I haven't had breakfast yet this morning, so maybe I should go do that before creating a topic like this.
But, what the heck.
Every so often, we get a member who not only has problems with the way things are done here on the Hatrack River Writers Workshop forum, but who feels the need to serve as a "gadfly." (I'm not going to go so far as to call such a member a "troll" or an "energy creature"--one that feeds off of/starts/encourages flame wars--but there are similarities.)
Google "gadfly" if you want more information on the term.
Anyway, the purpose of this topic is to consider whether it would be worthwhile to post a "gadfly alert" post (just those two words, no names, no topic links, nothing more specific than that--I hereby warn that I would edit posts that contain more than those two words--well, I'd leave in a question mark if someone wanted to include that because they weren't sure) whenever I or anyone else thinks Hatrack participants may need to be notified that someone might be trying to start arguments for the sake of starting arguments.
Such posts would be in the hopes of warning Hatrack participants from arguing with such individuals. Arguing with a gadfly only encourages the gadfly to start more arguments.
And they'd be here, since they wouldn't be about writing per se, but they certainly could be grist for the mill.
At the risk of being the first person to have "gadfly alert" immediately following the post, just to clarify:
Are you saying that "gadfly alert" is posted in Grist, but there's no context to it? I mean, I'm not entirely sure of the purpose, and my own experience is that most arguments eventually peter out anyway, but I'm not entirely sure where "gadfly alert" would be posted.
It sounds like we can't use it in the thread where the...gadflyness(?) is occurring so I'm not sure how beneficial it would be. And, at the end of the day, it's still a bit of an insult, whether one uses "troll" or some other euphemism.
I'd say, no gadfly alert, but just go ahead and do what my parents used to tell me: "You don't like it, you can go live somewhere else."
And, having said that, if there is a gadfly alert, then just go ahead and tell me, "You don't like it, you can go live somewhere else."
Thanks, rich. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this.
If there were such alerts, they'd be in this topic, I suppose (since I don't really expect a lot of discussion), and would serve to "bump" the topic. So anyone coming online any given day would see that it had been bumped, and be on their guard.
I chose the term "gadfly" because such individuals often consider themselves as performing a service (as did Socrates), while those who are recipients of such "service" may consider the terms "troll" and "energy creature" more appropriate.
It's just that when I see it happening, I am torn between emailing those recipients privately and asking them not to rise to the bait, and saying something on the forum. Edited to add: Usually I end up doing both.
Often, I don't get to the forum right when an argument starts, so I find myself involved in clean-up more than damage control (I can't be here all the time every day).
And I have indicated, privately as well as publicly, to people who seem to have a problem with this forum that they may be happier elsewhere, to mixed result.
Maybe it would be enough to just use this topic to explain to people that when someone seems to be trying to get them to argue with them, that is exactly the time to leave the topic and contact me--instead of trying to deal with such people on their own.
Right now, this topic is for discussion of the problem, and that includes discussion of whether or not there really is a problem.
By the way, I've had breakfast, and lunch now, and I just ate some ginger dark chocolate, so I'm good.
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited April 24, 2010).]
Now, I wrote plenty of stories about trolls, and read a few about energy creatures, but gadfly's are new to me.
Kathleen, if you post a 'Gadfly' alert, or anyone for that matter, as a creature of habit I am betting that I'm am goign to be buzzing around until I find the post and read everything I can about it and maybe even throw in my two cents.
Arguments in forums are like carwrecks. You shake your head, curse the rubberneckers that slow down and hold up traffic, but can't help to look yourself. When I went to pick up my teenage daughter at work the other day, I apologized for being late because a nasty wreck had most of the road closed. When I said I planned on taking a different way home to avoid the traffic, she begged that we go by it so she could see it.
What I am saying is a 'Gadfly Alert' may have the opposite effect you are after. Instead of discouraging the prepetrators, you may be encouraging the debate by shining a light on it.
Of course, I am in favor of the alert warning.
Maybe you should just go ahead and pin them insect wings on me now.
You know, there really is a difference between a "colorful character" and a gadfly. Have I ever had to ask you to ignore someone because you were arguing with them, snapper and rich? If I have, I don't recall it.
In one sense, anyone who gives a critique can be considered a gadfly, because it's certainly irritating to find out that someone has problems with your Golden Prose.
In the sense I'm meaning it, however, a gadfly is someone who thinks by coming here and complaining about the way things are set up, they are doing the participants a service (freeing them from my tyrany perhaps?).
If it works for you, make use of it and welcome. If it doesn't work, then find some other place that does work. I am willing to make changes that will improve the way things work around here, if someone can suggest (or is willing to actually implement) useful changes.
Things are the way they are now because of changes that have been made over time, and because people here have worked with me and with each other to make it all work.
Self-appointed gadflies who think they need to liberate the poor, oppressed souls who participate in the Hatrack River Writers Workshop without giving the system a chance are really wasting their and my and others' energy.
I just caught the 'Gadfly' in F&F the other day. The gentleman (forget his name) complained how BentTree and Merlion mistreated him in a critique.
Man did they both find the irony in that. I believe they said something along the lines of...
If you think we're rough, you should experience Snapper and Babbler. Later skadder and Arriki were added to the knock your literary ego down a peg or two list.
Actually, I don't know why the my fellow hatrackers are so bothered by these people. We all went through that phase of mistreatment at one point. Who hasn't dived into the world of writers and expected their work to be embraced and they would be the seen as the chosen one in the literary world? Everyone thought they were a natural at writing and they had the unique something that set them apart from the rest. It takes a good wack on the head to realize that we aren't that special nor original. Some take that wack a bit easier than others. Learning to accept that you are not special is one of the early steps at becoming marginally successful one day.
Writing is not easy, that is what we are saying to these new people when they first post here. How they take it is up to them. If they can't handle the treatment we give them, then they'll never stand a chance when they get more than a 'no thanks' rejection from an editor.
Edited to add:
I still think your Gadfly Alert is a good idea. More than a few are tired of the 'liberators of the oppressed'.
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited April 24, 2010).]
[This message has been edited by snapper (edited April 25, 2010).]
It's really simple. Arguing with those who have been decent enough to take a few minutes (more if they've decided to critique a whole piece and not just the first 13) of their time to offer you feedback or arguing with our esteemed overseer is a good way to: a) never get another crit on anything you post b) to be politely asked to clear out your treehouse suite and turn in your key.
It boils down to a simple comment 'if you didn't want the opinions, why did you ask?"
Personally, I would rather someone be brutally honest with my work and teach me something than sugar coat it and make me believe something is good when it really isn't (I think that's the goal of this forum anyway).
Bring on the Gadfly Alert because gadflies get in the way of people that are here to learn and the more of them that can be weeded out the better it will be for everyone.
Ah, ok, I see. I tend to stay away from F&F threads 'cause I don't have the patience, plus I'm probably a little too blunt to adequately contribute. Or, (more than likely) I just don't know what the hell I'm talking about so I wouldn't be a good sounding board anyway.
Be that as it may, I'm with snapper: You have my support. As you're probably well aware, I like to argue, but this is one of the purer sites dedicated to the craft of writing so I'm more than willing to adhere to what you think would be best.
And maybe I should start looking in the F&F threads. Perhaps a gadfly to the gadfly would be a good thing. Or, at least, interesting.
Gadfly's do come in different colors, you know. It isn't only in F&F they buzz around. Writers Discussion seems to attract them even more.
Aside from the brand new guy that feels they are getting picked on, there is the I'm a genius, now bow before my brilliance! pest.
Linton Robinson was a great example. He came in with the attitude of...
I'm published, you're not. I know what I'm talking about, you don't. You show me your respect and gratitude, and expect to earn mine in a distant, far off date (and fat chance of that). Challenge me at all and I'll verbally assualt you so viciously that you'll crawl under your bed, locked in a fetal position, until the end of time!
...he was an extreme version of this type of Gadfly but by no means the only one of this species. The great thing about them is that they can rarely take an ounce of what they like to dish out.
I wrote a big long post about issues you may run into with a gadfly alert, but I've deleted it in order to address what I think is the basic problem that would cause the need for such an alert.
It seems strange to me that anyone would respond to a critique with something other than "Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate your taking the time to critique my work." I know in Scott's workshop there was no 'author's rebuttal period', and I thought this was normal. Newbies, with no critique group experience may not know this, and trolls (or gadflies) may not care.
I come here mostly to stay in touch with classmates from the bootcamp, and I don't use the first thirteen section, but this seems like just a simple etiquette issue to me. If we each lived by the rules of pro-level critique groups there couldn't be any arguments in the critique area. It's not the responsibility of the newbie but of the experienced group member to say, "We don't respond to rebuttals here", and leave it at that.
Personally, I am willing to do critiques for payment in kind, but I would not have an argument about my critique for free. I would, however, accept Paypal to continue to debate at a fair per-minute rate.;-)
In the other areas of this site I've seen sparks, and flareups, but nothing approaching a flame war. I'm not bothered by arguments, they usually peter out, but I can see how some people might be. I don't have any suggestions to offer. This is an extremely civil site given that the core of its content is criticism.
[This message has been edited by posulliv (edited April 26, 2010).]
posulliv, participants are actually pretty good about telling newbies in the F&F areas that arguing with critiques is counter-productive. You're right that that should take care of the situation in those topics.
What I've seen at times is when someone is discouraged from arguing in the F&F areas, they may go to the other discussion areas and start a complaining and arguing topic there.
That's when people, who haven't even been in the F&F areas (and so don't know what this kind of topic has been generated by), get caught up in an argument they have no preparation for.
Not to mention the people that just seem to rub each other the wrong way no matter what one or the other of them says or doesn't say (those are the ones I have to ask to ignore each other).
So there are a few ways to see something that looks like it might be the actions of a gadfly, and a few different ways to deal with those actions.
I appreciate the feedback on my question regarding one possible way of dealing with the problem.
1) Although not necessarily all that 'possible' for now, a future forum upgrade might consider the user-ranking systems found in some forum software - if enough people give a post the thumbs-down it becomes hidden by default. Voting is anonymous, and it allows the atmosphere of the forum to be shaped by both readers and contributors, not just someone with an axe to grind.
2) Some form of open discussion is nevertheless very valuable for numerous reasons: a) In learning writing, we're learning rhetoric, and to learn, we're going to fail (ie, make a bad argument). b) We'll occasionally get bad critiques - ones that address us and not our writing for example - and developing the self confidence to overcome and keep writing through all that is a necessary part of learning to write.
At the same time, however, I've found these arguments tend to cover the same ground over, and over, and over. A post in Open Discussions that isn't remotely argumentative may get no responses, while one that seems designed to rub people the wrong way may result in pages of responses; after a year or so of this repeating cycle - replete with the same arguments, month after month - there comes a point where helpful participation on the forum seems hard to find.
So should something be done about it? Maybe. But in the meantime, I'm finding I'm spending less time trolling the forums and more working on my writing, so I'm not complaining.