Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tips for the serious Post Talker

More than a year now into our experiment of moderating Post Talk, it could hardly be labeled a rousing success -- though we have managed to drag the quality of the commentary from raw gutter level to something resembling a bar-room brawl.

Simply requiring people to use their real names and moderating the content to take out the very worst insults don’t result in an enlightening debate. More likely, each thread deteriorates into a conservative/liberal, Republican/Democratic, right/wrong thrashing about, more often than not targeting other people instead of ideas.

I personally take care of a good share of the moderating work, mostly because it’s such an unpleasant task that I don’t wish to foist it on other folks who are already overburdened with work and sorrow. This job has taught me some posting tips I wish to share with Post Talk’s participants and lurkers alike, in the hopes of raising the level of conversation even a smidge.

1. Before making a claim of fact, do your research. You may not be a journalist, but a simple combination of common sense, Google skills and some tenacity will usually lead you to accurate information. Don’t post something just because you want it to be true.

2. Don’t make accusations in the form of a question, like this: “Baby killer?” Putting the question mark on it doesn’t make it OK. If you want to make some sort of accusation, do it forthrightly, with the facts to back you up.

3. Don’t immediately dive into an Internet tête-à-tête with a person holding an opposing view that leaves the philosophical argument behind and gets right into issues of character or personality. These are painful to watch and don’t gain either participant any points.

4. Don’t use glittering generalities or loaded language. In the former, the writer either intentionally or unknowingly uses positive terms so broad in scope as to render them meaningless in an effort to further his case. In the latter, the writer tosses in emotional words with negative overtones, also in an attempt to persuade people to her side. Fortunately, most readers see right through these efforts.

5. Don’t feel like you need to comment on everything. If you don’t have anything thoughtful to add, don’t post. Some posters seem to think that short, meaningless posts on nearly every topic are pithy and display a broad range of knowledge. They are more likely to serve as distractions.

None of this is to say that Post Talk shouldn’t be a place for sharp disagreement; that is, after all, its main purpose. But somehow, when people debate on the faceless Internet, they are willing to type things they’d never dream of saying to someone’s face.

1 comment:

  1. Roger,

    You want to take all the fun out of it :-)