By Clemens Lode on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 10:06pm
Do you want your discussions to be productive and draw people’s attention? Here are guidelines to help you become productive in any discussion you may encounter. Before posting, please keep these following guidelines in mind:
First of all, if you are linking to an article or video, summarize it. A discussion needs to be possible even if the person is not reading or watching the whole thing. Moderators need to be able to determine if something posted is spam or if it’s a worthwhile topic to discuss. Quote the most relevant part of the link and give context as to why the link is relevant.
It is wrong to say, “Oh, boy.”
Rather one should say, “ARI starts a new headquarters in Europe in 2016. “” I think this is relevant because this marks a major change in policy and we should all look into it as to how we can help.”
Next, summarize your position. Add it to the original post or in a reply to your thread. If your position is controversial, provide a more thorough explanation in the original post or a link to an essay you have written.
Don’t say, “I think Ayn Rand got it wrong. Consciousness creates existence.”
Rather say, “… and here is why I think so: *link to your essay* Is my argumentation sound? What was Ayn Rand’s argument in that regard?”
Then, clearly define the limits of the discussion. People should be able to judge if their post is on-topic by reading the original post.
Saying, “Abortion. Democracy. Capitalism. God. Go!” is wrong.
What’s right is saying, “In this thread, I would like to discuss land property rights. Here is the definition: . Given an outside military threat, is it an initiation of force for the army to use that land? For example ”
Try to give complete answers. Do not simply link to an answer. Many questions will repeatedly show up here, and most questions are already answered in the literature. But there is a reason as to why people make the effort to create a thread in order to ask a question. You can link your answer, but please summarize its core message. If you cannot summarize your answer from the book, you probably have not read or understood the book in question. If someone asks you for an address, a good answer is to point him/her to the direction of the building. A bad answer is when one being pointed to the local tourism information booth.
Refrain from saying something like, “You haven’t read the book, have you?”, “A true Objectivist wouldn’t ask such a question.”, “This is a dumb question.”
Instead say, “Ayn Rand wrote an essay on this very subject in… Her idea was to start from the homesteading principle and explain the parallels to modern broadcast technology. … .”
Make sure your statements are verifiable when you give them. Be specific, give concrete sources and concrete examples.
It’s wrong to say, “Some scientists claim…”
But it’s right when you say, “We know from experiments that … . See reference , , and . Their main conclusion was…”
Also never let the other person be part of your argument. While logical fallacies are commonplace in discussions (knowingly and unknowingly), ad hominem arguments are usually the most destructive arguments. Remember that there are potentially thousands of people who would follow the thread you are about to derail. Even if you have reasons to believe that the other person is an idiot, it is not up to you to “repair” the situation. Report the post and let an admin deal with it.
Finally, be very careful when posting a sarcastic or humorous post. Not everyone shares your humor. If possible, make clear that the statement or post was not meant seriously. If you are a sarcastic person, add a “;)”. Yes, this is an Objectivist group, but besides a superfluous check of the profile of each member we add, people here are not necessarily Objectivists. And even among Objectivists, they have completely different sense of humor from each other. Do not mistake similar philosophic views with similar personality.
There you have it guidelines to help you become productive in any discussion. As you have read, most of these guidelines are ‘obvious.’ But it’s easy to miss them in the heat of an argument or when casually posting an article. These are based on experience as to what type of threads derail and what type of threads actually help the readers share their ideas and learn from other’s as well. If another topic develops within the discussion, an admin will then create a new thread for that new topic. These guidelines will still help no matter what type of discussion or topic you are in.