censorship vs. responsibility (was Re: Truncation Resistance #2

Rob Lanphier robla at eskimo.com
Sat Feb 1 21:13:48 PST 1997

On Tue, 28 Jan 1997, Steve Eppley wrote:
> Do we have a consensus in support of modifying EM's welcome message
> so it includes Hugh's proposed standard, that proposers of methods 
> should be prepared to compare and to justify?  It doesn't go as far 
> as specifying a remedy for perceived violations or provide a clear 
> formula for recognizing violations, but it might be helpful anyway.
> It makes it more clear that there is some burden on proposers to 
> address the merits (and lack of merits) of their proposals, instead 
> of leaving the burden to the respondents.

I've changed the newcomer message, and I'll email it to this list for all
to see.  I think it fits the description you state above.

As for a FAQ, I think whoever writes the initial FAQ should have complete
editorial control over it.  The only time that we should have a vote is
when there are two FAQs that are already written, and we need to choose
between one of them.  This has been a time-honored tradition on the
Usenet, and it is one of the few things that still works about the Usenet. 

Steve, if you could write up a strawman FAQ, and post it to this list as
FAQ 0.1, we could all nitpick it to death, and you could adjust your FAQ
accordingly.  As long as you go with your instincts and try to be fair, I
don't think you'll run into any objections.

Actually, this offer goes to anyone else who wants to be FAQ maintainer. 
The current "FAQ", which was originally written by Mike O. but doesn't
have a maintainer is at: 


It has been the de facto FAQ for quite sometime now because no one has
stepped up to the plate to maintain it.

> I commend Hugh for his reluctance to "pile on" but I think he's been
> overlooking an important "non-redundant" value of people chiming in
> with added support for or opposition to statements posted in the
> list.  When there's a long-running argument between people who
> regularly disagree on something, analysis by neutral-appearing 
> third parties can help break the discourse's logjam.  

Agreed, although I can sympathize with the reluctance to "pile on".  I
think a very concise "me too" message that summarizes why you are piling
on is very valuable.  If I'm at all common, I know I seek out messages
from folks who make an effort to be concise and thoughtful.

If we had a FAQ that addressed most of the issues here, and a FUQ
(Frequently Unanswered Questions) on which those who repeatedly refuse to
answer questions could be blacklisted on, I think that would go a long way
toward improving the discourse.

> In an environment of overwhelming silence, antagonists are
> apt to conclude that some important viewpoint is just a partisan
> minority opinion.  Messages from those who don't post frequently
> are considered highly significant just because they don't post 
> frequently; they appear to be more neutral bystanders.

It's not just that they appear to be neutral.  It's that they appear more
calm and reasoned.  Someone who invariably posts rebuttals to claims five
minutes after the original claim was posted seems desperate and
irrational, especially if they aren't careful about how they phrase what
they say.  A few well-thought-out and well-worded arguments go much
further than a torrent of point-by-point nit picking.

Rob Lanphier
robla at eskimo.com

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