Definition of 'Personal Attacks' and Civilised discussions

eva2000

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eva2000 submitted a new Article:

Definition of 'Personal Attacks' and Civilised discussions

Introduction:
Since 1999, I've been managing and running forums from the old Ezboard hosted forum days through to vBulletin and some of the key rules on my forums has always to keep discussions civilised (basically you can agree to disagree if a person(s) opinions differs from your own) and with the absence of personal attacks.

Not everyone understands the difference between a personal attack and providing a negative comment or opinion in a civilised manner so I thought I'd provide an example of the difference below.

Examples:
The example (and here) is in the context of this thread started at here (always good to have context ;) ).

The Problem
Seems the problem here is not everyone understands the definition of a 'personal attack' versus a 'negative commentary or opinion' and what constitutes a civil debate or discussion - which is kind of surprising.

Below are 2 examples highlighting the differences

Example 1:
I am surprised that TAZ members in this thread who collectively have 100s of years experience in administrating their own forums, fail to understand the difference between a 'personal attack' versus 'expressing a negative opinion or commentary' in conducting themselves and their debates and discussions in a civilised manner.

Being civilised, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do, to return fire using personal attacks against someone personally attacking you or calling you names.

Being civil means, you can respectfully agree and understand that other peoples opinions may differ from your own and that you don't have to agree with their opinion nor force them to see it your way or have the last word.

Example 2:
WTF, some clueless folks here who are admins on their own forums don't have a fuc*in clue as to how to conduct themselves in a civilised manner. If you can't get it through your thick head what constitutes a 'personal attack', then maybe this forum isn't for you. Good riddance !

Though, I doubt any civilised web master forum would condone and take such crap from any asshats who doesn't share the same definition of a 'personal attack' as the one I outlined in Example 2.

Summary:
  • Example 1 =...

Read more about this article here...
 
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TrixieTang

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Great article, but I think that I should add that sometimes it's not so clear-cut. One thing that I see a lot of is snark and sarcasm, not a bad thing in all cases, but it's often used in a way that's meant to provoke a response. That can be classified as baiting, the act of fishing for (certain kinds of) responses.

There are also less directed attacks that can also serve as baiting, for example, if someone made a post suggesting that everyone who dislikes vBulletin 4 "can't afford to upgrade." That could be classified as an attack on anyone who dislikes vBulletin 4, but despite not being an attack that's directed at a specific person it would still count as baiting (since it would almost inevitably provoke personal attacks) and thus be unacceptable.
 

eva2000

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There are also less directed attacks that can also serve as baiting, for example, if someone made a post suggesting that everyone who dislikes vBulletin 4 "can't afford to upgrade." That could be classified as an attack on anyone who dislikes vBulletin 4, but despite not being an attack that's directed at a specific person it would still count as baiting (since it would almost inevitably provoke personal attacks) and thus be unacceptable.

True, that usually falls under comments or opinions which don't have facts to back it up with. Where's the evidence that 'everyone who dislikes vB4, can't afford to upgrade' ?

Correct statement would be, 'some folks who dislike vB4, can't afford to upgrade. And then there's also a civilised way to respond to such comments which don't provoke personal attacks as well. :)

Basically, conduct yourself online in a civilised way and manner that you would do in real life as well.
 

Lisa

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What it comes down to, I think, is speaking to people how you expect to be spoken to in a day-to-day offline basis. Common courtesy and politeness costs nothing.
 

Nev_Dull

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What!!!???? Just who are you calling "common"?
(Couldn't resist.... sometimes I just kill me...:biglaugh:)

It would be great if everyone could just get along and respect each other's opinion. But the fact is that people can and will take offence at just about anything that opposes their own view. In Real Life (whatever THAT is) they simply stand quietly and imagine pulling your lungs out through your nose, whereas online they have the freedom to call you names as they like.

Maintaining a detached, objective point of view is often very difficult for people. As someone who really likes discussing and debating ideas online, I've had my share of first-hand experience with how upset people can get when you question their statements.

While clearly defining terms and setting policy on your forum won't stop someone from launching a personal attack against another, it does provide a very clear mechanism through which you can punish the offender. Hopefully, it can also serve as a guide (or at least deterrent) to the rest of the members.
 

gogoblender

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Beautiful work Eva. Informative and clear.
Just in time too

:lildevil:

gogo
 
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CMOBOSS

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LMMFAO!!

Thanks for being the first article I see when logging in, and so close to home with the last two days of correspondence regarding poor service & customer support with site5.com
 

BlackSpot

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A my site encourages critique, people's feeling can get hurt very quickly. As long as they concentrate on the art and give valid reasons, the OP can't really complain, but we do have instances where can escalate. If it is the OP taking umbrage at valid critiques, they might find themselves in the "Worst of..." thread, if it's the CP attacking the artist personally, they'll get a warning or temp ban depending on the severity of it.

Members tend to let steam off more in the Lounge, but if it gets personal, they will get banished to the Thunderdome, where they battle it out with art. Loser gets their signature changed to something appropriate.

Artists are a passionate, sarcastic bunch - loads of fun, but hard work.
 

esquire

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Nice article but, IMHO, you should use expletives as frequently in both versions to illustrate your point. Otherwise it's quite clear why one version might be more incendiary than the other.
 

Schot

Imagineer
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Excellent topic! I missed this when it came out. A much needed reminder. +1!
 

SkepticGuy

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Not everyone understands the difference between a personal attack and providing a negative comment or opinion in a civilised manner so I thought I'd provide an example of the difference below.

The topics on our site have a tendency to bring out intense passion in people; politics, religion, conspiracies, etc. And, in some of the sub-niches (9/11 conspiracies), people seem to have adopted a habit of intense rudeness.

We've had a relatively simple analogy most people can easily understand, and those that don't are quickly shown the door. We ask people to behave as if they're at a relatively large party at their friend's house, filled with lots of people they don't know, and someone they would like to impress might be watching the party on a webcam.

Once that point gets across, no other analogies or examples are necessary.
 

Jack_Rouse

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I run a football ( Soccer to the Americans onboard), and my abuse lines are quite fuzzy, because of the culture that surrounds the football fan in England, when two English football fans are having a bit of banter, it can get a bit heated, however you have to understand as an Admin that it is part of "the game" if you started banning people for a bit of abuse, you would soon have no members.

The problem I have is foreign based fans, whilst they love the game,and understand it, they don't understand the culture behind it, so if they get a bit of banter thrown at them, they expect a reaction from a Moderator, when it doesn't come, they complain to mean.

The abuse on my site has to be really personal to get a reaction, it has to be aimed at the individual as a personal thing.
 

Wasp

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On a old forum We had a shared account named Mr.snark to deal with personal attacks. Anything that contains negative impact on members in any was a automatic week long ban.

Mr.snark was the banner, and the offensive comment was the reason for ban. Only one time did a member go zongor, and had to be banned again.

We also capped swear words to nonsense sentences. I remember "fk" was changed to Cotton candy!

This is a very interesting discussion however. How often do personal attacks occur in your forum.?
 

Karll

Adherent
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Dec 9, 2011
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This is still a very relevant article and topic.
What it comes down to, I think, is speaking to people how you expect to be spoken to in a day-to-day offline basis. Common courtesy and politeness costs nothing.
Good luck enforcing that, especially on a forum with a lot of debate :) It really needs to be encoded in rules in a language that moderators can enforce. And to do that you need to know the crucial terms and their definitions such as negative commentary, baiting, name calling, ad hominem. I've been wanting to write up a enforceable definition of 'personal attack' for my forum for ages, but haven't quite gotten around to it. Thanks eva2000 for some good points in this article.
 

Lisa

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This is still a very relevant article and topic.

Good luck enforcing that, especially on a forum with a lot of debate :) It really needs to be encoded in rules in a language that moderators can enforce. And to do that you need to know the crucial terms and their definitions such as negative commentary, baiting, name calling, ad hominem. I've been wanting to write up a enforceable definition of 'personal attack' for my forum for ages, but haven't quite gotten around to it. Thanks eva2000 for some good points in this article.
Heh I don't even remember posting in this :D

I still do stand by the fact that common courtesy costs nothing, but I will also say that the way people treat each other has changed a lot in the last few years and common courtesy and mutual respect seems to be becoming rarer than unicorns.
 
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