Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

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guenther
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Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Sat Nov 11, 2017 3:34 pm UTC

I want to walk through a thought experiment on designing a social platform with the purpose of getting people to break out of their filter bubbles and engage across sharp divides.

My motivation comes from when I tried to do just that and found it difficult. It was easy to pop into the other side's echo chamber, but then you just see the same problem of bad arguments against straw men from the other side. Instead, I wanted to find good arguments that dealt honestly with both sides. In the end, I did find content that was helpful, but it made me wonder why this process wasn't easier.

So what would a social platform aimed specifically at making this easy look like? I'd love to have this lean on whatever the latest understanding is on changing minds or simply just getting people to listen. Also, my focus naturally tends to be on the intellectual side, but I would love to have something that helps connect people on an emotional level as well.

My hope is that a specifically designed app would have something to offer over Facebook or message boards. But if you don't think so, or have another idea for a format, let me know that as well.

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Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Mission Statement:
Create a platform that is all about helping people engage with each other across sharp divides (e.g. politics) in a way that connects and builds understanding by offering exposure to the best opposing arguments, providing the opportunity for civil debate, and showing the humanity in the people across the gulf.

Goals:
- Expose people to the best, most thoughtful arguments on the other side
- Provide a platform for engaging with the arguments in a honest and civil way
- Show the humanity of the opposition, to see that they care about good things too
- Focus more on rewarding good behavior (i.e. civil engagement) rather than policing bad behavior.
- Easy to jump in and get engaged on your topic of choice.
- Have a way to rate how well various arguments change minds
- Encouraging discussion to stay focused to the topic at hand.
- Find novel ways to connect people. E.g. randomized pairings of opposed people around certain topics with very focused objectives (Learn why the other person cares so much about this, or how others get their position wrong, etc.)
- Maybe quizzes for how well you know the opposing view points
- I'd love to see good ideas on engaging emotionally (in a positive way) rather than just intellectually.
- Other ideas ??

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Examples of this type of thing elsewhere:
- "Read Across the Aisle" App: Builds an aggregate score of how partisan your browsing habits are.
- Intelligence Squares US: Civil debates around relevant topics. This aim is right on point for what I want to accomplish.
- Others I'm missing ??
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Pfhorrest
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:06 pm UTC

A small idea I had toward this same goal is a rating system that isn’t just + or - but a series of a couple independent options:

- I find the topic interesting (even if the argument is bad or the conclusion false)
- I find the argument well-reasoned (even if the conclusion is wrong)
- I find the conclusion correct

Which can be combined in any way e.g. dull topic and false conclusion but well-reasoned anyway.

Maybe negatives of those too (dull topic, bad argument, false conclusion).

And possibly a second dimension dealing with how entertaining it is, so people don't use those options to upvote things that are just funny etc.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:34 pm UTC

Sounds like a forum attached to TED talks. (Note: while the original TED talks are generally good, a lot of the TEDx talks are a mixed bag, some bordering on commercials.)

But here's the thing: What's your revenue model? You can't not have one (and survive). Your revenue model will dictate what gets encouraged on your site. If it's ad supported, then "engagement" is what you'll be looking for, and engagement is created by the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish. So, ditch that.

Subscription? I suspect the market is tiny. What's the success rate of other intellectual subscription models?

Tip jar? Contest with entrance fees? Tax supported? Invisible sponsor? Respected foreign government? Each of these will end up dictating what you optimize for.

Jose
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:16 pm UTC

Distributed model ala usenet so hosting costs aren't a thing and you don't need to profit?
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Sat Nov 11, 2017 9:55 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Distributed model ala usenet so hosting costs aren't a thing and you don't need to profit?
Well, if it is to have an impact, it needs to scale, and it needs to be popular, which means it needs marketing and needs to encourage some sort of engagement (red flag right there!). If those conditions are not met, it will be eaten by facebook, youtube, and twitter. If you're satisfied with small scale stuff, this very forum fills the bill. I'm assuming the OP wants something bigger.

Remember; it has to encourage people to do something that they are likely to find difficult to begin with.

Jose
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ivnja » Sat Nov 11, 2017 11:29 pm UTC

I feel like worrying about the details of how to fund this hypothetical app is putting the cart way before the horse in a thought experiment about how to design something that will facilitate rational conversation with others of differing views.

I like Pfhorrest's idea of rating [posts/comments/interactions/whatever] on several different specific criteria. Anyone who has used reddit has run into the "downvote=disagree" problem where well-reasoned and factually correct posts that argue from an unpopular position get downvoted until they're auto-hidden. I'd include something like "civility" as one of the ratings, to encourage posting without vitriol.

To discourage strawmanning, I think it might be interesting to allow each group/faction to vote internally for their "platform" - for example, if the topic in question were a potential ban on handgun sales, a user could check in in favor of a wholesale ban (or some level of tighter restrictions, or for leaving things as they are, or for loosening current restrictions) and anyone in that group could submit and vote up/down arguments to support that position (and/or temper/modify it). Then the top X number of arguments from each faction would be publicly displayed, so that users could engage with what is actually being said by thoughtful people on the other side(s) of the aisle, not just pulling up the most outrageous fringe argument they could find on tumblr and claiming that that's what the other side actually believes before demolishing it. I could see it as perhaps a system where each day there were one special "topic of the day" that this would be done for, and the internal voting would be done in the couple days leading up to it.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:10 am UTC

ivnja wrote:I feel like worrying about the details of how to fund this hypothetical app is putting the cart way before the horse in a thought experiment about how to design something that will facilitate rational conversation with others of differing views.
It would be, it weren't already clear that the reason we are in this pickle is the distortions due in large part to the funding details of facebook, google, twitter, et al. I include twitter (which has no funding plan) because "engagement" is key to twitter, and engagement is what drives payoff.

This is the fundamental problem.

Ask yourself why the google bubble even exists.

Ask yourself how google would be if there simply were no ads and no market for personal data.

Then reconsider whether asking about funding (a proxy for asking about purity) is appropriate.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

guenther
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:39 am UTC

I am definitely more interested in discussing the core fundamentals before figuring out how to move this from thought experiment to a practical venture. That sounds like an important things to discuss, and I certainly would have a lot to learn, but first I want to figure out if the essence of this thing makes any sense.

A central question to this is what do I want this project to do. My first instinct was to facilitate civil and rational discussion. But this is a really hard problem, and I don't know how I would approach it better than what a well-moderated message board could do. My personal experience is that people tend to jump in to score points but aren't personally putting their own beliefs up for grabs. If they are losing ground, they will just fade out of the discussion looking for the next topic they can weaponize. I don't know how to engage people so that they're open to changing their mind. Plus proper debate is a lot of work and I can understand if people don't always have the time to fully engage. If there's a good way to improve this within the social platform, then I'm all for it. But otherwise I might try staying focused on a more straight-forward goal.

So what if the goal were to simply help people step out of their echo chamber? What does that process look like? What gets in people's way? Are people even aware when they should?

For me the key was wondering whether I understood the other side's position. Could I restate it in a way that they would agree with? For that I needed to find some people that could state it well, but they also had to be honest about dealing with my side. So this was the struggle for me, finding that content.

Would those be the goals?
1) Help people understand the other side
2) Help people find engaging content from the other side

Should there be another step where it can help you assess whether you in fact have an echo chamber problem? What metric would you even use for that? The things I see are people arguing against straw men and and painting with too broad of a brush. Is there another component I'm missing? Is there a quantifiable way to test for that?

What does the core interaction look like with the app? Would it be something like "News & Articles" with user created topics and discussion? Would it be engaging with some curated version of the various arguments? Would it be links to up-voted articles that provide the relevant arguments? I really like to hear engagement of people with different perspectives. I found podcasts with precisely this and counted it as a win.

So what should the metrics of success be within the app? Do we track browsing habits and assess whether they are across the spectrum? Do we ask people for self reports on browsing habits or some representation of understanding? Do we simply provide a direction and just let people take it or not?

It's these core questions that I'm looking for. Is my focus suitable for doing something useful? What objectives underneath that help drive towards the goal?


I did like the suggestions of have a more sophisticated like system, and for internal voting of faction positions. Should this app just accept the factions up front, knowing that people often split into the relevant teams? Or should each topic just have stated positions without directly acknowledging what teams usually take what positions? I tend to favor the former since that just naturally seems how the public discussion goes. Also, these seem to assume a message board style.

Thanks for the help so far!
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Leovan » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:48 am UTC

I feel like "well moderated" would have to be the minimum standard for this platform. I also feel like a giant thread like a forum wouldn't work so well because everyone gets focused on one point (probably a straw man or grammatical error) and the other points get ignored.
I like the idea of picking a side in the beginning and being responsible for your side, up/down voting good/bad arguments for your side and the other side only seeing the solid arguments. Perhaps we'd find out that not all feminists really think men should be stuck in prison as potential rapists and not all Republicans think Obama is the antichrist. You'd pick a side (pro/con/undecided) each time you finish reading a new article, before you can comment on it.
I'll call the sides the greens and yellows to prevent mix-ups in my following example.
Perhaps someone on the green side could write an opinion article and instead of writing a direct response, there is a function so that for every sentence/paragraph, you can mark it with things like "citation needed", "agree", "disagree", "logical error"(or broken down into different formal errors), or just "this is plain wrong". Once a sentence has enough "citation needed" tags by the yellow team, the original author(green) (or if he opens it up, the other green people) has the option to add citations for that point, and an explanation. The yellow side can then accept or reject the citations. At this point you would open up each citation for discussion why it's relevant or not. Each layer down would be in a different page, so that when you first join the discussion you are greeted by just the original argument. You then find the tags on the argument and if you agree with a citation needed tag, or you want to see what studies etc are actually cited, you can click on that and the discussion opens up. If you disagree that something needs citation, you can ignore that discussion entirely and focus on that logical error you saw elsewhere.
Each side would be able to mark the other's arguments as straw men, and you can also mark your own side's arguments as faulty, lowering those in importance. Perhaps we'd finally dig down far enough to actually find the real arguments, and where down the chain opinions actually divided.

Or it would make the problem worse because you can focus entirely on the arguments that support your position and ignore relevant "citation needed" tags that would challenge you. I dunno...
Relevant for sure would be anonymity. The reason I refuse to engage in political discussion on Facebook and Twitter is because I know some of those people in real life, and I have been blocked by people on both sides for attempting to engage in discussion. Also, good luck trying to find a balance between the sides... I have yet to find a forum that wasn't dominated by one side or the other over time, xkcd is about as close as it gets. Once you're big enough, it also becomes lucrative to hack your system and abuse it...
Perhaps you can institute a ranking system for users, where when you fist start you may use one tag per article. This keeps trolls from simply downvoting all the opposite points or a green person making a yellow account to downvote the good points and upvote the strawmen. After reading a few you get more, and once users on your side upvote your arguments you gain ranks for good representation. If you get good representation AND people on the other side have tagged your arguments as relevant and persuasive you start becoming a leader for your side and get privileges to post on the article itself. So the 'reward' for good posting is to gain recognition from both sides and more and more ability to make your point. This would mostly be confined to that one article, but the original article would be tagged for topic as well, and perhaps the next time that topic comes up elsewhere you start with increased privileges. You'd quickly get argument leaders for every discussion topic, and it would be interesting to then invite those from each side to have an overall discussion perhaps as a podcast or something.
It would also be cool to compile a list of the best arguments from each side for every topic. So under the tag 'abortion' I'd find the most 'representative' and 'persuasive' tagged arguments. If I don't have a fixed opinion on a topic that would be where you start to get informed.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:03 am UTC

All of that sounds interesting, but it's biting off more than I know how to chew. It really gets into the area of facilitating reasoned, civil, constructive debate. I would love to see that happen and would even help if I knew how. But for this I was shooting for a smaller scope of just helping people get out of their filter bubble.

Leovan wrote:It would also be cool to compile a list of the best arguments from each side for every topic. So under the tag 'abortion' I'd find the most 'representative' and 'persuasive' tagged arguments. If I don't have a fixed opinion on a topic that would be where you start to get informed.

This was my first thought on how to approach this. I was faced with wondering how well I knew the opposing arguments, so I thought it would be nice to have them all in easy-to-reach place that spanned the major topics. But as I thought more about this, it really seems like a wikipedia-like venture to capture them all (plus Wikipedia itself already has a lot of this info).

Also, if you ask people in the abstract what they feel about topic X, I bet you'd get a whole lot of nuanced opinions that you'd somehow have to capture. But when this topic flares up in public discourse and the two sides are vying to score political points, much of the nuance will get sucked out and people will circle the wagons around a couple/few positions. So I'm wondering if the capture of positions should even bother gathering all the nuance and just help people understand the current state of debate. I like nuance, but it's a lot more detail over a lot of possibilities, many of which will stop being relevant if people stop defending them. I want to make this easy, and I fear that a wall of information would be a barrier. Not to mention the work of creating it.

For example, there is so much to discuss with health care, but with the The Affordable Care Act repeal efforts, the debate really focused on single payer versus a less regulated, more privatized option. How many people want to dive in and become experts on all the possibilities? Versus is there value in simply helping bridge the gap between one side aiming to bankrupt us in Socialism while the other side doesn't care if people are dying in the streets.



Another possibility that I just thought of is that instead of this being topic-centered (i.e. you pick Abortion and then search under it for the various positions), it could be party or ideology centered. I actually have a problem with seeing everything through the team lens, but if that's really where our debates get centered, then maybe it would be best to just acknowledge that. So with this, there would be a conservative side and a liberal side (and perhaps each of those could be split into moderate and far right/left), and then you could dive into the various topics and see arguments from their side. This still would be a lot of work, but then there'd only be a handful of positions per topic instead of an unbounded amount.

I'm still not sure if compiling positions should be the focus, but if that makes sense, then having an up-front acknowledgement of the teams is another possibility.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby arbiteroftruth » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:04 pm UTC

I think the way to do it is essentially a discussion forum, but the main thread consists of posts by each side of an issue, rather than posts by individual users.

As a toy example, suppose an issue is cleanly divided into two sides. Users would choose which side they're on, and the thread would consist of a starting post by one position or the other, and the two sides would take turns responding to each other. At each stage in the thread, there'd be a subforum of a reddit-like discussion among the members of the side making the post. Members would discuss the specifics of that portion of the argument, and could propose responses for the main thread. The most up-voted proposal appears as the main thread response, and a new subforum is created for the other side to craft the next post.

The immediately visible main thread would consist of the top-voted responses and re-responses, but earlier posts in the thread might get dethroned if the members of that side decide there's a better response they could have given there. So there would have to be a way to view older versions of the thread. Maybe as a tree showing all the paths the main discussion has gone down in the past.

Perhaps that notion of a tree-like discussion thread could help define more fine-grained positions on the issue. You might have two broad sides of an issue, but each side further divides into additional variations.

Maybe this ends up looking more like wikipedia than a discussion forum, but all the outgoing links from an article take you to articles on opposing views crafted in direct response to the article you're reading.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Mon Nov 13, 2017 4:18 pm UTC

guenther wrote: But for this I was shooting for a smaller scope of just helping people get out of their filter bubble.
The hard part is getting people to want to get out of their filter bubble. Because they already know they are right.

It's about listening, not speaking. If you listen to the other side, and don't speak, you will be able to gather the nuance, because the polarization comes about from a defensive posture. If you give them nothing to defend against, you're most of the way there.

guenther wrote:...it could be party or ideology centered. I actually have a problem with seeing everything through the team lens...
Yeah, that's a problem and I'd avoid this approach. That makes it a membership and virtue signaling debate, not a reasoned discussion about the issues.

Another thing is sometimes both sides are right at the same time. A thing could work well the {this} way or the {that} way, because whichever way is picked, society adapts to it. But when society is adapted to {this} way, introducing {that} way is disruptive and does not work well. It can come down to whether the decision to do "the right thing" {can|should} be entrusted to government, or {can|should} be entrusted to the individual.

It can go sour either way, it can go well either way, but it's guaranteed to go sour if expectations are set up for one way and the other is introduced.

I also think that the identification of the problem to be addressed is crucial. Consider the "drug problem". What actually is the root problem? (Is it the pharmacology? The crime? The poverty? The social stigma? The littering? The {black|latino|unemployed|welfare|muslim} people)? What is it that makes that the problem?

Because what I often see is somebody has an agenda they wish to pursue (racial purity, for example) and seek a means to that end; identifying something around which they can get others to rally (illegal immigrants), bring up false connections in order to fire people up (rapists and murders), and in doing so manage to achieve their agenda without ever admitting that that's what they were after. These are people who do not care what the "problem" is, or if there even was one, as long as they get their agenda through.

Where in this process do you see your "Crossing divides" platform being most useful?

Jose
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:22 pm UTC

That "identify the problem" bit reminds me of a possibly relevant thing called "principled negotiation" from a book titled "Getting to Yes". One of the principles of it is "focus on issues, not positions", meaning basically to identify what problem exactly each side is trying to solve, and then take solving the conjunction of both sides' problems to be a puzzle to cooperatively be solved; instead of arguing over whose initial position (each of which is not even intended to be a solution to the other side's problem) is best.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:16 pm UTC

ucim wrote:The hard part is getting people to want to get out of their filter bubble. Because they already know they are right.

It's about listening, not speaking. If you listen to the other side, and don't speak, you will be able to gather the nuance, because the polarization comes about from a defensive posture. If you give them nothing to defend against, you're most of the way there.

This is the part where I'd like the platform to be most useful. I was in a place where I did want to get out of my filter bubble, I did want to listen. But I didn't know where to go, what to listen to. It's easy to find weaponized content that's just meant to cause aggravation and/or celebration, but it's harder to find content aimed across the aisle with the purpose of making you think and reflect on your position. So given that I was properly motivated, why did I have to work so hard?

I'm open to the idea that I just wasn't well informed on where to go, but maybe other people are in a similar boat, and maybe some of them gave up at that point because their kid was sick or they had a deadline at work. I heard a recent interview about getting people to change behavior, and the take-away was that if you have to choose between building incentives for people to do X (increasing the driving forces) versus removing the barriers and making X easier (decreasing the restraining forces), the latter is much better. The idea that I had to do work once I was properly motivated seems like maybe there's a restraining force that could be reduced. I would love to see a nicely paved, well lit off ramp from Outrage Lane into whatever this better place is.


But maybe there's something to be done on the driving force side as well. Why are people not motivated? Is it that they already know they are right? Do they think it's just a problem with those other people over there? Do they just not care?

I suspect that most people have a conception of themselves that would make them want to change if they personally felt convicted on being part of the problem. Are they a part of the it? I don't know. But I also don't want a platform that's about telling you how wrong you are. Maybe instead of going out and identifying the bad apples, what if there was a cultural shift in the importance of taking personal action here? What if it was in vogue to get to that place of understanding where thoughtful discussion could take place?

ucim wrote:Where in this process do you see your "Crossing divides" platform being most useful?

Another way to run this thought experiment would be to think about how Facebook/Twitter/etc. could be better at solving this problem. The Like/Share model built on getting things to transmit as quickly and as widely as possible turns it into the ideal outrage machine. How would you twerk the model to make it encourage something different. And specifically in this case, to get less weaponized memes and more posts and articles that are about building understanding.

I suppose this is a slightly different problem, one of deconstructing the filter bubble rather than creating a nice avenue for stepping out of it. Both would be good.

Pfhorrest wrote:That "identify the problem" bit reminds me of a possibly relevant thing called "principled negotiation" from a book titled "Getting to Yes". One of the principles of it is "focus on issues, not positions", meaning basically to identify what problem exactly each side is trying to solve, and then take solving the conjunction of both sides' problems to be a puzzle to cooperatively be solved; instead of arguing over whose initial position (each of which is not even intended to be a solution to the other side's problem) is best.

I think this sounds good. And I see this platform more about getting people to a place where this can happen rather than shepherding them through that process. Helping people get past statements of "The Right doesn't care about ..." or "What the Left really wants is ...". To realize that to understand what someone wants takes listening. The method of having a wiki for all arguments on all topics is a brute force approach to helping someone know that there's more to the other side than the strawmen they've been fighting. But maybe just getting people to the mindset where they can explore that themselves would be better, a teach-a-person-to-fish sort of approach.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby arbiteroftruth » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:53 pm UTC

In the direction of modifying facebook algorithms: it might be as simple as populating your news feed based on what's getting engagement among people with different views and interests than you, as opposed to what's getting engagement among people with similar views and interests. Then the only efficient way for a post to become widespread is to appeal to a wide variety of opinions. If it's only appealing to one side, it won't be actively shown to that side, but will be shown to the other side, who is apparently ignoring it.

You'd have to also give preference to positive engagement over negative engagement, or this would create an environment where flame wars are the 'best' posts, but it might be workable.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby slinches » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:30 pm UTC

It seems many of the requested features are more like news aggregation sites than true social media platforms. Just take slashdot or soylent news and replace the articles with well thought out topic starters and you'll have a good start. Though, getting people to post there at all may be an issue since the part that draws in casual users is the (somewhat) curated selection of news articles themselves.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:12 pm UTC

guenther wrote:I was in a place where I did want to get out of my filter bubble, I did want to listen. But I didn't know where to go, what to listen to.
Where did you go? How did you seek? Did you look at TED talks or TEDx talks, for example? Attend college lectures? Ask a librarian? Whatever it is that you would create as a "Crossing Divides" platform, would you have found it if it already existed?

guenther wrote:Another way to run this thought experiment would be to think about how Facebook/Twitter/etc. could be better at solving this problem.
It won't happen. This is a problem that they do not want to solve. This "problem" is their lifeblood. But I'll play along, imagining a platform similar to Facebook that is structured differently, and is (financially) supported by magic. Here's what I'd do (and these things should be done anyway).

1: The platform does not collect or market personal information, browser history, who's friends with whom, or any of the other Big Data that allows it to be evil.

2: The platform has no advertising, and is not rewarded for number of pages clicked on, length of time on the platform, number of referrals, or any of the other things that lead to perverse incentives.

3: The platform rewards thoughtful input (even from Nazis), but punishes knee-jerk reactions (even from Indira Ghandi). It's not so much whether you're right or wrong as whether your thought process is usefully illuminating.

4: The platform organizes the content so that one can easily see the gist of things without having to "read the whole thread" (and it's endless repetition of similar ideas from different people)...while at the same time respecting the integrity of individual contributors' entries. Yeah, figure out how to pull that one off!

4: The platform does not develop a slant of its own. (Five is right out!)

Points 1 and 2 fight against the very thing that caused the (toxic amplification of the) problem in the first place.

Point 3 directly addresses your goal. If {generic} you object to "even from Nazis", you are part of the problem: You already know you're right.

Point 4 requires magic, or perhaps an AI beyond what we have now, which itself is problematic.

Point 5 probably also requires magic, inasmuch as people who self-select to opt into this platform may be predominantly on one side of an issue or the other. Hopefully the "thoughtful input" works against this, but quantity can dominate and bury thoughtful input without careful curation.

guenther wrote:Helping people get past statements of "The Right doesn't care about ..." or "What the Left really wants is ...".
Those people wouldn't join the platform; they don't want thoughtful discussion. There's one person in particular who for a long time told me what it is that I believed, because "all liberals believe {thing}, where first off I wasn't a liberal, second not all liberals believed {thing}, and thirdly I told him outright that I did not believe {thing}. Nonetheless he would not accept even that statement, right from the horse. He told me (incorrectly) what I believed, and wouldn't let go.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:22 am UTC

arbiteroftruth wrote:In the direction of modifying facebook algorithms: it might be as simple as populating your news feed based on what's getting engagement among people with different views and interests than you, as opposed to what's getting engagement among people with similar views and interests. Then the only efficient way for a post to become widespread is to appeal to a wide variety of opinions. If it's only appealing to one side, it won't be actively shown to that side, but will be shown to the other side, who is apparently ignoring it.

I like the idea, but how would that slot into FB? If my friend is posting a picture of their kid and all my friends like it, would I not see it? What if that same person posts a photo meme denigrating Trump? Would the poster have to identify whether each post is political or not? I suppose some smart FB algorithm could make a pretty good guess if they want to tackle that.

If the user has to do more than perhaps a one time opt-in, then I think you're back to restraining forces getting in the way and people just won't bother. If it's built in and seamless, then I could see it being neat. On the flip side, in a dedicated app where people are mainly sharing political posts, this could be the default setting, and I think it sounds like a nice option.

slinches wrote:It seems many of the requested features are more like news aggregation sites than true social media platforms. Just take slashdot or soylent news and replace the articles with well thought out topic starters and you'll have a good start. Though, getting people to post there at all may be an issue since the part that draws in casual users is the (somewhat) curated selection of news articles themselves.

Maybe it could be as simple as that. A place to go to find the content. I would have been happy with that option when I was in that situation. For the app, I thought there might be other things you could do, like perhaps pair-wise match ups with the objective of accomplishing some very focused goal of understanding. But maybe simpler is better.

ucim wrote:Where did you go? How did you seek? Did you look at TED talks or TEDx talks, for example? Attend college lectures? Ask a librarian? Whatever it is that you would create as a "Crossing Divides" platform, would you have found it if it already existed?

Well, my media format of choice is the podcast, and my natural persuasion is to be friendly to the liberal side. So I just started Googling around for podcasters on the Right. This paralleled my effort from a long time ago before podcasts of turning to AM talk radio and becoming familiar with many of the names there. For the most part this is a very unrewarding experience because they just rail against "The Left" as if it's a single thing with a single agenda. It's a giant straw man and it didn't help me at all become friendly to the position on the Right.

So I tried more centrist people with mixed success. I did stumble on Sam Harris' Waking Up and Dan Carlin's Common Sense. Those are good, but they didn't have an agenda of laying out conservative arguments.

What I really was seeking was anything approaching a reasonable argument for why we shouldn't all be out of our seats rejecting Trump. So after another round of Googling for moderate conservatives, I came across the Ricochet Network, a collection of podcasts from conservative outlets like National Review, the Weekly Standard, among others. This has been great and has renewed my faith a bit in conservatism. It's pretty much all conservatives talking to conservatives, but they avoid the echo chamber because within their network they have very strong disagreements about Trump, and more generally the efforts of Bannon. And hearing that discussion play out has been fascinating.

How would my platform have helped me? The primary thing would be a menu of content options. Maybe there would be a set of filters to help me search content providers, or maybe I could post a question, or maybe it would be an article aggregator and I'd find authors and talking heads that I can respect. I still don't know who on the Left to listen to and get a similar perspective. But I didn't bother searching very long because I'm not sure how much I need expanding in that direction.

ucim wrote:
guenther wrote:Helping people get past statements of "The Right doesn't care about ..." or "What the Left really wants is ...".
Those people wouldn't join the platform; they don't want thoughtful discussion.

But isn't this just perpetuating the same problem? This is boxing in a group of people and stating what they really want or don't want. I'm sure there's a good number of them that are unreachable, not simply trolls, but those that are true believers in their dogma and can't see past it. But I also bet that there's another group that can learn to think past broad generalizations. Since Trump won the election, I've seen various anthropological dives into flyover country to learn what type of people live there, to see if they have more depth than the caricatures depict. I think there's a latent interest; it just gets swamped out by the fight for teams and wins.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:27 am UTC

guenther wrote:But isn't this just perpetuating the same problem?
No, it's stating the problem. Those who rail against the left or right are not doing it to generate reasoned discussion. Not all of the {fill-in} are that way, but by railing they are placing themselves in that cart. Sean Hannity (for example) is not trying to convince conservatives, he's trying to rile them up against the enemy.
guenther wrote:I came across the Ricochet Network, a collection of podcasts from conservative outlets like National Review, the Weekly Standard, among others. This has been great and has renewed my faith a bit in conservatism. It's pretty much all conservatives talking to conservatives, but they avoid the echo chamber because within their network they have very strong disagreements...
...and these differences are not with the enemy. So, they actually want to reason with each other (I presume).

It's the premise that the other side is the enemy that is so toxic. And it's effective.

For this to work, people have to put their agenda aside. It doesn't even work here. See (for example) discussions I've had in SB regarding voting methods. Before figuring out the best voting method, we need to know what kind of result represents the "will of the people", and it should work with a simple contrived (and stripped of Left/Right context) example. But without knowing whether the Left or the Right would win, I got no traction.

guenther wrote:How would my platform have helped me?
I know this; what I was asking was whether or not you would have found this platform in the first place.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:45 am UTC

I think the idea here is maybe something like "Imagine you're designing the next Reddit, but you don't want it to suck like Reddit." Assume people are going to be drawn there by whatever kind of variety of content you have, like a news aggregator, and it will be funded by ads to get the eyeballs of those people, and assume enough people are coming for that content and the discussion about it that the ads pay enough to cover it all. And you own this outright and are choosing to do it for the good of the world and not to be the next Zuckerberg, so "pays enough to cover it all" is enough for you, you don't have shareholders demanding you squeeze maximum revenue out of it.

(ETA: Or consider, although Wikipedia talk pages are explicitly not general discussion forums, what if they were? Or rather, what if you could convince the WikiMedia Foundation to host a general-purpose discussion thread attached to each article on the encyclopedia? So people come there to read about anything and everything in the vast compendium of all human knowledge, and it's hosted by a non-profit. There's your audience and your funding. Assume also we're not limited by the present MediaWiki software but can program our own extensions to it.)

All you want to work on is to make sure that the discussions aren't all partisan bullshit and flamewars. Maybe you're specifically trying to capture the audience of people who are sick of partisan bullshit and flamewars, that's your market. (I personally actually recently was wondering "What's a place like Reddit, except not? A popular general-purpose discussion site that isn't full of mouthbreathing morons parroting memes at each other?" I couldn't think of a good answer. Slashdot used to kinda fill that niche, some niche forums like this one have expanded to have more of the desired breadth, but none of them are quite what I was looking for).

So, how do you get people who came to talk about the latest news or whatever to see mostly well-reasoned and civil posts from a variety of viewpoints, instead of just their own opinions boiled down to the lowed common denominator and shouted angrily back at them?
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:47 am UTC

ucim wrote:No, it's stating the problem. Those who rail against the left or right are not doing it to generate reasoned discussion.

The point isn't whether they are trying to generate reasoned discussion in that moment, but whether they can be moved in a direction to have that aim. I doubt Sean Hannity can be, but maybe Aunt Betty or my friend from church can. People can engage in unhelpful discussion and then learn a better way.

ucim wrote:...and these differences are not with the enemy. So, they actually want to reason with each other (I presume).

There was quite a lot of animosity between the pro-Trump crowd and the never-Trump conservatives. Just look at what happened to Flake for saying the emperor had no clothes. To Bannon, these establishment conservatives are worse than the enemy. Fortunately the Ricochet Network is more cordial to each other than that, but I think that comes from the people at the top fostering that environment, rather than relying on a natural chumminess based on team affiliation.

I agree that the perception of enemies or the belief of ruining the country is a problem. But I don't think we have to put agenda aside. Someone can staunchly push a pro-life agenda, but still decide to listen and learn from the other side. The agenda and the passions don't need diminished, but rather the valuation of respecting despite differences needs turned up.

ucim wrote:I know this; what I was asking was whether or not you would have found this platform in the first place.

That's hard to answer. Did my platform blast off into massive success changing our cultural attitudes in how we should relate to each other? Or did it flop and never grow past the user base of me and my mother? :) It really depends on whether it would come up in a Google search or would be mentioned in one of the articles/podcasts that I consume.

Pfhorrest wrote:So, how do you get people who came to talk about the latest news or whatever to see mostly well-reasoned and civil posts from a variety of viewpoints, instead of just their own opinions boiled down to the lowed common denominator and shouted angrily back at them?

That's a great question, but I still feel like it's on the shepherding-good-discussion side of things. My more modest goal is a place to seek understanding rather than one to seek discussion. I wouldn't have reasons to restrict the latter; just that the former would be the mission statement.

Maybe the best inception of this so far is the news aggregator. So this would fall under the kind-of-like-Reddit category, but the secret sauce would focus not on making the discussion great, but in making a promotion process that floated high-quality, on-target articles to the top. What would that secret sauce be? Maybe the expanded Like system, or counting Likes by people with different affiliations. It seems the system should know about what your associations are, either by you telling it, or by it figuring out based on your activity on the site.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:06 am UTC

guenther wrote:That's a great question, but I still feel like it's on the shepherding-good-discussion side of things. My more modest goal is a place to seek understanding rather than one to seek discussion.

I guess I'm not seeing the distinction unless all you're looking for is really like an encyclopedia of arguments? In which case a general encyclopedia (like Wikipedia) largely fulfills that already, at least for all sufficiently notable arguments. I had thought that you were looking to create a way for people to organically happen across well-reasoned and civil representation of different points of view, which sounds like the same thing as fostering good discussions -- not so much for the sake of you being able to go and discuss yourself, but for the sake of there being available for you to read a discussion between reasonable and civil people on multiple sides.

...or counting Likes by people with different affiliations. It seems the system should know about what your associations are, either by you telling it, or by it figuring out based on your activity on the site.

I do kind of like the thoughts on this that were floated earlier. It seems like some simple automatic graph analysis (of who likes what and whom) would make it easy to identify where the echo chambers in a community are, and you could then weight down posts (either articles or comments, or both) by their association with echo chambers, consequently buoying up posts that transcend them. But for equally "echoey" posts, high-rated ones still sort above lower-rated ones, so it's not like you can just downvote things you like and upvote things you hate to circumvent the system.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:16 am UTC

One possible way that might be helpful for this is decontextualizing the problems people are trying to solve. Instead of having some Americans looking at an American problem with all of their perceived cultural biases and set agendas, give them a story from Lithuania or Gambia or something. I think you'll probably have better luck getting both sides to produce constructive discussion when it's about a topic that both sides don't already have stakes in the game. Only once you've developed a measure of trust and understanding on both sides do you allow people to start discussing issues in their local sphere.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby quantropy » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:21 pm UTC

A couple of thoughts:

1: Putting forward a good argument is hard work.
Using existing social media platforms as a model gives in too much to the desire for instant gratification. But getting people to make the effort to put forward their arguments as if they are really trying to convince someone is definitely worth it, because then they tend to see the problems in their own point of view. Then again you want to avoid arguments becoming long academic treatises. Maybe what is required is some sort of 'argument editor' which makes it easier to put together a well reasoned argument, (as well as keeping track of what points the other side has made which you need to reply to)

2: Who moderates the moderators?
I can't see a scheme like this running without a considerable amount of moderation, to prevent it from becoming just another one sided discussion. Say you want to highlight arguments that make good points. If you allow anyone to do this then it will almost certainly become just another way of supporting arguments which are on your side. So you might want to limit this facility to moderators. But then how do you stop the moderators taking sides, or at least giving the appearance that they do?

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Nov 15, 2017 7:43 pm UTC

guenther wrote:I want to walk through a thought experiment on designing a social platform with the purpose of getting people to break out of their filter bubbles and engage across sharp divides.

My motivation comes from when I tried to do just that and found it difficult. It was easy to pop into the other side's echo chamber, but then you just see the same problem of bad arguments against straw men from the other side. Instead, I wanted to find good arguments that dealt honestly with both sides. In the end, I did find content that was helpful, but it made me wonder why this process wasn't easier.


This is indeed an issue. It's part of why I'm here. This area is, generally speaking, leftist, but not stupid leftist, if you'll pardon the terminology.

All ideologies have varying degrees of intelligence with which they lay out their issues. Many communities do not do so intelligently(consider, say, youtube comments, or facebook memes), and are essentially a low-intelligence reflection of the more well thought out cousins, which are unfortunately rarer, and harder to access. Any ideology self-selects not only for people that happen to be of the same party as them, but for those who think like them. This results in very few places where folks can rationally discuss things online, particularly across divides. It's not merely political biases, though those exist as well, but the reasonable desire to exclude those who would drag down the level of discussion with insults, baseless accusations, and the like.

In short, if you want to understand the underpinnings of conservatism, or liberal thought, or libertarian ideology, most social media is not very helpful.

So what would a social platform aimed specifically at making this easy look like? I'd love to have this lean on whatever the latest understanding is on changing minds or simply just getting people to listen. Also, my focus naturally tends to be on the intellectual side, but I would love to have something that helps connect people on an emotional level as well.


A forum, probably. Short posts can be pithy, and can sometimes be good, but learning about a topic usually requires a conversation of some length, with some continuity between those involved, and forums are better at this than many mediums.

My hope is that a specifically designed app would have something to offer over Facebook or message boards. But if you don't think so, or have another idea for a format, let me know that as well.


Curious as to what the special spice would be. Rating people, ala slashdot/reddit/etc might be part of it, but that only gets you so far. Reddit is better than some places, but it's still hardly intellectual. We could rate people in a number of different fashions, perhaps. What those are, and exactly how it would work might be interesting. Solving partisanship isn't a small problem, though. And, in solving that, you *also* have to still maintain solutions for all the various other issues of human communication.

I suspect that, at a certain size, problems will always exist. Moderation difficulties increase with scale, and the loud jerk can easily drown out the reasonable folks.

That said, I'm also not sure that the potential user base of "people who want to overcome partisanship" is that huge...ultimately, I think people are mostly getting exactly what they want from social media, and reasoned, non partisan dialogue is not it.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:44 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I had thought that you were looking to create a way for people to organically happen across well-reasoned and civil representation of different points of view, which sounds like the same thing as fostering good discussions -- not so much for the sake of you being able to go and discuss yourself, but for the sake of there being available for you to read a discussion between reasonable and civil people on multiple sides.

The direction of Good Discussion is definitely where I want the compass to point. I just realized after my first post, that this seems like a monumentally hard problem, and I don't have any idea of what should be in place in an app to make it better.

My revised aim was kind of Step 1 of heading down that path. Someone realizes that their filter bubble is causing trouble and they want to break out. I want to design (via thought experiment) a place that could be the first stop for such people. What should be there? When I was in that situation, I was looking to be pointed to content, so some sort of curation or aggregation of articles seems like it would be helpful. I think a place to discuss with like minded people would be great as well, but I don't know any secret sauce to help that process other than a well-moderated message board.

So this is more about helping people lay the first planks for a bridge rather than facilitating what happens when you cross it.

LaserGuy wrote:One possible way that might be helpful for this is decontextualizing the problems people are trying to solve. Instead of having some Americans looking at an American problem with all of their perceived cultural biases and set agendas, give them a story from Lithuania or Gambia or something. I think you'll probably have better luck getting both sides to produce constructive discussion when it's about a topic that both sides don't already have stakes in the game. Only once you've developed a measure of trust and understanding on both sides do you allow people to start discussing issues in their local sphere.

This sounds like it would be great ground work for social experiments. Measure how people mired in the mess respond and compare it to people that don't have any stake one way or the other. At the very least, I would expect the level of alarm over various things to be much more muted.

quantropy wrote:1: Putting forward a good argument is hard work.
Using existing social media platforms as a model gives in too much to the desire for instant gratification. But getting people to make the effort to put forward their arguments as if they are really trying to convince someone is definitely worth it, because then they tend to see the problems in their own point of view. Then again you want to avoid arguments becoming long academic treatises. Maybe what is required is some sort of 'argument editor' which makes it easier to put together a well reasoned argument, (as well as keeping track of what points the other side has made which you need to reply to)

Something worth mentioning that I didn't think to bring up earlier: I would imagine the target audience for my theoretical platform wouldn't have a ton of overlap with people already heavily invested in long form debates on message boards. There's a level of entrenchment that something like this wouldn't be able to overcome. There's nothing that I could pop up in front of Steve Bannon to open his eyes to how other people see the world. I could imagine that people on message boards banging out walls of text to prove their points might be in a similar boat. (That's not to be dismissive, but just to say that the light touch of "Hey did you consider this?" may not have much effect.)

I was imagining this for people that I see on FB that communicate via sensationalized headlines and weaponized memes that don't engage past a couple of back and forths before it devolves into insults. Some of them are certainly well-entrenched as well, but my hope is that there is a good amount that aren't and are simply Liking and Sharing based on what hits them with emotional resonance.

I do think there's value in actively engaging, but I don't know how to provide bite-sized but constructive options for this, or really anything that's better than a message board. But it could be that such a platform as this could experiment and test out different things. In the end I bet that's what it would take. The problem of facilitating communication is so complicated that we wouldn't know what works better without experimenting. I suppose aside from designing options for this, one could come up with criteria of success. I toyed with this in my opening post about testing people on their ability to restate their opponent's arguments. What tells us if small exchanges are successful?

Tyndmyr wrote:A forum, probably. Short posts can be pithy, and can sometimes be good, but learning about a topic usually requires a conversation of some length, with some continuity between those involved, and forums are better at this than many mediums.

Being exposed to smart and thoughtful writers and talkers can help as well. And listening to a podcast takes less work than engaging in a message board. And it's not just work; it takes a special kind of person to brave the assholes and trolls and try to get something meaningful out of it. Even in a well-moderated place that takes care of the egregious behavior, there can still be a lot of arrogance and dogma and the ever present risk of getting sucked down some useless rabbit hole.

I do agree that forums are a great thing; I just don't think they're for everybody. But maybe providing links to passive consumption would have wider benefit. For active engagement, I don't have a solution better than a forum.

Tyndmyr wrote:That said, I'm also not sure that the potential user base of "people who want to overcome partisanship" is that huge...ultimately, I think people are mostly getting exactly what they want from social media, and reasoned, non partisan dialogue is not it.

"Want" is a tricky word. People are getting exactly what they want from fast food as well. Except when years later they realize that maybe it's not in fact what they wanted.

I wrote above about restraining forces, hurdles that get in the way of doing things differently. It could be that in the population of people consistently doing unhelpful things, there's a number of them that would at least aspriationally want to do better. Maybe making this offramp better paved and more lit would be helpful. With a sign that says "Want to break free from your echo chamber? Here are some things to try ..."
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby ucim » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:31 pm UTC

If you want to learn, you need to listen. A forum isn't a place where people listen, it's a place where people speak. Yeah, some listening occurs, but oftentimes it's just enough listening so that the participant can fire off a response. So, perhaps the "Crossing Divides" platform should be listen-only, with curated presenters from all sides making their points. Since no responses are permitted, there is less incentive for presenters to aim at triggering an emotional response.

Again, consider TED and TEDx talks... Fifteen minute limit, curated presenters, clear objectives: "Ideas worth spreading". Perhaps a format similar to that would be a good start.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby quantropy » Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:24 am UTC

ucim wrote: So, perhaps the "Crossing Divides" platform should be listen-only, with curated presenters from all sides making their points. Since no responses are permitted, there is less incentive for presenters to aim at triggering an emotional response.

I really don't like the provider/customer model. The great advantage of the internet is that it lowers barriers and opens up the publishing of ideas to everyone. But I agree that you don't want the barriers to be too low - you want people to put some effort into putting their ideas forward, and in particular aim to persuade people who don't agree with them at present. The trouble is that raising the barriers of participation leads to something like academic peer review, and academia isn't that well known for creating persuasive arguments.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby SDK » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:30 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:This is indeed an issue. It's part of why I'm here. This area is, generally speaking, leftist, but not stupid leftist, if you'll pardon the terminology.

Does that imply that you frequent right wing forums that are not "stupid right wing"? I went out looking for some a while back, but a search for "right wing forums" gave some pretty disappointing results. If you've got a link or two, I'd love to get involved somewhere with conservatives who are not just blind Trump supporters posting memes and crying fake news.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:07 pm UTC

ucim wrote:If you want to learn, you need to listen. A forum isn't a place where people listen, it's a place where people speak. Yeah, some listening occurs, but oftentimes it's just enough listening so that the participant can fire off a response. So, perhaps the "Crossing Divides" platform should be listen-only, with curated presenters from all sides making their points. Since no responses are permitted, there is less incentive for presenters to aim at triggering an emotional response.

Again, consider TED and TEDx talks... Fifteen minute limit, curated presenters, clear objectives: "Ideas worth spreading". Perhaps a format similar to that would be a good start.

Jose


Every platform runs into the people of folks speaking, but not listening, I think. Hell, even speaking in person does. Forums at least are fairly good in the sense of enabling conversations, as well as easily finding conversations from before. If someone's ideas interest you, you can easily look up what they said before, and follow the threads of ideas to others they converse with.

Video also does this to some extent, but it's much less interactive. A youtube video might, in some cases, be quite informative, but it's a monologue, not a dialogue. For the purposes of this exercise, I do not count youtube comments as a constructive dialogue. They're a good thing, but I don't know that they are actually a social engagement sort of thing.

SDK wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:This is indeed an issue. It's part of why I'm here. This area is, generally speaking, leftist, but not stupid leftist, if you'll pardon the terminology.

Does that imply that you frequent right wing forums that are not "stupid right wing"? I went out looking for some a while back, but a search for "right wing forums" gave some pretty disappointing results. If you've got a link or two, I'd love to get involved somewhere with conservatives who are not just blind Trump supporters posting memes and crying fake news.


I would if I could find them. There are some that are clearly populated by right wing people, and are civil enough, and are of some use in cataloging general values and so forth, but on these, politics are invariably banned for discussion. This is probably not a coincidence.

I used to have a fairly lively, mixed community to chat with back on a forum hosted at the University of Minnesota that was fun, but that was back when I was a student there, and it's since died.

Forums have potential, but many, many do not live up to it, I'm afraid.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby SDK » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:30 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I would if I could find them. There are some that are clearly populated by right wing people, and are civil enough, and are of some use in cataloging general values and so forth, but on these, politics are invariably banned for discussion. This is probably not a coincidence.

And stuff like this is why I feel pressured to come to the conclusion that right wing people just haven't sufficiently thought through their political views/values. I don't want to come to that conclusion, but if there's no one who is both right wing and able to back up their views with real logic... well...

I don't want to live in a bubble, but this bubble is reality! :P
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:39 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:I would if I could find them. There are some that are clearly populated by right wing people, and are civil enough, and are of some use in cataloging general values and so forth, but on these, politics are invariably banned for discussion. This is probably not a coincidence.

And stuff like this is why I feel pressured to come to the conclusion that right wing people just haven't sufficiently thought through their political views/values. I don't want to come to that conclusion, but if there's no one who is both right wing and able to back up their views with real logic... well...

I don't want to live in a bubble, but this bubble is reality! :P


I actually don't think that's the issue. After all, given the pronounced tendency of folks to become conservative as they age, clearly, they had to have thought about politics at some point. I think it's a communication issue. In general, I think liberals are (in part due to being younger, in part due to other factors) more technologically adept, and this plays very heavily into a number of political issues.

The republican bubble just isn't online nearly as much. Nor are they as into automated tools as their Democratic counterparts.

You go to any group of young, technically savvy folks, and odds are pretty good that the average political bent is somewhere left of center. It's as safe a bet as assuming that folks at an elderly gun club meeting are a wee bit to the right.

The two bubbles exist(and any number of sub-bubbles within them), but they're not identical opposites. You've got some really strong demographic differences that makes their communications different. Dismissing them or not having real logic is...well, little different from how most of them no doubt view your bubble. Everyone has a laundry list of reasons why their chosen side is superior.

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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby SDK » Fri Nov 17, 2017 12:23 am UTC

It's a good point about the tech savvy thing, particularly about those who might actually want to use an online forum (or an app or whatever else, to bring this back to the OP - that likely will be a real issue that this social platform will need to overcome if it's going to truly bridge the divide).

I actually do want to see that laundry list from the right wing, though. I was mostly joking about the real logic/my-bubble-is-reality thing, but it has been very difficult for me to find right wing articles or opinions that make sense. I want to leave my bubble to make sure that's not the only reason why I can't find those opinions, but on my ventures outside I haven't had any luck so far.

Why is political discussion banned on those right wing sites anyway? I think I made the (erroneous?) assumption that they would get trolled by far right memes or something.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:37 am UTC

The impression I get of the general common folk on the internet is not that they are young and therefore more left-wing on the whole, but that they are mostly young, largely illiterate right-wingers, not standing on any kind of academically defensible conservative principles, but just "rebels without a cause" who are (rightly) angry about their own powerlessness in the world and railing against anything authoritarian or mainstream ("big government" and "the liberal media") and attacking any scapegoat they can find to blame for all the world's troubles (the Jews/blacks/Mexicans/Muslims, feminists, gay or trans people, etc).

That aside, I think the association of age with conservativeness doesn't entail any kind of thought to have gone into one's political beliefs, but rather just that times change and people don't like to, so old people who want things to be how they've "always been" automatically become conservative (without even changing their positions) as the progress of progressiveness marches on.
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Re: Crossing Divides - A Social Platform

Postby guenther » Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:07 pm UTC

ucim wrote:If you want to learn, you need to listen. A forum isn't a place where people listen, it's a place where people speak. Yeah, some listening occurs, but oftentimes it's just enough listening so that the participant can fire off a response. So, perhaps the "Crossing Divides" platform should be listen-only, with curated presenters from all sides making their points. Since no responses are permitted, there is less incentive for presenters to aim at triggering an emotional response.

Listen-centered would be fine. I certainly wouldn't want people hit up with what forum they're going to join when they enter the door. But I also wouldn't have a problem with tacking on a forum for anybody that wants to use it.

As far as content, the 15 minute chunks would be fine, but I'm not sure if you're talking about original content. Finding smart writers and talkers seems pretty ambitious for even a theoretical start-up. But among all the noise, there are already a lot of smart communicators out there, so the out-of-the-gate offering could be just pointing to those. Maybe it could be a database that's sortable and searchable by length, affiliation, topic, format, etc. And if it grows enough to attract people, then it could try out producing its own content.

Tyndmyr wrote:Video also does this to some extent, but it's much less interactive. A youtube video might, in some cases, be quite informative, but it's a monologue, not a dialogue. For the purposes of this exercise, I do not count youtube comments as a constructive dialogue. They're a good thing, but I don't know that they are actually a social engagement sort of thing.

Videos can be a dialogue as well when there are multiple people involved. 15 minutes doesn't give much time to explore beyond laying out one person's case (a la TED), but I've heard a lot of good back and forth in hour long formats where they have guests or hosts. Intelligence Squared US is a great example of this.

These are all still passive consumption, but you get to see how people respond to tough questions.

SDK wrote:I actually do want to see that laundry list from the right wing, though. I was mostly joking about the real logic/my-bubble-is-reality thing, but it has been very difficult for me to find right wing articles or opinions that make sense. I want to leave my bubble to make sure that's not the only reason why I can't find those opinions, but on my ventures outside I haven't had any luck so far.

Hey, maybe Crossing Divides would be useful here. :) It's aimed at people that either feel they lack understanding of the other side, or perhaps think they know but scratch their head wondering how so many people could be that bad/stupid/hateful. This means the doors is at least slightly open to learning. I mentioned before the idea of entrenchment where someone is really dug into their position and either already knows all the other arguments or doesn't care. I don't think this would offer much to them.

As for your particular question about thoughtful arguments from the Right, I can't help with a forum, but the Ricochet Network is great if you don't mind podcasts. I went on a hunt for conservatives talking about Trump that didn't simply defend him by saying the media lies and that Obama and Hillary are bad. Ricochet delivers very well on this. I will write more below in spoilers if you want to try them out.

I mentioned above that I don't know of a similar thing on the Left. I tried listening to Pod Save America a bit, but my problem with liberal things is that I don't want to spend an hour listening to things I agree with. They spend so much time railing against Trump or the repeal of The Affordable Care Act and I just don't find it interesting. I want a variety of Left-leaning positions where they push back against each other and debate the details. And I want an honest engagement of the Right rather than just calling them racist/homophobic/etc. I didn't spend much time looking since I don't feel I need to grow in that direction a whole lot. But for a theoretical design of Crossing Divides, I would need to offer something like like that. One of the problems of the echo chamber is that it treats the other side as a single thing, so showing the spectrum of voices that comprise a side is absolutely essential.

Expanded thoughts on the Ricochet Network:
Spoiler:
Ricochet really is a network in the sense that it's a lot of different podcasts released on one stream. This is a big part of its value; it gives an array of voices that covers pretty much the whole conservative spectrum (stopping well before Alt-Right). By the way, it is all audio content if that works for you, but many of them are writers for National Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary Magazine, etc. so you could probably get many of the opinions in print as well. But that's not how I consume it, so the below is written in regards to the podcasts.

In the era of Trump, the big division is between pro-Trump and never-Trump. They have both. But they have more nuance as well, like Trump-friendly (they like his positions in general but criticize when he's doing a bad job promoting them) and Trump-a-la-carte (judges everything he does piecemeal). It's not always about Trump, but he naturally takes center stage a lot. It's definitely a network of conservatives talking to conservatives in that they argue for conservative positions and generally cheer on Republicans winning over Democrats, but I think their diversity of thought and the push for reasonable voices helps keep them from being an echo chamber.

  • John Podhoretz and Commentary Magazine: He's one of my favorites because he's outraged at all the things I think he should be outraged by (Trump, NFL firings, Roy Moore, etc.). I've heard him described as the "friendly conservative" that news shows like to trot out showing how Trump is even offending people on the Right. He's very smart and lays out his arguments in great detail.
  • Charles Cooke of "The Editors" and "Mad Dogs & Englishmen": He's very pro-gun and small government, but is not religious and is very reasonable with how he treats opposing view points. He's probably my second favorite for how clearly and reasonably he speaks.
  • David French of The Liberty Files: He is a good voice for evangelicals and is very pro-life and free speech. What sets him apart is that he really sticks to his principles. I first became aware of him in particular (it's just a sea of voices in the beginning before you start learning who's who) when he took a strong stance against the President calling for NFL firings and mandated patriotism in general. And he also maintains that it's better a Democrat take the Alabama seat than to hold your nose and vote for Moore.
  • "Three Martini Lunch" and "The Daily Standard": Both are daily, about 20 minutes long, and give quick conservative perspectives on the latest happenings. Both are quite reasonable in calling out the Left and the Right. The latter is probably a bit more moderate with people like Bill Kristol contributing (many on the Right would lump him with David Brooks as not a real conservative)
  • Jonah Goldberg of The Remnant: Another never-Trumper, his is a new show that often features Senator Ben Sasse who has done a good job of being a reasonable voice in Congress (as far as I've heard him anyway).
  • Harvard Lunch Club: This is a Trump-friendly podcast where they'll criticize Trump for upholding their principles poorly, but in general articulates those positions in a reasonable way. I don't agree with them much, but I respect them.
  • Bill Bennett: I think he's the most pro-Trump person on there and actually personally knows him. He held important positions in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations. In general I don't like to listen to him, but I tune in to hear how he might defend particularly egregious things. He wasn't out burning NFL jerseys but he was fine with that sentiment, he drinks the "Media Lies" kool-aid, and he only has moderate concerns about Moore. He's quite entrenched in his views and thus I don't put much weight in his arguments, but I respect him more than Hannity or Limbaugh.
  • They have a couple of female-run podcasts like LadyBrains and Smart Girl Politics. I really wanted to like them to get a woman's perspective, but I don't listen to them anymore. [EDIT] I forgot about Need to Know which has Mona Charen (and her male cohost). I like them. They are like John Podhoretz on the spectrum and have very modest (perhaps prudish) sensibilities and thus are very bothered by Trump and Trumpian behavior.
  • They have a few podcasts that do a good job of collecting varied opinions (pro-Trump, never-Trump, and sometimes even a liberal) like Ricochet Podcast (by the creators of the network), The Fifth Estate Podcast, and The Editors (which I mentioned above with Charles Cooke).
  • There's even more beyond this where they discuss pop culture or have funny guys (that I don't find funny). You really have to pick and choose or you'll get inundated with too much content everyday. But as I said, that's part of the magic. I would love a resource like this on the Left that had one place to hear such a variety of opinions.
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