Re: list sniping opinions

From: Chris Capel (
Date: Fri Aug 25 2006 - 15:22:47 MDT

On 8/25/06, justin corwin <> wrote:
> On 8/25/06, Chris Capel <> wrote:
> > My vote on the list sniping level? Mu. I think the best option is to
> > have ten lists (or better, blogs,) with different moderators who
> > moderate to level 10, to their own tastes, and people collectively
> > pick which list to participate in. Forking in open source projects is
> > bad, and bad in communities whose goal is some sort of collective
> > action. Forking is very good in communities whose goal is productive
> > discussion, for a wide variety of subtle reasons.
> What would be an example of a community that forked to good effect?
> Did the membership grow or fracture with that transition? And are
> there different kinds of communities that require different handling?

First, when a community "forks", it's not a real split, like a
Christian church forking would be. And it's not always explicit, or
because of explicit tensions within the group. I would say forking
happens when another community grows primarily out of the interactions
born of the first community, and the latter starts to attract members
of the former, some of whom stop participating in the former, and the
two groups develop in different directions.

Hmm, examples. Don't really have any good ones. The communities I
participate in are mostly hosted on blogs, and there are so many
interrelated blogs that when something like this happens, it's a
gradual, continuous, and quiet process. Like speciation. More of a
"oh, this blog has alienated/bored/annoyed me so I'll stop reading it
and continue reading the five other blogs I already read that share a
substantial intersection of the topics, readers, and commenters on the
other". (Some of this might happen between the various transhumanist
mailing lists, but I'm only a member of this one so I wouldn't know.)
But on the whole, the effect is that opinion-space is gradually filled
with different communities representing any ideology and level of
discussion with that there's a substantial demand for. I think it's
the dynamic that keeps the blogosphere happy.

When a shift happens in a given community, it's not possible to call
it good or bad, except from the point of view of an individual
community member. That's an inherent property of the tensions that
cause these shifts. What seems to be universally true is that the
community becomes more specialized and homogeneous. This can either
raise or lower the level of discourse, and make the group more or less
productive, depending on who gets alienated and leaves (or gets
booted). In blogs, this sort of thing tends not to cause much strife,
since the community almost always has a clear owner who sets the tone
and has the sole moderation power. People who don't fit in with the
main voice just don't stick around, instead of making trouble. Then
interesting discussion happens between extremes within the commenters,
who all at least have some common ground with the main voice (who
ideally, is a mediator in discussions.)

This list is similar, but the effect is stronger on blogs because the
owner also sets the topics, and thus the direction of discussion, more
strongly. Eliezer hardly ever writes posts directed toward fostering
discussion on the list, and those who do (recently me, Russell,
Michael A., et al.) don't have the automatic sanction of authority.
Without that, people who disagree with posts to the extent that they
can't respectually discuss them won't be driven out of the list, since
those they disagree with have no more authority than them. This leads
to turf wars.

Chris Capel

"What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to bat a bee? What is it
like to be a bee being batted? What is it like to be a batted bee?"
-- The Mind's I (Hofstadter, Dennet)

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