I do for a living; present ideas in a clear and detailed manner for specific audiences. I want my answers to be useful to as broad a group of people as possible, and easy to read. So I use layout and presentation cues most commonly found in marketing blather. So people often flag my account as spam or whatever, and the mods have to step in and smack down my haters.)