liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
[personal profile] liv
There's been a lot of drama in peripheral bits of my LJ circle recently. A lot of it is to do with conflicting ideas about how personal someone's LJ is, and I think this is interesting. (The drama itself isn't interesting, because drama tends not to be. And I'm not posting links to the drama that has prompted this thought, because that would just be further drama-mongering.)

The situations run like this: somebody posts something contentious. Other people take issue with the original contentious post. Whether or not they initially confront the OP, at some point the discussion gets carried over to people's own LJs. Drama ensues.

The way I see it, if I see a post I strongly disagree with, especially if it's a drive-by thing rather than someone I know personally, my most likely response would be to make a followup in my own LJ. However, I have seen several instances in the past few days of people taking serious offence at exactly this response.

Assuming one doesn't actually want to cause offence, what are the alternatives? I could post a response as a comment to the post or thread that has offended me, but it would be hard for that not to be read as an attack or flame. I might intend to attack the ideas rather than the person, but it's really hard to convey that, especially online, especially with a stranger, especially if the OP is sensitive about criticism of their ideas. And if I want to get some opinions from my friends about the issue, even worse. If even some of my friends happened to agree with me, it would look a lot like I was inviting a pile-on against the OP.

Yes, I'd be addressing the OP directly and making it easy for them to respond, which has some merits. But at the same time, it seems less than courteous to start a potentially vicious argument in someone else's journal. This seems even more the case if I want to argue with a comment posted by person B in person A's journal; then I'm potentially offending both A and B.

I could make a Friends Only post about the issue. As far as I'm concerned, that is tantamount to talking about someone behind their back; I would be pretty reluctant to go that route. While I might start out with the intention of criticizing their ideas, it's difficult to be confident that things won't get nasty. (And anyway, everybody has different standards of what counts as a personal attack.) It's unlikely that the OP would find out about my post, which is good in that they wouldn't be offended, but bad in that they would have absolutely no way of defending themselves. Conversely, while I hope my friends would be sensible enough not to invite drama, it's possible that someone might report my FO post to the person concerned, so this approach wouldn't even have the merit of not offending them.

I could make a public post about the issue, but obfuscate the person's identity and not include a link to the original post. This strikes me as a compromise which is liable to be the worst of all worlds. I wouldn't properly be able to follow up the discussion. I would likely be misrepresenting the person's argument by summarizing it instead of letting their post speak for itself. And they would still be unlikely to be able to find the post or defend themselves, whereas if they did happen to stumble on it, they might recognize their post and feel attacked anyway. Not mentioning their name would put me on a bad footing; it would look as if I were ashamed of my position.

I could keep my opinion to myself, on the basis that if I can't say anything nice I should shut up. Well, ok, but that means no discussion is happening. If the post in question is on a topic of general interest (rather than personal), it seems reasonable to want to discuss it. Are there any other possibilities I haven't thought of? What would you guys do in the circs? What would it depend on?

My take on this, and it's fairly tentative ([livejournal.com profile] 791point43, you're the expert on this – any thoughts?) is that these conflicts arise from different constructions of what an LJ is. In some ways it's a place where people have personal conversations with their friends but they happen to take place in public, perhaps analogous to, say, a group of people going to a restaurant together. In this case I probably shouldn't be reading at all beyond my own friends list, let alone responding to what I see there. Nor should I be adding strangers to said friends list just because I happen to like their writing.

For some people, an LJ is more like a blog. In the general blogosphere, outside LJ, the standard etiquette is that if you have a lengthy and detailed response, or a hostile response, to a blog post, you take it to your own blog rather than starting a flame-war in the comments. You leave a trackback in the original blog to let the blogger know they're being talked about (or, for many systems, this happens automatically). But you certainly link back to the original post that prompted your thoughts. That's kind of the paradigm I'm working on as a default here, but the question is, where does that break down for LJ?

What if LJ is more like Usenet? A lot of people I come across are Usenet expats, so this is particularly relevant. (Though it must be said that my own Usenet experience is pretty limited, so I may have wrong impressions here.) It's a public forum and the point here is the discussion. If you didn't want discussion, you wouldn't be posting. Obviously a decent person tries to be as polite as possible, but you definitely respond directly to something you disagree with. In this scenario, it doesn't matter if discussion threads get long and convoluted, and it probably doesn't matter if things get heated.

Where this breaks down is partly technical; LJ is just not that well geared to long discussion threads (both in number of posts and duration of discussion). But it's also partly social. For many people, a journal feels more like a personal space than a Usenet newsgroup; attacks here are going to be taken to heart much more than attacks would be there.

The other extreme would be to treat (strangers') journal posts as opinion articles in a media forum. Just the same way I might make a post linking to an dissecting a newspaper article, I could do the same for an LJ post. I wouldn't write personally to the author of the article, because that would be an inappropriate direct attack. I probably wouldn't write to the editor of the newspaper, either, unless I felt really strongly that the original article was so terrible it should never have been published.

My other question is, does it make a difference what sort of audience a journal has? I read some LJs that seem to me to be highly public (eg [livejournal.com profile] misia, [livejournal.com profile] ginmar, [livejournal.com profile] ozarque, [livejournal.com profile] papersky). I don't know any of these people personally, and more to the point, they have a large readership (in the hundreds) of people who also don't know them personally. In effect, they're minor celebrities. Should the standards for these journals be different from journals that are mostly read by a few tens of people who have some direct relationship with the writer? If so, how to decide whether a journal fits into the 'public' or the 'personal' category?

One heartening thing, in amongst all this depressing drama: I really love [livejournal.com profile] ozarque's response to someone who was pursuing a discussion in a way that seemed inappropriate to her. Whether or not one agrees with her assessment is not, I think, important here. I really admire the way she's handled the situation.

Given the complexity of the stuff I've rambled on about behind the cut, it's likely that at some point people are going to end up offending eachother. And what then? I've seen too many people recently slinging nasty insults at the person who offended them, whether it's for attacking them directly or for moving the discussion to their own space. Surprisingly enough, this just amplifies the drama and makes everyone look bad.

[livejournal.com profile] ozarque's approach isn't perfect; it hasn't completely defused the situation. But it has made it possible for her to continue the discussion she wants to have without getting sidetracked into a flame war. And to me, it reads as being extremely respectful of someone who is taking a different approach from hers, and that's something I find particularly admirable and would hope to imitate myself if I ever have to deal with such a situation.

Today is the 41st day, making 5 complete weeks and 6 days of the Omer.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 12:16 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (brooding G'kar)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
This is one of those perennial LJ problems, isn't it? I don't believe you read [livejournal.com profile] metafandom, but there was some interesting discussion a couple of months back - try here and here.

What I've seen done a number of times is someone posting a short comment response to a post they feel strongly about, then commenting again to say "oh, and I've posted my thoughts in my own journal here". I think this is the best of both worlds, really - you can respond at full length, without dragging the comments off-topic; it extends the discussion; it allows you to bring your friends into it without seeming partisan; etc.

I think the idea of treating a strange journal as you would traditional print media is probably not a good idea. While journals are public, of course, they don't have that level of detachment, yet. At least, not usually. LJ is always, I think, more personal than those media, and also than Usenet. Because Usenet really *is* a public space - anyone can post there, there's no concept of privacy, friendslists or the like. You can say whatever you like, anyone can read it, and anyone can respond to it. There's much more structure in LJ.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 12:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cakmpls.livejournal.com
What I've seen done a number of times is someone posting a short comment response to a post they feel strongly about, then commenting again to say "oh, and I've posted my thoughts in my own journal here".

That's what I usually do. I make enough response in the other person's LJ to show the direction of my thoughts, then give notice that there is more in my own LJ. So far, no one has taken offense--at least not anywhere that I know about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
I don't quite see why posting a lengthy comment to someone's post would be considered to be taking the discussion off-topic. I mean, assuming that the comment is about the post itself. Surely the point of making posts about contentious subjects is to instigate discussion in the comments? I wouldn't be offended as such if someone did this to me, but I'd be a bit non-plussed and find it quite inconvenient to have to continue the discussion in their journal when it started in mine.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cakmpls.livejournal.com
This is precisely the LJ problem: people having differing expectations and preferences. There's no way to satisfy and please everyone.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
But why would anyone be annoyed by a polite disagreement in a comment to their post? That's what puzzles me.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cakmpls.livejournal.com
Questions that start "Why would anyone . . ." can't be answered in general, but only for a specific individual. Just accept that some people are indeed annoyed by such disagreement. They don't want to be disagreed with. Or they see their LJ as their diary, and diaries can't talk back. Or . . .

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 06:16 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (gimli)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
I wasn't meaning so much a general response. But, say, you posted something about the Make Poverty History, and [livejournal.com profile] knirrir and I got into an argument about the pros and cons of capitalism as a social policy in the comments... I might want to take it elsewhere, because it's not directly relevant to your post, and I would find it a little rude to pursue a full discussion of a different topic entirely on your journal. Plus, if I was arguing properly, things could get a little heated, in which case again taking it elsewhere seems polite.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
I remember, ironically enough, [livejournal.com profile] livredor and another friend of mine having a very long theological discussion that was very tangential to a post I'd made and I really didn't mind in the slightest. One of the main reasons I make journal entries is so that discussion happens and I don't object at all to any interesting discussion whether or not it's directly relevant to my original post. The only exception I'd make is when two people start flirting/bantering/being soppy in comments to my journal. In that sort of scenario, I think I'd expect the commenters in question to add to the bottom of a comment "Oh, Shreena, do you mind us discussing this here? If so, we'll take it to e-mail."

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
Bah. Above comment not very clear. Reverse the order of the last two sentences and you'll get what I meant..

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-05 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
I still find it very difficult to understand the mentality of someone who'd be offended by this sort of thing. But perhaps that's just because I've yet to come across anyone like this on Livejournal or, indeed, anywhere else.

Personally, the settings features on livejournal make me feel as though, if someone has posted publically when they could have locked, have allowed comments from non-friends when they could not have, haven't stated up front that the post in question is a rant or outpouring that they don't want debate about right now, etc, then they have no right whatsoever to be offended by any polite disagreement that I might make to their post. Particularly if the post is on a naturally contentious subject such as the traditional trio of politics, sex and religion. If someone did take offence, I think it would likely indicate that they were a person whose opinion would be of little consequence to me. But perhaps I'm being snobbish..

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-06 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
I had intended to post to this thread, but you have expressed the opinion I hold well enough that I do not see having anything to add here.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-09 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rysmiel.livejournal.com
It is different in that I am doing my own thing with all due care taken for civility. I am very unlikely to make a personal attack in any case, and I can see no circumstance in which I might do so on the journal of some person whom I don't know.

However, engaging with an idea is a different thing. Engaging with a stupid or actively harmful idea strikes me as a morally positive thing to do - and one of the principles I am both coming from and actively trying to promulgate is that being able to tell the difference between a personal attack on you and the rejection of an idea that you hold is important, and that a priori by definition conflating the two is... pretty childish, really. If an idea is somewhere I can read, it's fair game. That's what honest communication means.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shreena.livejournal.com
because you're taking the discussion away from them. And I've seen exactly this approach lead to drama: you're bitching about me in your space instead of mine, just because all your sheep-like friends are going to back you up! If you want to challenge me you should do it here where I feel comfortable replying!

Heh. That's not precisely my objection, it's more that I simply don't think that that leads to a very productive discussion. I mean, if I post something and you disagree and post to your own journal about it, do I make another post to reply to you and you another to reply to my reply etc until we both get bored? It just chops the discussion up needlessly and makes it much harder for anyone else to join in - which post do they reply to or should they make another post in their own journal? Fundamentally, I guess, my objection is that I just don't see the point. If you write a long comment on someone else's journal that you think your own friends' list might be interested in, there's nothing preventing you reposting it for the benefit of those who've not seen it but trying to pursue discussions without using the comment feature seems destined to be highly confusing.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 01:36 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I got tangled in the realization that you don't actually know [livejournal.com profile] papersky, and somewhat distracted from the actual content here. On the other hand, that may have some utility as well: it's easy to assume that if I know A, B, and C, and A knows B and C, B and C must know each other.

I'm fairly sure that the answer to this is a big, hairy "it depends," where the things it depends on include individual personality, the nature of the disagreement, and how well those involved know each other and how they are connected.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyssiae.livejournal.com
If someone writes something that insults me then if it's so niggling that I have to do something about it, I'll make a locked post in my LJ and don't mention names.

I don't often find myself in that kind of situation; the world is a bitchy place and there isn't much of it that won't take delight in pissing off someone like me. But when something does get to me then I accept both that I need somewhere to vent about it and that the person doing the pissing in the first place isn't going to appreciate me doing so to all and sundry.

This is slightly different to the situation that you outlined, though, where an opinion is expressed that I disagree with. In such cases whether I reply - and I will usually do so as a reply to the original post or comment - depends on whether the issue is important enough that I think a contribution from me will help the discussion at all. If there seems to be a real point that is unlikely to be brought up by someone else, I will say something; if it's more about my feathers being ruffled by someone being obnoxious, I'll go and do some knitting or something.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-05 10:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyssiae.livejournal.com
I think you're someone who takes disagreement, especially on issues you feel strongly about, more to heart than many of my friends list.

You're quite right, I do take things personally much easier not only than other people, but also than I did when I was younger. Like many things it's not a downside so long as it's not out of control.

So the direct method. There's a lot to be said for that, as long as you have a means to deal with it if it does degenerate into a flame war.

Indeed. The thoughts I outlined in my first comment (some scrutiny about what the motivation behind my opinion actually is - me being annoyed or me actually being constructive) are what I use to hopefully prevent my contribution becoming a gateway for flames in the first place. If a fire does break out then I try to apply the first criterion even more stringently - I don't like backing away from a tussle solely because it's there, but there is definitely a point beyond which me re-stating my point yet again isn't going to help.

There is a definitely a question about whether my contribution is valuable to the original poster; where I'm not sure of this, that's when I'm more inclined to start a new thread in my own journal.

This makes a lot of sense to me and I think it overlaps somewhat with my way of approaching things. Probably this stems from some issues that previous commenters have spoken about above - whether LJ is a personal space, or a public discussion forum, or somewhere inbetween.

Each person surely has a slightly different take on their own LJ-space, and it's good to know where that person stands individually when taking part in discussions on as post of his - I see each person's post as being somehow his "property" and I'd act with due regard to his preferences when replying to it. Of course this isn't possible if you've only come across the thread by a link that appeared in a large community that you're a member of, for example.

It's difficult to generalise over a situation like this, but I'll try to anyway. In the first instance, given that what I want to say will actually do some good, I'll comment on the original post/comment and continue there. There is a point, though, where, if I need to, I'll take my further reactions to my own LJ. This is in fact what happened when you began a discussion here about Feminism a while ago; I didn't start the post in my LJ because of any high-running emotions here, but simply because I felt more comfortable doing so that way, and I understood that you wouldn't mind me "snitching" your topic, as it were.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-04 11:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pw201.livejournal.com
One of the things which annoys me about LJ when compared to other discussion systems (like Usenet) is how difficult it is to follow the thread of a discussion. So, when I see a posting I'd like to comment on, I comment as a reply to that posting. If it's not obvious how I found the journal, I might say something like "I saw you on the Cantabrigiensis friends list" so the person isn't alarmed by my suddenly appearing, as if by magic.

I can then follow the discussion by visiting that one journal entry. I've told LJ to email me when someone replies to an entry or a comment of mine, but that doesn't help with following discussions where people other than me are saying interesting things. If they ever get around to letting us tell LJ that we're interested in new comments on other people's postings, that'd fix some of the annoyance, but I still find LJ rather clumsy compared to Usenet (for instance, LJ doesn't remember which comments I've already read). I'm here for the people rather than for the greatness of the interface.

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-05 09:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coalescent.livejournal.com
(for instance, LJ doesn't remember which comments I've already read)

I think there might be a partial way around this using summary mode. I'm sure I've seen someone's view where it made it clear whether there were new comments since the last time she checked, though not how many. Given that 'recent comments' exists, it should be possible for someone to implement it, anyway, shouldn't it?

Re: Manners maketh man

Date: 2005-06-05 06:03 am (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
From: [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
this is precisely why i still prefer usenet, and will probably prefer it til the end of days. LJ is nowhere as good for public discussion, to start with because its technology doesn't support ongoing in-depth discussion. most other blogs are even worse because they don't have threading, which is at least a small nod in the direction of people who actually want to keep track of different strands of the discussion. what's worse, LJ has people who think nothing of it to make totally public posts, ban anyone who disagrees with them in comments, and continue to bitch about it and increase the drema (and follow you to your own journal should you dare to post your own views on the issue there because at that point you're obviously getting your friends all het up to harass the other person). *bleagh*.

by now i basically try and stay away from anything that smells like drama. and that means that i have involved, and possibly heated discussions only with people i know really well, or where i have the strong impression that they can handle a free exchange of ideas without throwing a temper tantrum like a 3-year old.

ozarque is very polite. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-06 06:08 am (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
From: [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
spam? it mostly gets cancelled these days; i just ignore what gets through (or cancel it myself in the moderated groups i maintain). new, interesting people just show up, and join the discussions in progress. all i do in that regard is add my contributions to making those discussions interesting, and maintaining a certain amount of civility without getting too mealy-mouthed. i am very selective about the groups in which i've participated over the years, and i have an excellent newsreader; all those things make a big difference.

on LJ it's harder to find interesting people, and there is a greater bias -- here i mostly meet those people (like you :) through people i already know. that could be different if i were to participate more in communities, but i tend to be a lurker who reads those only in spurts because the technology is too cumbersome. mind, i am not saying LJ sucks; it doesn't. i learn a lot more about people i already know if they write with some consistency about their personal lives and the things that concern them, without the topic limitation of usenet. said topic limitation is at once a strength of usenet for the exchange of ideas, but also a drawback for me personally. once i know a bunch of people who're smart, thoughtful, and expressive, i tend to want to talk to them about anything and everything, and then the topic restriction becomes a problem.

there was a "probably" in that statement you find dangerous. :) i am not claiming usenet is perfect (*gah*, no!), just that in more than two decades nothing better has come along for me, and from what people seem to concentrate on (more bells and whistles for prettification), few who can make things happen are interested in the same things i'm interested in. and then there is inertia -- usenet II didn't fully make it out of the primordial soup, and that wasn't a bad plan at all. usenet itself is being improved, just at a snail's pace (the IETF working groups are some of the slowest grist mills i've ever seen).

a person convinces me that they can handle a free exchange of ideas by demonstrating it in ongoing discussions. it doesn't really take all that much, but i definitely expect more from people than the average LJer, judging from my experiences on the abuse team -- 3 of the people on your list are clearly capable of it, 1 of them lost me because she wasn't. you manage it just fine IMO, as do most people on my flist. i strongly select for rationality and lack of drama. :) not lack of passion, mind. i like passion.

i haven't figured it out about ozarque -- but what matters is that she is definitely capable of directing the discussion so it stays fruitful and doesn't waste itself in flamewars, and she's very quick about it too. she's a bit too much on the polite side for my taste, which means i have to fight against a certain prejudice (i'm somewhat distrustful of southern-US politeness; it can seem phony to me).

(no subject)

Date: 2005-06-06 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angeyja.livejournal.com
on LJ it's harder to find interesting people, and there is a greater bias -- here i mostly meet those people (like you :) through people i already know.

I find this too, and also depending on readership and comfort levels and other things, it can slant responses or discussions. This could be my misreading, of course.

that could be different if i were to participate more in communities, but i tend to be a lurker who reads those only in spurts because the technology is too cumbersome

I found the lack of an ability to thread between journals awkward, and also that the communities don't seem to take off as the few posting boards I was involved in. I wasn't as heavy a user of usenet which may be in part my lateness online and in part that they are harder for me to read.

i haven't figured it out about ozarque -- but what matters is that she is definitely capable of directing the discussion so it stays fruitful and doesn't waste itself in flamewars, and she's very quick about it too. she's a bit too much on the polite side for my taste, which means i have to fight against a certain prejudice (i'm somewhat distrustful of southern-US politeness; it can seem phony to me).

I am a northerner, northern Ohio and upstate NY, who has also lived for a time in Cincy and Oklahoma, near the Texas border, Louisiana, and Reykjavik. I don't think it is just Southern. There are stylistic differences between posters and what comprises good discussion for them. There's soemthing that wants to come out abut results and different orientations also but I don't have the right words for it yet.

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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