I wanted to pull this thread out of the Dark Themes thread. So…voila.
There are a number of destructive (as opposed to constructive) behaviors that are quite common on internet fora generally that I want to identify and encourage everyone to try and refrain from committing.
Negative Conjecture is the act of expounding about some (typically unpleasant) hypothetical. “Wouldn’t it be terrible if we got into a nuclear war with Russia tomorrow?”
Negative Conjecture is the rhetorical structure of a lot of “Fake News” and “Doom Blogs”: put an idea out into the world without regard to its veracity.
Now, as someone pointed out, arguing a counterpoint in an academic paper is valued. But online fora are not academic papers, and the discourse here does not rise to that of an academic paper. We’re better than public comments sections , yes, but we’re nowhere near the level of academic discourse. A key part of the art of rhetoric is understanding the context, venue, and audience of your speech.
Negative Conjecture is destructive to online communities because, as I said further up in this thread, readers of this (and other) fora are not precise readers. If you spend 90% of your post articulating a hypothetical point, and then disavow it, a significant portion of the readers of that post will misconstrue your point. Your intention doesn’t matter.
(If you don’t believe me, look at all the people that post in the beta threads asking for what my email address is. Or the people that make posts asking “when is the next update coming out” for WIP threads.)
This old thread about the release of the omnibus app was full of negative conjecture, and it annoyed the f*ck out of me at the time. People kept talking about how we were going to do DRM, and how horrible that was going to be, and how we were going to lose our user base…when we never said anything about DRM. Instead, people got worked into a tizzy over these hypothetical conjectures that had no basis in fact. Or how people who had purchased stand-alone iOS apps were going to have to re-purchase games in the omnibus. Or half-a-dozen things that had no basis in fact.
(@MeltingPenguins, I think this might have been the context of what I was DMing you about.)
Moreover, I would ask, what is the purpose behind negative conjecture? If you find yourself talking about a possible future–especially in the context of what COG/HG will or won’t do–I would suggest stopping and asking why you’re spending time articulating a point and what evidence you have for such a situation. Are you contributing to the discourse by offering your opinion? Are you just talking to be heard? Are you exorcising your anxieties?
Premature and Unconstructive Opining is the act of, for example, offering an opinion/comment before reading to the end of a thread. Before you comment on a thread, I would strongly suggest reading to the end of that thread to make sure your point hasn’t already been made, or that your point hasn’t already been proven wrong.
Again, in the context of online fora, people are not precise readers. If three or four posts articulate one side of an argument, and only one takes the other side, but said other side is the correct/accurate one, a casual reader can very easily come away from the conversation believing the incorrect side because the preponderance of the verbiage was on that side.
Micro-aggressive Opinions are trickier. One of the great metaphors for opinions is that “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.” Opinions, especially unsolicited opinions, can be micro-aggressions. This happens all the time in case of, for example, parenting. People give parents, especially of young children, their unsolicited opinions all the time. This compounds the difficulties of being a parent, because these micro-aggressions are an act of violence. They represent the speaker trying to exert their will onto the world/another person, which can be radically demoralizing, especially when they’re trying to exert their will onto a small child.
Now, I recognize that this is a forum about creative endeavors. Threads about WIPs and published games are, implicitly if not explicitly, soliciting opinions from the community. And, in that case, sharing your opinion is wanted and valued. But in many instances—both online and in the real world—your opinion is not being solicited, and offering your unsolicited opinion is not helpful, it’s a micro-aggression.
If you want to give your opinion, but you don’t want to be micro-aggressive, the best way to do that is to ask a question. For example, someone my post in a thread, “Hey, COG, have you tried using FB analytics to narrow down a demographic to serve ads to?” That’s an interesting question. We may or may not respond, but you’re giving us the choice to do so. This is a great rhetorical device, because it invites dialogue between you and your interlocutor. More, it gives you the opportunity to refine your opinion through listening to the answer t your question and it gives you the opportunity to make your opinion more relevant to your interlocutor, before you offer your thoughts. And, really, what’s the point of an opinion? Is it to improve the condition of your interlocutor, or is it to engage in the act of offering it? Because if it’s about engaging in the act of offering it, then it’s about you, and not about the interlocutor.
But saying, “Well, I think that COG should use FB analytics to narrow down a demographic and serve ads to them to boost downloads. Why haven’t you done that? I deserve an answer to my question. It was a simple question, why can’t you be bothered to give it an answer?” This is like you showing someone else your asshole and demanding that it be kissed. And, I’m sorry, but a lot of people don’t like kissing assholes.
(No judgement if that’s your thing, mind you.)
Which brings me to my final, summary point: empathy. I think this is a key thing lacking from most online discourse, and is the crux of my rebuttal to @Carlos.R: you don’t have to be a specialized clinician or psychologist to try and consider what the impact of your words might be on another person. That’s the glory of asymmetrical communication: you have time to consider your words. Think about whether what you’re saying is about them, or about you. If it’s about you, does it really help the interlocutor to hear those words? Or is it just about aggrandizing your ego? Are you adding to the discourse, or are you “just offering your opinion?”
Because I’ve had enough of people sticking their assholes in my face and demanding that they be kissed.
I will probably keep this thread largely locked, and use it to identify instances of these behaviors, as a way to try elevate the level of discourse on this forum.
If I call you out, please try not to take it as a crushing blow; and I will try to use mine own empathy to be constructive in my criticism. But the best way to be instructive is to give solid examples of misbehaviors, and calling those moments out as they happen is the best way to do that.
If you want to nominate a moment for discussion here, please feel free to link a comment to me in a DM.