I have lately become concerned by the recent (or is it chronic?) tendency of this site to become an argument between David Kane and the readers. Essentially, it seems to me, David posts something inflammatory, people respond that he is wrong, he writes back with textual evidence that he is right, people respond that he is twisting the facts and being mean, … and the comment thread continues for days.

Is this the EphBlog you know and love? No! So we must do something. “But David Kane runs the site!” you say, “and he writes most of the posts! What can we do?” There is an easy way to encourage David to stop inciting arguments, get him to post things that you think are more interesting, and perhaps more importantly, encourage other authors to write interesting posts: VOTE.

Vote? Yes, vote with your comments. If you like a post, comment on it. Whoever posted it will get an e-mail with your comment, and they will get a happy rush of adrenaline that someone liked their post. They will write a comment back to you, and start an EphConversation. They will like this happy rush they get from the comment, and will post more things like it in the future.

If you dislike a post, ignore it. Restrain yourself, and don’t comment on it. I must have visited EphBlog about 30 seconds after David posted his recent attack on the Summer Science and Summer Humanities and Social Sciences program, because no one had commented on it. “Wow,” I thought, “for once, no one is responding to David’s flamewar-inciting post. Perhaps he will get the hint that no one wants to discuss these things, and he will stop posting them.” Wrong! Now there are 52 comments on the post — a post that made a lot of people angry, not the kind of post we want to vote for.

You may think, as is entirely natural, that it is a good idea to correct people who are wrong on the Internet. See this XKCD comic:

duty_calls

However, commenting on their posts will just encourage them to say more silly things, because in most cases such people enjoy having arguments online. The best way to encourage productive, enjoyable EphConversations is to give positive reinforcement, via comments, to the posts you like. You can also give positive reinforcement to comments you like by commenting after them!

(I like the “Like button” idea, but I am not sure it will be implemented in time to save EphBlog from losing many worthwhile contributors.)

Two comments in the recent discussion of Thomas Friedman’s house (Note: David sent me the text of the comments, so I have revised the below to include the actual quotations and appropriate names of commenters) especially resonated with me. First, Eric said:

As for the point about how this type of content is of questionable merit, I think that comes down to a perceived signal to noise ratio of the blog. You are seeing Dave’s posts, which you disagree with (or others do) as noise.  Dave is one of the more frequent posters here, which means that his “noise ” posts are overshadowing the posts you would want to see ( ”signal ”), which are less
frequently posted.

Second, ’10 said:

As a current student and so (presumably) part of the target audience of this blog, I don’t particularly care what people who have spoken at Williams or received honorary degrees go on to do or think, and I have no interest in reading about them here. I like to read about actual Eph alums, meaning people that have spent four years at Williams and shared some of the same experiences that I’ve been fortunate enough
to have over the past few years. It’s interesting to see where people go after Williams, both to me as a student (since it gives an idea of where a Williams education can take people) and presumably as a future alum (maybe someday I’ll see an Ephblog post announcing something cool one of my classmates has done). Honorary degree recipients, speakers, and parents have a much more tenuous connection to Williams than actual students and alums, and I don ’t really consider them Ephs or have any
interest in reading about them on this blog.

See a “signal” post on EphBlog? Read something interesting about Eph alums? Vote for it! You will soon see more posts like it. Don’t like hearing about honorary degree recipients? Ignore the post!

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