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Thread: Encouraging positive, productive, and civil discussion on UrbanToronto

  1. #1

    Default Encouraging positive, productive, and civil discussion on UrbanToronto

    I think we've all been frustrated in the past months with occasional grumpy, vindictive and pretentious posts on these forums. UrbanToronto is such a great place and I really hope to see it continue as a place that is full of interesting, civil discussion and exchanging of ideas, and NOT a contest on who has superior ideas about architecture and development.

    I'm thinking of creating a little campaign to make UrbanToronto a more friendly place; less standoffish, less pretentiousness in posts, less vindication, and more friendliness and encouragement of civil discussion...

    Perhaps we could draft up a list of guidelines (not rules, but guidelines)... sort of a User's Guide to UrbanToronto with suggestions for how we think it's appropriate to treat new posters to the boards (and what we expect of them), what the ingredients are to a successful post (and discussion), and what we all agree to when we log in to UT each day.


    Last edited by SP!RE; 2012-Apr-25 at 08:14.

  2. #2


    I agree wholeheartedly with this.

    I'm far from an expert on architecture, but when I first joined UT I was downright oblivious to all generally accepted notions of good design and construction. I'd never heard of terms such as "precast" or "curtain wall", and I was completely ignorant of their relevance. All I knew was that I was mesmerized by tall buildings.

    It was by reading threads and following projects over the span of a couple years that I began to become somewhat informed as to what makes good (and bad) architecture, and some of the controversial issues inherent therein. It was through that experience that I began to appreciate all kinds of aspects of urbanity that I'd never even considered before. I credit my fellow board members for giving me that education.

    However, these days the often acerbic and dismissive attitudes that seem to pervade the forums, especially among those who are self-proclaimed experts, does not create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning and understanding on behalf of architectural novices. Rather than use UT as a means to raise awareness of good design in Toronto, these attitudes serve only to create defensiveness and entrenchment. What's worse is that it can turn off younger or thinner-skinned posters who are only just beginning to explore an interest in architecture and urban design. To that end, I think it's better to try to be inclusive rather than exclusive of people's opinions.

    I think everyone on UT needs to step back and remember that we're all here because we love Toronto, development and urban spaces. Ad hominem and glib attacks on posters and buildings don't serve anyone.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    SLM/Old Town/Distillery/Corktown


    Every forum suffers from this to some degree, and this one is particularly susceptible because it deals with subjective matter like architecture, as well as politics. Usually the conversation here is pretty decent, but there are times when I abandon reading a thread or decide not to post when I see the conversation has veered off track into sneering personal attacks.

    A few possible solutions:

    1. Some boards have a mechanism built-in that allows users to rate the comments of others. After each comment there's an option to rate it, say numerically or by stars or just by "thumbs up" or "thumbs down". The poster's overall rating (aka "karma") is then increased or decreased accordingly. Then in the forum, comments by posters with good "karma" are displayed by default. Comments by those with poor karma are collapsed by default, or perhaps even hidden entirely depending on your personal settings.

    In that way, the contributations of those who have something interesting to say in a mature manner migrate to the forefront, while those who have little to contribute beyond nastiness fade into the background. Of course ths system is not ideal, as it can lead to a tyranny of the majority if comments that are otherwise valid and politely expressed are downgraded simply because the opinion stated is unpopular (for example, on this board most posters seems to be on the left politically, so I could see more conservative opinions being moderated down on reflex even if expressed elequently, which leads to a boring echo chamber conversation where everyone agrees with everyone).

    2. More strict moderation. Chowhound is a good example of a board that enforces rules of conduct vigorously, strictly, and quickly. Any comment that is off topic, a shill, or a personal attack will be removed within minutes nearly 100% of the time. Evildoers soon realize that there's no point and move on to less moderated pastures. Of course, Chowhound is part of an bigger company with ad revenue and likely has a larger budget than Urban Toronto to hire and pay moderators, but more strict and swift deletion of comments that wander off topic or contain personal attacks would go a long way towards nipping flamewars in the bud before they degrade the quality of conversation for all.

    3. End anonymity. Force users to synchronize with a "real" identity such as Facebook or Google Plus where the vast majority of people use their real names, photos, etc. Many newspaper sites have gone this route for comments, the idea being that when posters can't hide behind cowardly anonymity they are more likely to be civil. It doesn't deter everyone, but it helps. However this is controversial as some don't want to have accounts on third party sites, and others don't necessarily like a trail of their opinions being left for others to follow, all of which is understandable.

  4. Default

    Troll feeding. It's so easy to say 'just this one point won't hurt and then I'm done...", but we really shouldn't do it. And by "we", I mean "me".

  5. Default

    What a hideous misunderstanding of what an internet forum is. Like most, UT has always been a place where one has 'prove' themselves to a certain degree and if you think some of the hazing that goes on here is harsh, well, you ain't really seen nuttin'. It's true that 'keyboard warriors' can get a bit tiresome but in the end they're part of the world of the internet and I'm really not sure why we should be so keen to censor them. Why the sudden push to make UT a saccharine echo chamber where everyone must adhere to a strict code of [epiiiic] morals? I think the Code of Conduct introduced several years back has been working fine so why the push for something more rigid and draconian? And who becomes the arbiter? And what of brilliantly worded - if a little snarky - posts of the adma nature?

    Interesting that all of SP!RE's recent calls for 'civility' don't extend to posts on one's profile..."jus' sayin'."

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by ProjectEnd View Post

    Interesting that all of SP!RE's recent calls for 'civility' don't extend to posts on one's profile..."jus' sayin'."
    I had a feeling someone would try to bring skeletons out of the closet. I do my best to make civil posts... I never once have claimed to have a perfect record so apart from trying to make me look bad, your point is moot.

    Nobody is saying anything about censoring. You can continue on posting in your typical manner and nobody is FORCING you to change that. Note how I said creating some GUIDELINES would be good. Not rules, but guidelines that people who wish can adhere to in order to make it a more pleasant environment here.

    I guess I just can't wrap my head around why you'd be opposed to making the boards more friendly and respectful. Debate is not inherently disrespectful and is more productive when there is respect and a degree of civility. In fact, the best way to sway someone AGAINST your opinion is to be rude to them. It's also unfortunate how new members to the boards are treated sometimes, or how people are treated for not knowing proper terminology. Often they are younger or new to the fray but are eager to learn, and then someone shoots them down rudely.

    I really like some of CityPainter's suggestions from above, and I don't see how they are in any way 'censorship'. Moderators are allowed to use their discretion and take rude posts down. Also, reducing the anonymity of users is not censorship. Greater accountability is nothing but a good thing.

    I had a feeling there would be opposition from the forumers who enjoy having the freedom to treat others rudely and cowardly while hiding behind their screen-name, and I knew someone would cry "censorship", knowing that it's an inflammatory word, even though none of the proposed ideas are censorship.

    Some would call it a "hideous misunderstanding" of what a message board is; I would call it making the message board BETTER and friendlier with more interesting and rewarding debate and discussion.
    Last edited by SP!RE; 2012-Apr-26 at 12:57.

  7. #7


    Last edited by Urban Shocker; 2012-Apr-27 at 05:46.

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