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All talk and no work

I was recently asked by a friend from Agoraroad why I no longer post there. I have discussed this a little bit in private emails, but I thought I'd take the time to flesh out my thoughts on forums and social media in general- and the symptoms it begins to present in me. We shall be specific to why I left Agoraroad as a special case, and then build upwards to present it as a general case.

The Special Case

Why I left Agora Road was for several reasons(in a random order from how I enumerated them in my emails):

- Lack of gatekeeping

- Upvote culture

- Recency bias built into its content

- No *strong* conceptualisation of "quality"

- The value of the average Agoran's words

Enhance: Lack of Gatekeeping

Gated neighbourhoods tend to have the lowest crime rates out of any neighbourhood. This is because their neighbours treat each other well, communicate effectively with each other, and have the works that back them up as quality members of that neighbourhood, otherwise how could they afford to live there? As a prerequisite, this necessitates the production of value to society at large- and some way it ties back towards an idea of quality. I won't spend any time defining quality and value here: mainly as it's not the point, and secondly because it steers the discussion towards one of "shareholder value" and with respect to quality- one about art no longer being created by artisans and instead created by artists without a goal for quality skilled production, but just to create an ambiguous and crude "art".

Enhance: Upvote culture

Once a forum or a network adopts upvotes, it's initial momentum towards mobbing- towards the corruption of value and quality("High upvote is quality right?"), and it brings in the wrong kind of selection pressure on the culture, preferring one of popularity. This is fundamentally a pretty awful selection pressure, as it's the reason(and I am being generic and reductionist saying this) we are currently in a crisis of competency, and why programming has such a terribly broken compass on quality(well, really most engineering has, and most consumers have broken compasses on their demands for quality- with rare localised exceptions).

Enhance: Recency bias built into its content

There are several ways of selecting how to list content. There is upvote culture, which displays by popularity, which then displays by tribe and sows the seeds of tribalism. Then there's the bump-based recency bias. This also has the issue in that that it prefers recent knowledge and recent events, which are shallow and irrelevant knowledge that do not affect a person's lives, do not contribute any value, do not build upon any works, and are little more than a coffee chat over a water cooler. What's more, is that it selects in its forum or social media the subjects that spark the most discussion, which are not the most relevant, or useful discussions but the most vitriolic, active and neurotic discussions that attack the psyche of people.

Exposed to this, and the vitriolic "toxic" churn, it exhausts consumers.

Enhance: No strong conceptualisation of quality

See the notes on the lack of gatekeeping. This is gauged far more strongly by feeling and sense, but you can very well tell the difference in something that feels and seems higher quality than the other- quality comes from a definite thing to observe quality in. Words are cheap, so quality is best observed in either very definite very specific and targeted words(those of a book, essay or poem)... or in those of works. If a person has no works, they have little experience upon those works, and if they have little experience, they have little their words can touch upon.

It is to the inexperienced and loveless, to describe the trap of love, marriage e.t.c.- yet their inexperience devalues their words. Words spoken from experience, requires works to gauge those experiences. The quality of those works describe the quality of the experience, which describes the quality of their words.

Enhance: The value of the average agoran's words.

This then draws me to the crux and nail in the coffin. From my brief discourse with that friend from the Agora Road. Most Agorans have no... or few works. This is evidenced in the first case by how few have a blog or anything of that nature, and how fewer build *beyond* a blog in anything better.

Noting additionally from the recency bias, and how most responses become bitter, angry and frustrated(not unlike 4chan, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr where people post in a similar vein) it bleeds into the personality of people. Though the parable of the porcupines huddling for heat, and being pricked by one another is true enough, that is pricking... there is plain feral viciousness.

Despite these, why wouldn't I stay?

I have presented why I left in the specific case. There would be reasons to stay, and I considered them. The people in Agora Road practically fetishize honesty, but honesty without correctness is the blind leading the blind. This is a broken compass, and those who are political could manipulate this to their own ends. In fact, this is the central way that most "psyops" play out, as they prey upon those who's paranoia feeds upon their honesty and vice versa- and indeed, I have seen this play out plenty of times.

Additionally, I began to see myself being too reductionist in the points I presented. This trait certainly bled onto me from Agoraroad.

Developing upon this specific case to the general case

Indeed, I believe these touch upon fundamental issues in forums of all forms. The curation of members, the curation of which content is seen, The biases in that curation, and the metric upon how you curate are the 4 fundamental parts of a social media or forum. Curation? It is about the curation of members, that guides discourse. It is the curation of content that guides what is discussed. It is the biases in the curation, that guide the biases in their members, and it is the biases.

I have yet to see a silver bullet slay this beast. Instead, it is a balance, and too often, people fail this balance-- and in that balance they forget the forum and yourself are that rod with which you balance. You too being in that balance, means the individual becomes the same poison as the rest(but all people have different tolerances!).

As a final note, I put forward the proposition from the above of what the issues of this talk. Now, it fights for your attention, effort and vitality- and as a result it bleeds the ability to work. I don't have much of an articulate way to express this, so I'll leave this proposition for you, and let you, the reader, work out the blanks that build up to it.

Closing notes

I should note, that when I left Agoraroad, I had noticed my mind and thoughts getting sicker and sicker, following the issues of that poison and tolerance I mentioned just before. I've experienced this before with other communities, and this issue is with that curator again, and the only choice in my hands is to walk away. That said, sometimes the poison is worth what you learn-- and that poison is the sulphurous saying : "Hell is other people".

Some people will claim this is a "hot take"- but the idea of a man's opinions being reduced to cold and hot takes that agree or disagree with the status quo, is a symptom of this poison. A symptom that it cheapens opinions, others and speech and reduces them to the camps of "cold heaven" with my tribe, and "hot hell" with yours. Such people have broken compasses that value the speech and not the ideas within.

Published on 2024/03/18

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