Re: Mailing List Quality

Reilly Jones (70544.1227@CompuServe.COM)
01 Oct 96 00:02:15 EDT

Robin Hanson wrote 9/29/96: <I think the net is in great need of some innovate
alternatives to the stark alternatives of open vs. moderated lists. One idea
I've played with is a list pair, one open and one closed (to posting, but
readable by all). To apply for membership in the closed list, you submit five
of your recent posts to the open list, which are forwarded to three random
closed list members for consideration.

The personal filter concept that this list used to have doesn't work I
think. It is important to have a common sense of what some community
is seeing.>

I've had an all-year discussion with an architect friend in a different Net
forum about this need. We are looking closely at the symbolism that ties a
community together, as well as demarcation issues, that is, defense of the
borders. The necessity of hierarchical levels of authority lies behind the idea
of a cyber-enclave with security provisions consisting of write with permission,
read only - i.e., restricting ideas that come in, but not ideas that go out.
This is how churches and peer reviews always have worked. Those who grant
permission of what ideas come in, are the authorities. A twin pair of long-term
difficulties with such a conception, is a nasty tendency towards authorities'
hi-jacking of the good of all to their own good, and towards ideological
smugness. For example, physics journals continue to publish speculative
theology, like the Big Bang doctrine, under the guise of scientific cosmology no
matter how much it increasingly resembles the ad hoc construction of the
Ptolemaic epicycles, to the exclusion of other, by definition, "crackpot"

Mark Crosby wrote 9/29/96: <Far more fragile is the quality of civil discourse,
which (IMO) Reilly Jones has more seriously violated with his slurs about
"imbecility" and "conceptual drivel"...>

"Imbecility" should be generously regarded as applying to the qualities of that
particular post, not the particular poster, and was used not as an ad hominem
against any given argument, but rather as an explanation, involving a value
judgment, as to why I wasn't going to respond at all. The value judgment was
intemperate, I "felt" intemperate when I made it. I hope you are not
invalidating my "feelings" or I might "feel" like you are being - horrors -
intolerant of me. "Conceptual drivel" is a slur when it is misapplied, not when
it is factually applied. Was there a violation of civil discourse? Write to
Miss Manners, c.o. your local rag, for a ruling. I await her judgment.

MC: <...and, less seriously, with his apparent notion that anyone who speaks
must do so with 100% certainty.>

You may back this up with the appropriate quote from me, showing where I even
remotely asserted this. I don't recognize it in the slightest.

MC: <I really hope we don't poison this list by classifying people as
'nihilists' and 'imbeciles', nor condemn their ideas as 'conceptual drivel' just
because their thinking may be 'muddled' in some areas, or their terms were
ambiguous and their ideas may have been poorly presented.>

I attempt to classify individuals' belief systems with a modicum of care, with
an eye to appropriateness. Generally, posts stand on their own, beliefs stated
in the post prompt classification. It's a wonderful shorthand method to pull
into context all the related beliefs that travel as worldview baggage along with
a specific belief. Otherwise, my posts would be many times longer than they
already are, and that would violate net etiquette, which generally dictates that
we think and write in choppy, disjointed paragraphs, rather than in extended,
rich, contextual chains of reasoning.


This must be the carrot-and-stick approach. My self-esteem just went from the
cellar through the roof. I'm giddy!

<When I said that Sarah's initial response to Reilly's initial post was
"incisive", I meant two things simultaneously: (1) It really 'ripped' Reilly's
post apart (perhaps a little too intensively, and he responded in kind); and,
(2) It was sharp and to the point in some instances.>

Perhaps I responded in kind, intensively, sharp and to the point. I hope you're
not making an argument for a double standard of posting style.

MC: <I used "incisive" in an ambiguous way. Does that qualify my statement as
'junk'? Should there be no subjectivity allowed on this list?>

Far be it from me to armchair psychoanalyze this. I'll just take it as
rhetorical filler.

MC: <I am guilty of posting some 'junk' myself recently...>

I've heard that confession is good for the soul. <g>

MC: <Neither should every utterance need to be challenged - there should be some
room for humor & banter.>

This is why I didn't respond to Sarah's post to begin with. I try to include
some humor and banter routinely, some enjoy it, some don't.

MC: <Jeff Dee thoughtfully wrote in response (that is, he made a constructive
rather than destructive criticism)>

Tut, tut on me. Maybe Jeff could give me some pointers. Seriously, though, go
back and read my posts, I have included a wealth of constructive ideas, and
constructive sources to pursue. If you only want to dwell on the negative,
that's your perogative, but it doesn't make the positive nonexistent.

MC: <I'm also 'certain' that we can never be completely certain about most
*things*, as opposed to *feelings*. Is that a paradox or "conceptual drivel"?>

Neither, it looks like a true statement to me, particularly if you substitute
"purposes" for "feelings."

Michael Butler wrote 9/30/96: <My major complaint is with people who repost vast
quantities of prior text only to add a few lines of commentary.>

A pet peeve of mine also.

Kathryn Aegis wrote 9/30/96: <I have resided on a list-within-list structure,
but the inner list was by invitation only and required clearance by several
inner list members. The two lists dealt with a human rights issue, and the
outer list occupied the harassers while the real work was conducted on the inner
list, which could not be read by the outer list. Eventually many persons on the
inner list unsubbed from the outer list, considering it a distraction.>

A natural enough occurrence of self-selection, pull the drawbridge up.

QueeneMUSE wrote 9/30/96: <Especially helpful in that one could judge the
quality by one's sown criteria, not some removed committe or random selection of
peers.... for example if it was starred by some one I really respect, i would
tend to read that more than if someone starred it who i didnt.>

Again, a natural enough occurrence of self-selection, the road to celebrity

E. Shaun Russell wrote 9/30/96: <Who's to say what is signal and what is noise?
I think list members can filter the good from the bad on their own.>

I agree. Like Barney the Dinosaur sings: "Everyone is special."

I still don't like humongous reposting of largely irrelevant text, followed by a
two-line response.

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology: | The rational, moral and political relations
| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'