Perspectives on the Insurgency #2: Nicholas is not part of the solution

This is part #2 in a sequence of exchanges between myself and Jennifer Edeburn , on the appropriateness of complaints against Quora. It builds on the Salon and the Neighbourhood Gang analogy, and do go back and read that post if you haven’t already.


Gangs like this always have a couple of people who seem better than the rest, who are polite to the waitstaff and don’t participate in the undesirable behaviors. You can’t always figure out why they are even hanging out with these people to begin with. That’s you, and that’s one of the places where this analogy falls apart, because I do understand your concerns and why you participate. I admit to some disappointment, though, because I don’t see evidence that you *distinguish*. I’m sure it’s quite possible that it’s there and I don’t see it because I am (obviously!) not privy to everything you do on the site, but keep in mind that what is available for me to see is the same thing that is available for everyone to see and what is not, is not.

I upvoted your answer on the RAQ question [Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why was the blog Rage Against Quora deleted (noticed on January 24, 2017)?] partly as a nod to the fact that you were careful to express that while you had concerns you did not agree with the methods used by others, and that you had enough respect not to piss on the carpet in Tatiana’s house — and I think it is notable that you used that description, so similar to my analogy. And then you upvoted another answer on the same post that was nothing but derogatory towards moderation, and that I felt likely crossed the lines of BNBR! Please do me a favor; go back and read that answer, really read it. Then pretend that some newbie follows you because you appear in the interesting people strip, and then that content shows up in their feed because you upvoted it. That’s what you want them to see in their first week? That answer is going to convince them that this is a place of civil discourse, a salon for considered discussion and argument?

(Aside: I really like your description of Quora as a salon).

Please do not get me wrong; I agree that Quora has many failings. I am not suggesting that they should not be discussed — I think they should be discussed, and I respect that what drives you is a desire to discuss them with the hope of making Quora a better place. I do not sense that this is what drives most of the rest of the members of the movement, although I strongly suspect that may simply be that I haven’t observed it in the tone of their comments, and their motives are similar to yours. I think, though, that you have more power than you may see to influence it in a constructive direction.

I feel that I have not been particularly constructive in my criticisms above, only pointing out the problems but not offering any solutions; the only constructive thing I have possibly done is made you aware of how at least one “outsider” (me) views this whole mess. Apologies for that.

My response:

About tactics used by others and the RAQ post: I have concluded that Scott was not in the wrong (and I certainly did not intend to throw him under the bus!) I did concede that some might think that.

To the substance of your message:

I do not distinguish. That’s the remark that smarted, because it’s true. And I have a responsibility to distinguish publicly, both as a moral agent, and as someone providing a forum for The Insurgency. Even if I am not an asshole, I have corporate responsibility in at least some sense for those who are.

I know why I don’t distinguish, and the reasons for that are going to be the subject of the next two posts. It’s about group loyalty and ideological loyalty. These have their place, but these also have their limits, and we’ll be going into that.

Jennifer’s criticism defuses the obvious retort, which is that I’m not accountable for what others do. Well, true. But it is incumbent on me to give a good example of conduct—especially since for me this is more about personal morality than bringing about change, anyway. And it is also incumbent on me—here’s the hard bit—to call out bad behaviour in others.

So I fully accept that. Just as well, because I reject what comes next 🙂 — but let me explain my thinking, and you tell me if it stands up.

Do I want a user to see grousing and venom on their first week on Quora? No, they should see what is good with the place long before what is bad. Quora is not a forum for complaining about moderation, it is a forum for exchanging knowledge and insight. The complaining about moderation is just a lagniappe. 🙂 And after all, if they don’t see enough in the community worth defending and sticking up for, they’re not going to bother defending and sticking up for to begin with.

Do I want a user to see grousing and venom from me on their first week on Quora, just because they liked my somnulent goatee on the Recommended Quorans slider? No, for the same reason. I’d like to think the bots would take care of that by picking what they feed, but if I trusted the bots, I’d have a lot less to complain about.

Do I want a user to see grousing and venom from someone else just because I upvoted them? Well, here I disagree. This has actually come up in a quite different context, as I spoke to in Nick Nicholas’ answer to Are you more careful about what you upvote/comment on answers because your followers will see it in their feed? . There are answers I give anonymously, because I’m aware that some in my audience would take offence at them. But I have decided that constraining my upvotes is a step too far.

I am quite slapdash about my upvotes, and I award them out of individual loyalty, group loyalty, amusement, intellectual appreciation, and on very rare occasion randomness. I award upvotes to see more of the upvoted material on my feed, and to let people know I’ve read them. Upvotes don’t always connote to me that I agree with everything they said. Even when they do, they don’t always connote to me that I agree with how they said it. And even when they do that, they don’t always connote that I hold them up as an exemplar for the rest of the community.

Others on that question think differently about their upvotes. I respect their perspectives, I get them, I just don’t share them. My Quora Feed is still primarily about me.

I’ve had a good exchange on this topic in PM with McKayla Kennedy (or, as I like to think of her, the angel on my shoulder). You can see McKayla’s approach to the issue at McKayla Kennedy’s answer to Are you more careful about what you upvote/comment on answers because your followers will see it in their feed? . This was how I encapsulated mine to her:

I will put my name with an upvote to something prurient. I will not put my name to something stupid, or hateful. I’ve been challenged on my upvotes of Quora criticism which is hateful, as being motivated by me partaking in mob mentality. I want to think very long and hard about that, because they may be right.

(Why yes, Jennifer, I have been discussing this exchange with other people!)

I think I will keep upvoting as I have done, for my own ill-thought out and selfish purposes. But ACTION: I think that makes it all the more incumbent on me to identify outright hateful (or worse, stupid) responses, and withhold my upvote from them, just as I withhold my upvote from responses in politics or religion that I may find politically agreeable, but morally or intellectually lacking. And ACTION: it is all the more important for me to call out publicly what I think can go wrong in Insurgency tactics, even when I don’t muster the courage to say that to an individual’s face.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *