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Scientific evidence relevant to forum codes of conduct

Discussion in 'About This Site' started by Forest, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi everyone,

    When you run a forum, one thing that you are implicitly responsible for is the culture on the forum. Right now we have such a wonderful culture of mutual respect and dialogue that is just about ideal. However, I think it's still important to think about forum cultures and to think about what we can do to maintain the excellent culture that we have.

    In that spirit, I keep tabs on a number of discussion forums out there. Earlier today I came across a forum that I think is run very well and decided to take some time to learn about how it is administered. The forum is called "metabunk," and it is about debunking conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. The people whose theories are being debunked often show up and debates ensue, so they have a Politeness Policy. Most forums have something like this in the background. The policies generally just sit around in the background until something bad starts to happen and people start to cross lines. In cases like this, it can be helpful to have something in writing so that people know that they aren't being singled out and that there are consistent rules that are being applied.

    Anyway, the Politeness Policy that I was reading earlier today included a link to a very interesting New york Times article. The article described a scientific trial in which people read an article and comments related to the article. Some people read comments that had swears and ad hominem attacks and others read comments that were otherwise very similar but had no swears or ad hominem attacks. Amazingly, the presence of the discourteous comments actually changed peoples perceptions of the article, radicalizing them. This seems like a real shame, because radicalization short-circuits dialogue and can damage the sense of community that can be the most wonderful thing about a forum.

    The article is summarized by the following quote:
    It definitely makes you think, eh?

    Here's the full article:

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