The atmosphere of the forum...

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jacob
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The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by jacob » Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:18 am

... is as far as I'm concerned an emergent quality of its participants. Over the years (it's been almost 10 now), the emergent political atmosphere on the forum has swung right, then left, then right again. The gender pendulum has also swung back and forth. Mostly, though, gender didn´t use to be an issue and as such the gender lens is relatively new. People didn't use to identify on the forum by gender(*). Often I/we didn´t even know and it didn´t matter. Whereas in 2017-2019 it matters so much that it seems to determine almost everything. But this too shall pass ...

(*) Which sometimes caused some surprises at meetups.

The problem with emergence is that it tends to trend as a new "atmosphere" gains momentum. People who like the new atmosphere feel encouraged to post more. People, who don't, post less and begin to lurk or leave outright. Fundamentally the atmosphere, whether it welcomes this idea or that idea, is a product of the community. When select people stop participating, of course it changes. Another effect of this [lack of mean reversion] is that the system tends towards bistability. This means that it can flip instantly based on a single event or discussion thread.

I posit that when forums (such as this one) are unmoderated wrt sentiment, they converge on monochrome states according to the prevailing societal lenses that people apply. For example, there are two large FIRE groups in Denmark on facebook. One is 95% male and the other is 95% female. I have never observed any genderism fights in either... it's just that most people post where they think they'll be welcome according to their lens---which is now gender. Ironically, when it comes to gender stuff, both groups internally complain about the dearth of members of the opposite sex, not realizing that their combined choices created the emergent gender sorting effect. (I'm a member of both groups, so I can see the meta-dynamics.)

My priority is not making this forum more welcoming according to whatever lens is trending in general society. Basically, what I want to promote here is intellectual discussion with the aim of expanding the Overton window (for any and all lenses). After all, I believe such an attitude is the progenitor ingredient to puruse something as open-minded as an ERE lifestyle. This also means I'll allow opinions/posts that I wildly disagree with as long as they abide by reasoned/intelligent arguments. I am also not super-pleased with the current state of the forum when it comes to politics/gender atttiudes, but I also understand that this could easily change on its own because of emergence maybe next week, next month, or next year.

In particular, if I start cleaning house (as some have told me they'd like), I think that would be much more destructive to the ultimate goal of thinking outside the box than having to endure disagreeable political or sexist or whatever lenses for a while. I'm trying to take the long view here and in that regard, I think the underlying hardware, that is, the nature of how we discuss, is more important than whether we like whatever software is currently running on the platform.

The result is that I tend to come down much harder on posts (and posters) that drag down the level (misinformation, memes, personal attacks, ... ) than posts that are disagreeable in topic or framework.---Because the cost of not setting a limit of the thoughts one is allowed to think is that sometimes other people´s ideas is that sometimes they will fall outside one´s Overton window. Basically, I moderate for form, not content. As long as you present well, you can present anything you want.

This is because I believe that it´s a lot harder to fix stupid than it is to change opinions or mature.

I strongly believe that insofar I fix the Overton window in place and only allow sentiments in accordance with it, things would get stale, and frankly, I'd rather be annoyed than bored. Insofar I desire a particular atmosphere, I'm not optimizing for "welcoming" as much as "fair and smart". A place, where participants are willing to consider any wild idea even if and perhaps especially the ones they don´t like.

Conversely, the other way of running the forum would be to fix the Overton window but allow a larger range of immature behavior for lack of a better word. That setup, I think, defines the vast majority of online forums.

Actionable advice: To change the atmosphere or lens of the forum, there´s strength in numbers. Retreating or lurking only serve to propagate the current situation. Effectively, every time you decide not to post, it's a vote that you approve of the current atmosphere. I realize that it takes more than one person to change the tone (this is also why I can´t do it on my own even as a moderator) and so it will require some spontaneous coordination in which several people consistently push the new lens or atmosphere for a while. It works. This is, after all, how the current atmosphere was "installed". And no, the atmosphere is not changed by attacking the old one. It's changed by replacing it.

TL;DR - To create the space that you prefer... you simply have to take it by which I mean develop it. Don´t take it from someone else. It´s much like converting land by throwing seeds. Complaining about the current crop or garden (that someone else planted) won´t change anything. Planting enough seeds will.

Crazylemon
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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by Crazylemon » Sat Mar 16, 2019 3:28 am

Thankyou.

J_
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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by J_ » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:15 am

Thanks too. Over the rather long time I follow and participate in this blog it is still inspiring. It introduces new, not always useful but thought provoking insights, and luckily also controversies. In discussions we (can) grow.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by Fish » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:53 am

What about r- vs. K- selection? Outside of journals, the more common practice to start a conversation is to either ask a question or post a URL (cheap) vs. writing thoughtful original content to share a new idea (expensive). Sharing an opinion on a political or personal issue is also much easier than synthesizing information to gain new insights.

For example: although I am grateful for the few comments I received on this post about optimal asset allocation for accumulation, the response wasn’t worth the effort. In general, after a couple years of writing and responding to topics that I want to read about, the combined yield is overall low and not really moving the forum appreciably that I can tell. The intent is not to complain about the result but rather express a concern that the current forum rules and moderation policy will defeat the strategy that Jacob suggests for those who desire change.

It can be hard deciding to write a K-post when the usual result is seeing it buried by r-posts.

Add: This also applies to posters. Example: an r-member is someone who doesn’t care about reputation or having stupid attributed with their username, contrasted with a more timid K-poster who fact-checks and thinks carefully before hitting the submit button.
Last edited by Fish on Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by McTrex » Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:58 am

Thanks for your continued efforts, Jacob.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by jacob » Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:17 am

@Fish - I am trying to discourage too much r-level noise. However, were I to increase K-selection further, I think the conversation would begin to die out. Imagine if everybody spent 3-5 days coming up with carefully researched responses. I think that would develop into a "letters to the editor" style exchange.

It's a fine line. Right now it's set where I've been told that people refrain from posting because they're afraid of looking dumb or not measuring up.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by oldbeyond » Sat Mar 16, 2019 5:30 am

I think it's natural that by volume, a lot more will be r-level. Otherwise you have a scientific journal (and even they seem to dedicate too much space to fluffy marginal issues).

I wholeheartedly support your strategy. I would leave (yes, I understand the enormous weight this statement carries ;)) if the ceiling was lowered. Basically I don't think any of the "teams" have all the right answers and I think it's important that arguments from any side can be brought up, especially if they are controversial. This is still pretty diverse thinking space.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by Kriegsspiel » Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:07 am

You can read a K post and take some time to sit and ponder it, and get something out of it, even if it's floating on some r. I gather that this is unsatisfying for K-posters, but not everyone is able to K-post. I think that's the great thing about internet forums: if we all were in a room talking, then r would drown out K and you would lose it. Not so on the internet. You can just ignore/skim whatever posts you choose to, and read/respond to whatever you want, whenever you want.

I kinda think it's a misuse of the internet to say "well, nobody's talked about that thing from the 3rd page of the thread, so I can't bring it up anymore; the thread's derailed!"

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by iopsi » Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:09 am

Completely agree with the moderation based on form rather than ideas.
I'm of the opinion that you can never expose yourself to too many new ideas (if in the proper format and by using the filters of rationality and logic as much you can), there is always something to learn or some new perspective from which to see already acquired knowledge.

But tbh, from what i've noticed there aren't too much controversial or opposing ideas here (controversial/opposing to the ERE community obviously). People here are very very like minded in general (but to be expected since it's a small and very peculiar community).
Some other forums i frequent have more opposing ideas within them which usually spark discussions.

Maybe the increase in gender discussions is caused by an increase of younger male posters?

Crazylemon
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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by Crazylemon » Sat Mar 16, 2019 6:25 am

@Fish I cans see your concern but I think expecting (pretty much anywhere) to be entirely k-level when it involves primarily/exclusively free community generated content is unlikely to occur. As Jacob says the level of conversation then becomes too low for it to function as a community and it reverts to, 'letters to the editor/pseudo blogs'. Very few people can sustain a continuous level of that and probably not enough not to enter permanent decline.

Possibly a better way to treat the forum is more akin to how books are being viewed here with the potential for 1,2,3 sigma events. In general this forum is already high quality compared to base line so it is more likely to generate higher sigma events. But every post or even thoughtful post is not going to generate a 2-3 sigma reply. The relation is non linear. There is no way to be certain, much like with reading books, which posts are going to generate that reply and so, 'worth it'. There is an element of randomness/serendipity about it.

In this analogy the forum works a bit like a recommend reading list of someone trusted/respected. More likely to also generate 2-3 sigmas than baseline but imperfect. Refusing to ready any more books because the effort isn't worth all the 0-1 sigmas destroys the possibility of then finding anything potentially transformative with massive upside. This is also true of the forum, even if it can be frustrating to feel at a point the input/output hasn't yielded well. Obviously if someone has an even better way to spend there time (e.g. a better reading list) it could still not be worth it. Learning on any topic even EREish ones is going to probably be s-shaped.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Mar 16, 2019 7:09 am

I had to check, and it seems I've been around for about half the life of this forum. I've seen some of the swings Jacob mentioned. I've been on the unpopular "side" of more than one discussion. It always disappoints me when folks leave, especially when it is due to them feeling unwelcome or picked on or sensing hostility. When it is because they can't contain their contempt for other members, it is still disappointing, but less so.

I probably don't fit the typical demographic here. I'm older, showed up too late in life for ERE, and well down the fatFIRE path. I don't consider myself particularly intellectual, but would contend I'm not a fool either. Having a certain life experience comes with a perspective on things that is different from those who arrived here via a different route. If I project offense or hostility toward anyone, it is unintentional, and I'd invite you to PM or call it out in-thread, or whatever. The current conversational landscape is full of land mines that didn't exist during my formative years, and I'm afraid I don't always thread the needle when it comes to expressing thoughts in an honest way that simultaneously avoids cultivation of a contentious atmosphere (I come from an archaic time when disagreement and contention were not synonyms).

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by jennypenny » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:20 am

I like when the atmosphere hovers somewhere between sitting around a campfire (when the talk is more casual) and sitting around a conference table (when the discussion is more information-dense). I don't think I'd like it if we sounded like we were all standing behind a podium.

The monthly journal updates might be an exception. They always feel like a team meeting where we go around the room and everyone has to share how their month went. It's a little more formal but seems to provide the right amount of support and accountability to help people on their ERE journeys. They are my favorite part of the forum even though I don't always comment out of fear of cluttering up people's journals with 'Way to go!' posts.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by cimorene12 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 9:14 am

Thank you for doing all that you do, jacob.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by pukingRainbows » Sat Mar 16, 2019 10:25 am

I'm glad this discussion is happening.
And I think this is a group of people who are capable of finding a workable solution.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by Augustus » Sat Mar 16, 2019 10:51 am

+1 love the forums, love the people too (which is effectively the same thing), even if they're misguided :lol: I think they mean well.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by J_ » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:14 am

Fish wrote:
Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:53 am
What about r- vs. K- selection?
What do you mean with those?

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by jennypenny » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:21 am

@J_ -- It's an ecological theory ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory

In oversimplified terms, r selection is basically overwhelming with numbers and K selection is fewer numbers but higher quality.
Last edited by jennypenny on Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by J_ » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:56 am

@ Thanks jennypenny.
@ Fish if you want quality in our Forum....Why using unexplained abbreviations, which does not brings quality?

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by jennypenny » Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:02 pm

Fish wrote:
Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:53 am
What about r- vs. K- selection?

For example: although I am grateful for the few comments I received on this post about optimal asset allocation for accumulation, the response wasn’t worth the effort.

It can be hard deciding to write a K-post when the usual result is seeing it buried by r-posts.

Add: This also applies to posters. Example: an r-member is someone who doesn’t care about reputation or having stupid attributed with their username, contrasted with a more timid K-poster who fact-checks and thinks carefully before hitting the submit button.
@Fish -- I really enjoy your posts and hope you take this in a friendly, conversational tone ... You have stated several times over the years that a lot of the content isn't up to your standards. You started a thread about it suggesting we all up our game when posting. I can't speak for anyone else, but as a result of that discussion I refrain from responding to your posts unless I'm quite sure I have something significant to contribute. I do that out of respect for your wishes.

Maybe I've misconstrued your previous comments? If so, I apologize. I know my blunt writing style often gets misinterpreted as aggressiveness or dissatisfaction with someone, so it's quite possible that I'm reading too much into your posts as well. Still, I might not be the only one who's done that, which would explain why your K threads are quieter than you hope/expect. (Note that many of jacob's longer posts tend to quell activity in threads as well since his thoughts are often seen as the 'final word' on a subject, regardless of whether he intended them as such. Sometimes silence = respect.)

To your last point, to anyone who interpreted your previous comments as I did, K posters would be more inclined to refrain from posting than r posters, amplifying the undesired effect on your threads.


I'm not sure what the answer to the quandary is ... maybe less rigidity and constraint instead of more? If social pressure only works on K posters, loosening up might produce the desired result. Most of us can manage that while still being respectful of each other.

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Re: The atmosphere of the forum...

Post by TopHatFox » Sat Mar 16, 2019 12:10 pm

Maybe if someone in Silicon Valley fixes the gender dating divide they largely created, then gender relations on the internet in general would change for the better? :P

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