Enough is enough! 

There has been way too much silliness and name-calling on Nexus lately. People are joining groups they disagree with simply to argue with group members. Others are stalking and chasing members around the site simply to harass them. Thin-skinned or not, this has caused visits to Nexus to be a chore for many, and a few have left the site. 

The only qualification to be a member of Nexus is to be a nontheist. Other than that we are a community. Civil debate is welcome in the forum, but should not be tolerated in individual groups (unless this is the purpose of the group), and on member pages.

If you are unsure what is acceptable behavior, check out the Site Rules. If you are having a problem or you notice anyone violating the rules, please use the "Report an Issue" link at the bottom of every page. 

Finally, I am seriously considering adding the title of the below Phil Plait speech to our rules.

Click to open video in a separate window: Don't Be A Dick

What do you think? Good idea or not? I am interested in any feedback and open to solutions. I'm not looking for complaints.

Be forewarned that NO member names will be allowed in comments.

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Replies to This Discussion

@Matt: Nice comments. Thanks.
No problem.
I enjoy coming here and so I would love to make it a more enjoyable place for new members.

But there's a thin and (for some people) blurry line between criticising a post or the opinions and beliefs contained within, and insulting a human being. I have no problem with stopping someone from doing the latter, but if I or someone else gets stopped from doing the former then I will run for the hills.
I came to Atheist Nexus as a safe place for Atheist. This is one of the few places I feel safe thanks to Brother Richard. It's sad that some can't respect others and be civil while being here on Atheist Nexus. I support Brother Richards efforts to keep civility here.
I've hesitated to weigh in on this discussion, mainly because I'm not sure this is such a big problem on A|N. Of course, I'm not privy to the "Report an Issue" messages, but the level of discourse on A|N is generally orders of magnitude more level-headed than most discussion forums on the vasty shallow that is Teh Interwebz.

But I have to say that I do think there is occasional call to resort to ridicule and censure (not censorship). As an atheist, I try to follow The One Commandment: Don't be an asshole. I don't always succeed, but there is certainly a place for righteous anger when others are being assholes. Even Jesus didn't turn the other cheek with the moneychangers. If somebody is being a jackass on A|N, I don't see much reason why their fellow posters can't call them on it, even rudely. Often it's just not possible to be heard without raising one's voice.

I think the twcenter.net ToS that Matt VDB posted are good guidelines for self-restraint, particularly the admonition to attack the post rather than the poster, but while the first three bullets might be relatively easy to enforce, the last three can quickly edge over into a variety of gray areas that make moderator judgment calls rather tricky. The mods would be signing up for a lot more work (and backlash) if they want to try to enforce those rules. Lots of people take offense at imagined slights. Think about trying to police oblique ones.

And moderation generally introduces a lot of confusion and contention. Like Al-KADIM, I comment occasionally on Huffington Post. I think they do have some kind of software filters, though I don't think they scan for offensive words, because plenty of comments get thru containing those. That doesn't keep a bunch of commenters from trying to circumvent the filters (as they imagine them) by using oddball spellings, like "$hit" or "ki!!". So the commenters waste time trying to second-guess the system and the comments get loaded up with unclever leetcyphers that readers have to interpret. Worse, though, is the fact that the human mods slow the system down so much that people think their posts are being spiked when they're not, or their posts are spiked without them ever finding out why.

I've posted comments referring to homeopathy or Deepak Chopra's nonsense as quackery which didn't make it past the mods. I can only assume that telling such a scientifically supported truth offends Arianna Huffington's personal New Age sensibilities. Given the opacity of the actual filters, software, ideological, and philosophical, commenters just have to guess at what might be bland enough to make it thru without watering down their points to tepid tut-tuts. It's a frustrating and time-wasting game. I'd hate to see A|N sink to that level.

And finally, very, very often, the most poetic, incisive, and persuasive way to say something is with a bit of heat. One person's Tabasco is another's Napalm. Unfortunately, that means the most thin-skinned interpretation would likely prevail in any system designed to eliminate hurt feelings.
Fred, Fred, Fred... I think you are one of the most interesting persons on this website.

Your posts delight and fascinate me especially considering English is not your first language, in fact, that makes them all the more better.

I see your sincerity and struggle in the search for knowlege and truth shinning through your every intention.

It's quite breath-taking.

My experience is that dicks and bitches rise to the top and it does not pay to be nice but I keep doing it anyway. If it leads me to people like you - then it's all good.

You are a hero to many.

Long live Fred!
Fred, people should try harder to give and take less offense, especially in the relatively distant and/or anonymous online environment and especially in the relatively tone-deaf world of text.

But I don't see that dicks are heroes and whiners are losers on A|N. They're both annoying, particularly if they just go on and on about it. If somebody is being a dick, call them on it and move on. If somebody is being a whiner, call them on it and move on. The big mistake is to elevate somebody to the level of nemesis. This isn't the comic books. Almost no one looks good in a cape and spandex.
Fred, the problem with catering to the thinnest-skinned is that it leads to a lowest-common-denominator discourse which elevates politeness over truth. People shouldn't be jerks or whiners. They shouldn't get personal or take things personally. But it happens. And I think the grown-up way to deal with it is to call people on it when you see it and then get on with discussing the issues.

I'm not suggesting that ridicule is the best strategy for anything, but it is an important and valid rhetorical tool (as satire so amply demonstrates), and safeguards against it tend to be rather chilling of sincere and free expression of opinions. Be careful that the cure is not worse than the disease.

To which point, I'm sure there are those who have left A|N because of rough treatment, but given the membership growth rate, A|N and its membership must be doing something right, and so I think it's reasonable to conclude that the jerkiness must not be that bad around here. If people quit A|N because of a jerk or a whiner, they're either victims of stalking (a bannable offense) or they've never been on the internet before. It's a rough and tumble medium.

A|N forums are far more polite and reasoned than most on the WWWWW (Wild West World Wide Web). Go have a look at the comment forums on newsweek.com. Utterly vicious. And that's a mainstream publication. My local newspaper online comments are just as bad (columbian.com or seattletimes.com). A|N is a breath of fresh air by comparison.
Ad hominem attacks, while cheap and easy, are not always unjustified.
Hopefully, we're all grown-ups here and can take a cheap shot to the chin now and then.
The worst thing you can do to the real assholes is ignore them. One would hope that eventually they just give up and go away.
I believe that the term for deliberately provocative assholes is "web troll".
Fred, atheism per se is not concerned directly with basic human values. Humanism is a movement which is. But humans, regardless of philosophical orientation tend to care about and evince basic human values whenever they get together. I don't think that's humanism; it's just human, a human tendency. This is one of the big complaints that we atheists have: Theists tend to deny our humanity. Atheists spend a lot of time trying to overcome this bias by showing that we do, in fact, share most of the basic human values.

Atheists may not be obligated by our lack of theism to discuss these things (or anything else), but the fact is that we often do, because we are human and are tired of being treated as less than that. Some atheists don't care about that. Some atheists think other atheists shouldn't care about that. They're entitled to their opinions, but atheism clearly overlaps with most other human ideas with the definitional exception of theism.

Some atheists think this means that atheists therefore must have nothing in common. We don't necessarily have anything in common by dint of our shared atheism, but we almost certainly actually do have plenty in common by dint of our shared humanity. It's almost unavoidable. You just can't necessarily predict when it comes to specifics, like political persuasion, economic policy preferences, taste in movies, etc, etc.

And since humanism is as much a social movement as a philosophy, it's important not to conflate it with atheism.
Stop making up fairy tales.

A person commented on your blog expressing skepticism of your assumptions. Rather than defending your position against the skepticism, you instead deleted the person's comments and accused him of both hatefulness and stalking. You have since added the charge of verbal abuse. All without a single drop of corroborating evidence.

You took comments that were addressing the content of your post, removed them altogether so no one else could draw their own conclusions, then reinterpreted those comments as being a personal attack on you and then respond by personally attacking the person that made the comments with accusations of intent that did not exist. Conveniently, all evidence that can either support or debunk all of your allegations has been purged.

And you think this is all perfectly normal, rational and acceptable behaviour?
A person commented on your blog expressing skepticism of your assumptions. Rather than defending your position against the skepticism, you instead deleted the person's comments and accused him of both hatefulness and stalking.

And yet, Matt VDB has commented many times on the same blog, expressing extreme skepticism of Diana's position. Those comments remain where Diana has defended her position against his skepticism.

Which would strongly suggest that Diana's criteria for deleting the other person's comments were NOT motivated solely (or possibly at all?) by academic challenge and a non-desire to defend her position. Otherwise, Matt's comments would be gone as well.
This discussion is closed for now. I have asked MoJoe to help out, and he will be posting a new thread in the morning where everyone can express their opinions.

In the meantime, everyone take a breather. Please.




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