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Author Topic: Politics Topic to be Discontinued  (Read 19005 times)

Offline merm

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Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« on: February 16, 2008, 10:24:25 PM »
Greetings,

I'm strongly considering removing the topic of "politics" from this board. The vast majority of account suspensions and bans are as a result of political conversations that have little to do with the topic of "Astoria" (except by proxy in that it affects the whole country). Furthermore, the posts tend to be extremely long and this makes it difficult for moderators to keep up with the reading.

I'm not sure that a board about "Astoria" needs to cover the topic of national/international politics - and I'm not even sure it needs to cover local politics. Add this to the fact that I'm growing tired of babysitting this particular topic areas and constantly reminding people to tone it down (or thanking them for not responding in-kind), or suspending accounts and it makes the decision very easy for me.

The "rants" section would remain - but discussion of politics should be reserved for one of the million political sites out there that cover this topic well.

adamwc

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2008, 12:24:17 AM »
Greetings,

I'm strongly considering removing the topic of "politics" from this board. The vast majority of account suspensions and bans are as a result of political conversations that have little to do with the topic of "Astoria" (except by proxy in that it affects the whole country). Furthermore, the posts tend to be extremely long and this makes it difficult for moderators to keep up with the reading.

I'm not sure that a board about "Astoria" needs to cover the topic of national/international politics - and I'm not even sure it needs to cover local politics. Add this to the fact that I'm growing tired of babysitting this particular topic areas and constantly reminding people to tone it down (or thanking them for not responding in-kind), or suspending accounts and it makes the decision very easy for me.

The "rants" section would remain - but discussion of politics should be reserved for one of the million political sites out there that cover this topic well.

Mr. Merm,

It's your board, you can and should do with the Politics and Rants forum what makes sense to you, personally and economically. As you have indicated that you are "strongly considering" changing the forum to "Rants" (sans politics), here are some thoughts that I hope you will take into account as you deliberate.

1. By participating in the "Politics and Rants" section, I have become aware of people who live in my neighborhood who care deeply about issues that I care about. Although I do participate in other forums that discuss philosophy and economics and politics, it is highly unlikely that those national/global forums will lead to my befriending people here in Astoria. It is especially cool to have discovered people whose similar socioeconomic passions and diverse viewpoints will possibly (hopefully) lead to friendships with Astorians right here in my beloved hometown.  :mrgreen:

2. In general, the level of conversation and debate in the topic is actually pretty high, despite the fact that the topic title literally invites people to rant. What does rant suggest to people? Well, the definition of rant is: "To speak or write in an angry or violent manner; rave." That sounds like what you're having problems with.   Maybe calling the forum simply "Politics" or even "Political Notions" would have helped from the outset. And perhaps it's not too late.

3.  A modest proposal: throw down the gauntlet to those who post in that topic. Challenge them to keep the level of conversation at a decent and respectful level. We posters can and should consider ourselves on notice that if we continue to waste your time with nasty ad hominem arguments, then we'll lose the topic. Should be an effective incentive. I honestly think that most of the posters would be willing to cease and desist personal attacks in their posts if doing so means keeping the topic alive on your site.

So, again, thank you for astorians.com and for including the Politics topic. I hope you won't eliminate it.

Respectfully Yours,
Adam

Offline heff

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2008, 02:41:51 AM »
I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, I personally really love politics and reading and writing about it, both locally and nationally.  But on the other hand, when I first starting posting on this board, I would post frequently in the politics section, but too often I found myself wanting to write "NO YOU'RE THE effing IDIOT" which of course is both nonproductive and lacking in "netiquette".  And so I started to avoid that whole section.  I guess there are a handful of people, most of whom aren't actual members of our community (in that to the best of my knowledge they've never been out to one of the mixers or other activities that are posted up and down these boards) and reside mostly in the Politics thread who are kinda poisonous.  There are certainly conservatives and liberals on this board who are capable of expressing themselves without name calling and baiting, but there are also a few who aren't, and they get everyone all riled up.  And once again, this mainly happens in the Politics thread. 

The easy answer, for me at least, is to be stricter about moderating these folks in these threads, but thats just easy for me b/c I'm not a moderator.  I have no idea how much profit, or more likely how much loss, Merm makes off this site, so if he says he doesn't have the time or the patience to monitor the Politics thread, than I have to believe him.  If this means these threads get shut down, well so be it, I won't be leaving these boards.

BUT I do hope we can still talk about local Western Queens politics and news here.  As the chair of the TA Queens Committee, Astorians.com has been a great resource for us, not only to get the word out but to find out whats happening locally.  I recently first learned about ConEd potentially selling their 20th Ave location here on the boards, thats a huge deal for our group, and as a volunteer group we don't always have the time to attend the CB meetings and hear this for ourselves.  Also this board has put me in touch with some great local activists and political folks (most of whom don't regularly post in the Politics threads to be honest) and has been personally very valuable to me that way too.

Wow, this is almost long enough for the Politics thread... Anywho, its a shame when a few bad apples have to ruin it for everyone else, but if it comes to that, lets please remember that local politics, though often equally incendiary, are just as important to some of us on the board as the wingtacular... if thats even humanly possible.

Offline merm

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2008, 08:30:45 AM »
Many thanks for the comments so far. Just as a quick response to the points raised:

1. "It is especially cool to have discovered people whose similar socioeconomic passions and diverse viewpoints will possibly (hopefully) lead to friendships with Astorians right here in my beloved hometown."

I have no problem with Astorians being used to find other people who are interested in politics in the community - you just would need to use the board to meet up, and not carry on the actual discussion here. That way a local bartender or cafe barista gets to be the moderator of the conversation instead of me. :)

2. "Maybe calling the forum simply "Politics" or even "Political Notions" would have helped from the outset."

Could be, but these kinds of conversations happen in other sections too. I don't think it's the name of the topic that makes people feel entitled to be rude and childish - I think it's the subject matter itself.

3. "Throw down the gauntlet to those who post in that topic." "Be stricter about moderating these folks in these threads".

Unfortunately this is what we've been doing for years, and this is what I'm tired of incidentally. :)

4. "Its a shame when a few bad apples have to ruin it for everyone else"

I agree, but when it comes to politics, even the most kind and normally composed people on these boards can join the fray. I don't think this is just a few bad apples we're talking about, I think politics itself is the bad apple because I see good folks who are some of the friendlies in the neighborhood acting completely out of character when it comes to politics.

Thanks to Heff and Adam for commenting!

Offline jayme

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2008, 09:05:20 AM »
Can you clarify your idea a bit more?  Are you talking about just removing the politics section or attempting to remove the political conversation from the board?

I think the conversation will happen with or without the section and you may find that the section contains the dialogue a bit more.  Without the section I think the dialogue is still bound to happen on with spill over to other areas.

If you are thinking that political discussions in general should be removed from Astorians -- I would strongly disagree with that.  Grassroots and community politics (within community affairs and national politics brought into discussion and action) at the local level are the most powerful sort of politics.  While we don't always agree as a community, I think the dialogue with people living together in a community is in itself an awesome thing.

This said from someone who almost never participates in that particular forum but who is a bit politically active.

Just something to think about.

cheers,
jayme

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Offline merm

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2008, 09:33:57 AM »
Yes, I'm talking about removing the politics category from the board, and discouraging (though not perhaps censoring altogether) discussion of "politics" in general on this site.

While the idea of "grassroots and community politics (within community affairs and national politics brought into discussion and action)" is a great idea in concept, the types of discussions that I'm talking about (that happen on the politics board) are not these kinds of discussions. Most of the political dialog that happens here is pure rhetoric - very little of it is "community activism" related.

The kinds of discussions that happen in the "local chat" or "community events" board however are different - even though they have political undertones to them. Like "what shall we do about crime in the neighborhood", or "Astorians for [insert candidate here] meeting @ [insert cafe here]". These discussions rarely if ever collapse into emotional and abusive (not to mention long) rants.

I am all for grassroots community affairs - because it is speech rooted in action, but those threads are seldom found in the politics board are seldom up to this standard. On the politics board we just discuss how much we love/hate Bush, whether or not all [insert immigrant race here] are terrorists, and why everyone else besides us is wrong.

Offline megc

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2008, 09:48:03 AM »
I think the conversation will happen with or without the section and you may find that the section contains the dialogue a bit more.  Without the section I think the dialogue is still bound to happen on with spill over to other areas.

I agree with this.  The topic will manage to find its way in other places, and having a Politics section will contain it, and in some ways make it easier to keep an eye on the problematic discussions.

That being said, I can't stand most of the political discussions on this board.  It seems to be the special place where some users just can't seem to behave themselves, and that gets old real fast.  The ad hominem arguments particularly suck.  If you have an issue with someone (rather than the issue at hand), please take it to the realm of personal messages.  I think the board would benefit overall if more people chose this route.

Good luck, merm.

Offline Pulled pork

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2008, 10:00:58 AM »
Merm, I absolutely sympathize with you and the moderators.  I've been in here long enough to know a few things:
1. People are generally here with the best intentions for community in Astoria.
2. There are trolls and flamers and whatever else you call them in here and they love the politics board.
3. The politics board has had flare ups and fights since day one and must be a real pain in the ass to you all.
4. It's politics and people get carried away, very far away at times and very low down.
5. But obviously it's one of the most popular sections and taking it away would most likely lead to spill over.

What to do?  It's a tough one. I agree with the previous posters in saying that this section has been an important part of this site.  What a great place to exchange thoughts and fight for your beliefs, know your fellow Astorian's views and learn a few things.  To take it away seems harsh but very understandable. 

Two idea's come to mind.
1. Make it an uncensored section like on an adults website where you enter at your own risk (and maybe a 3 strikes and you are out policy).  It's politics after all and what's dirtier than that?
2. Some of us create our own version of "Drinking liberally" and meet up from time to time for politcal conversation and a pint or two.

-Hoping it stays on Astorians.

Offline merm

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2008, 10:08:54 AM »
2. Some of us create our own version of "Drinking liberally" and meet up from time to time for politcal conversation and a pint or two.

I would love to see something like this happen, and I might even come to something like this. I'd love to see the site be used for organizing these types of things. I think that in-person political discussions go much better than internet ones because there's not the same level of anonymity.

Offline 28Grand

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2008, 10:19:47 AM »
Hi Merm

I understand your frustrations entirely and the time and effort it must take to run this site. But one thought occurs to me: how can local politics in Astoria not be relevant to discussions of what's going on in the neighborhood?

"Rants" can easily turn political so I'm not sure how can the two be separated and still make the discussions interesting, informative and relevant.

My soultion is to perhaps require each thread start with a non-rhetorical question to be answered, to promote discussion, rather than a statment or diatribe that results in dissection and conflict.

I want to thank you for starting this site. I enjoy it for a multitude of reasons and try not to let the more heated discussions get to me (though I'm always not successful). Whatever you decide I'll be visiting Astorians as often as I do now.



Offline daisy

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2008, 11:21:02 AM »
I can't say I'd miss the politics discussions one bit.  I agree with every one of your reasons, pretty much.  I mean, who has the time to constantly monitor these really long and often off-topic discussions, that lead into name-calling, etc, and break the rules that you have established.  You've been trying to enforce the rules for years now, and it never works.  I tend to avoid the politics discussions because I honestly get so annoyed with the way they are in general, and to be honest, most of the discussions end up being between 5 key people.  I don't see why there can't be meetings held elsewhere to have these discussions, so that Merm does not have to, in many ways, babysit the discussion. 

However, I do know that politics will come up in other areas and I don't think Queens related politics should be eliminated completely - as this would have more to do with Astoria in general.  But let these Queens related topics come up in other areas, you shouldn't have to monitor all these other political discussions that have little to do with Astoria.

Offline Debbie

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2008, 11:37:55 AM »
Merm - I sympathise with your plight and know that I have been one of the individuals who have contributed in negative discourse.

If I have offended anyone, I sincerely apologize and will work to tone down my approach.

adamwc

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2008, 12:10:22 PM »
It surely isn't looking good here for keeping the Politics forum.  :cry:

Some more points for your consideration, merm.

4. Astorians.com purports to reflect our community. The conversations in each of the topic areas reflect the views of participants who live in or care about Astoria, no less so in the Politics thread. The question should not be, "What does a conversation about national public policy or politicians have to do with Astoria?", it is, "What do people who consider themselves Astorians care about and think about national public policy and politicians?" The views in astorians.com's Politics and Rants thread will differ from the views (and priorities and emphasises) that would be found in the same topic area on sites all over the country. Because, you know, we're ASTORIANS!  :mrgreen:

5. Getting together for beers and having political conversations in person complements but does not adequately replace participating in an online community discussion of politics (or anything other topic, from recipes to florists to photography, etc.) that involves hundreds if not thousands of other people. Ideas and issues being discussed openly in a public forum fosters accountability, which is a good thing for everybody involved. People getting together in a bar will tend to reify their beliefs/assumptions/policy positions more than to challenge them.

6. I'd like to reiterate that most of the conversations in the Politics and Rants forums are civil and engaging. Even threads started with topic names that are controversial are pretty well "moderated" by the decency of the participants instead of from above.

7. Consider letting this forum moderate itself.

Cheers,
Adam
« Last Edit: February 17, 2008, 12:16:29 PM by adamwc »

Offline Jtrane

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2008, 12:21:33 PM »
It surely isn't looking good here for keeping the Politics forum.  :cry:
5. Getting together for beers and having political conversations in person complements but does not adequately replace participating in an online community discussion of politics (or anything other topic, from recipes to florists to photography, etc.) that involves hundreds if not thousands of other people. Ideas and issues being discussed openly in a public forum fosters accountability, which is a good thing for everybody involved. People getting together in a bar will tend to reify their beliefs/assumptions/policy positions more than to challenge them.

I think part of the problem, though, is that it's usually only the same 5-10 people, and the conversations almost always end up rehashing the same positions and discussions, and often degrade in the same way from thread to thread.
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Offline edava

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Re: Politics Topic to be Discontinued
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2008, 12:38:59 PM »
I'm going to preface this with the obvious: It's your site and you should do with it what you want.

That said, here's my 2 cents:

1. I agree with people about spillovers. You can't have a public site and expect all conversations to stay entirely on-topic. One thing will lead to another and the topic might become something else. I actually appreciate your not moving things around too much like some other forums in my experience (this makes finding yours and other posts hard, takes things out of context, etc....). If you decide that political speech doesn't belong here (to quote you, "I don't think it's the name of the topic that makes people feel entitled to be rude and childish - I think it's the subject matter itself."), then it will be your prerogative whether you move or lock a thread that crosses that line. Depending on how intensely you decide to follow this approach, the flow of conversation on this site may become a bit too... controlled.

2. I can appreciate the difficulty and frustration in moderating a board where you have to babysit. My suggestion: stop babysitting this particular topic. See Debbie's revelation above as an example of self-regulation at work. Plenty of people in that forum will keep it from devolving into something horrible. Give them responsibility for the tone and maybe they won't test your limits. Maybe they'll rise to the occasion when they know that the overall tone of the area is their responsibility (reflects on them) instead of your responsibility. Treat people like children, they'll behave that way.  I say, just let it be open.

3. For people who don't like the politics threads, change the channel! It doesn't mean that everyone should not be able to participate because you personally don't enjoy them. And by the way, what is the big deal with long posts? I didn't realize there was a time limit on posts?


 

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