Understand the challenges in online discussion
We can’t simply ask everyone to always post ideal, tactful, respectful, and clear messages. Maintaining healthy online discourse with diverse perspectives requires care in how we react to messages we dislike, disagree with, or don’t understand.
When we react with aggression or defensiveness, it often leads to negative feedback loops. When we react by ignoring or voting-down, that censoring of unpopular ideas can lead to echo chambers and groupthink.
Promote and teach respectful, effective communication
At Snowdrift.coop, we welcome controversial or unpopular views when expressed politely and appropriately. Before users can post freely on our discussion board, we ask that they accept our honor pledge, vowing to participate with integrity and in good faith.
Giving the chance to improve
When people take time and energy to express themselves thoughtfully and respectfully, they also become more open-minded toward others’ perspectives. If a post is flagged for violating the Code of Conduct, it will be immediately hidden. But we then invite the poster to improve the writing and repost.
We only take enforcement measures against serious violations, but honorable participation also involves commitment to the following ideals:
Do your part
Be a patron, a contributor, an advocate, a constructive critic, and an otherwise engaged supporter of various projects. While you won’t likely engage with each and every project you like, you can make a reasonable effort to bring value to the community overall.
Hold projects accountable
Give reasonable benefit-of-the-doubt to both projects and to other users; but hold projects accountable, point out concerns, encourage projects to stay honorable and meet their commitments, and give support to projects that show consistent good will and honor.
But allow discretion
Encourage and respect the creative autonomy of project teams in determining priorities. Make polite requests, not demands.
Strive for ideals but avoid dogmatism
Recognize our community’s vision of a prosperous, fair, ethical world; but use good judgment to make practical decisions on a case-by-case basis. In short: use practical wisdom over simplistic dogma or rigid zero-tolerance rules.
Maintain respectful and effective communication
Be positive, friendly, and considerate
Give others the benefit of the doubt. Assume good faith. Thank others, pointing out specific things you appreciate.
Participate in an authentic and active way
Present yourself honestly, emphasizing transparency and integrity. Make liberal use of emoticons and other casual, positive conversation style. Respect anyone’s decision to protect their privacy and remain anonymous, but encourage personal, human interaction.
Be effective and concise
- Maximize the signal-to-noise ratio by reducing the bulk of unnecessary comments.
- Aim for short sentences.
- Provide links.
- Avoid duplicating existing items.
- Use tags and other tools to avoid posting extraneous reply comments.
- Use our IRC channel for more open-ended casual discussion.
Use empirical evidence and concrete examples
Provide concrete empirical examples, links, and citations whenever feasible.
- Avoid assumptions about others’ knowledge or views.
- Help educate newcomers about how to best use the resources, how the system works, and encourage them to learn and care about the community’s ideals.
- Answer questions with patience and grace, no matter how basic.
Use best-practice communication techniques
- Recognize the strong tendency for misunderstandings of pure text (especially the difficulty in discerning jokes, sarcasm, and other facetiousness).
- Ask for clarification before judging others’ intentions.
- Favor first-person perspectives describing your views rather than second-person “you statements”.
- Do not make personal issues out of intellectual differences.
- Embrace chances to learn and change your views.
- Welcome others’ change of mind gracefully without saying “I told you so.”
- Whether reacting positively or negatively, express meaningful judgments of statements, actions, and effects rather than judgments of people.
- E.g. better to say “that was a wonderful explanation!” than “you’re so good at explaining things!”
- Avoid carrying disagreements from one topic to another. Treat each new discussion with a fresh perspective.
- Welcome diverse perspectives and identities, and avoid assumptions about others’ identities, views, or experiences.
- Respectfully point out rhetorical fallacies, avoid them yourself, and do not take a mention of fallacies as a personal attack.
- Ask about the accuracy of your impressions of others’ views. Don’t put words in others’ mouths.
Avoid reacting to specific words. Instead, help others clearly express their thoughts even if you do not agree with their views.
Consider Active Listening concepts and the following guidelines from Anatol Rapoport (by way of Dan Dennett):
- Attempt to re-express the other person’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that they say, ‘Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.’
- List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement)
- Mention anything you have learned from them
- Only now are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
- Another framing of similar ideas is to steel-man instead of straw-man (i.e. work to improve others’ arguments before criticizing rather than presenting a poor version of their arguments)
- Acknowledge respectfully-presented constructive criticism.
Be forgiving; do not hold grudges against others for past violations.
We encourage consciousness-raising. Values and honor matter. Do your part to educate others. Thank others who are working to do consciousness-raising (or at least tolerate them and do not complain about their efforts).