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Vicious Hounds or "Techie Darwinism"

Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 08:59
Preface:

Apologies profusely made for making Yet Another Forum Culture Thread (YAFCT). This one is going to be fun, though, I promise you. :)


I've been reading a whole lot about Google lately (mostly to fill in some missing background for my new job) and I came across some interesting hints about the company's culture. Google is populated by a lot of strong personalities, and rather than discourage the fiery interactions this might suggest, the company encourages vibrant discussion. First, here's a snippet from Business Week:

From: someone
...Google's ideas mailing list, the e-mail thread to which anyone can submit or comment on an idea. At times, the thread more resembles a form of techie Darwinism. Google newcomers who proffer an especially obvious suggestion ("Why don't we search blogs?";), or something off-topic like how to arrange the cafeteria tables, often suffer withering rebukes. "It's about 50% new ideas, 50% indoctrination of new employees," says Mayer.

...Google oozes with what one ex-employee calls "geek machismo." Intellectual sparring can get heated. In the cafeteria, "food gets thrown," says the former employee.
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_40/b3953093.htm
(emphasis mine)

Another anecdote, related by Google CEO Eric Schmidt himself, details the CEO's interview at Google, where Schmidt, a Silicon Valley veteran, had his decisions, ideas and technologies ripped apart and disregarded as useless by Google's two founders, themselves young pups a few years out of Stanford. Rather than be offended by the two hour sparring match, Schmidt found himself challenged and intrigued by Google. He took the job. And, most intriguing, he later decided that his new colleagues were absolutely right in their scathing assessment of his endeavors.

This all had a ring of familiarity to it. I found myself reminded of the passionate discourse here on the forums. To be sure, there is a tremendous amount of people who are wildly dedicated to a great many things related to Second Life and will defend their positions and presumptions doggedly.

Is there anything wrong with that?

I would say no. The big problem is when people decide that being disagreed with, even vigorously so, constitutes a dreaded "personal attack," where no personal attack had yet entered discussion. So things that start off as fiery debates about substance devolve into flamewars -- usually because of one person possessed of sufficient insecurity as to falsely identify disagreement as defamation. If it doesn't start out personal, someone can certainly ensure it ends that way -- especially by asserting their own victimization.


For those short on attention span:


I suppose the thrust of my assertion is thus: Fiery discussion is a Good Thing. I think we have ample evidence here, though, that not everyone is cut out to participate in fiery discussion.

Do we benefit more from forcing the violence of conviction into shackles than we do from encouraging, in the words of a few posters, that posters "grow a spine?" If a company like Google can have wildly intelligent, creative minds engaged in near-violent discussion on topics important to its future, and prosper in the process, why can't we have the same as a community? Do fortitude and strength of conviction make this place evil, or do they ensure the very best of the best get discussed?
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Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
Cory Edo
is on a 7 second delay
Join date: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,851
10-06-2005 09:04
From: a very smart man
If it doesn't start out personal, someone can certainly ensure it ends that way -- especially by asserting their own victimization.


Bears repeating.
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Forseti Svarog
ESC
Join date: 2 Nov 2004
Posts: 1,730
10-06-2005 09:04
good post enab.

i agree, disagreements and discourse should be allowed to get heated.

rules of thumb i try to stick by:

1. don't take everything personally

2. if someone does make it personal and nasty, do your best to just ignore it (or at most, if you just HAFTA, only make 1 response, don't devolve into a back-and-forth)
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Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 09:08
From: Forseti Svarog
2. if someone does make it personal and nasty, do your best to just ignore it (or at most, if you just HAFTA, only make 1 response, don't devolve into a back-and-forth)


A great technique if someone is going to get nasty and flamey is to pretend not to notice their intent and agree with them -- especially if they're using an obviously personal attack thinly veiled within a generality. I have used this one to great effect, off and on, over the last five years. It requires significant self control and detachment, but the results are comedy gold. :)

edit: It should go without saying that this only works when you're the target. If someone else is, you just look bad, too.
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From: Hiro Pendragon
Furthermore, as Second Life goes to the Metaverse, and this becomes an open platform, Linden Lab risks lawsuit in court and [attachment culling] will, I repeat WILL be reverse in court.


Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
Emma Soyinka
Got moo? o_o
Join date: 13 Sep 2005
Posts: 218
10-06-2005 09:17
So does this mean we can start throwing food at eachother too?

... Man, that alone would be enough reason to work for Google.

And on a more serious note, it's true, things like that can actually be good. Unfortunately in these forums heated debates tend to devolve into outright personal attacks, which just ruins everything. It's much better to attack eachothers arguments and approaches than to attack someone's personal integrity. After all, attacking someone's integrity is hardly going to give any deeper insight in the matter that the debate is about, since it's going to be largely irrelevant. :p
Vivianne Draper
Registered User
Join date: 15 Sep 2005
Posts: 1,157
10-06-2005 09:18
Hmm I'm of two minds on this one. I've been playing online games since the early 90s and I've never seen a game board that didn't get heated at times -- usually resulting in the game company's "board person" (titles vary) stepping in and threatening to ban or actually banning someone in an attempt to either get rid of a jerk or keep the peace.

On the other hand, like you said, heated debate has its obvious merits.

With that said, in any given game, and ESPECIALLY in a game like this, you are going to have your overachievers and underachievers and everything in between. See, at Google, if you aren't a REALLY SMART PERSON they can fire your ass... or never hire you in the first place. This is not so easily done in a game. There's no one standing at the gates of SL saying "well if you can't build and script and post intelligently then off with you!" So the scenario that you describe here would have the effect of scaring off all those not able to hold their own in such a discussion.

Once upon a time I ran a gaming website and we had a forum specifically for heated discussion. But these things tend to degenerate into flame boards after a while.

Not sure there's a good answer for this one.
Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 09:20
From: Emma Soyinka
It's much better to attack eachothers arguments and approaches than to attack someone's personal integrity. After all, attacking someone's integrity is hardly going to give any deeper insight in the matter that the debate is about, since it's going to be largely irrelevant. :p


I think that our big problem is that many people don't understand the difference between having their ideas attacked and having themselves attacked. The result is much lamentation of the prevalence of "personal attacks" on the forum, which then earns the poster considerable ire because, let's face it: that's annoying. With the ire comes actual personal attacks, and a prophecy that has been self-fulfilled.

How do we solve that problem?
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From: Hiro Pendragon
Furthermore, as Second Life goes to the Metaverse, and this becomes an open platform, Linden Lab risks lawsuit in court and [attachment culling] will, I repeat WILL be reverse in court.


Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
Gabe Lippmann
"Phone's ringing, Dude."
Join date: 14 Jun 2004
Posts: 4,219
10-06-2005 09:25
For myself, I agree completely. I love a spirited discourse. I do not take it personally.

However, it should be noted that not everyone need feel this way and the fact that some people do not, makes it frustrating for them to be part of the discourse. Many of these posters are just as passionate, but channel it differently.

It is damn amusing to me that the inability to sway the opinion of another poster must always devolve into mud slinging. I know that some of the slinging can be crass, but I don't really see it as hurtful - certainly not in the vein of your brother calling you a [insert whatever derogatory comment stings most here]. It is, after all, just some nitwit you don't respect anyway calling you a ninny.

Before anyone gets all knotted up, I know that some have had these negative experiences brought down on them inworld, which is just plain wrong, but it would seem that is not common. I also realize that for those on the "Forum Peace for All" side of the street, having their own thread usurped by those on the "Just Short of Violent, but Spirited Agrument" side is like a slap in the face and vice versa.

We should all get together for a giant, monthly SL paint ball match. Winner determines the month's forum etiquet and keeps the Golden Flaming Forum Scepter.:cool:
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Cory Edo
is on a 7 second delay
Join date: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,851
10-06-2005 09:25
From: Enabran Templar
I think that our big problem is that many people don't understand the difference between having their ideas attacked and having themselves attacked. The result is much lamentation of the prevalence of "personal attacks" on the forum, which then earns the poster considerable ire because, let's face it: that's annoying. With the ire comes actual personal attacks, and a prophecy that has been self-fulfilled.

How do we solve that problem?



We personally attack everyone equally, putting everyone on equal footing. If everyone is being personally attacked by everyone else, eventually we'll have to concentrate on the ideas.


Jerkface.
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Emma Soyinka
Got moo? o_o
Join date: 13 Sep 2005
Posts: 218
10-06-2005 09:31
From: Gabe Lippmann
We should all get together for a giant, monthly SL paint ball match. Winner determines the month's forum etiquet and keeps the Golden Flaming Forum Scepter.:cool:

Best. Idea. Evah.
Eggy Lippmann
Wiktator
Join date: 1 May 2003
Posts: 7,939
10-06-2005 09:32
From: Gabe Lippmann
We should all get together for a giant, monthly SL paint ball match. Winner determines the month's forum etiquet and keeps the Golden Flaming Forum Scepter.:cool:

This is a form of government I would be able to endure :D
Pypo Chung
Residen Meatbag
Join date: 26 Dec 2003
Posts: 220
10-06-2005 09:34
*pulls out a knife and throws daggers at everyone*

Hehe ^^ Don't forget, that some things are taken both intentionally and as a derrotative means when they try to argue with someone who takes your in a light hearted note. For example, what i mean is, that not everyone really cares to fight, but they will always try to keep the point across till they are proven to themselves the saticfactory winner of a speech or quarrel. The Carlin, Who's got the bigger weener!

*continies to throw daggers*

Just remember, not everyone cares to argue too, so those ones who might either get taken advantage of, or blamed for having ignorance of the main topic. I've seen this happen many times in other forums, like www.onrpg.com and www.gaiaonline.com where the silly reign supreme.
Gabe Lippmann
"Phone's ringing, Dude."
Join date: 14 Jun 2004
Posts: 4,219
10-06-2005 09:39
But when the food fight starts, whose cuisine will reign supreme? :p
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Maxx Monde
Registered User
Join date: 14 Nov 2003
Posts: 1,848
10-06-2005 10:00
I find concentrating on creating for the joy of creating helps a lot. Posting less, even more so. One thing I've noticed about SL in general, it makes TV look even more *boring* than it already is. I haven't watched TV for about a year now.
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Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 10:04
From: Maxx Monde
I find concentrating on creating for the joy of creating helps a lot. Posting less, even more so. One thing I've noticed about SL in general, it makes TV look even more *boring* than it already is. I haven't watched TV for about a year now.


Word. I haven't sat in front of the tube in ages. Well, except when 24 was on. That is some good watchin'. I can't wait for the new season. :)
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From: Hiro Pendragon
Furthermore, as Second Life goes to the Metaverse, and this becomes an open platform, Linden Lab risks lawsuit in court and [attachment culling] will, I repeat WILL be reverse in court.


Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
Ghoti Nyak
καλλιστι
Join date: 7 Aug 2004
Posts: 2,078
10-06-2005 10:08
From: Cory Edo
Bears repeating.




There you go.

-Ghoti
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Cory Edo
is on a 7 second delay
Join date: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,851
10-06-2005 10:15
From: Ghoti Nyak


There you go.

-Ghoti


Paging Aces Spade...Aces Space, please report to the General Forum...


Maxx: you should really take a half-hour out of your week for Family Guy. You won't regret it.
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Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 10:17
From: Cory Edo
Maxx: you should really take a half-hour out of your week for Family Guy. You won't regret it.


Cory's absolutely right about that one, too, Maxx.
_____________________
From: Hiro Pendragon
Furthermore, as Second Life goes to the Metaverse, and this becomes an open platform, Linden Lab risks lawsuit in court and [attachment culling] will, I repeat WILL be reverse in court.


Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
Cristiano Midnight
Evil Snapshot Baron
Join date: 17 May 2003
Posts: 8,616
10-06-2005 10:19
From: Vivianne Draper


With that said, in any given game, and ESPECIALLY in a game like this, you are going to have your overachievers and underachievers and everything in between. See, at Google, if you aren't a REALLY SMART PERSON they can fire your ass... or never hire you in the first place. This is not so easily done in a game. There's no one standing at the gates of SL saying "well if you can't build and script and post intelligently then off with you!" So the scenario that you describe here would have the effect of scaring off all those not able to hold their own in such a discussion.


This is a really interesting point, especially in light of Enabran's Google example (I love Google but I feel like one day were are all going to wake up to all the computers in the world having a ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US message on it with the Google logo). With the diverse backgrounds of people here, not everyone comes to the table with the same levels of sensitivity, tolerance, and fortitude.

Trying to find the balance where people can speak their minds, disagree passionately and forcefully, and not have a police state/hall monitor/nanny nation suppressing speech is difficult. A Rant forum does not ensure heated discussion does not become a fist fight, but it does at least give the faint of heart some level of warning to stay away from those topics, or at least be wary. I think a forum should accomodate its users, not make one group of them conform to the behavior of another.
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Dnate Mars
Lost
Join date: 27 Jan 2004
Posts: 1,309
10-06-2005 10:27
From: Cristiano Midnight
This is a really interesting point, especially in light of Enabran's Google example (I love Google but I feel like one day were are all going to wake up to all the computers in the world having a ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US message on it with the Google logo). With the diverse backgrounds of people here, not everyone comes to the table with the same levels of sensitivity, tolerance, and fortitude.

Trying to find the balance where people can speak their minds, disagree passionately and forcefully, and not have a police state/hall monitor/nanny nation suppressing speech is difficult. A Rant forum does not ensure heated discussion does not become a fist fight, but it does at least give the faint of heart some level of warning to stay away from those topics, or at least be wary. I think a forum should accomodate its users, not make one group of them conform to the behavior of another.


Is waking up to google owning it all any different then what Microsoft already has?

Back on topic, before Jeska has to close it, I think that have debates is a wonderful thing. I think they can be done right, without the personal attacks. Sometimes the problem lies in not the currect post, but the past history between 2 people. I don't think that there is anything that can be done about that. These forums for the most part seem pretty tame compaired to what I have seen, but they are not as good as others. I think a lot has to do with the people behind the screen, and not the forums themselves.
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From: Cristiano Midnight
This forum is weird.
Desmond Shang
Guvnah of Caledon
Join date: 14 Mar 2005
Posts: 5,250
10-06-2005 10:34
An abusive culture can be productive.

So can a civil one.



One wonders why so many brilliant business visionaries all chose a technical position within Google.

Especially in lieu of becoming rich by virtue of market foresight on their own.

Of course, I'm completely ruling out the possibility that Google is peppered with self-aggrandising, socially inept geeks that take pleasure from tormenting their colleagues, insofar as every other area of life is unfulfilling.

Nope, that's just too unlikely, considering human nature.
Maxx Monde
Registered User
Join date: 14 Nov 2003
Posts: 1,848
10-06-2005 10:36
From: Enabran Templar
Cory's absolutely right about that one, too, Maxx.


I own the released seasons on DVD...well, I need to catch up, but Cory is right. I don't say "I don't watch TV" in that haughty PBS-Inspired-Bookish-Dork-Superiority way though, just a statement of plain fact....I see it as boring, not a measure of how uber-smart I am that I don't.

But I think you guys got that.....well, now you do...so swing my skull shut, my brain is getting cold from you peering into my thoughts!
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Buster Peel
Spat the dummy.
Join date: 7 Feb 2005
Posts: 1,242
10-06-2005 10:37
I think there are two aspects of human nature at work:

1. Paradigm. The human brain does not distinguish between facts and beliefs. If you believe something, then for you, it is a fact. Paradigm makes beliefs "sticky". Humans cling to beliefs even in the face of proof that their beliefs are wrong.

2. Vanity. Like most social creatures, humans organize into groups and establish a pecking order. There is competition for esteem, which is acted upon differently by different personalities. Some try to build themselves up by showing off, others try to tear others down.

These two forces are always at work, but in an anonymous forum, cultural norms are suspended. Normal inhibitions are reduced because people spell out an entire course of argument without continuous feedback from things like body language or eye contact.

Paradigm makes it hard for one to realize one is wrong. Vanity induces one to belittle another.

In attempts to look good by comparson, one makes an ass of ones self. (Not me, of course. All you other people.)

Buster
Cory Edo
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Join date: 26 Mar 2005
Posts: 1,851
10-06-2005 10:39
From: Desmond Shang

Of course, I'm completely ruling out the possibility that Google is peppered with self-aggrandising, socially inept geeks that take pleasure from tormenting their colleagues, insofar as every other area of life is unfulfilling.



I think its just that really really smart people can't generally tolerate people that are dumber than they are coming into a situation and crying that they aren't being taken seriously or respected.

This is in no way shape or form a comment on anything, anyone, or any forum anywhere on Planet Earth.
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Enabran Templar
Capitalist Pig
Join date: 26 Aug 2004
Posts: 4,506
10-06-2005 10:39
From: Dnate Mars
Sometimes the problem lies in not the currect post, but the past history between 2 people.


Quite so. People need to pick up the proverbial phone and settle their shit in private, where appropriate. This often helps a lot (but not always).
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From: Hiro Pendragon
Furthermore, as Second Life goes to the Metaverse, and this becomes an open platform, Linden Lab risks lawsuit in court and [attachment culling] will, I repeat WILL be reverse in court.


Second Life Forums: Who needs Reason when you can use bold tags?
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