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Allowing Freer Discourse in the Watering Hole

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Amin Sabet, Sep 2, 2011.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Some of the longstanding members here may recall all the negative things which went down last June, leading to the rule about "No Politics or Religion" restricting even discussion of "Photographer's Rights". I think we're in a better place right now, and I want to open up this can of worms again, at least to open discussion.

    The question is whether we should open up the "Watering Hole" forum to "broader topical and emotional latitude" (to borrow a term from GetDPI) or leave things as they are.

    We have two goals which are at odds with one another:
    1. Allowing freer discourse for our members is clearly a positive, especially since certain photography-related topics are intrinsically political
    2. Allowing such discourse will create more moderator work, and more importantly, we create the potential for blow-ups and hurt feelings that can affect the greater site. Many of us have been on forums affected by this, and I guarantee you that some good members will leave the site and never come back after a contentious political discussion.

    I do not think we can allow "photography-related politics" without allowing more general discussion of politics. It's a line that is tough to moderate.

    If we do "open up" this particular forum, some safeguards will be put in place.
    1. We'd keep all "Watering Hole" threads off the Active/Recent discussions, so people who wanted to ignore the whole forum could do so.
    2. Members would need X (to be determined) number of posts to post there, thus keeping newly registered trouble makers from stirring the pot.

    Please note that your vote in this poll will be PUBLIC - everyone can see who voted for what.

    Please vote AND comment.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    My own thoughts on this is that these are really two different topics. I don't think the discussion of Politics or Religion, in general, belong here.

    In regards to Photographer's rights, on the other had, is about photography. The problem as always is that these sorts of discussions can get political or even personal. I think the same thing can be said about gear too, however. Mu-43 as a whole is lucky to have very considerate members and never take things too far.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Hey Amin, I'm pretty sure what you have set up is ok. I've been here from the early stages and I've seen and heard all the debates over the ages. (very few which is great) But each time you've stood your ground and stuck it out even when other have chucked in the towel and left- because of their attitude. I know the topics you have left out of the discussions will bring up debates no matter how polite we are. It's just inevitable. I remember the time you were even considering leaving the forum because you had never dreamed it would turn into a discussion about moral ethics/or matters of disparage.

    I say mate, stick to what you want and don't compromise because of outside pressure. In the end, it is your house and we are just guests.

  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Icon, I really appreciate what you're saying. There were some things going on at that time that were stressing me about the site enormously behind the scenes, and those things are different now. I don't feel any outside pressure, but Alan, Nic and I try to always keep in mind ways of making this a better place for all the members. We appreciate everyone here and don't take anyone's contributions to this community for granted.
  5. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Kelly Gibbons
    I haven't been around that long, but this site is mack and I would leave it as-is. This forum has a positive vibe that seems rare nowadays. :2thumbs:
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  6. Caroline

    Caroline Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 4, 2010
    I appreciate that there are people here who would prefer to be able to discuss politics, religion and all those other contentious things, but having been on another (non-photography related) forum where heated but respectful political discussion turned into bullying and harassment, and being forced to leave as I was as a result then the target of some sustained and nasty personal attacks myself for pointing this out, I would rather this site stay as it is. It is one of the few forums I know where everyone is genuinely supportive of one another and any criticism offered is constructive and given out in good faith, with good grace and in a completely non-aggressive and non-personal manner.

    I also remember the initial posts on this forum which caused the discussion of religion and politics to be vetoed, and all I can say is I personally think that decision was a major factor in preventing things from going the way of the forum I had been forced to leave, as those with axes to grind or political points to score then simply left and went elsewhere. And whilst I'm sure there are very good reasons to suggest that opening up the site to political discussion may now not lead to such contentious postings, in my opinion, given my previous experience on the other forum, I feel it would be best to keep the rule as it is.

    Having said that, if the majority view is to open the forums up then I will obviously go along with that decision.

    • Like Like x 1
  7. c5karl

    c5karl Mu-43 Regular

    May 31, 2011
    Fairfax, Va., USA
    From a relative newbie who mostly lurks, for what it's worth:

    I voted don't care, only because if it's not in the Recent Discussions feed, I'll be oblivious either way.

    The one virtue that comes to mind: A "watering hole" board would give admins a place to move off-topic threads. Moving a thread to a different board rather than shutting a thread down (and having to field questions about why you shut it down) might be a nice middle-ground option.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. DekHog

    DekHog Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 3, 2011
    I realise this is probably down to me asking why a certain thread was closed but, TBH, I don't want religion/politics to be fair game for discussion.

    It would make a refreshing change away from the latest and greatest cameras/lenses to be able to discuss something like peoples personal experiences with the pixel police, but if it's going to off on a tangent and get 'real' politics involved I'd leave it as is.

    Yes, I could go elsewhere to read peoples experiences, but I'd much rather do it here if I could.

    C'est La Vie
    • Like Like x 1
  9. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Firstly, it is admirable that the administrators deemed it appropriate to include the greater µ4/3 community on this discussion.

    I am ambivalent on this subject. I am a huge proponent of free speech and 1st Amendment rights. In the marketplace of free ideas the truth will prevail.

    On the flip side, this forum is about photography and should not subject or lose members because of topics and discussions which are not critical to this forum's mission statement.

    I think that the administration's direction of separate but equal is a compromise which won't make any side happy ... which makes it a pretty good as far as compromises goes. Needless to say, while I agree with your direction, I think the separate room will generate little interest in political and religious discourse and these type of discussions would die a rapid and largely un-noticed death.


    PS- It would be interesting when non-photographic discussions rise, that the thread restarts/moves to the Watering Hole and all those with a dog in the fight can duke it out.
    • Like Like x 2
  10. PSimmons

    PSimmons Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 24, 2010
    Central Florida
    Too risky with an election year coming up. Someone is bound to take it down that dark depressing road. If we discuss "legal rights" of photogs then I think that's two different things.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I am of the opinion if you do not like the way a discussion is going then do not read it. Problem solved. If you cannot talk with people you disagree with you will never learn anything new.

    That said I have plenty of other forums where I can talk politics and religion, both of which I enjoy very much. I come here for photography. If a political or religious subject overlaps photography however I believe it could be fair game. I do look for people to act like adults and I expect the discussion to be self-policing.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    A priest, a rabbi and a government official walk into a bar.

    (long pause)

    You'd think the rabbi and the government official would have ducked after seeing the priest walk into the bar.

    *runs out of room before being pelted with rotten fruits and vegetables*

    Keep up the good work Admin and mods. I could care less as long as that nonsense stays out of the recent discussions section on the right. It's the only way I view the site.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Grinch

    Grinch Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2011
    My opinion aside...if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I am in favor of expanded permissible discussion, only because I do think it's important that we be able to discuss photographers' rights. Especially given that we've entered an era where photography is simultaneously ubiquitous like never before, and being cracked down upon at the same time.

    That said, my experience as a long-time moderator of another, very large internet forum suggests that this needs to be handled with strict and borderline arbitrary rules.
    * The moderators here -- you, Alan, whoever else has those privileges -- need to reserve the right to kill any political/religious thread at any time at your discretion without justification. If you leave a hole for people to argue about it, you'll get an ear-full. Be clear about it from the onset.
    * Limit the discussion to causes, not candidates. This is a discussion board, not a campaign stop, and that restricts the mess from getting out of hand.
    * A minimum post count, you've already covered this.
    * The ability to ban people from JUST the watering hole. This is a combination policy/technical consideration. There's a lot of people who will gravitate to these discussions and simply do NOT belong in them. They are often perfectly productive members otherwise. This way, you avoid giving people enough rope to hang themselves.

    And you need to be acutely aware that these discussions will tend to shift to poisonous if they don't die out first. That's just the nature of the beast, and it does require active moderation to draw the line. Mu-43 is, I think, on the small side so you're not likely to have the same scale of problems that I've been forced to deal with. But drawing the right rules at the beginning helps a lot.
    • Like Like x 3
  15. avidone

    avidone Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 24, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    I voted to leave it as it is. This site is one of very few which has the norm of basically everyone being friendly, helpful, and respectful. I have seen things deteriorate WAY too quickly, starting with little disagreements, on other sites of all sorts. It would be a shame to see that happen here.

    Freedom of speech is important, but as many people are noting now in different ways, the internet is not the same thing as the town common. Essentially anonymous commentary on an internet forum does not have the weight nor personal responsibility of standing in a public place, nor even of physically signing your name in a letter to the editor.

    Also, we have here people from all over and from all sorts of cultures, so a bit of restraint can be useful to avoid misunderstandings. Being a multi-cultural person (Israeli and growing up in the US and living most of my adult life in Europe), I can think of a very wide range of "culturally acceptable" especially when it comes to religion and politics. In Israel it is OK to have close friends with whom you yell back and forth and completely disagree with on religion and/or politics, without necessarily threatening your friendship. In the US, these subject areas can be taboo and disruptive even with your closest relatives. In various European countries, you might be able to have discussions, but only very carefully worded and following complex social restrictions. Then there is the whole rest of the world which must differ in a million other ways.

    That said, if the majority wish to have limited open discussions, I will just hope that we are all able to restrain ourselves and still be polite and respectful.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    I Amin,

    I'm like Grinch. Opinion on this matter aside, the current policy isn't broken. "Fixing" it is likely to open up another whole can of worms. Being among the long time users now, I'd advice to leave things as they are, there are lots of places elsewhere to voice one's opinion on those subjects.

    • Like Like x 1
  17. Rick Waldroup

    Rick Waldroup Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2009
    I voted for opening up the Watering Hole.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I don't have a strong preference here, but I think that as moderators, administrators, whatever, if you DO open it up, you're going to have to police it a lot and the policing to keep a delicate subject from getting out of hand is a lot tougher than the binary decision of whether a thread is OK or NOT OK, which is really where you are now.

    Having seen other forums where the mods have a nearly full time job maintaining order when topics morph from on-topic into politics (amazing how nearly ANYthing can turn political), I wouldn't wish it on you or ask you to do it. If folks want to see it opened up, I don't object to that either - I'm just suggesting that as administrators and moderators, your job could get a good deal tougher. So it should probably be YOUR call...

    • Like Like x 3
  19. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I have always believed this, but that is apparently not reflective of the society in which we live today. Americans in the 21st Century, as a group, seem to think they can, and should, only read publications, visit websites and watch news broadcasts that support the views they already have. In this respect, politics and religion are kind of the same thing. And the likelihood of convincing another person to alter their views is somewhere between "slim" and "none."

    That's why I grudgingly voted for keeping things the way they are. On the other hand, this site seems to be more reasonable than most and perhaps the bad apples have been purged. Safeguards against newly registered troublemakers might work.

    If Amin decides to try it, maybe he should go a week at a time. After maybe six weeks, let it go until the end of the year before making a final decision. But if things get ugly again, Amin should reserve the right to pull the plug on discussions about politics and religion without explanation or justification.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    IMHO, the only technically feasible solution would be to adopt something like Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters community moderation. I'll try to describe how it works below for the non-nerds :

    Stories or subjects are voluntarily submitted. A random panel votes on the submissions worthy of being displayed and a moderator decides ultimately if the story will make it mainstream.

    When the story gets accepted, comments are open to everyone and are never censored and not even removed. BUT again, a random panel gets moderating points - if you moderate comments on a story, you can't post yourself a comment on that subject to avoid "conflict of interest".

    You can up valuable comments or moderate into oblivion trolls and flamebaits.

    People choose to browse comments at a level. If you only want to see the most valuable inputs, you browse at +5, but if you want to read everything, you browse at -1.

    It works even with a massive community (1.000.000+ registred users).

    This solution is technically complex, would require a site rewrite bottom up, and would definitively change the nature of mu-43.

    That's not really something I'm looking forward to, unless the number of users grows out of hand for the current team to handle.

    • Like Like x 1
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