• Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Here are a few suggestions for improving the quality of the forum.

    1) Rename the Lounge as Conversations, and then put all the threads filled with quick back and forth in there, that is, most of the threads on the forum. Make a single safe place for all of us to fire off our insanely clever little one liner gotcha come back blurb thingies as fast as we can type. But don't confuse such day to day conversational patterns with philosophy by allowing such exchanges to dominate the forum. Make this section readable only by registered members, as I think may already be the case.

    2) Make the Articles section the dominant section of the forum. This is what new visitors should see upon visiting the forum. The point here is to elevate the standards for the most visible section of the forum, thus attracting new high quality members. If we are serious about attracting the most interesting thinkers and writers, we shouldn't be requiring them to wade through tons of threads which are below their level of ability for the simple reason that they won't bother.

    3) Standardize the format for articles. As example, each article should be required to begin with a title which summarizes the goal of the article in a single sentence. Below the title should be a one paragraph summary which expands on the title a bit. Perhaps arguments within the article can be numbered. Such a format would both help readers immediately identify what the article is about, and more importantly perhaps, require authors to think more carefully about what they wish to share.

    4) New article submissions should go first to an editor for review. If the submission passes review it goes in the Articles section. If it doesn't meet the defined standards for articles, it goes in the Conversation area.

    5) Change the primary focus of the forum from the "water cooler model" to the "magazine model". The Conversation area is for free speech and democratic inclusion, ie. the water cooler model. The priority for the Article area is quality of thinking and writing, ie. the philosophy magazine model. Everybody is free to submit articles to the editor, but only the best get published.

    6) A major focus of the community should be to find new interesting participants. Everyone can participate in this project. It's either that, or you can read me blab on about the "nature of thought" five thousand more times until you die of incurable boredom. :-) Seriously, quality new members are in every one's interests, so this could be a project we can unite around.

    7) All of the above is totally wrong, it's bad, it's idiotic, it will never work, it will never happen, there are too many problems to begin to list, and it's simply literally impossible for anyone to make any suggestion about the forum which the mods and other members have not already thought of years ago. This forum must exactly mimic the format of all other forums on the Internet and no other configuration is desirable, possible, or moral. :-)
  • Jack Cummins
    1k
    I
    I think that the suggestions you make would be the worst possibility, mainly the idea of dividing it into accepted articles and conversations. This is because it would mean that any full discussion would have to be approved officially, almost like having to get published. All else would be just seen as conversation and just be lounge material, as if encouraging only superficial material.

    I would also say that the idea of articles depends on what device you are reading them from. When I am reading on my phone the font on the couple of articles was not easy to read at all.

    I have looked at some other forums and not bothered to join because they seem to have less freedom than this one. I am worried that you are seeking to divide 'quality' which weaves in and out of discussion. It would also create a hierarchy or division between the writers of articles and those who are just in conversations.

    As far as new members are concerned they can obviously decide for themselves if they want to participate but the main thing I believe is that they feel listened to. I think I was fortunate that in the first few times I logged in I was treated with some sensitivity. I think that the main thing is that we listen to what people are saying, especially with people who are new to the site.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    This is because it would mean that any full discussion would have to be approved officially, almost like having to get published.Jack Cummins

    Yes, exactly like having to get published. Thus, the editor(s) will be careful about what articles they publish, as they should be. There's no way around this. If the goal is quality, there has to be editing. There is no magic bullet solution which will inspire the best writers to participate here while allowing everyone and anyone to say whatever they want.

    If editing the conversations under an article is considered too time consuming for staff, it may be possible to make the article writer the mod of that thread, thus shifting the burden of editing comments on to them as a condition of being published prominently. If they drop the ball or wander off etc, then their future articles may be declined.

    I have looked at some other forums and not bothered to join because they seem to have have less freedom than this one.Jack Cummins

    In my proposal there would still be plenty of freedom, in the Conversation area. Nobody is taking away freedom, we just wouldn't be rewarding mediocre and worse content by giving it prominent display.

    We might keep this in mind. This is a particular kind of forum. A philosophy forum. Not just any forum. A philosophy forum.

    My suggestions above would not be appropriate on the vast majority of forums. Who needs editors on a Britney Spears fan club forum?

    Also, food for thought. If we were challenged to raise our game to the very best that we can do, and were rewarded when we succeeded, we just might become better writers.
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    I am not saying that I don't want to see quality material but that in having to submit work it would destroy all the spontaneity and probably drive many away. I would certainly not have taken part in the site at all if it had been devised in this way because I do not see myself as a professional and would not have the confidence to submit. It would be like submitting for 'Philosophy Now'. Yes, I could have taken part in the lounge conversations but I probably would not have bothered because it would be just like being a nobody in the audience.

    If everything had to be scrutinised, who would do it.?There are the moderators but they would be working night and day, so who we become the new judges. If it became established members of the site that would certainly be elitist, even if it were just the moderators, and it could become a clique.

    I would say that I do think we should do the best we can but I do believe that it is not just about writing fully fledged articles, but involving others in collaborative discussions because philosophy is such a wide topic with so many aspects and angles.
  • praxis
    3.1k
    It's either that, or you can read me blab on about the "nature of thought" five thousand more times until you die of incurable boredom.Hippyhead

    Why not put an end to this and start a topic that explores your nature of thought, using the “magazine model” or whatever model you like.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    I am not saying that I don't want to see quality material but that in having to submit work it would destroy all the spontaneity and probably drive many away.Jack Cummins

    Yes, it would drive many away, agreed. My point is only that the mass publishing of a lot of junk drives many away too. They come in off a Google search, immediately find a bunch of crap, hit the back button and are lost to us forever.

    I would certainly not have taken part in the site at all if it had been devised in this way

    Again, in my proposal the Conservation area would allow you to do everything you're doing now. You just wouldn't be published above the fold unless you met the standards established by the editor, which I'm guessing you could meet if it interested you to do so. Maybe you'd have to work harder, and maybe that would be a good thing?

    Yes, I could have taken part in the lounge conversations but I probably would not have bothered because it would be just like being a nobody in the audience.Jack Cummins

    Well, hate to break it to you, but you are a nobody. Me too. Few of us actually care too much about what others are writing, except to find something we can use to fuel our own writing. Not saying that's good or bad, but it is largely the reality of philosophy forums. Point being, being published above the fold doesn't automatically make anyone take us seriously.

    If everything had to be scrutinised, who would do it.?Jack Cummins

    That's a good question. If no one will do it, then we'll just have to settle for a forum that's pretty much exactly like every other forum on the Net.

    If this thread was started and pushed hard by the forum owner, I might very well volunteer to be an editor for free. But managing the status quo is not of interest here. And whether I would be judged a qualified editor is of course another question we don't have an answer to.

    Here's another pitch. There are about a billion sites online which are very similar in form to this one. What's the point of being just another site replicating what everyone else is already doing?

    BTW, thanks for engaging. I don't really expect this thread to go much of anywhere, so you can probably rest easy and not trouble yourself with too much concern.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Why not put an end to this and start a topic that explores your nature of thought, using the “magazine model” or whatever model you like.praxis

    Why one or the other? Why not both?

    As you know, I've already written on the nature of thought about a hundred times. At least the way I discuss it, the subject appears to not be of much interest. But that's ok. Perhaps I suck at explaining it, that could very well be the case. A solution could be to bring in many more writers who can do a better job of engaging readers.

    The thing is, we can't attract many more better writers until the existing content of the forum is raised to a higher level. Or at least until the existing content is organized so that the good stuff is front and center, and the not so good stuff is hidden away somewhere where it won't distract and discourage new prospects.
  • Philosophim
    529
    These are not bad suggestion Hippyhead, but it is a different model from what the forum is intended to be. Perhaps you should start your own philosophy forum with the ideas you have outlined? I mean this seriously and not as an insult. Fundamental differences in beliefs and the purpose of forums are why new one's are created all the time.
  • praxis
    3.1k
    I've already written on the nature of thought about a hundred times. At least the way I discuss it, the subject appears to not be of much interest. But that's ok. Perhaps I suck at explaining it, that could very well be the case.Hippyhead

    Isn’t it reasonable to think that if we can’t explain something that we don’t understand it well? Discussing it in a new topic may help you better understand it, and perhaps spare the forum from ‘the way you discuss it’ in the future.

    I’m interested in the subject and I think other views and understandings may help me understand it better. If I were to start it I’d need to figure out a way to make it compelling enough to encourage engagement.
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    I know that you wish to end the conversation but I do think that there is some quality discussion on the site and you have not found it such junk as to stop logging in all together. I think that it would be sad if it became like Reddit and I am sure that I write plenty that is not that good. However, I do believe that the more we write helps us develop our writing and philosophy skills. it is enables us all explore our ideas, rather than leaving philosophy in the hands of the academic elite.
  • Gnomon
    1.2k
    Here are a few suggestions for improving the quality of the forum.Hippyhead
    I agree that most of your suggestions would improve the quality of this free-form forum. But it might also eliminate non-professional philosophers like me. I assume that there are forums out there that do have more formal requirements for submission. But the ones I've looked at are way over my head. So, although most threads on TPF eventually trail-off into gotchas and one-liners, we are not forced to follow those snipe-shots all the way to the whimpering end of the flame war. That's exactly why I seldom jump-in to threads over a couple of pages long. However, perhaps the mods of TPF could spin-off a sister forum for more formal presentation of essays & articles, followed by commentary The Formal Philosophy Forum. :smile:
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    But it might also eliminate non-professional philosophers like me.Gnomon

    I also have no philosophy training. We would NOT be eliminated. Say it again, we wouldn't be eliminated. Our posts would just be re-organized in to a less visible area, unless we could meet standards set by the editors. What those standards might be is an important area of examination.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    These are not bad suggestion Hippyhead, but it is a different model from what the forum is intended to be.Philosophim

    Yes, it's a different model than what is here currently, that's of course true. It's also different than the vast majority of forums, also true. And to me, that's what makes it interesting to consider. But of course, that doesn't automatically make it interesting to anyone else.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    I know that you wish to end the conversationJack Cummins

    I don't wish to end it. I just know from long experience where it is headed. Nowhere. And that's ok, no problem. I just enjoy exploring ideas, that's all.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    rather than leaving philosophy in the hands of the academic eliteJack Cummins

    Please note that I've made no mention of the academic elite, whom I personally do not judge to be elite at all.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Isn’t it reasonable to think that if we can’t explain something that we don’t understand it well?praxis

    It's also reasonable to consider that the audience may not be capable of understanding a particular topic and there's not really anything the author, perhaps any author, can do about that. The limitations can exist on all sides of the conversation. Sometimes such limitations must just be cheerfully accepted.

    I’m interested in the subject and I think other views and understandings may help me understand it better.praxis

    Yes, my point exactly, other views may help us understand the topic better. There are many people all over the world who write on such topics, and I'm sure many of them do so better than myself and others on the forum addressing such topics.

    Without some organized effort to attract quality new members then all of us are basically stuck reading the same people saying pretty much the same things over and over again for years. It might be fun to take on the challenge of addressing this limitation of our experience here. Or, it might simply be too threatening a process of change to survive here.
  • Brett
    3k


    I think the problems this forum is facing can be solved pretty easily.

    First of all it’s a philosophy forum, not a social justice forum. So any subject should be able to be raised and discussed without rabid, sanctimonious pushback.

    On the Trump OP I once asked Michael why the aggressive and accusatory attitudes of so many were accepted in posts and he said that a political OP was a different sort of OP than others. Well look what it’s led to. A lot of those attitudes have flooded over as standard into other OPs. So I think the mods have let everyone down. Just look at my OP on leftist domination. The posts have gone way off topic and there’s no comment from the mods.

    People like StreetlightX should be given a number of warnings about personal attacks then they’re suspended for a time. In fact StreetlightX should not be a mod. He’s intelligent but he regularly resorts to personal attacks and derails conversations. There’s a few others who do the same. They have to be managed.

    A lot of the OPs have become pretty lame and yet they’re allowed. So standards aren’t being set.

    My OP about leftist domination was not that they disagreed with me but how they went about it, and they responded to my OP in the same way again and were ignored by the mods.

    Ironically, in light of the poll, it appears we cannot have total freedom without some sort of regulation. Otherwise we get anarchy, which is where we’re going now.
  • Brett
    3k


    When I look back at the OPs I’ve put up in the past I can see genuine debate going on. There was still the push back on occasions but it wasn't so vituperative as it is now. Also, Biden would occasionally chip in with some comment to straighten out poor philosophy. Poor OPs were often moved to the lounge and posters were reminded of the quality in writing an OP that was expected. There was more personal input and management from Baden.
  • praxis
    3.1k
    Isn’t it reasonable to think that if we can’t explain something that we don’t understand it well?
    — praxis

    It's also reasonable to consider that the audience may not be capable of understanding a particular topic and there's not really anything the author, perhaps any author, can do about that. The limitations can exist on all sides of the conversation. Sometimes such limitations must just be cheerfully accepted.
    Hippyhead

    I don't believe that you believe that none can understand your ideas about that nature of thought.

    I’m interested in the subject and I think other views and understandings may help me understand it better.
    — praxis

    Yes, my point exactly, other views may help us understand the topic better. There are many people all over the world who write on such topics, and I'm sure many of them do so better than myself and others on the forum addressing such topics.

    Without some organized effort to attract quality new members then all of us are basically stuck reading the same people saying pretty much the same things over and over again for years. It might be fun to take on the challenge of addressing this limitation of our experience here. Or, it might simply be too threatening a process of change to survive here.
    Hippyhead

    Having just read the OP, unless I've misunderstood it seems that all you're suggesting is to make the FORUM link on the top menu only visible to registered users and to publish rejected articles to the forum. Anyone can scout out and invite new members as it is.

    My guess is that it would only decrease new membership because many would be put-off by having to register before seeing the forum. You may notice that there's only one article published to date and the forum has existed for something like six years.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    People like StreetlightX should be given a number of warnings about personal attacks then they’re suspended for a time. In fact StreetlightX should not be a mod.Brett

    This might be addressed by confining such posters to the Conversation area. They don't necessarily need to be banned, but just removed from public view so that when new people arrive on the forum they aren't immediately confronted with an ego shit show. Once new people join the forum they can see the Conversation area, and if they with to participate there they can make that choice.

    This is just a guess, but I suspect Street is a mod because no one else is willing to do the job. If true I'd speculate that this is because former mods understandably became bored with managing what is often a junior high school ego shit show. And now with fewer mods of lower quality, the ego shit show stuff gets worse. Such a race to the bottom is extremely common across the forum realm.

    So, we face a choice of accepting the decline with a smile, or doing something to rescue the situation. I go back and forth on that myself.
  • Brett
    3k


    I was wondering about the situation with mods. I’m sympathetic to their situation. But Baden and StreetlightX aren’t doing anything, neither is Michael, or even Hanover. Not that it’s my intention to lump them together. Actually no one seems to be doing anything.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    I don't believe that you believe that none can understand your ideas about that nature of thought.praxis

    Whether readers can understand is largely unknown here. It does seem true that this topic routinely fails to engage. That used to frustrate me, but lately I'm learning not to worry about it too much.

    Having just read the OP, unless I've misunderstood it seems that all you're suggesting is to make the FORUM link on the top menu only visible to registered users and to publish rejected articles to the forum.praxis

    Basically, yes. Existing users wouldn't see that much change. But, ANY change is typically unwelcome.

    Anyone can scout out and invite new members as it is.praxis

    True that. But we rarely if ever do that because we don't care enough about the forum to bother. At least in part that could be because in it's current form the forum quite often doesn't merit caring about.

    I don't see this as a problem with this forum specifically so much as it is a problem with the "water cooler" publishing model that almost every forum uses. That model is a recipe for content quality decline, as we see on pretty much every site built upon user generated content.

    My guess is that it would only decrease new membership because many would be put-off by having to register before seeing the forum.praxis

    Read the proposal again please. In that proposal, the publicly visible section of the forum would be dominated by edited content. Articles approved by an editor, and comments approved by the thread starter. This is the same publishing model used by every TV station, every radio station, every print publication etc. Only in the land of social media is edited content considered to be a radical proposal.

    A key challenge we've not yet addressed is that forums have long ago been branded as junk piles by the more interesting thinkers and writers. It may be too ambitious to think that justified bias can be overcome, I could see that point.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Actually no one seems to be doing anything.Brett

    That seems a reasonable theory. I don't know what the behind the scenes situation is, so I'm just speculating. If your theory is generally correct, then we might explore why no one wants to be a mod, or at least act like a mod.

    My theory, again just speculation, is that the mods have become bored with ruling over what is so often just an ego food fight. If true, I can certainly understand that as I'd feel the same way.
  • Brett
    3k


    If your theory is generally correct, then we might explore why no one wants to be a mod, or at least act like a mod.Hippyhead

    The mods are always present but they never make their presence felt.

    Edit: Baden is the administrator. He was very good once.
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    I think that we have to take responsibility for what we write rather than leave it to the mods. Surely we don't want them to have to keep intervening like some government.

    I personally want to read good philosophy discussion and the problem is when people are just having petty arguments or ranting their own views. I do not log in to the couple of political forum threads that were opened in the last week because I know that it is going to be about people ranting or attacking one another. But of course you are right that when people who are new see this they are likely to be put off.

    We are meant to be asking questions and even this one is not. It is for debate but surely it might have been better if you had put it in the lounge, especially if it just ends up saying how inadequate the site is that would put people off. Why don't you start a really stimulating discussion in the way you recommend instead, to inspire others and raise the level of expectation, so that people have something to gravitate towards and the ones which are chit chat become less popular. Really, I think you raise important points but we are the ones who should be making the site better not just the moderators.
  • five G
    37


    I like the clash-of-personalities model better than the magazine model. What my books can't give me is an unpredictable collision of hundreds of personalities.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    I like the clash-of-personalities model better than the magazine model. What my books can't give me is an unpredictable collision of hundreds of personalities.five G

    To clarify (again) there's nothing about what I've suggested which prevents a clash of personalities.

    Also, my suggestions do not require a choice between the water cooler model and the magazine model, but instead make both available. All my suggestions do is reorganize the relationship between the two models so that the magazine model is above the fold, and the water cooler model is below the fold. The point of this is to make it more likely that you will be able to witness collisions between more interesting personalities.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Surely we don't want them to have to keep intervening like some government.Jack Cummins

    Surely I do want such intervening. If the goal were to raise the quality of content on average, there is no other option.

    Again, such intervening doesn't have to happen everywhere. The Conversation area can be much as what we have now. If someone wishes to call me a dimwit piece of shit clueless asshole who has no fucking clue etc, they can still do that, in the Conversation area. :-)
  • five G
    37

    It's true that you don't eliminate the water cooler.

    Maybe some posters are being scared off by low quality posts. I don't know. I have sometimes wonder why this place doesn't have thousands of active users. The interface is the best I've seen. Perhaps most scholarly types are just too busy or proud to expose themselves to the peanut gallery. I can imagine academics not wanting to waste their valuable time posting here when they should be working on a paper that will advance their career.

    Anonymity is crucial. You can play with ideas at minimal risk but can't take credit for your ideas. Who does that model fit? Is this place not a massive wall for interactive graffiti? I suppose your article idea wouldn't really hurt that, but what comes to mind for me are long opening posts that don't really invite conversation. As I see it, a paragraph or two is ideal...just enough to stir responses. Posters can link to papers in their profiles.

    I'm not against your idea. Some sort of image control could bring in more posters, and it wouldn't hurt my feelings to be hidden in the background.
  • Garth
    112
    Your ideas are good ones, which is precisely why we shouldn't implement them. Refer to my post Against Excellence for the reasons.
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Maybe some posters are being scared off by low quality posts. I don't know.five G

    I do know. A key problem is that many of the most interesting writers were scared off of forums years ago. You know, forums have a serious brand problem with many people. This is a big challenge and I don't have a super clever solution to it.

    The interface is the best I've seenfive G

    Agreed, and 1) I've been looking at forums for 20 years, and 2) coded my own forum system from scratch and 3) am absurdly fussy about interface issues.

    and it wouldn't hurt my feelings to be hidden in the background.five G

    I think the next step for my posts is to further define an article section as I imagine it. It seems we should be able to conceive of an article section so that the public face of the forum is considerably improved, while still offering an opportunity to many existing posters, if we just raise our games a bit.

    Coming up next...
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