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I liked this for the idea that fear of scarcity can drive "unreasonable" behaviors. This helps me better understand why others may behave in "undesirable" ways and provides a more productive way of addressing the problem than blaming them for being e.g. selfish. This also provides a more enjoyable way of changing my behaviors. Instead of being annoyed with myself for e.g. being too scared to talk to people, I look out for tiny accomplishments (e.g. speaking up when someone got my order wrong) and the benefits it brings (e.g. getting what I wanted to order), to show myself that I am capable. The more capable I feel, the less afraid I am of the world.

This essay had a significant influence on my growth in the past two years. I shifted from perceiving discomfort as something I am subject to, to considering my relationship with discomfort as an object that can be managed. There are many other writings and experiences that contributed to this growth, but this was the first piece I encountered that talked about managing our relationship with hazards as a thing we can manipulate and improve at. It made me wonder why all human activity may be considered running in the meadow and why contracting may be bad, it showed me how dangers can be mitigated through clearer communication of boundaries, it made me aware of how people can be hazards too.

After working through Nook Nature, I think I sort of understand now why contracting might be bad. Trying to manage my fears and do things (instead of just trying to avoid mistakes) has indeed led to a more enjoyable experience and makes me feel more alive. However, I still stand by my original comment, in that I'm not quite clear what exactly the author is trying to convey. 

Something that strikes me as I reread this piece is that I can't tell which are the assumptions, the claims, and the arguments. For example, the essay says that Meadow Theory claims contraction is bad, as in "it is the claim of this theory and this philosophy that this is bad". Yet there does not seem to be an explanation or argument for why this claim might be true. Does that mean we are supposed to take it as an assumption instead?

I don't know how I would rewrite this essay to make it clearer, but if I were to write a piece to myself that captures part of what I have learnt, it would look something like this:

Meadow Theory, remixed

Life is more rewarding when we have a larger surface area of contact with reality

Expanding our surface area of contact with reality enriches our lives. We can expand into new areas, such as traveling to new places or growing a company, or delve deeper into specific areas, like honing our skills in cooking or mastering a musical instrument. Growth makes life more enjoyable and fulfilling.

But explorations expose us to hazards

Unfortunately, life is filled with hazards, both big and small, and exploring brings us into contact with more of such hazards. For instance, when we travel to a new country, we may face unfamiliar food, language barriers, or cultural misunderstandings. Similarly, as we hone our culinary skills, we may come across complex techniques that have greater risks, such as flambéing or working with sharp knives.

Hazards hurt us, so we try to eliminate them from our experience

Hazards are unpleasant and can be dangerous, so our instinct is to eliminate them. And if we can’t, we try to eliminate them from our experiences. For example, if we can’t eradicate a disease, then maybe we use antimicrobial soap to wash our hands, or we avoid crowded areas. We think that hazards are the problem to be dealt with, but is this really the case?

Meadow & Posts

Let’s consider an analogy. Imagine you are running freely in a meadow. You're blindfolded, but that's fine, because the meadow is safe. Now, imagine someone informing you that there is a single post somewhere in the meadow. You might get hurt if you run headlong into a post! What do you do? You slow down and feel your way through, just in case the post is right in front of you.

We contract because we are afraid of getting hurt

Suppose the person had been mistaken and there isn’t actually any post in the meadow. Would anything change? No, you still move slowly because you believe there is a post out there. You contract not because there is actual danger, but because you are (sanely) afraid of getting hurt.

Being afraid is unpleasant, so we strive to eliminate posts from our explorations

Our instinctive response is to get rid of posts, or at least get rid of the possibility of encountering posts as we traverse the meadow. We avoid areas known to contain posts, like how people who are afraid of being laughed at might avoid performing on stage. We stick to known routes, like those who choose to remain in their hometowns simply because it feels comfortable, or people who only read books that get good reviews so they won’t waste their time on bad books.

We also help others to avoid encountering posts

When we have a responsibility for or are helping others, we also strive to eliminate posts from their explorations of reality. We ban children from playing outside, because it is dangerous. We tell our employees exactly what to do, so they won't do it wrongly.

However, avoiding posts leads to a more limited experience

Trying to avoid all posts is costly. There are many hazards in the world. Trying to eliminate all hazards from your experience of the world leads to an increasingly narrow life. You wake up in a city you hate, because you're afraid to move to a new place. You stay in a numbing job, because you fear rejection in your job applications. You avoid talking to people, because you’re afraid they might laugh at you. You don't really try to improve your skills, because you're afraid of discovering you’re not so talented after all. In striving to avoid all potential risks, we end up living a limited life.

What if there's a better way?

Imagine if you knew that the meadow contained only one post, and you managed to locate it. You would feel relieved, knowing that it's safe everywhere else, and you could resume running freely.

But as you venture further into the meadow, your certainty about the post's location diminishes. You start to slow down again, because the danger can be anywhere. You contract, not just because you are afraid of danger, but because you're not sure where the danger lies. If the post was on top of a small hill, then you would still be able to run freely, slowing down only once you sense the ground sloping upwards. You can’t tell if you are nearing a post, so you slow down everywhere.

Managing uncertainty for ourselves

Rather than trying to eliminate all posts, the key is to become better at discerning where hazards are more likely to be, so that we can take the appropriate amount of caution. There are several approaches to managing this uncertainty for ourselves.

One approach is to seek guidance from those who have explored the same area. For example, learning from mentors or seeking advice from experts can provide valuable insights and reduce uncertainty. Maybe we learn from our elders that "pride comes before a fall", so we know to pay attention to whether we are becoming arrogant and careless.

Another approach is to familiarize ourselves with the terrain, so we gain the knowledge and experience that allow us to better predict where posts tend to be. Maybe after cold calling hundreds of strangers, we start to figure out what leads to better results and what leads to rejections.

We can also get better at seeing, or by making our blindfolds less opaque. Rationality skills, for example, can help us improve at the general skill of seeing reality for what it is, as opposed to what we perceive.

Yet another approach is to increase our capacity to handle potential hazards. As we grow and develop, our ability to navigate challenges expands. A post that is the size of a grass stalk may be fatal to someone the size of an ant, but a mere irritation to someone as big as a human. For example, the more self-assured we are, the less impact others' opinions have on our self-esteem. Similarly, having more financial resources allows us to take greater financial risks.

Notice that all these approaches encourage you to explore reality, rather than shrink from it. Better yet, these explorations can help you get better at navigating the meadow, so you can explore parts of the meadow that contain larger, more dangerous posts. These approaches enable you to explore more of the world, not less.

Managing uncertainty for others

The principles of managing uncertainty also apply when we are helping others. Rather than trying to completely shield them from all hazards, we can set boundaries and provide guidance to help them navigate their own explorations. For instance, providing the critical guidelines for a junior team member would ensure they do not make catastrophic mistakes, while still allowing them to learn from their own errors. We can teach children to notice how hunger affects their emotions, rather than just telling them what and when to eat. Such an approach promotes growth and resilience while still providing a safety net within certain limits.

Living expansively in a world of hazards

In summary, living expansively in a world of hazards means understanding and managing risks rather than trying to eliminate all possibilities of danger. We don’t need to ensure that there are no hazards, just ensure that we approach hazards appropriately. We want to be more cautious in areas where there is greater danger to us, and to get better at dealing with hazards so we can explore more areas expansively.

What you think of as a failure to fully eliminate all hazards may in fact be a deliberate decision to hold back so as to promote a healthier, more productive approach to dealing with hazards in the world.

I used to deal with disappointment by minimizing it (e.g. it's not that important) or consoling myself (e.g. we'll do better next time). After reading this piece, I think to myself "disappointment is baby grief". 

Loss is a part of life, whether that is loss of something concrete/"real" or something that we imagined or hoped for. Disappointment is an opportunity to practice dealing with loss, so that I will be ready for the inevitable major losses in the future. I am sad because I did not get what I'd wanted or hoped for, and that is okay.

Hmm interesting. I agree that there is a difference between a claim about an individual's experience, and a claim about reality. The former is about a perception of reality, whereas the latter is about reality itself. In that case, I see why you would object to the paraphrasing—it changes the original statement into a weaker claim. 

I also agree that it is important to be able to make claims about reality, including other people's statements. After all, people's statements are also part of our reality, so we need to be able to discuss and reason about it.

I suppose what I disagree with thus that the original statement is valid as a claim about reality. It seems to me that statements are generally/by default claims about our individual perceptions of reality. (e.g. "He's very tall.") A claim becomes a statement about reality only when linked (implicitly or explicitly) to something concrete. (e.g. "He's in the 90th percentile in height for American adult males." or "He's taller than Daddy." or "He's taller than the typical gymnast I've trained for competitions.")

To say a stated reason is "bizarre" is a value judgment, and therefore cannot be considered a claim about reality. This is because there is no way to measure its truth value. If bizarre means "strange/unusual", then what exactly is "normal/usual"? How Less Wrong posters who upvoted Said's comment would think? How people with more than 1000 karma on Less Wrong would think? There is no meaning behind the word "bizarre" except as an indicator of the writer's perspective (i.e. what the claim is trying to say is "The stated reason is bizarre to Said"). 

I suppose this also explains why such a statement would seem insulting to people who are more Duncan-like. (I acknowledge that you find the paraphrase as insulting as the original. However, since the purpose of discussion is to find a way so people who are Duncan-like and people who are Said-like can communicate and work together, I believe the key concern should be whether or not someone who is Duncan-like would feel less insulted by the paraphrase. After all, people who are Duncan-like feel insulted by different things than people who are Said-like.)

For people who are Duncan-like, I expect the insult comes about because it presents a subjective (social reality) statement in the form of an objective (reality) statement. Said is making a claim about his own perspective, but he is presenting it as if it is objective truth, which can feel like he is invalidating all other possible perspectives. I would guess that people who are more Said-like are less sensitive, either because they think it is already obvious that Said is just making a claim from his own perspective or because they are less susceptible to influence from other people's claims (e.g. I don't care if the entire world tells me I am wrong, I don't ever waver because I know that I am right.)

Version 3 is very obviously definitely not the same content and I don't know why you bothered including it.

I included Version 3 because after coming up with Version 2, I noticed it was very similar to the earlier sentence ("I definitely no longer understand."), so I thought another valid example would be simply omitting the sentence. It seemed appropriate to me because part of being polite is learning to keep your thoughts to yourself when they do not contribute anything useful to the conversation.

I'm curious, what do you think of these options?

Original: "I find your stated reason bizarre to the point where I can’t form any coherent model of your thinking here."

New version 1: "I can't form any coherent model of your thinking here." 

New version 2: "I don't understand your stated reason at all." 

New version 3: Omit that sentence. 

These shift the sentence from a judgment on Duncan's reasoning to a sharing of Said's own experience, which (for me, at least) removes the unnecessary/escalatory part of the insult.


I'm very confused, how do you tell if someone is genuinely misunderstanding or deliberately misunderstanding a post?

The author can say that a reader's post is an inaccurate representation of the author's ideas, but how can the author possibly read the reader's mind and conclude that the reader is doing it on purpose? Isn't that a claim that requires exceptional evidence?

Accusing someone of strawmanning is hurtful if false, and it shuts down conversations because it pre-emptively casts the reader in an adverserial role. Judging people based on their intent is also dangerous, because it is near-unknowable, which means that judgments are more likely to be influenced by factors other than truth. It won't matter how well-meaning you are because that is difficult to prove; what matters is how well-meaning other people believe you to be, which is more susceptible to biases (e.g. people who are richer, more powerful, more attractive get more leeway).

I personally would very much rather people being judged by their concrete actions or impact of those actions (e.g. saying someone consistently rephrases arguments in ways that do not match the author's intent or the majority of readers' understanding), rather than their intent (e.g. saying someone is strawmanning).

To be against both strawmanning (with weak evidence) and 'making unfounded statements about a person's inner state' seems to me like a self-contradictory and inconsistent stance.


Still trying to figure out/articulate the differences between the two frames, because it feels like people are talking past each other. Not confident and imprecise, but this is what I have so far:

Said-like frame (truth seeking as a primarily individual endeavor)

  • Each individual is trying to figure out their own beliefs. Society reaches truer beliefs through each individual reaching truer beliefs.
  • Each individual decides how much respect to accord someone, (based on the individual's experiences). The status assigned by society (e.g. titles) are just a data point.
    • e.g. Just because someone is the teacher doesn't mean they are automatically given more respect. (A student who believes an institution has excellent taste in teachers may respect teachers from that institution more because of that belief, but the student would not respect a teacher just because they have the title of "teacher".)
      • If a student believes a teacher is incompetent and is making a pointless request (e.g. assigned a homework exercise that does not accomplish the learning objectives), the student questions the teacher. 
      • A teacher that responds in anger without engaging with the student's concerns is considered to be behaving poorly in this culture. A teacher who is genuinely competent and has valid reasons should either be able to explain it to the student or otherwise manage the student, or should have enough certainty in their competence that they will not be upset by a mere student.
  • Claims/arguments/questions/criticisms are suggestions. If they are valid, people will respond accordingly. If they are not, people are free to disagree or ignore it.
    • If someone makes a criticism and is upset when no one responds, the person who criticizes is in the wrong, because no one is obliged to listen or engage.
  • The ideal post is well-written, well-argued, more true than individuals' current beliefs. Through reading the post, the reader updates towards truer beliefs.
    • If a beginner writes posts that are of poorer quality, the way to help them is by pointing out problems with their post (e.g. lack of examples), so that next time, they can pre-empt similar criticisms, producing better quality work. Someone more skilled at critique would be able to give feedback that is closer to the writer's perspective, e.g. steelman to point out flaws, acknowledge context (interpretive labor). 
    • The greatest respect a writer can give to readers is to present a polished, well-written piece, so readers can update accordingly, ideally with ways for people to verify the claims for themselves (e.g. source code they can test).
  • The ideal comment identifies problems, flaws, weaknesses or provides supporting evidence, alternative perspectives, relevant information for the post, that helps each individual reader better gauge the truth value of a post.
    • If a commenter writes feedback or asks questions that are irrelevant or not valuable, people are free to ignore or downvote it.
    • The greatest respect a commenter can give to writers is to identify major flaws in the argument. To criticize is a sign of respect, because it means the commenter believes that the writer can do better and is keen to make their post a stronger piece.


Duncan-like frame (truth seeking as a primarily collectivist endeavor)

  • Each society is trying to figure out their collective beliefs. Society reaches truer beliefs through each individual helping other individuals converge towards truer beliefs.
  • Amount of respect accorded to someone is significantly informed by society. The status assigned by society (e.g. titles) act as a default amount of respect to give someone. For example, one is more likely to believe a doctor's claim that "X is healthier than Y" than a random person's claim that Y is healthier, even if you do not necessarily understand the doctor's reasoning, because society has recognized the doctor as medically knowledgeable through the medical degree.
    • e.g. A student gives a teacher more respect in the classroom by default, and only lowers the respect when the teacher is shown to be incompetent. If a student does not understand the purpose of a homework exercise, the student assumes that they are lacking information and will continue assuming so until proven otherwise. 
      • If a student questions the teacher's homework exercise, teacher would be justified in being angry or punishing the student because they are being disrespected. (If students are allowed to question everything the teacher does, it would be far less efficient to get things done, making things worse for the group.) 
  • Claims/arguments/questions/criticisms are requests to engage. Ignoring comments would be considered rude, unless they are obviously in bad faith (e.g. trolling).
  • The ideal post presents a truer view of reality, or highlights a different perspective or potential avenue of exploration for the group. Through reading the post, the reader updates towards truer beliefs, or gets new ideas to try so that the group is more likely to identify truer beliefs.
    • If a beginner writes posts that are of poorer quality, the way to help them is to steelman and help them shape it into something useful for the group to work on. Someone more skilled at giving feedback is better at picking out useful ideas and presenting them with clarity and concision. 
    • The greatest respect a writer can give to readers is to present a piece that is grounded in their own perspectives and experiences (so the group gets a more complete picture of reality) with clear context (e.g. epistemic status, so people know how to respond to it) and multiple ways for others to build on the work (e.g. providing source code so others can try it out and make modifications).
  • The ideal comment builds on the post, such as by providing supporting evidence, alternative perspectives, relevant information (contributing knowledge) or by identifying problems, flaws, weaknesses and providing suggestions on how to resolve those (improving/building on the work).
    • If a commenter writes feedback or asks questions that are irrelevant or not valuable, the writer (or readers) respond to it in good faith, because the group believes in helping each other converge to the truth (e.g. by helping others clear up their misunderstandings).
    • The greatest respect a commenter can give to writers is to identify valuable ideas from the post and build on it.

It feels like an argument between a couple where person A says "You don't love me, you never tell me 'I love you' when I say it to you." and the person B responds "What do you mean I don't love you? I make you breakfast every morning even though I hate waking up early!". If both parties insist that their love language is the only valid way of showing love, there is no way for this conflict to be addressed. 

Maybe the person B believes actions speak louder than words and that saying "I love you" is pointless because people can say that even when they don't mean it  And perhaps person B believes that that is the ideal way the world works, where everyone is judged purely based on their actions and 'meaningless' words are omitted, because it removes a layer of obfuscation. But the thing is, the words are meaningless to person B; they are not meaningless to person A. It doesn't matter whether or not the words should be meaningful to person A. Person A as they are right now has a need to hear that verbal affirmation, person A genuinely has a different experience when they hear those words; it's just the way person A (and many people) are wired. 

If you want to have that relationship, both sides are going to have to make adjustments to learn to speak the other person's language. For example, both parties may agree to tapping 3 times as a way of saying "I love you" if Person B is uncomfortable with verbal declarations. 

If both parties think the other party is obliged to adjust to their frame, then it would make sense to disengage; there is no way of resolving that conflict. 

I actually think I prefer Said's frame on the whole, even though my native frame is closer to Duncan's. However, I think Said's commenting behavior is counter-productive to long-term shifting of community norms towards Said's frame. 

I am not familiar with the history, but from what I've read, Said seems to raise good points (though not necessarily expressed productive ways). It's just that the subsequent discussion often devolves into something that's exhausting to read (like I wish people would steelman Said's point and respond to that instead of just responding directly, and I wish people would just stop responding to Said if they felt the discussion is getting nowhere rather than end up in long escalating conflicts, and I don't have a clear idea of how much Said is actually contributing to the dynamics in such conversations because I get very distracted by the maybe-justified-maybe-not uncharitable assumptions being thrown around by all the participants). 

I think there are small adjustments that Said can make to the phrasing of comments that can make a non-trivial difference, that can have positive effects even for people who are not as sensitive as Duncan.

For example, instead of saying "I find your stated reason bizarre to the point where I can’t form any coherent model of your thinking here", Said could have said "I don't understand your stated reason at all". This shifts from a judgment on Duncan's reasoning to a sharing of Said's own experience, which (for me, at least) removes the unnecessary insult[1]. I suspect other people's judgments have limited impact on Said's self-perception, so this phrasing won't sound meaningfully different to Said, but I think it does make a difference to other people, whether or not it is ideal that this is how they experience the world. And maybe it's important that people learn to care less about other people's judgments, but I don't think it's fair to demand them to just change instantly and become like Said, or to say that people who are unable or refuse to do that simply should not be allowed to participate at all (or like saying sure you can participate, as long as you are willing to stick your hand in boiling water even though you don't have gloves and I do).

Being willing to make adjustments to one's behavior for the sake of the other party would be a show of good faith, and builds trust. At least in my native frame/culture, direct criticism is a form of rudeness/harm in neutral/low-trust relationships and a show of respect in high-trust relationships, and so building this trust would allow the relationship to shift closer to Said's preferred frame.

Of course, this only works if Duncan is similarly willing to accommodate Said's frame. 

I agree that there is something problematic with Said's commenting style/behavior given that multiple people have had similar complaints, and given that it seems to have led to consequences that are negative even within Said's frame. And it is hard to articulate the problem, which makes things challenging. However, it feels like in pushing against Said's behaviors, Duncan is also invalidating Said's frame as a valid approach for the community discourse. This feels unfair to people like Said, especially when it seems like a potentially more productive norm (when better executed, or in certain contexts). That's why it feels unfair to me that Said is unable to comment on the Basics of Rationalist Discourse post. 

It's a bit like there's a group of people who always play a certain board game by its rules, while there's another group where everyone cheats and the whole point is to find clever ways to cheat. To people from the first group, cheating is immoral and an act of bad faith, but to the other group, it's just a part of the game and everyone knows that. One day, someone from the first group gets fed up with people from the second group, and so they decide to declare a set of rules for all game players, that says cheating is wrong. And then they add that the only people who get to vote are people who don't cheat. Of course the results aren't going to be representative! And why does the first group have the authority to decide the rules for the entire community?

I don't know for certain if this is the right characterization, but here are a few examples why I think it is more of an issue of differing frames rather than something with clear right/wrong: (I am not saying the people were right to comment as they did, just pointing out that the conflict is not just about a norm, there is a deeper issue of frames)

  • In a comment thread, Said says something like Duncan banned Said likely because he doesn't like being criticized, even though Duncan explicitly said otherwise. To Duncan, this is a wrongful accusation of lying, (I think) because Duncan believes Said is saying that Duncan-in-particular is wrong about his own motivations. However, I think Said believes that everyone is incapable of knowing their true motivations, and therefore, his claim that Duncan might be motivated by subconscious reasons is just a general claim that has no bearing on Duncan as a person, i.e. it's not intended as a personal attack. It's only a personal attack if you share the same frame as Duncan.
  • When clone of saturn said "However, I suspect that Duncan won't like this idea, because he wants to maintain a motte-and-bailey where his posts are half-baked when someone criticizes them but fully-baked when it's time to apportion status.", I read it to mean that "I suspect" applies to the entire sentence, not just the first half. This is because I started out with the assumption that it is impossible for anyone to truly know a person's motivations, and therefore the only logical reading is that "I suspect" also applies to "he wants to maintain a motte-and-bailey". There's no objective true meaning to the sentence (though one may agree on the most common interpretation). It's like some people when they say "I don't like it", it's implied that "and I want you to stop doing it", but for others it just means "I don't like it" and also "that's just my opinion, you do you". Thus, I personally would consider it a tad extreme (though understandable given Duncan's experiences) to call for moderator response immediately without first clarifying with clone of saturn what was meant by the sentence.

While I do think Said is contributing to the problem (whether intentionally or unintentionally), it would be inappropriate to dismiss Said's frame just because Said is such a bad example of it. This does not mean I believe Said and Duncan are obliged to adjust to each other's norms. Choosing to disengage and stay within their respective corners, is in my opinion, a perfectly valid and acceptable solution.

I didn't really want to speak up about the conflicts between Duncan and other members, because I don't have the full picture. However, this argument is spilling out into public space, so it feels important to address the issue.

As someone who joined about a year ago, I have had very positive experiences on LW so far. I have commented on quite a few of Duncan's posts and my experience has always been positive, in part because I trust that Duncan will respond fairly to what I say. Reading Duncan's recent comments, however, made me wonder if I was wrong about that.

Because I am less sensitive than Duncan, it often felt like Duncan was making disproportionately hostile and uncharitable responses. I couldn't really see what distinguished comments that triggered such extreme responses from other comments. That made me worried that if I'd made a genuine mistake understanding Duncan's point, that Duncan would also accuse me of strawmanning or not trying hard enough, or that I was being deliberately obtuse. After all, I do and have misunderstood other people's words before.  Seeing Duncan's explanations on subsequent comments helped me get a better understanding of Duncan's perspective, but I don't think it is reasonable to expect people to read through various threads to get the context behind Duncan's replies. 

This means that from an outsider's perspective, the natural takeaway is that we should not post questions, feedback or criticisms, because we might be personally attacked (accused of bad intentions) for what seems like no reason. It is all the more intimidating/impactful given that Duncan is such an established writer. I know it can be unfair to Duncan (or writers in general) because of the asymmetries, but things continuing as they are would make it harder to nurture healthy conflict at LW, which I believe is also counter to what Duncan hopes for the community. 

To end off more concretely, here are some of the things I think would be good for LW:

  • To consider it pro-social (and reward?) when participants actively choose to slow down, step back, or stop when engaged in unproductive, escalating conflicts (e.g. Stopping Out Loud)
  • To be acceptable to post half-baked ideas and request gentler criticisms and have such requests respected, e.g. for critics to make their point clear and step back, if it is clear that their feedback is unwanted, so readers can judge for themselves
    • It should be made obvious via the UI if certain people have been blocked, otherwise it gives a skewed perspective.
  • When commenting on posts by authors who prefer more collaborative approaches, or for posts that are for half-baked ideas, 
    • commenters to provide more context behind comments (e.g. why you're asking about a particular point, is it because you feel it is a critical gap or are you just curious), because online communication is more error-prone than in-person interactions and also so it is easier to for both parties to reach a shared understanding of the discussion
    • If readers agree with a comment, but the comment doesn't meet the author's preferred requirements, to help refine the comment instead of just upvoting it (might need author to indicate if this is the case though, because sometimes it's not obvious?).
  • To be willing to adjust commenting styles or tolerance levels based on who you are interacting with, especially if it is someone you have had significant history with (else just disengage with people you don't get along with)
  • If one feels a comment is being unfair, to express that sentiment rather than going for a reciprocal tit-for-tat response so the other has an opportunity to clarify. If choosing to respond in poor form as a tit-for-tat strategy (which I really don't like), to at least make that intent explicit and provide the reasoning.
  • To avoid declaring malicious intent without strong evidence or to disengage/ignore the comment when unable to do so. e.g. "You are not trying hard enough to understand me/you are deliberately misunderstanding me.." --> "That is not what I meant. <explanation/request for someone to help explain/choose to disengage>."
  • For authors to have the ability to establish the norms they prefer within their spaces, but to be required to respect the wider community norms if it involves the community.
  • Common knowledge of the different cultures as well as the associated implications.


  1. ^

    Insult here referring to the emotional impact sense that I'm not sure how to make more explicit, not Said's definition of insult.


Right now it feels like it's an either/or choice between criticism and construction, which puts them in direct opposition, but I don't think they're necessarily in conflict with each other.

After all, criticism that acknowledges the constraints and nuances of the context is more meaningful than criticism that is shallow and superficial, and criticism that highlights a new perspective or suggests a better alternative is more useful than criticism that only points out flaws. In a sense, it's not that there's too much criticism and not enough of contributions, it's that we want critiques that are of higher standards.

Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to determine the right amounts of criticism individuals are exposed to, we can instead focus on building a culture that values and teaches writing of good critique? There would still (and always be) simplistic or nitpicky criticisms, but perhaps if the community were better at identifying them as such, and providing feedback on how to make such comments better, things would improve over time.

Admittedly, I don't really know what this would look like in practice, or whether or not it would make a difference to the experience of authors, but putting the issue in terms of killing Socrates feels like dooming it to win/lose or lose/lose solutions...

Noted, and I appreciate the response.

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