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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » A thought on the decline of discourse on OA (Page 1)

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Author Topic: A thought on the decline of discourse on OA
philnotfil
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As I was flipping through pages of discussion that had nothing to do with the topic I noticed that we have stopped talking about ideas and about each other.

Take a look at how many posts include "you" and speculation about another poster's thoughts or feelings or meanings, and how many posts only include a discussion of the ideas presented.

Maybe I'm just glorifying the past, but one of the things that kept me here when I first arrived was how much people talked about ideas, and the pros and cons of those ideas. Nowadays we seem to be stuck on winning argument points against the other person.

I feel like a curmudgeon today [Smile]

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flydye
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You are an idiot and I shall not indulge in your baseless accusations!
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cherrypoptart
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I too have never heard such tripe. It's completely out of character to post any assertion so meritless, so it makes me wonder what his real motivation is...
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Gaoics79
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I don't think it's really any worse than it used to be. When I joined this place Baldar and TomDavidson were routinely ripping at each other. Then came Everard versus Pete, that racist guy versus everyone else, etc...
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Chael
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It seems to come and go in waves, so we have 'good old days' periods and 'decline of civilization' periods. We do seem to be on the down-side right now, though. [Wink]
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msquared
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Election time is coming up.

msquared

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Pete at Home
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People have been talking about the decline of Ornery and the good old days ever since my first day on Ornery back in early 2001, before I lost my "Pete" sig and had to stick with "Pete at Home." Somewhere around my sixth week I was told that I was personally responsible for the decay of Ornery. I doubt that I was the first to be told that, and I know that I wasn't the last.

From my own perspective, lots of cool people have left. We could use more regulars. We could use more participation from our best and brightest. We could bitch less and discuss more.

But in terms of civil discourse, things are better now than I've ever seen them on Ornery. Would you like me to bounce a few threads from 2004 to demonstrate the golden age of Eddie Whiteshoes and Leto? [Big Grin] Even I'm a lot better behaved here now than I was just 2 years ago, too... I snipe at Tom and Kenmeer from time to time, but even my quarrels with those two are a thousand times milder than the spats we had in yesteryear.

If the archives went back to 2002 and 2003, I could show you that hardly a month went by without some thread dedicated exclusively to showing how some one member was a liar, an *******, or personally responsible for the decay of Ornery. Threads actually entitled "[insert member's name here] is a LIAR!" "[insert member's name here] should be BANNED!"

We don't have crap like that anymore. And good focking riddance.

[ September 15, 2010, 08:27 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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JoshuaD
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I agree with Pete. Things have been better here in the last 7 months or so. It comes and goes in waves. One or two hyperactive, thickheaded members can really stir the place up. Eventually those new members run out of steam, and the place calms down again.

[ September 15, 2010, 09:43 AM: Message edited by: JoshuaD ]

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Colin JM0397
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For what it is, it's fine - mental masturbation and building a wall around our egos.

Discourse and an exchange of ideas it certainly isn't.

When is the last time anyone said "hey, I didn't know that, that changes the way I think about things and I'll have to incorporate this information into my bag of tricks".
Or "I was wrong" or "after investigating, I see you have a point", or even admitting "I don't know much about that".

A few folks here seem willing to learn and, if they run up against something new, to modify their beliefs... But only a handful, if even that.

Most are content to sit in our walled-off egos and throw barbs at others with (what we think are) crafty, sublime statements that are really mere meaningless babbling once you strip away the 5-dollar words and parlor tricks.

Again, mental masturbation, but the site is certainly good for that.

[ September 15, 2010, 09:59 AM: Message edited by: Colin JM0397 ]

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Colin JM0397:
For what it is, it's fine - mental masturbation and building a wall around our egos.

Discourse and an exchange of ideas it certainly isn't.

I disagree. It might not be quite the caliber of an Ivy League debate, but there are quite a few interesting threads. There is much to be learned. And I regularly see people modify their stance in reflection of new data. Certainly, most people don't have a wholesale conversion, but that doesn't mean many don't benefit from the ideas discussed.

This post is kind of ironic, since if you just reply with "No, I don't agree" you prove your point in at least one case. [Big Grin]

But then I can just say, "Wow, I just learned something" and I can prove my point in another case. [Wink]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
When is the last time anyone said "hey, I didn't know that, that changes the way I think about things and I'll have to incorporate this information into my bag of tricks".
Or "I was wrong" or "after investigating, I see you have a point", or even admitting "I don't know much about that".

Cherry has done this a couple times lately, actually, and risen immeasurably in my estimation as a consequence.
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Pete at Home
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Funny, I used to do that a lot more here, Colin. Don't know if that's me becoming more closed-minded with age, or reaching the limits of my political changeability due to argument, or that there are fewer really thought-provoking posts on Ornery than there used to be. I suspect some combination of the above.

If there's any decline in Ornery, it's simply that there are fewer completely brilliant arguments floating around. There's a lot less crap than there used to be, but there's also less good stuff. Less enmity, but also less friendship and extraordinary kindness.

[ September 15, 2010, 10:52 AM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Colin JM0397
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Like I said, there are a few.
JW, notice I said we, not "you people". [Wink]

There are the occasional threads that are informative and helpful - and they are very nice when we manage to sustain one. However my SWAG is we're running at about 75% of "my feelings are better than your feelings" threads.

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Pete at Home
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I think the rhetoric of our last election made it difficult for people across political aisles to see each other as human beings. The spike in nastiness from that election has gone away, but the loss in general affection and comraderie in the forum has not recovered, and may never do so.
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Clark
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quote:
When is the last time anyone said "hey, I didn't know that, that changes the way I think about things and I'll have to incorporate this information into my bag of tricks".
Or "I was wrong" or "after investigating, I see you have a point", or even admitting "I don't know much about that".

I think things like that from time to time, but don't write a post to say it. Partly, because I don't participate in many threads here and someone jumping into a discussion just to say "hey, I learned something" doesn't add much. But part of my hesitancy to join in discussions is because of the combative nature of some people here.

Sometimes I type up posts, only to delete them without posting, because I think to myself "so-and-so is just going to call me stupid for thinking this way, and, frankly, his opinion doesn't mean anything to me, and I'll be happier without reading his derisive reply." The most prevalent personality trait of members here seems to be a hyperactive self-confidence, which I must be missing. (I mean that in the best possible way. Really, I do.)

I can't think of anyone here who has offended me with their ideas. But there are a few who I find very offensive in their manners. So, I take the good from the forum without contributing much back myself, which is selfish perhaps.

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Colin JM0397
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I, for one, think giving the occasional "shout out" when we learn something or change our opinions a bit would go a long way to helping with better discourse.

I'll remind myself to do so...

---------------

"hyperactive self-confidence"
AKA - head-up-you-ass syndrome!
[LOL]

[ September 15, 2010, 11:55 AM: Message edited by: Colin JM0397 ]

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cherrypoptart
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I'm into Stephen Covey's "7 Habits" ideas because it's required for a management class I'm taking. I like his style and it may even be influencing my ability to receive new ideas and listen better, accepting different points of view with greater grace and a disposition toward the speaker's point of view instead of constantly being so self-centered. I'm convinced that a lot of the self-help stuff is probably over-rated in its applicability to most of our lives, but Covey's stuff seems pretty good.
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TomDavidson
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For what it's worth, I've definitely noticed a difference. It's impressive.
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LetterRip
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cherry,

quote:
I like his style and it may even be influencing my ability to receive new ideas and listen better, accepting different points of view with greater grace and a disposition toward the speaker's point of view instead of constantly being so self-centered.
Ah that explains the recent change. Agree with TomD that it is an impressive change for the positive.
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Grant
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It seems to me better then what it was back in 2004, when I first joined. There are times I have conceded points and arguments, changed my mind. There are other times I learned stuff and didn't really comment on it. I may be shifting my opinion on range voting, the more I learn about it, which was introduced to me by Pyr I think.

It's true we tend not to discuss ideas enough. I try to stay out of the purely political arguments. I find the arguments with obvious political motives behind them to be distasteful and lacking in objectivity.

I would like to spend more time understanding each other, and how their opinions are formed.

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Pyrtolin
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On my part, a big part of what drew me in were early discussions with Pete, and while they didn't change my basic stance, I did learn a lot about the positions I was arguing against and how to actually examine them rather than trying to just run under the assumption that they were irrational or flat out wrong.

There's a difference between learning to understand something and agreeing with something- you can learn to understand the reasoning behind someone position while still disagreeing on fundamental principles. You may still disagree with what they believe, but at least you can express that disagreement in an informed way instead of battling strawmen up and down the field.

There are very few discussions that I've had here where I did not, in the course of them, learn something about what the other people believe and why they believe it. Sometimes that led to finding weaknesses in my own assumptions, but even when it didn't, it helped me understand where other perspectives are coming from.

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G2
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The only decline I noticed was those monster freaking links that blew up the page to an unreadable format. Maybe I should just go post a few links to get to the next page ... [Wink]
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seekingprometheus
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[LOL]

Well, I wouldn't argue with well-pointed curmudgeonry.

I do think though, that this forum serves for many things--at least for me.

Some discussions seem highly educational to me. I rarely post in threads where I know too little to contribute effectively--but some of these are the threads within which I most closely read along.

Other discussions help inform understanding through measured, mutually beneficial dialogue.

Other discussions seem to be simply for personal use, or social fun. I miss the movie quote thread, for instance. We have a lot of "joke" and "advice" threads that come and go.

Some threads seem to involve a lot of blowing steam.

And every once in a while, a thread comes along that kicks a few members up into the ecstasy of dervish dancing... [Big Grin]

Then we have threads talking about the "good old days." Threads about mildly disapproving wistful reminiscence seem an integral part of what this forum is too. [Wink]

But I think Ornery is just Ornery. Everybody says and does what they're going to say and do.

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seekingprometheus
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Oh.

I will nod to the props being given to cherry here. I've definitely noticed it too.

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Daruma28
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Oh lord. The Cherry-love fest in this thread is nauseating.

I liked him better when he was libdisembowler...

[LOL]

There never was a "good ole days" of Ornery.

Ornery has always been Ornery.

Can't we all just get along?

What fun would that be? [Smile]

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Clark
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I'm thinking of starting a thread where we can discuss the decline of the threads discussing the decline of Ornery.
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cherrypoptart
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> Daruma28

> Oh lord. The Cherry-love fest in this thread is nauseating.

> I liked him better when he was libdisembowler...

Ah, yes, the good old days!

I'm still pretty rough on the yahoo boards, and I do like to get my recs in over there. It's really like a zoo on yahoo. Or perhaps open season in the wild. But I save those for venting and come over here for a more thoughtful discourse.

I never really thought it was bad at all here, but I guess one might have to spend some time out in the wilds to really appreciate how good we have it here in a more civilized setting. I feel a bit like some sort of Tarzan who has learned to blend in with modern man but every now and then likes to take to the jungle to swing on the vines for a while. [Smile]

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Praetorian
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My two cents?

I read a lot here. Occasionally something stirs me and I post, but sometimes it's interesting just to read what people think.

For example, I thought the what should Israel have done ( or whatever it was called ) thread was fascinating frankly. The concept that there's more than one side to a story is fairly self evident, but sometimes it's easy to forget that you tend to look at things through the tint of your own opinions over everything else. That thread was the most fascinating largely because it forced me to learn first. I simply didn't ( don't still probably ) know enough about the different views. Consequently, I found that both sides *seemed* fairly logical. Passionately defended sure, but logical. I kept having to search the net for more information, AND THAT was oddly frustrating. When arguments were posted that that the people posting knew all about the references were vague to someone who didn't know what they knew. Which intrigued me enough to do a lot of other reading just to follow the arguments. I already had a knee jerk, probably typical, response to what I thought was the answer to the question in the thread and was pleasantly surprised to find I didn't know enough to even post a reply. [Big Grin]

So, do I think having read these threads by the droves that it's declined in content?

Not really. Seems like the threads that people care about the most are the most contested. Every once in a while it seems people are more interested in how the argument is laid out than the thoughts behind it. But then, when I do bring myself to post, it just makes me a little more likely to edit it for spelling, re-read it to make sure it makes sense, etc. before I post.

Sometimes that gets on my nerves, but I think it forces me to be a better writer/communicator/whatever. So maybe it's a good thing, and it's certainly a tip of the hat to the caliber of people here isn't it? There are a handful of people that post here that...as much as it pains me to admit, I don't even understand what they're saying. I thought I was pretty well read with a decent vocab until I read some of seekingPrometheus's posts. There are times sP when I don't even know what you're trying to say without a dictionary [Big Grin] I keep saying, " dammit Jim I'm an engineer not a lit major" and lookup a dictionary online. But that proves my point about this place and the people on it.

I'll step off the soap box now with a final thought. The site is called Ornery American, and I don't think there's a shortage of ornery posters here [Razz]

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seekingprometheus
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quote:
I'm thinking of starting a thread where we can discuss the decline of the threads discussing the decline of Ornery.
[LOL]

Let me know if you need some copy. My going rate is just $5 a word.

[Big Grin]

[ September 16, 2010, 02:59 AM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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Carlotta
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Well I'm back so that should help things! [Razz]

Seriously speaking now, is there a way we could add a function for us to get an email if someone responds directly to us? Or something like that? I don't like commenting on threads and then never coming back to see if people responded or had questions about my comment, but there are only a few threads I care about enough to check and read every new post every day.

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TomDavidson
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This board is using software that's a decade or so old. All attempts to convince the webmaster to upgrade have been met with stony silence.
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cherrypoptart
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Where's an ansible when you need one?
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Wayward Son
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FLT doesn't help if the other guy is MIA. [Smile]
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vulture
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
FLT doesn't help if the other guy is MIA. [Smile]

Oh I don't know - you can get on with the business of being ignored much sooner.
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Wayward Son
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It would still be better if you could contact someone. That way you could be rejected before you ask the question. [Smile]
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Jordan
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Dear sweet pumpkins, Carlotta has returned to us! Now there's a name I've missed!
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Carlotta
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Hey Jordan,

It's good to be back. It's been so long I can't even remember what your favorite topics are or what to argue with you about. [Smile]

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OceanRunner
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quote:
When is the last time anyone said "hey, I didn't know that, that changes the way I think about things and I'll have to incorporate this information into my bag of tricks".
Or "I was wrong" or "after investigating, I see you have a point", or even admitting "I don't know much about that".

A few folks here seem willing to learn and, if they run up against something new, to modify their beliefs... But only a handful, if even that.

Every message board I'm on has the "Everything is declining" debate, as if on a cycle (perhaps I should worry that I'm the common thread, though [Razz] ).

I've changed my mind on a lot of issues, and part of that has been participation on this and another message board, but I think it's a long slow process. No one's very likely to change their mind from one opposing post, no matter how brilliant and eloquent. Except, perhaps, for Joe Biden.

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Carlotta
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One more thought on the decline of discourse: when a thread has more than 3 or 4 posts in a row with people calling each other names or with a lot of profanity (and yes I know it's all ***ed out but it still comes across as hostile and adds no value to the debate), I quit reading and rarely come back to the thread. I doubt I'm the only one.

If fighting with someone on a personal level is that important to you, just realize you may be driving others away who would have a real contribution (and might even defend you).

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Carlotta:
One more thought on the decline of discourse: when a thread has more than 3 or 4 posts in a row with people calling each other names or with a lot of profanity (and yes I know it's all ***ed out but it still comes across as hostile and adds no value to the debate), I quit reading and rarely come back to the thread. I doubt I'm the only one.

If fighting with someone on a personal level is that important to you, just realize you may be driving others away who would have a real contribution (and might even defend you).

Of all the complaints I've had about my profanity and quarreling, that's the most persuasive. One. I'll try to behave.
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