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  1. #1
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    Default Can Anyone Play This Game?

    I’m new here, and being not quite the same as most people in Wayland, I fear that I’ll be ridiculed for thinking differently. Nevertheless, I do think this discussion board is a great thing and say “good job” to the people who make this possible and to those who post.

    There’s much that I don’t know about Wayland and maybe if I ask questions people will help me fill in the blanks. Perhaps the people here would enjoy analyzing things with an eye to increasing everyone’s understanding. First off, I’d like to understand “What’s going on” here at WaylandeNews’ Discussion Forum (“DF”). Any ideas about how to start thinking about this? How about the DF’s purpose, the function it serves, or the goals of the people who started it? Or maybe the goals of those who post, or who just read? What are these goals and is the DF satisfying any or all of them?

    Do the number of people posting and reading make any difference to the success of meeting those goals? Does the percentage of Wayland residents taking advantage of the DF have any significance? I’ve attached a chart of the DF member’s posting history. The data is a month old but things are still probably much the same. It shows that most posting is done by a very small group. I’m not saying this is bad, but is “broadening” or even “deepening” the discussion desired? How would any of this relate back to purpose/goals?

    Does the DF evolve? How? Does it want to? To where? And how do we get there from here? Is WaylandeNews an unbiased location to have an appealing-to-all public discussion? Do we need some sort of structure to come to an understanding of what actually is, how we want things to develop, and what we have to do to make it all happen?

    Any interest in thinking about these things?

    donBustin@verizon.net

    (Please feel free not to vote for me. (grin) Honestly, you probably wouldn’t want to.)
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    Representing those who post a wee bit more than the average, I offer the following thoughts.

    • First, welcome, Don!

    • I can't speak for the WaylandeNews.com editorial board or executive director, but would be surprised to learn that their intent was anything other than to provide information to and a forum for the residents of Wayland, the thinking being that more information and communication leads to better decisions, public and private.

    • As a DF member on the "posts a wee bit more than the average" end of the spectrum, I'm all for increasing the number of people who both post and read. To that end, I mention it to friends and occasionally put relevant links to the DF on the Wayland Town Crier discussion board.

    • In my opinion, the DF is already a clear a success, with thousands of posts and tens of thousands of views. More participation will surely increase that success, and more participation is a stated goal of the DF's ownership.

    • One reason why I both like the DF as it currently stands and am optimistic about increased participation is its high level of civility. Sure, there are posts here and there (including some from me) that may push the boundaries a bit, but in the vast majority of cases, if someone posts with a respectful (or playful) tone, they'll be responded to in kind.

    • Other than talking up the DF in conversation and writing, I'm not really sure how to increase participation. Perhaps WaylandeNews should use an issue of its newsletter to remind people of the DF's existence, both as we head into summer and again when people are "back" in the fall (as if the entire town vacates for the mountains, beaches, and beyond).

    • The DF is absolutely unbiased. It's a blank slate that members make of it what they will. The DF has been blessed to have an executive director who exercises a light touch on the rare occasions when moderation is needed.

    • One tactical change that I'd like to see is the creation of no more than ten or so high level categories (schools, finance, roads, general governance, sports, entertainment, etc.) into which posts are organized. I wouldn't create sub-categories--that would make it too easy for conversations to get lost. Ideally, the poster could even specify multiple categories for a thread--for instance, many topics might fall into both schools and finance.

  3. #3
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    Default Thanks for a great discussion topic!

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    I’m new here, and being not quite the same as most people in Wayland, I fear that I’ll be ridiculed for thinking differently. Nevertheless, I do think this discussion board is a great thing and say “good job” to the people who make this possible and to those who post.
    Welcome, Don! I definitely do not want you to fear being ridiculed for thinking differently. Personally, I encourage that (thinking differently that is, not fearing or ridiculing anybody! :-) Nobody should feel they have to conform. What is fair game for ridicule (but at least somewhat in fun, I hope) is a lack of civility. I think we should all strive to "disagree without being disagreeable".

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    There’s much that I don’t know about Wayland and maybe if I ask questions people will help me fill in the blanks. Perhaps the people here would enjoy analyzing things with an eye to increasing everyone’s understanding.
    I hope there are many who will help. I grew up here, and have spent at this point (not contiguously) 32 years here. Of course, there are others with still more longevity, so I'm not sure if I qualify as an "old-timer" yet. Anyway, happy to help when possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    First off, I’d like to understand “What’s going on” here at WaylandeNews’ Discussion Forum (“DF”). Any ideas about how to start thinking about this? How about the DF’s purpose, the function it serves, or the goals of the people who started it?
    These are great questions. Thanks for asking. WaylandeNews came about as a means of helping people get and stay informed. There are so many people who visit our website and read our newsletters, many of whom share information with us (events and announcements in particular, but sometimes pointers to news stories as well), that we can gather all that up and keep everyone informed. I won't lie and tell you that it's a trivial amount of work (it's not), but it helps that so many people are constantly feeding us information.

    But we did not feel it was enough to "push" the information out there. We felt very strongly that no information source would be complete unless it allowed for feedback. If you feel that we are messing up in some way, you can not only tell us about it, you can tell the world. We have every intention of always being fully honest, but this is a way that people can know we are kept honest. If there's a news source out there that doesn't publish letters to the editor, and doesn't allow readers to provide feedback to everyone else, then how can you know they are fixing their errors, or that they being fair and complete?

    But the Discussion Forum was meant to do so much more than that. It allows people to query their neighbors: "did you hear about... " "what do you think about..." "does anybody know anyone who..." A place to ask questions about what's going on in town: "does anybody know when that new cell tower is coming online..." "how many cases of H1N1 have there been?" "are we ever going to get that new rail trail" "what's happening with Pay as you Throw?"...


    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Or maybe the goals of those who post, or who just read? What are these goals and is the DF satisfying any or all of them? Do the number of people posting and reading make any difference to the success of meeting those goals? Does the percentage of Wayland residents taking advantage of the DF have any significance? I’ve attached a chart of the DF member’s posting history. The data is a month old but things are still probably much the same. It shows that most posting is done by a very small group. I’m not saying this is bad, but is “broadening” or even “deepening” the discussion desired? How would any of this relate back to purpose/goals?
    I am content that the Discussion Forum is available to serve its purpose, but I am not content with the breadth of participation. Thank you for the chart you created. There are not enough people participating. I know that there are some who are not comfortable putting their views "out there". The requirement that people use real names is clearly an obstacle for some. We have had considerable debate among our Editorial Board, and even on this Discussion Board about the requirement for named posts, and every time we re-raise the question we come to the same conclusion: it is necessary to maintain the forum's integrity and its civility. Speaking for myself here, and not the Board, I regret that this policy limits participation, but I do not regret maintaining the policy.


    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Does the DF evolve? How? Does it want to? To where? And how do we get there from here? Is WaylandeNews an unbiased location to have an appealing-to-all public discussion? Do we need some sort of structure to come to an understanding of what actually is, how we want things to develop, and what we have to do to make it all happen?

    Any interest in thinking about these things?

    donBustin@verizon.net

    (Please feel free not to vote for me. (grin) Honestly, you probably wouldn’t want to.)
    I don't know how or if the DF should evolve. It will depend on the feedback of those who use it. Which I would certainly welcome here. Especially from those 77 members you counted who have never posted (why?), or from some new members (why didn't you join before).
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 05-18-2009 at 11:21 AM. Reason: minor edits for clarity

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Do the number of people posting and reading make any difference to the success of meeting those goals? Does the percentage of Wayland residents taking advantage of the DF have any significance? I’ve attached a chart of the DF member’s posting history. The data is a month old but things are still probably much the same. It shows that most posting is done by a very small group. I’m not saying this is bad, but is “broadening” or even “deepening” the discussion desired? How would any of this relate back to purpose/goals?
    The graph you posted looks like every other depiction of online interaction; its a power law distribution referred to as the long tail. We can aspire to grow participation by increasing awareness, but we will not change the basic shape of this curve.

    I strongly support the policy requiring participants to post under their real names. Discussion groups that permit anonymity inevitably degrade into chaos.

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    I strongly support the policy requiring participants to post under their real names. Discussion groups that permit anonymity inevitably degrade into chaos.
    Nothing personal towards Dave and towards the contributors to the DF. The above quote is an interesting element and one with which runs counter to one of our core civil liberties as a nation. Privacy is core to democracy. I think one of the major drawbacks to this site is its lack of anonymity.
    By engaging on a transparent identity field you are only breeding like minded and accepted individuals that see each other as the way they want to be viewed. It is this insular mindset that usually rationalize the outsize riskiest of conclusions because there is no challenger.
    No anonymity has created lower numbers of participating members. I can't explain why, but my hunch is that my recurring theme is people know what is in their own best interests. If anything were really wrong in our town and somebody wanted to blow the whistle and not fear a lawsuit, I would certainly not expect to find the post here.
    I will agree that internet blogs can get clogged with faceless rants. Over time, however, some would emerge the wiser and more respected.
    Privacy is sacred and has its advantages. It would greatly improve this DF.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Nothing personal towards Dave and towards the contributors to the DF. The above quote is an interesting element and one with which runs counter to one of our core civil liberties as a nation. Privacy is core to democracy. I think one of the major drawbacks to this site is its lack of anonymity.
    Does your right to privacy mean that every discussion forum must permit anonymous posts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    By engaging on a transparent identity field you are only breeding like minded and accepted individuals that see each other as the way they want to be viewed. It is this insular mindset that usually rationalize the outsize riskiest of conclusions because there is no challenger.
    The last four weeks' postings here alone provide many counter-examples to your above claims of uniformity, insularity, and meekness -- as does this very thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    No anonymity has created lower numbers of participating members.
    Perhaps. Nasty posters exploiting their anonymity often drive out other participants. Do you seek to maximize the total number of participants, or the total number of constructive participants? If the latter, my experience is that non-anonymous fora are more effective.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I can't explain why, but my hunch is that my recurring theme is people know what is in their own best interests. If anything were really wrong in our town and somebody wanted to blow the whistle and not fear a lawsuit, I would certainly not expect to find the post here.
    Again, this forum's archives provide plenty of counter-examples. There are anonymous fora in which Wayland issues are frequently discussed; for example, see the comments following the letters in http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/h...-to-the-editor . So there is a vehicle available to timid whistleblowers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I will agree that internet blogs can get clogged with faceless rants. Over time, however, some would emerge the wiser and more respected.
    Can you cite an example of an un-moderated anonymous discussion forum with 50 or more participants that was able to maintain a civil and constructive equilibrium for, say, 3 consecutive months?

  7. #7
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    Default Groundhog Day

    I read this post Dave and it serves as a great example of why I am not a fan of discussion groups. So thanks for providing me with fodder to play with.

    Let’s assume I talk about the taste of a soufflé I cooked from a recipe. Given the above, your response to my hypothetical post would be something like:

    2 tbs of flour
    Flour is too messy, it gets on the counter and floor.

    7 egg whites
    Oh, so you are suggesting we take on the risk of salmonella poisoning. Look at this link:
    http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/dise...llosis_gi.html
    1 cup baking chocolate
    Too bitter, how can you like something so bitter?
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Too dangerous, you could get burned.

    And on. And on. And on. Perhaps it is the notion of deconstructing every thought that makes these posts in this section so inane or just the challenge of the debate. I don’t see great amounts of progress being exerted towards Don's question. There is too much interference. More importantly, this response approach is a form of logical fallacy – specifically straw man tactics by picking apart smaller details of the larger argument to discredit the larger message.

    In retrospect I should have made my post something along the lines of:
    Privacy rights are innate to every citizen in Wayland.
    Privacy is a fundamental tenet to the success of our Republic.
    This website does not guarantee privacy.
    Though distributive reason, this website is not a vehicle for success towards the citizens of Wayland.

    Now go off with your little “quote” function and try to corner me on any of those sentences.

    My big point, once again, is there is not a broad enough user base due to privacy concerns. And this is a shame. The more visible watchdogs in town are not present and I won’t accept a debate between public figures – say Jeff and Alan - as a proxy for town discourse. They are public servants or running for such roles and while I am grateful for their charitable time invested towards (oftentimes) a mercilessly thankless endeavor, we all would agree to some extent that debating online is practically an inclusive obligation of their duty and survival thereof. The private citizen of Wayland has no obligation.

    Regardless of long tails and pushing curves up and to the right – this is all theoretical in a MBA style thinkspeak that I engage in all the time with my job and it doesn’t deal with people’s reflexive nature. This is why like minded people can sit in a vacuum and talk like Michael Porter and put curves on a whiteboard and then go out and screw things up very quickly. Long Term Capital Management. Enron. Iceland. Why on earth would any of you reasonably believe that DF isn’t capable of the same behavior on a much smaller scale?

    Finally, anonymity seems to work perfectly normal in many free market elements, most notably the online community of eBay where the checks and balances are remarkably successful driven almost entirely by a set of users that prefers to keep their identities private. Talk about “long tail” in the appropriate context. And even the Swiss banking style of Paypal creates another moat of privacy between buyers and sellers. To expect such standards of this online community is fantasy.

    Or is it?

    If we pooled together a decent sum of private money and hired an accounting firm to annually update all the registered voters in Wayland and give them login rights to a user name that they alone and the this third party moderator could verify and keep private we could…..

    Oh, who am I kidding. Fire up your quote button and go to town.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I read this post Dave and it serves as a great example of why I am not a fan of discussion groups. So thanks for providing me with fodder to play with.

    Let’s assume I talk about the taste of a soufflé I cooked from a recipe. Given the above, your response to my hypothetical post would be something like:



    Flour is too messy, it gets on the counter and floor.


    Oh, so you are suggesting we take on the risk of salmonella poisoning. Look at this link:
    http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/dise...llosis_gi.html

    Too bitter, how can you like something so bitter?

    Too dangerous, you could get burned.

    And on. And on. And on. Perhaps it is the notion of deconstructing every thought that makes these posts in this section so inane or just the challenge of the debate. I don’t see great amounts of progress being exerted towards Don's question. There is too much interference. More importantly, this response approach is a form of logical fallacy – specifically straw man tactics by picking apart smaller details of the larger argument to discredit the larger message.

    In retrospect I should have made my post something along the lines of:
    Privacy rights are innate to every citizen in Wayland.
    Privacy is a fundamental tenet to the success of our Republic.
    This website does not guarantee privacy.
    Though distributive reason, this website is not a vehicle for success towards the citizens of Wayland.

    Now go off with your little “quote” function and try to corner me on any of those sentences.

    My big point, once again, is there is not a broad enough user base due to privacy concerns. And this is a shame. The more visible watchdogs in town are not present and I won’t accept a debate between public figures – say Jeff and Alan - as a proxy for town discourse. They are public servants or running for such roles and while I am grateful for their charitable time invested towards (oftentimes) a mercilessly thankless endeavor, we all would agree to some extent that debating online is practically an inclusive obligation of their duty and survival thereof. The private citizen of Wayland has no obligation.

    Regardless of long tails and pushing curves up and to the right – this is all theoretical in a MBA style thinkspeak that I engage in all the time with my job and it doesn’t deal with people’s reflexive nature. This is why like minded people can sit in a vacuum and talk like Michael Porter and put curves on a whiteboard and then go out and screw things up very quickly. Long Term Capital Management. Enron. Iceland. Why on earth would any of you reasonably believe that DF isn’t capable of the same behavior on a much smaller scale?

    Finally, anonymity seems to work perfectly normal in many free market elements, most notably the online community of eBay where the checks and balances are remarkably successful driven almost entirely by a set of users that prefers to keep their identities private. Talk about “long tail” in the appropriate context. And even the Swiss banking style of Paypal creates another moat of privacy between buyers and sellers. To expect such standards of this online community is fantasy.

    Or is it?

    If we pooled together a decent sum of private money and hired an accounting firm to annually update all the registered voters in Wayland and give them login rights to a user name that they alone and the this third party moderator could verify and keep private we could…..

    Oh, who am I kidding. Fire up your quote button and go to town.
    I see why you'd rather post anonymously.

  9. #9
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    At the risk of abusing the Quote button, I'm going to use "interspersing" to address your fundamentally different questions. By the way, I find interspersing to be helpful in not missing points to which I intend to respond. It's also helpful when the post to which one is responding isn't the most recent post. As you make clear with your recipe example, the practice can be taken too far, and I'll try to avoid that. It's not clear to me whether you are also taking exception to dropping content from the original post--I'll leave the entirety of the points that I'm addressing, but not keep unrelated points.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    In retrospect I should have made my post something along the lines of:
    Privacy rights are innate to every citizen in Wayland.
    Privacy is a fundamental tenet to the success of our Republic.
    This website does not guarantee privacy.
    Though distributive reason, this website is not a vehicle for success towards the citizens of Wayland.

    Now go off with your little “quote” function and try to corner me on any of those sentences.

    My big point, once again, is there is not a broad enough user base due to privacy concerns. And this is a shame. The more visible watchdogs in town are not present and I won’t accept a debate between public figures – say Jeff and Alan - as a proxy for town discourse. They are public servants or running for such roles and while I am grateful for their charitable time invested towards (oftentimes) a mercilessly thankless endeavor, we all would agree to some extent that debating online is practically an inclusive obligation of their duty and survival thereof. The private citizen of Wayland has no obligation.
    Privacy and anonymity aren't the same thing. I may have a right to privacy as a resident of Wayland, but that doesn't entitle me to carry out my responsibilities as a School Committee member in private. Privacy may be a "fundamental tenet to the success of our Republic," but that does mean that privacy must exist in all aspects of our Republic. Your "Through distributive reasoning" conclusion above simply doesn't follow logically from the statements you've made (and didn't make).

    You get off track when you jump from correctly stating that privacy is "a" (not "the only") fundamental tenet to falsely stating implicitly that this web site always does not guarantee privacy (anyone can view it privately) to finally making your conclusion.

    I could use your logic to make the following case (which I'm not making, of course):
    - Privacy rights are innate to every citizen in Wayland.
    - Privacy is a fundamental tenet to the success of our Republic.
    - Town Government requires officials to give up privacy and deliberate in public.
    - Though distributive reason, Town Government is not a vehicle for success towards the citizens of Wayland.

    (I fully appreciate that many would agree wholeheartedly with my conclusion--I'm just saying that you can't get to this conclusion from the leading statements! [grin])

    Here's my counter-thesis.

    - Making sound decisions requires sound information.
    - Knowing the source of information helps one judge the quality of that information.
    - The DF is a platform through which people can request and supply attributed information.
    - The DF increases the likelihood of sound decisions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Regardless of long tails and pushing curves up and to the right – this is all theoretical in a MBA style thinkspeak that I engage in all the time with my job and it doesn’t deal with people’s reflexive nature. This is why like minded people can sit in a vacuum and talk like Michael Porter and put curves on a whiteboard and then go out and screw things up very quickly. Long Term Capital Management. Enron. Iceland. Why on earth would any of you reasonably believe that DF isn’t capable of the same behavior on a much smaller scale?
    I don't see how increasing participation on the DF might lead to "screwing things up very quickly." To be sure, there might be unintended negative consequences of too many legitimate people posting on too many topics, but there are many examples of effective discussion forums (bigsoccer.com is one) that are many orders of magnitude larger than this one. Applying different "theoretical marketing methods" (broad-based outbound email, recruiting during chance encounters, viral posting of links on other forums) should lead to increased effective participation in practice. If that's not the result, we'll simply try something different, or try nothing at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Finally, anonymity seems to work perfectly normal in many free market elements, most notably the online community of eBay where the checks and balances are remarkably successful driven almost entirely by a set of users that prefers to keep their identities private. Talk about “long tail” in the appropriate context. And even the Swiss banking style of Paypal creates another moat of privacy between buyers and sellers. To expect such standards of this online community is fantasy.

    Or is it?

    If we pooled together a decent sum of private money and hired an accounting firm to annually update all the registered voters in Wayland and give them login rights to a user name that they alone and the this third party moderator could verify and keep private we could…..

    Oh, who am I kidding. Fire up your quote button and go to town.
    Doesn't eBay require you to give up your privacy at exactly the critical moment when one party has to provide a shipping address?

    I think that you misspoke (miswrote?) when you asked if it was fantasy to expect standards of anonymity from the DF. I do NOT think that it's fantasy to expect standards of *identity* from the DF, as we have exactly that standard today.

    The key question, as I see it, is whether the DF would become more or less effective if we went from identity to anonymity. The Town Crier discussion board is a great tool for helping to answer this question. The comments on the "TC," as interesting/entertaining as they can sometimes be, rarely "move the needle" with respect to better information and therefore better decisions. As small an impact as the DF may have in the larger scheme of Wayland decision-making, in my opinion, it nonetheless has a positive impact, and one that's more positive than the TC.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 05-21-2009 at 05:49 AM. Reason: I used the "little edit button" to remove a minor point that was no longer true as the result of an intervening post.

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    Dave,
    In reading your posts it is evident to me that the main difference between the two of us is you believe your are an authority figure.
    Knowing this I have a pretty solid understanding of how our dialog will ultimately end every time. I don't have the bandwidth nor patience to deal with insatiable appeals to your tangential questions and presumed authority. I don't need your approval to make my points in this environment. In fact, I would argue that the more irritated you become with my presence, the more successful this site will be.

    To appease your thirst for the debate, I will respond one last time to your "multi-quotes" but I refuse to appease everyone that does this to my posts. Life is too short.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    I see why you'd rather post anonymously.
    You are making a false, presumptous cop-out reply and never addressed my point that you like to engage in the art of logical fallacy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    Does your right to privacy mean that every discussion forum must permit anonymous posts?
    No. That was never stated. This is an irrelevant straw man tactic to discredit my underlying message.

    The last four weeks' postings here alone provide many counter-examples to your above claims of uniformity, insularity, and meekness -- as does this very thread.
    All the posts here in DF are dominated by about a dozen people as far as I can tell that, as has been already commented on, spend a lot of time pandering to one another. Does this not qualify as insular?

    Perhaps. Nasty posters exploiting their anonymity often drive out other participants. Do you seek to maximize the total number of participants, or the total number of constructive participants? If the latter, my experience is that non-anonymous fora are more effective.
    Anonymity does not imply nastiness. This is a false presumption you make. I would rather see a maximum level of participation rather than leaving it up to someone like you to decide the fate of whether they are "constructive" or not.

    Again, this forum's archives provide plenty of counter-examples. There are anonymous fora in which Wayland issues are frequently discussed; for example, see the comments following the letters in http://www.wickedlocal.com/wayland/h...-to-the-editor . So there is a vehicle available to timid whistleblowers.
    This doesn't really seem to respond to my point that in instances when the stakes are high, especially when something highly unethical is happening, anonymity is a very useful tool. While the Crier site is a means, it is by no means as targeted as this DF.


    Can you cite an example of an un-moderated anonymous discussion forum with 50 or more participants that was able to maintain a civil and constructive equilibrium for, say, 3 consecutive months?
    I don't know what is going to meet your exacting standards with this open ended yet highly refined request. (yes, I get the trap you are setting) How about a discussion board where an anonymous engineers working for a large computer manufacturer offers candid and materially better help outside the "system" put into place by their controlling employer.
    Also, I really don't know what civility has to do with it. People in Burma are pretty civil when you talk to them, even after they get roughhoused by a soldier holding an AK-47. And our government and Chrysler bondholders had a civil exchange as Uncle Sam threw contract law out the window to pander to the UAW. I will leave it up to your own personal beliefs as to whether or not those examples have benefited from the appearance of civil and constructive equilibrium.

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    It would be interesting if the Town Crier used the vBulletin platform. While it wouldn't be a perfect comparison, we'd at least learn something about comparative number of threads, posts, and views for two sites covering roughly the same topics.

    It would also be interesting to see how much traffic WayandeNews.com feeds to the Town Crier and vice versa. I strongly suspect that WaylandeNews.com does substantially more feeding, as links on the TC site to the DF are few and far between (and almost all my doing).

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    Default My turn

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    All the posts here in DF are dominated by about a dozen people as far as I can tell that, as has been already commented on, spend a lot of time pandering to one another. Does this not qualify as insular?
    While it is true that a relatively small number of people actually 'jump into the water' on discussion boards; the venue is open to all and if domination is the correct word to use then its domination by choice of those who wish to be dominated.

    I think a more valid question to ponder would be why do such a relatively small percentage of registered voters actually vote? Those who do not vote are dominated by those who do and, again, this is by choice.

    Last, and as a point of clarity, 'insular' is a word for narrow mindedness and, while I admit that I have my own view of the world about what is right; I never thought of myself as being narrow minded. I also don't think that those who have a different opinion from myself are narrow minded in the same way - ie. I think that those who don't agree with me certainly consider what I'm saying and I even think I've changed some minds over time. I actually have proof of this !!

    So my take on your wording is that 'discussers' are 'dominated by choice' and may seem 'insular' while they are able to consider other points of view for those who discuss here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Anonymity does not imply nastiness. This is a false presumption you make. I would rather see a maximum level of participation rather than leaving it up to someone like you to decide the fate of whether they are "constructive" or not.
    There is no doubt that Anonymity will increase participation. But I have to say Vern; that my own observation is that anonymity breeds nastiness and that is human nature. The analogy I used once before has to do with road rage and being protected by a cocoon of steel and 300 HP of getaway power. That is what an anonymous blog ultimately degrades into and it will always do that when the issues are taken personally and people see so much at stake.

    I see on the Crier that you post with your name. When I do, I do the same and I have one post right now under a septage article. If that blog went nasty against me then I would just stop blogging there and wait for another time to start afresh.

    Away, I'm glad you discuss here and I'm glad Dave does too.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Dave,
    In reading your posts it is evident to me that the main difference between the two of us is you believe your are an authority figure. Knowing this I have a pretty solid understanding of how our dialog will ultimately end every time.
    Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I don't have the bandwidth nor patience to deal with insatiable appeals to your tangential questions and presumed authority.
    Two questions constitute insatiability? Asking you to clarify your conflation of privacy and anonymity, or to cite well-functioning anonymous fora are tangential questions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I don't need your approval to make my points in this environment. In fact, I would argue that the more irritated you become with my presence, the more successful this site will be.
    I am not the least bit irritated by your presence here, Vernon, though I will admit to occasionally being amused by it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    To appease your thirst for the debate, I will respond one last time to your "multi-quotes" but I refuse to appease everyone that does this to my posts. Life is too short.

    Question from ealier post: "Does your right to privacy mean that every discussion forum must permit anonymous posts?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    No. That was never stated. This is an irrelevant straw man tactic to discredit my underlying message.
    I didn't accuse you of taking this position, nor was this question a tactic . Your argument for permitting anonymous posting is grounded on our constitutional right to privacy. I was simply trying to understand the scope of your position. Since your answer to the question is "no", my response is "Great. This is a forum whose ground rules exclude anonymity; it has attracted participants who prefer non-anonymous posts. There is at least one other forum for Wayland residents who prefer anonymous posting, so there is no compelling reason to change this forum's policy."

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    All the posts here in DF are dominated by about a dozen people as far as I can tell that, as has been already commented on, spend a lot of time pandering to one another. Does this not qualify as insular?
    No, it qualifies as a loaded question. There is a core of people here who initiate new threads and post frequently, there is a larger group whose members participate but rarely initiate threads (like me), and there are new participants who either create new threads (e.g. Rene's "power line" thread of last week) or who participate in existing threads. Given the forum's stated focus on Wayland, I would not characterize this forum as insular, or its participation as unusually concentrated.


    From an earlier post: "Nasty posters exploiting their anonymity often drive out other participants."

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Anonymity does not imply nastiness. This is a false presumption you make. I would rather see a maximum level of participation rather than leaving it up to someone like you to decide the fate of whether they are "constructive" or not.
    That's not a presumption, Vernon, its an observation based on 20+ years of experience (going back to the BBS and timesharing systems that preceded the publicly-accessible internet). Forum participants vote with their feet; if a forum becomes nasty and non-constructive, those who prefer a more civil environment tend to leave.


    From an earlier post: "There are anonymous fora in which Wayland issues are frequently discussed; for example, see the comments following the letters in ..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    This doesn't really seem to respond to my point that in instances when the stakes are high, especially when something highly unethical is happening, anonymity is a very useful tool. While the Crier site is a means, it is by no means as targeted as this DF.
    If something highly unethical is happening, the anonymous message board associated with the local newspaper is certainly as appropriate as this forum, if not more so.


    Question from an earlier post: "Can you cite an example of an un-moderated anonymous discussion forum with 50 or more participants that was able to maintain a civil and constructive equilibrium for, say, 3 consecutive months?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I don't know what is going to meet your exacting standards with this open ended yet highly refined request. (yes, I get the trap you are setting)
    Asking for one example is hardly open-ended. Sorry to disappoint you, but I am not setting a trap.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    How about a discussion board where an anonymous engineers working for a large computer manufacturer offers candid and materially better help outside the "system" put into place by their controlling employer.
    What's the URL? Owners of products purchased from a large computer manufacturer who are likely posting from work accounts seems a bit "apples and oranges" in comparison to the open public forum we've been discussing, but I'll defer judgement until I've taken a first-hand look.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Also, I really don't know what civility has to do with it. People in Burma are pretty civil when you talk to them, even after they get roughhoused by a soldier holding an AK-47. And our government and Chrysler bondholders had a civil exchange as Uncle Sam threw contract law out the window to pander to the UAW. I will leave it up to your own personal beliefs as to whether or not those examples have benefited from the appearance of civil and constructive equilibrium.
    Yes, people can speak in a civil manner while acting in a horrible manner, but this does not reduce the value of civility. There are those who prefer discussing Wayland's issues in a generally civil manner, even when we strongly disagree. From my experience, I believe that permitting anonymous posts here would alter the environment in a profoundly negative way.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    Privacy is core to democracy.
    I agree with Dave on the point of keeping anonymity off the Discussion Forum (DF). I have no disagreement with "Privacy is core to democracy," but that's not to say that privacy needs to infuse every aspect of democracy.

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but until the advent of the Internet, was it ever possible in any practical way to anonymously participate in public conversation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    I think one of the major drawbacks to this site is its lack of anonymity.
    The Town Crier discussion board provides a great comparison point with the DF. It's anonymity is one of its major drawbacks, along with a technology platform that's far inferior to this one.

    The problem isn't actually with anonymity, but rather, accountability. I'll contend that many anonymous questions or comments would be great additions to the DF as long as they were posted with honesty and civility. We've discussed passing such contributions through a moderator, and I'd be all for that if the flow of messages didn't make that role impractical.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    By engaging on a transparent identity field you are only breeding like minded and accepted individuals that see each other as the way they want to be viewed. It is this insular mindset that usually rationalize the outsize riskiest of conclusions because there is no challenger.
    I don't fully understand these statements, but suggest that the numerous areas of (respectful) disagreement on the board counter the "like minded" contention.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    No anonymity has created lower numbers of participating members.
    Compared with the Town Crier, I don't know the above statement to be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vernon Essi View Post
    If anything were really wrong in our town and somebody wanted to blow the whistle and not fear a lawsuit, I would certainly not expect to find the post here.
    That may well be, but I'm not really sure that the purpose of the DF needs to be a place for people to "blow the whistle."

  15. #15
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    Jeff, concerning an earlier idea about “ten or so high level categories”. When I first came to DF, I intuitively assumed there’d be theme/issue-based “forums”. I also thought there'd be sub-threads in the forums. Like if this summer’s issue of the moment might be the High School Building Committee. HSBC would be one thread under schools. But I see your point of posts getting lost. So why not have a “schools” forum that functions like the general discussion does?

    How do people use DF?
    I'm trying to get at what function DF actually has and would love for lotsa people to share how they use the DF and what they think about it (their own goals for DF, its success or failure, and its future). Also Kim, I’m curious about how much ability we have for tracking usage. The “posts” and “views” tell us something, but for views, can we get how many members, how many guests? How many unique visits? The number of people viewing multiple times? Me, of course, would love a voluntary system where members always log in even when only reading, and non-members sign up for a user name (Guest #1, #2, etc) so that we could start to see what’s actually happening. Any ideas? What do people think? Would any one else here like to get an accurate idea about what’s going on?

    Dave, about that “Long Tail” curve, if it has to remain the same, that's so sad. But what if we just raise the whole curve up? Say by increasing everyone's posts by 5. Still same curve, but I'd think that was progress.

    Vernon, being a simple person, I seem to like real names the best. I seem to treat this as a conversation or dialogue. And I like to know whom I’m talking to. And putting my name on my posts makes me take full responsibility for what I say. And that’s good. I understand why voting wants to be secret, but I think this is about sharing information and dialogue. Hopefully treating people with respect and helping to create mutual understanding. Me thinks, better done by real people than by some “dog_eat_dog” alias.

    And by the way, Dave and Vernon, what do you think DF's function is?


    donBustin@verizon.net

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