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A DK commenter reminded me of a diary I wrote a while back, suggested I repost it. These are just suggestions and guidelines that I try to follow, things that I've found are helpful when I get involved in conflicts on DK. There are always ongoing conflicts on DK, so this seems like as good a time as any to discuss more constructive engagement. FWIW, I agree that there is some deliberately disruptive behavior on DK, but I believe that most of the conflict is based on well-intentioned individuals who are committed to the DK community, responding protectively.

Unfortunately, it's very easy for well-intentioned behavior to escalate conflict. A careless comment, a well-crafted jab, a casual insult can all be very satisfying for the giver, and easily justified as "just part of the game". However, being on the receiving end is not as pleasant. No-one like being a victim, and most people will respond in kind, or escalate. Humans are very good at conflict - it's been a core component of the human experience for a very long time. When someone crosses our boundaries, when someone attacks an ally, or something we care about, we respond. This is how conflicts escalate.

At the same time, there are some DK participants who are deliberate disrupters, or trolls. They're not well-intentioned participants, their goal is to disrupt constructive discussion. Identifying and neutralizing these individuals is important in protecting the DK community, but engaging them directly risks
1-Collateral damage, by incorrectly targeting perceived disrupters who are well-intentioned members of the community.
2-Escalating conflict, by feeding the fire - providing skilled disrupters opportunities for increased disruption.

So what's a good Kossack to do? Here are some approaches that I've found constructive - please share yours!

-Practice civility. Don't say anything in a comment, that you wouldn't say to that person's face, in polite company. I know, this can really cramp one's style, but these are real people, and we are in polite company (for the most part).

-Write carefully. It may be very clear in your mind what you mean to say in a diary or comment, but there is vast potential for misinterpretation online. If you're writing about a potentially controversial subject, think about how what you write could be interpreted by people with different perspectives.

-Be willing to be vulnerable. It's often much easier to react to perceived attacks in kind, then to show vulnerability, but DK is a fine place to practice vulnerability, since you don't have to deal with anyone here in real life. Responding to attacks with calmness and tolerance instead of conflict can be very empowering, because it gives you active control over your interactions, rather than reacting to manipulation by others.

-You're not alone. When in conflict, it can feel like it's just you against your opponent/s, but there is always an audience. How you behave sets the standard for how you expect to be treated. Instead of focussing on winning the argument against your opponent/s, think about making your case to the broader community that will read what you write. You can lose the battle and still win the war, by making a compelling case to the community. And others will step in, if you're being treated unfairly.

-Give your "opponent" the benefit of the doubt. Someone who responds strongly in the comments may be having a rough day, or responding based on life experiences, or may be in a challenging situation that has nothing to do with the discussion. I have often regretted participating in conflicts on DK, after learning more about the person I was in conflict with. I have never regretted not attacking someone harder.

-Assume good faith on behalf of your opponents, that they are just as smart as you are, and have arrived at their positions through reasoned analysis and not because they've been paid, hired, or duped into disagreeing with you. This can be challenging in my experience, but from the other side of the looking glass, being accused of acting in bad faith when you are genuinely participating in well-intentioned way is profoundly annoying and unconstructive. As a bonus, assuming good faith on behalf of deliberate disrupters can be a very effective tactic, because it allows you to engage the merit of their argument more directly.

-Avoid/Ignore insults. Initiating insults or responding in kind justifies the behavior, and leads to escalation. It also seriously distracts from the discussion, and provides potential disrupters a convenient opportunity. From the audience perspective, a bunch of people throwing pies at each other can be entertaining, but as a pie-thrower, you're not going to earn much respect. Alternatively, one person throwing pies within a group of people that's having a serious discussion is always going to look like an ass.

-Stop feeding the fire. If you're in an escalating conflict, there are alternatives:

1-You can call in Courtesy Kos, "A group dedicated to courtesy, civility, politeness and positivity. Our group motto -- "Killing the Meta Wars - With Kindness" by sending them a kosmail, if you're stuck in a difficult interaction and would like someone to "talk you down". More info here: Talk Me Down -- A New Service to the Kos Community

2-You can walk away - I like to close with "Have a good night!" so whoever I'm talking with knows that I'm done.

3-You can take your energy and apply it elsewhere, like writing a constructive diary on the issue, or another issue, or doing something in the real world. I see plenty of comment wars that get slammed up against the right margin (and have been in some), but I honestly don't think I've ever seen anyone come out with a satisfying conclusion. Personally, I've never woken up the next day thinking "Damn, I really wish I'd done 3 more replies last night! I really could have gotten somewhere!".

-Stand up for people you don't agree with. This is something I need to practice more. Sometimes I see people being treated unfairly, but am less inclined to speak up, because I disagree with their position. This is partly because I try to avoid conflict in general, and am reluctant to step into a pie-fight/flame-war. But I do value and respect many contributors here, with whom I don't agree, and could do more to support standards of fairness here.

-If you suspect someone of being a deliberate disrupter, give them plenty of rope! Engaging in direct conflict with a deliberate disrupter empowers them - you're feeding the fire, and they love fire. It may be satisfying in the moment, but in the long run, staying civil and polite while continuing to engage (within reasonable limits) is far more effective. The last thing a deliberate disrupter wants is to get stuck in a reasonable discussion. They will play their disruptive cards more overtly, making it easier for the community to recognize the pattern.

Any other suggestions? I'm happy to add them to this diary!

I ask that commenters practice civility and respect, and avoid insulting or disrespecting other members of the DK community in this diary, in the interest of promoting constructive discussion.

Update:
JekyllnHyde's Ten "Do's and Don'ts" of Daily Kos Blogging

1. Do remember there is a live human being at the other end of the blog exchange. One who is sensitive, has emotions, and may not react well to constant criticism.  Some of us often lose sight of that fact.

2. Don't belittle or disparage anyone in your comments nor hold personal grudges.  Even if you had an unpleasant exchange, try to forget it by the next day.  Move on.

3. Do have a high level of tolerance for dissenting view points.  You aren't the repository of all knowledge and wisdom.

4. Don't expect others to support your blogging efforts if you don't bother to reciprocate.

5. Do try to visit all kinds of diaries and, in particular, support the community diaries.  It will strengthen your ties with others.

6. Don't express the first thought that crosses your mind, particularly when responding to an inflammatory posting.  Take a deep breath before you do.  Sometimes, just as in real life, reticence is a desirable trait.

7. Do rely upon humor to diffuse a thorny situation and gently disarm someone.  Even if you disagree with them, walk away after the second or third exchange.  Beyond that point, the conversation will usually deteriorate.  Simply learn to walk away and don't insist upon having the last word. And, don't worry if you're on the losing end of an argument.  In professional baseball, for example, the best hitters fail seven out of ten times and still have a chance to make it to the Hall of Fame.

8. Don't write anything that you wouldn't say to a person's face.  This approach will help you restrain yourself.

9. Do recommend generously.  Others also put in a great deal of effort in writing diaries and comments.  It isn't all about you.

10. Don't ever Hide Rate anyone unless their behavior is very disruptive or egregious such as someone making racist, bigoted, or homophobic comments.  HR-ing isn't about making you feel all-powerful.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you, erratic. (4+ / 0-)

    For me, kindness is the key.  I used this as my sig for awhile - perhaps time to resurrect it:

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
    Republished to Courtesy Kos.
  •  halfway through I remember reading your (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kasoru, erratic, Joy of Fishes

    diary before, I re read anyway as it was worth it. I'd say your points are really pretty good, all of them. Not sure it all works though.

    I try to plain old not respond to disrupters, often though they travel in packs, organising themselves off line or circling when they see hrs in the hiddens.

    Recently I think I remember seeing a hateful remark or a broken Community Guideline from a Courtesy Kos member.

    DK has needed a paid, unaffiliated, non commenting, non posting, moderator, for a long time. That and get rid of the hr button.

    More than any technical issue I think this one needs fixing.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 06:44:18 AM PST

    •  Thanks, Ban nock! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AJayne, Joy of Fishes, IamGumby

      I probably could have reworked the diary, since it was written in the context of a lot of trolling accusations (to my memory), and that's not quite as intense now.

      I think that a lot of what we see now is people feeling strongly about issues. Topics like the situation in Ukraine stir things up because
      1-There isn't a clear picture of what's going on from day to day.
      2-It serves as a good canvas for discussing big-picture issues (like US foreign policy).

      I find it interesting to see how a polarized consensus develops. Going back to the swarm theory model, we have a lot of people receiving, interpreting, and communicating information and interpretations in different ways, that condense into broader positions shared by groups. With a topic like Ukraine, where most people didn't have much knowledge or awareness beforehand, the process of how individuals participate and align within a community analysis/interpretation is quite interesting.

      I'm not sure about the professional moderator, or removing the hr button. I like the community moderation approach, with all its flaws, because it does reflect the challenge of engaging and interacting with people with varying perspectives.

      My biggest issue with the conflict-oriented discussions is that I feel it tends to alienate participants who are uncomfortable with the level of conflict, resulting in fewer voices and participants.

    •  IMO, hr's have a valuable role... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erratic, ban nock

      .... when used appropriately.  I think part of the problem with hr flinging is that there is no cost to the flinger.  People would be much more thoughtful about giving hr's if each hr cost the giver a bar or two of mojo.  

      Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

      by Joy of Fishes on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 09:46:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That would definitely raised the bar... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joy of Fishes

        I haven't noticed much HR abuse recently, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. For the most part, I feel it gets called out pretty quickly.

        •  I see it almost all the time (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          andalusi, erratic, Joy of Fishes

          It's simple, hrs should not be given for disagreement, they are, all the time. A look at the people reveals them on opposite sides of the issue or of long animosity to each other.

          The other day I watched an hr war. I know none of the participants, they all are part of the recommended or sux/rox crowd. One Kossack called a young one immature, a second Kossak called the original one immature also. First one nothing, second one 5 hrs. Nuts.

          A simple button to notify admins of trolls or inappropriate text would be much better.

          I like Joy's idea with bars.

          Have you ever read the new community guidelines Kos wrote?

          I think I've clicked on "hiddens" ten times in six years, it's an eye opener.

          “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 07:11:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's a pretty bad case of hr abuse. (0+ / 0-)

            I do actually follow the hiddens - I find it a good way to track the undercurrents, although it doesn't give an in-depth view.

            I can see a flag system working, with admin moderation.

            I have read the community guidelines, but couldn't recite them back to you. I've dropped 2 or 3 HR's over the years, so that component isn't something I focus on much.

      •  I think there is a daily limit now, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joy of Fishes

        I really believe most don't realize hrs are not for disagreement.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 07:14:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, Thank You! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erratic, Joy of Fishes

    These are excellent guidelines. I've developed two of my own rules. Well, in addition to my guiding principal of writing a comment, then stepping away for a few minutes, reading it again, revising it, and maybe even stepping away again before posting it.

    First, I have beaten my desire to have the last word into submission (mostly). Some of the longest sniping subthreads quickly devolve into a fruitless back-and-forth of sarcastic one-liners. And when someone does disengage, it's often done with a sneer: such as "YAWN" or "I can see that I'm wasting my time with someone like you, who . . . " and so on. Sometimes we don't want to just stop, because a lack of response is often greeted with some sort of gloating comment like, "Well, I see that you have no answer to my brilliant observations! I clearly win!" But really, this response is proof that your silent disengagement from the argument is usually quite frustrating for the other party.

    Second, I believe in informal HOS. What that means: There are a couple of posters whose comments and sometimes even diaries I will read; but I will never, ever engage them. They infuriate me, and it seems pretty likely that they would find my fury rewarding. Plus, I probably infuriate them! What's the point?

    I'm not suggesting that outrageous, insulting, bigoted, or inflammatory comments, or consistently bad faith comments, should be entirely ignored. They should be called out and challenged. Once, and then ignored. It seems reasonable that most  people who post offensive or deliberately inflammatory comments would like nothing better than to get lots of outraged attention. After the initial rebuke, it seems to me that Miss Manners' old-fashioned "Cut Proper" is the most effective response. Silence tells the offender, "I find your comments or behavior contemptible, and beneath the dignity of a response."

    I should add that my second "rule" does not apply to heated (even angry) but sincere disagreements. In that situation, both parties usually have something to learn from each other.

    And of course, all rules admit of exceptions. These are just my general guidelines for the most heated situations. Strong and even intense arguments are often learning opportunities. So, everything in moderation. Even, perhaps, moderation.

    "Seeing Leela fly off the Hexadecapus and crash through the moon dome and survive inside a stuffed animal by breathing a balloon was a dose of reality." Farewell, Futurama--I will avenge you!

    by IamGumby on Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 09:38:01 AM PST

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