On the Role of the Discord

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On the Role of the Discord

Post by Santa Claus » Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:37 am

Hey everyone I want to talk a bit about the Discord.

I'll start with a little bit of a summary: just over a year ago I started the quiz bowl Discord as a potential replacement for the IRC. At the time of my first update four months in, the community was a few dozen people; now, eight months after that, there are quite a lot more than that. I think that at this point it is clear that it has established a niche for itself, and even if it is the wretched hive of scum and villainy that some have insinuated in the past, it is at least a well-frequented one.

I am really happy at the level of engagement that the Discord has had, and can scarcely believe that it's been an entire year since its inception. It's hosted several play testing sessions, countless packet readings, and the 2017 Festivus (the packet-reading capabilities of Discord seem good enough to sustain packet readings over text for essentially any number of people). Even just recently there was some very productive discussion about the buzz point data for ACF Regionals, which made its way onto its own post. However, I'm not here to talk about the positives.

Discord is a public platform: I have not installed any barriers to entry outside of the difficulty of obtaining an invite (which is negligible, as any member is allowed to generate one and distribute them freely). It is perhaps one degree less open than the forums since it requires either navigating the forums to find that one permalink I dropped 13 months ago or being in direct contact with someone already on the forums. Much like the IRC though, the chat makes it easy for people to jump in and start contributing. It lacks much of the seriousness, decorum, and occasional unbridled rage that many people have come to associate with the forums*. People of various levels of commitment to quiz bowl come and go talking of Michelangelo, and I think there has been a lot of productive discussion, casual conversation, and socializing. It seems to have continued where the IRC left off in its role as an informal place for quiz bowl people to hang out and stuff.

*But does it really?

It is no secret that the IRC concentrated much of negative, cliquish aspects of quiz bowl, but nevertheless those problems were never really removed. Though tolerated there, I really don't see why that has to continue; for all their similarities, the IRC and the Discord are separate entities, and don't need to be administered the same way. For this reason, I am voicing my concerns with the sorts of behavior that people exhibit on a fairly regular basis in the Discord. People seem to think that it's okay to air personal grievances, insult each other for things unrelated to quiz bowl, and generally be a prick to each other for reasons totally separate to quiz bowl. I disagree.

What I want to discuss is whether the community thinks that there is justification for rules against this sort of behavior. I will now briefly explain my thoughts on the matter in a little box for easy access:
my opinions wrote:I don't understand how this mode of conversation has any place, not just in the Discord, but in quiz bowl in general. Hating people is fine, I guess - it happens to everyone. I feel that sort of thing should be saved for private conversations, though. I'm even willing to concede that there's nothing wrong with stating displeasure/annoyance/hatred for another person if that's all it is - a statement. It becomes a fact about you - I dislike Y, I am annoyed with Z, remember it or don't. But the moment that there's elaboration, once specific arguments get involved, it fosters toxicity. It invites people to join in the yelling or argue that it's wrong. And it forces everyone else to either have an opinion on the matter, change the topic, or outright leave. I also find grievance with the comments of this nature that aren't even personally motivated. Instead, they're mean just for the sake of it. Whether it's for the purpose of advancing an argument or merely belittling another, like... why? This is clearly not an okay thing. If the Discord is to act as a public space, suitable for everyone to participate in, I don't see how this sort of behavior can stay.
Now, the question of whether people should be nice to each other on the forums is one that has been addressed several times in the past, and I think that it's important that to address the key points from those previous arguments. This post is not targeted at people yelling at each other over the best way to powermark a set, nor is it trying to preserve some kind of existing order that can only be defeated by throwing an unrelenting torrent of rage at it - this is 100% not directed at quiz bowl-related discussion. As others have said with much more nuance than I am about to, it is a slippery slope from there to removing discussions from a place ostensibly created for the purpose of having those kinds of discussions in the first place. If your opinions on Russian historiography whip you into a frothing rage then good for you, because first and foremost, the quiz bowl Discord is meant to foster quiz bowl discussion.

But! I think that an equally important secondary purpose of the Discord would be to provide a place for quiz bowl people to interact with one another. There are constantly people talking about shared interests, or their travel plans, or any number of things, and I think that's what the real value in having something outside of the forums like the Discord. Negative conversations suck collective attention away from quiz bowl related topics, but they directly hurt perception of the space and as a consequence how willing people are to participate in future conversations. If the Discord disappeared today I think that'd be the main thing we'd lose.

My opinion on this may very well be unique. This is why I have put this topic on the forums, so you guys can roast me if you think this is super dumb or something. I'm not planning to implement any huge overarching reforms for the channel without some semblance of popular support for them, because when it comes down to it I am but one person who uses the Discord. However, I think that this is a topic of discussion that is worth having, if only so that people think for a hot sec before they start ranting about how Person A is the worst and how Person B sucks. That is the sort of behavior that would earn someone community backlash, if not a stay in the Forbidden Zone, on the forums, and I don't get why booting up a separate app suddenly grants one the ability to flame.




(Alright so also there is actually a second part of this post not about "quiz bowl discussion and its limits in the Discord" because it is rather explicitly not about quiz bowl discussion. This is about the #politics chat in the Discord. The rest of my post is me asking for input; that will not be the case here.

I am concerned with the trends I have seen in the politics chat. This is not because I think politics are bad or something, or because of the political opinions that have been expressed - I am concerned because it's getting to be an echo chamber in there and I really don't think that helps anyone. There is a trend of people posting things that they don't like so that other people can join in on not liking that thing. This is bad. Obviously if you share political beliefs with someone else there will be things you agree on, e.g. whether something/someone is "bad". That doesn't mean you should just do that constantly, all the time, though. In an effort to limit this sort of posting I have temporarily removed the ability to post links, as there is no other options short of actual policing of content, which I think we can agree is really dumb. This is an attempt to discourage that sort of behavior - if you guys are willing to post more productively then I'll restore those privileges. If you think that this will kill the politics channel, my response is that if there isn't any sort of meaningful discussion that can happen without that sort of talk, then good riddance. If you want to comment on this policy, feel free.)
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by ErikC » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:11 am

I agree with the idea that the Discord is good for connecting with the greater community. The structure of a forum like this one doesn't allow for the same sort of conversation that can be had on a Discord server - the discussion about a Regionals Pack and lead-ins would have been impossible on a forum. The off-topic discussion has been nice for learning about how things are in the U.S. and the U.K. as well.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by csheep » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:26 pm

I am one of (I think several, based on Discord comments) people who generally keep Politics (as well as other channels classified as "Off Topic," including anime/sports/comics/etc.) muted. It's pretty easy to avoid the politics channel if one wishes to. It might be worth making the Politics channel opt-in if it's particularly contentious, and have it hidden as a default.

I have no strong feelings either way about the existence of the Politics channel in its current state.

More generally, I think the tone of discourse on the Discord veers on the hostile and cliquish at times, but I don't find it particularly severe. I say this as, I think, someone who's hovering more or less on the peripheries of the community and a relative "outsider."

I think a lot of the issue are simply a function of a relatively small number of active posters who tend to dominate any discussion, which is something that's found across almost every IRC/Discord/etc. channel. I think making the Discord invite more visible is helpful in overcoming this, as more active posters will naturally introduce variance in the tone and subject matter of the conversation, and helps prevent a small group of people just fixating on specific grievances.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:14 pm

Just remember: if you want to discourage a particular kind of discussion, you can also use norms or shaming instead of rules.

Back in like 2008 or 2009, when I was in the quizbowl IRC every night, there was no formal rule against discussing politics. #politics did not exist yet as a separate channel, and they would not ban or kick you for bringing up politics. Instead, somebody would start a discussion about waffles vs pancakes to drown out the political talk. This did not just create and opportunity for the non-politics people to discuss something else, but it would serve as a signal to the politics-talker that they screwed up and violated community norms, one less severe then a kick or a ban.

I remember once I started a political discussion, and the waffles/pancakes thing definitely shamed me into dropping it. It helped that the waffles/pancakes thing was not really something that would come up in the normal course of conversation, so if you saw that topic discussed you knew somebody, perhaps you, had violated community norms.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by csheep » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:34 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Just remember: if you want to discourage a particular kind of discussion, you can also use norms or shaming instead of rules.

Back in like 2008 or 2009, when I was in the quizbowl IRC every night, there was no formal rule against discussing politics. #politics did not exist yet as a separate channel, and they would not ban or kick you for bringing up politics. Instead, somebody would start a discussion about waffles vs pancakes to drown out the political talk. This did not just create and opportunity for the non-politics people to discuss something else, but it would serve as a signal to the politics-talker that they screwed up and violated community norms, one less severe then a kick or a ban.

I remember once I started a political discussion, and the waffles/pancakes thing definitely shamed me into dropping it. It helped that the waffles/pancakes thing was not really something that would come up in the normal course of conversation, so if you saw that topic discussed you knew somebody, perhaps you, had violated community norms.
That sounds incredibly childish and obnoxious to me. If I, as a newer member who's not familiar with community norms, met with inane "waffles vs. pancakes" discussion when I tried to bring up an issue, I'd be baffled and insulted. I would much prefer if someone, either publicly or via PM, simply informed me of community's preference to not have [X] type of discussion.

Separately, and on top of that, the very existence of nebulous "community norms" seems contrary to the OP's stated goal of toning down cliquish in-group behavior.

Discord makes it very easy to create new, separated channels of discussion, and also makes it very easy for people who are not interested to hide/mute those channels. I don't think stringent rules dictating discussion, or "shaming," is necessary at all.
Last edited by csheep on Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by ErikC » Mon Feb 12, 2018 1:35 pm

csheep wrote:
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Just remember: if you want to discourage a particular kind of discussion, you can also use norms or shaming instead of rules.

Back in like 2008 or 2009, when I was in the quizbowl IRC every night, there was no formal rule against discussing politics. #politics did not exist yet as a separate channel, and they would not ban or kick you for bringing up politics. Instead, somebody would start a discussion about waffles vs pancakes to drown out the political talk. This did not just create and opportunity for the non-politics people to discuss something else, but it would serve as a signal to the politics-talker that they screwed up and violated community norms, one less severe then a kick or a ban.

I remember once I started a political discussion, and the waffles/pancakes thing definitely shamed me into dropping it. It helped that the waffles/pancakes thing was not really something that would come up in the normal course of conversation, so if you saw that topic discussed you knew somebody, perhaps you, had violated community norms.
That sounds incredibly childish and obnoxious to me. If I, as a newer member who's not familiar with community norms, met with inane "waffles vs. pancakes" discussion when I tried to bring up an issue, I'd be baffled and insulted. I would much prefer if someone, either publicly or via PM, simply informed me of community's preference to not have [X] type of discussion.

Separately, and on top of that, the very existence of nebulous "community norms" seems contrary to the OP's stated goal of toning down cliquish in-group behavior.
The IRC sounds like it used to be a dumpster fire if this is an issue.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:25 pm

My personal preference is to be restrained by norms rather than rules. When somebody tells me I can't do something because there is a rule against it, I immediately feel oppressed and inspired to rebel. Being normatively shamed doesn't inspire that same feeling. Perhaps this is a personality or generational difference.

Anyway, I'm pointing this out simply so that whoever runs the discord understands that they have a wide range of levers to pull, not to recommend it outright.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by Cheynem » Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:34 pm

What behaviors do people find petty or clique-ish in the Discord?
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by Panayot Hitov » Tue Feb 13, 2018 6:15 pm

As Ike has mentioned before, the problems that drew me away from Discord, as well as the problems described in these posts, seem to be concentrated in MW's behavior. He has been a nice guy in my limited real-world interactions with him, but he can be (and often is) really mean-spirited online, and it's what put me off of the Discord.
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Re: On the Role of the Discord

Post by Who Cares About Nausinous » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:22 am

I just want to mention that I basically have the Discord to thank for allowing me to at least feel like a part of this community. Other than that I have very little to contribute on the forums. I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way. Also, there were some points in which high school kids (one of which was just starting quizbowl iirc) went to the Discord to ask for general tips and help with studying and there were many people who seemed more than willing to offer assistance. The packet reading server is great, though admittedly I haven't ever used the IRC so I have nothing to compare.

I assume the topic of quizbowl "nobodies" being scared to post on the forums (or by extension participate in the Discord?) has been a topic of conversation for a long time, so I doubt I have anything to say on that matter that hasn't already been said. It is at least real for me, and I have been editing and rewriting this post for longer than I should be just because of some sense of anxiety that I shouldn't feel. I am probably not the only one who feels this way.
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