Are the language forums "adversarial?"

bandini

Senior Member
inglés gabacho
When I answer a question or make a point in these forums, I rarely come back later and defend it, even if others disagree. It's not that I don't enjoy a spirited debate. It's just don't think it serves people who have looked up a word in the WR dictionary and then link to a related forum discussion only to find people defending their egos. I prefer to let all the ideas populate the playing field and be judged on their own merit. Let the readers, or the OP, judge for themselves. However I've noticed this isn't the case universally and have seen many threads turn into debates over the silliest things. Maybe there should be a separate area where people with differences on a topic can "duke it out." That might actually be fun either to view or participate! Either way, it would keep it out of the grammar discussions.

The other thing I notice is temptation to read more into an OP's question than is actually there... which results in answering questions that were never asked. For example, consider the sample sentence, "The cup is sitting on the table" to which the OP wishes to know if it's grammatically possible to omit "sitting" from the sentence. It's a yes/no question and yet people seem uncomfortable in limiting an answer to yes/no. When learning a foreign language, people often just want to know what is "possible." What can they get away with? Where are the boundaries? After all, there's a huge difference in taking Russian 101 and a 500 level course, Advanced Russian Conversation and Theory. In a 101 course you want to know how to differentiate between "I vomited on him" and "He vomited on me." At this level, you're not interested in nuance, irony or wit. Of course, I'm not saying that everyone in these forums are beginners. To the contrary, there are everyone from beginners to intermediate to advanced to native speakers but you can usually assess them from the nature of their question. Just saying.
 
  • When I answer a question or make a point in these forums, I rarely come back later and defend it, even if others disagree. It's not that I don't enjoy a spirited debate. It's just don't think it serves people who have looked up a word in the WR dictionary and then link to a related forum discussion only to find people defending their egos. I prefer to let all the ideas populate the playing field and be judged on their own merit. Let the readers, or the OP, judge for themselves. However I've noticed this isn't the case universally and have seen many threads turn into debates over the silliest things. Maybe there should be a separate area where people with differences on a topic can "duke it out." That might actually be fun either to view or participate! Either way, it would keep it out of the grammar discussions.
    If you think your answer is correct and other people have made wrong suggestions, you should point it out in the thread, not in a separate area.
    The OP might not always be able to figure out which suggestions are correct and which are not - If they were, they probably wouldn't need to ask the question in the first place.
    The other thing I notice is temptation to read more into an OP's question than is actually there
    I agree with you, especially from people whose first purpose is to show off rather than help and therefore don't care if an overcomplicated reply is not helpful for a language learner.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    When I answer a question or make a point in these forums, I rarely come back later and defend it, even if others disagree. It's not that I don't enjoy a spirited debate. It's just don't think it serves people who have looked up a word in the WR dictionary and then link to a related forum discussion only to find people defending their egos. I prefer to let all the ideas populate the playing field and be judged on their own merit. Let the readers, or the OP, judge for themselves. However I've noticed this isn't the case universally and have seen many threads turn into debates over the silliest things. Maybe there should be a separate area where people with differences on a topic can "duke it out." That might actually be fun either to view or participate! Either way, it would keep it out of the grammar discussions.
    That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure I'd want to moderate a "duke it out" like that. Or perhaps you were envisaging that it wouldn't be moderated. That might be fun to view, if you like that sort of thing, that is.

    I think part of the rationale behind "reactions" was to try and provide a sort of 'at-a-glance' tally of which answers were regarded as useful, without threads degenerating in the way that some of them do. I can see why we didn't, but there are definitely times when I wish we'd gone for a 'disagree' one as well.
    The other thing I notice is temptation to read more into an OP's question than is actually there... which results in answering questions that were never asked. For example, consider the sample sentence, "The cup is sitting on the table" to which the OP wishes to know if it's grammatically possible to omit "sitting" from the sentence. It's a yes/no question and yet people seem uncomfortable in limiting an answer to yes/no. When learning a foreign language, people often just want to know what is "possible." What can they get away with? Where are the boundaries? After all, there's a huge difference in taking Russian 101 and a 500 level course, Advanced Russian Conversation and Theory. In a 101 course you want to know how to differentiate between "I vomited on him" and "He vomited on me." At this level, you're not interested in nuance, irony or wit. Of course, I'm not saying that everyone in these forums are beginners. To the contrary, there are everyone from beginners to intermediate to advanced to native speakers but you can usually assess them from the nature of their question. Just saying.
    I've noticed this. I do sometimes finds myself torn beween giving a straight yes/no answer and then stopping to think 'Does that actually answer what made him/her ask the question?' What does irritate me is this habit some members have of introducing bizarrely contrived and largely irrelevant contexts in an apparent attempt to prove that anything is possible if you're creative enough. I mean, seriously? Why people can't just say 'No, it's wrong' and either leave it at that, or just give a brief explanation of why it's wrong is beyond my understanding. Of course it doesn't help when the OP starts arguing about the answers, either (I don't mean querying something they haven't understood, I mean quarreling with perfectly good clear answers to the question which was asked).
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho
    Thanks Donny. I see you get my point. While I admit it is entertaining to watch members jump through linguistic hoops of fire and perform verbal gymnastics to "prove their point", I'm not sure how much that would help me if I were a beginning student in Arabic struggling just to understand the basic syntax so I might be able to ask where the bathroom is. I prefer to be as the boxer. I stick and move. I put my point out there and like a tiny alligator poking its head out of the egg for the first time, it's on its own to defend itself and survive in the marketplace of free ideas. If the idea is solid it shouldn't need anymore defense and if it's not, it should die anyway. Either way, I never come back like a helicopter parent to fight its battles. jajaja

    To the other point I've noticed that, even in real life, people intrinsically hate to give simple answers. If you ask for a yes/no response, they feel "boxed in" and rebel. I see this all the time even with friends and family. People prefer essay questions and love to make speeches. For example, if someone asks if they can say "Soy muy feliz contigo", watch the speeches and the grammar classes begin, dissecting the nuances between "ser" and "estar." LOL

    It's like solving a word problem in math. The first step is to read the question carefully to make sure you know exactly what they're asking you! Otherwise, you're laboring mindlessly to answer a question that was never asked.
     
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    swindaff

    Senior Member
    Italian - Neapolitan
    If you think your answer is correct and other people have made wrong suggestions, you should point it out in the thread, not in a separate area.
    The OP might not always be able to figure out which suggestions are correct and which are not - If they were, they probably wouldn't need to ask the question in the first place.

    I agree with you, especially from people whose first purpose is to show off rather than help and therefore don't care if an overcomplicated reply is not helpful for a language learner.
    I was about to post a new thread, but I think my suggestion/question fits better here.
    The problem that the OP pointed out (people engaging in - sometimes long - conversations about grammar etc) reminded me of what happens to me quite a lot. If I have a question, before posting a new thread, I try to look for previous similar discussions. However, if my question is for example "Which is correct? I am or I are?", it might take me several minutes before I understand what the answer is, because I will have to read a lot of comments and thoughts (someone may say that 'I am' is correct, then someone else points out that you could say 'Aren't I?', then the explanation for this follows, and so on).
    Why don't you add a 'tool' allowing the OP to choose the answer that helped them solve their problem (if there is one)? If you do, then people won't have to read thousands of replies only to find out IF the answer to their question is there.
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho
    Why don't you add a 'tool' allowing the OP to choose the answer that helped them solve their problem (if there is one)? If you do, then people won't have to read thousands of replies only to find out IF the answer to their question is there.

    I totally agree. When a question has been sufficiently answered, I never add any comment unless to hit the "I agree" icon. Many people use these forums as a quick reference guide when they are not satisfied with the dictionary entries.
     

    swindaff

    Senior Member
    Italian - Neapolitan
    I totally agree. When a question has been sufficiently answered, I never add any comment unless to hit the "I agree" icon. Many people use these forums as a quick reference guide when they are not satisfied with the dictionary entries.
    Exactly! I might be able to find immediately the solution to my problem - and then, maybe, only if I feel like it, read the further discussion.
     
    allowing the OP to choose the answer that helped them solve their problem
    Again, learning a language is not like solving equations where one may only be interested in the solution and not in the steps to find it.
    Unless we're talking about a very simple question (what's the past tense of TO GO?) there often isn't a simple, clear cut answer.
    If, say, there are 20 posts in a thread, it's very likely that the question wasn't that easy to answer. Most of those 20 posts may have added some useful information to the discussion and flagging just one of them would play down the importance of the other 19 messages that were posted and perhaps upset those people who took the time to write them.
    Not to mention the fact that if the original question is not well framed or there isn't enough context to answer it, there might not be a correct answer yet, despite what the OP might think. I wouldn't want a wrong or inaccurate answer to be flagged as the "right one" only because the OP (often a beginner) still can't tell correct from wrong.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Why don't you add a 'tool' allowing the OP to choose the answer that helped them solve their problem (if there is one)? If you do, then people won't have to read thousands of replies only to find out IF the answer to their question is there.
    I've seen that done in other forums.

    To give a purely personal view, I think there could be some mileage in trialling it to see how it worked in practice and whether people found it useful (in much the same way as we did with 'reactions' before they were introduced). There are threads where for various reasons it probably wouldn't do what you wanted it to, but I don't see that as a reason for not considering it.

    It does bother me a bit that there are threads which seem to ramble on so much that you lose the will to live reading them, and even if you only had a minority which had a clear "correct answer" marked it would save some people a lot of wasted time.
     

    swindaff

    Senior Member
    Italian - Neapolitan
    Again, learning a language is not like solving equations where one may only be interested to the solution and not to the steps to find it.
    Unless we're talking about a very simple question (what's the past tense of TO GO?) there often isn't a simple, clear cut answer.
    If, say, there are 20 posts in a thread, it's very likely that the question wasn't that easy to answer. Most of those 20 posts may have added some useful information to the discussion and flagging just one of them would play down the importance of the other 19 messages that were posted and perhaps upset those people who took the time to write them.
    Not to mention the fact that if the original question is not well framed or there isn't enough context to answer it, there might not be a correct answer yet, despite what the OP might think. I wouldn't want a wrong or inaccurate answer to be flagged as the "right one" only because the OP (often a beginner) still can't tell correct from wrong.
    I couldn't agree more and, to be honest, spending my time reading random threads to learn something new is one of my hobbies:D
    But sometimes there might be THE answer. Flagging one answer as "helpful" (not "right"!) should not be mandatory and should still let other people comment and share other points of view, and if I am the OP I might even find it enjoyable (and useful of course). If I am only trying to understand IF my question has already been answered, then I will probably read the first 10 replies, maybe 20 if they're not too long, then I will just lose interest and look elsewhere or post my own thread.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't like the idea. Threads are meant to be discussions, not Q&A's with a "right" answer. When I browse threads as a dictionary user, I don't mind long threads as long as everything is on topic. I like to browse and make my own decision. Sometimes I'll find nearly a dozen suggestions for how to translate a term, and I like to consider them all and make my own decision. On Proz.com, suggested translations can get "upvotes," and the one that gets the largest number gets posted at the top of the page in a way that implies it's "the" translation. I don't like that and I always check all the other ones as well. Now, if there are a bunch of off-topic posts, those should be deleted, of course. I think long threads where every post is really and truly on-topic are few and far between.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I love long threads. Even though the answer has already been given, new posts always add something new which might be of great value for the OP. Sometimes I get an answer from a BE speaker but I'm always interested in the AE perspective as well or the other way round. And I sometimes get the impression that that makes me a pain in the neck for some users as they wonder why I keep asking if the answer was already given.

    On top of that, I love getting two answers, that is, one saying whether my example works or not, and one saying how a native speaker would put it in real life.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What does irritate me is this habit some members have of introducing bizarrely contrived and largely irrelevant contexts in an apparent attempt to prove that anything is possible if you're creative enough. I mean, seriously? Why people can't just say 'No, it's wrong' and either leave it at that, or just give a brief explanation of why it's wrong is beyond my understanding.
    I have begun to think along those lines. Only today I said in a thread:

    I think that what is happening in this thread is what quite often happens. A non-native speaker asks if a sentence is right (that is conforms to standard English) and it comes across as not something a native speaker would say, but native speakers are hard pressed to say why because it is not a plain mistake like "we was". When that happens there is a tendency to hedge one's bets by not ruling the sentence out entirely and suggesting there may be a context in which the sentence would be acceptable, or coming up with a strained example. On the whole, since the purpose of such questions is to seek guidance, the best response is probably to go with one's initial reaction and advise the questioner that the sentence is best avoided. Such questions may cover the grey area between grammar and style.
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho
    ˆ"I have begun to think along those lines. Only today I said in a thread:

    I think that what is happening in this thread is what quite often happens. A non-native speaker asks if a sentence is right (that is conforms to standard English) and it comes across as not something a native speaker would say, but native speakers are hard pressed to say why because it is not a plain mistake like "we was". When that happens there is a tendency to hedge one's bets by not ruling the sentence out entirely and suggesting there may be a context in which the sentence would be acceptable, or coming up with a strained example. On the whole, since the purpose of such questions is to seek guidance, the best response is probably to go with one's initial reaction and advise the questioner that the sentence is best avoided. Such questions may cover the grey area between grammar and style.
    Exactly! I think that we can all attest to the fact that "anything's possible" but I don't see how that benefits someone struggling to understand how to ask where the bathrooms are. These forums have become deluged with inflated egos battling over contrived possibilities and doing verbal acrobatics to prove that, in the Nˆth degree, some obscure construction, under the right circumstance, could be possible. A little common sense, please.
     

    Peterdg

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    What is the point of this thread? Is it just some observation or do you (who?) want to change something?

    I agree, sometimes threads get out of hand. But, on the other hand, long threads and discussions are sometimes necessary for several reasons.

    Often the OP does not provide sufficient context. You may get a sentence that absolutely makes no sense when you see it on its own but, when the context is revealed, it sudddenly starts to make sense. If the OP does not provide the context to begin with, people who answer start inventing contexts and then the thread may easily derail. Fortunately, in the forums I mostly participate in, the moderators usually intervene.

    I'm mostly active in the Spanish grammar forums. The problem there is that often people from different Spanish speaking regions give opposing/contradictory answers. I had a striking example just a couple of days ago. A native Spanish speaker gives a sentence in Spanish and his translation to English and asks if that English is OK. The first post he gets is from another native Spanish speaker who corrects the OP's original Spanish sentence, while it is completely correct. Then the discussion evolved around that correction instead of the OP's original question about his English sentence (to be fair, some people gave a good answer about he English version too, but he main discussion in the thread became that first correction). In that case, perhaps it would be good for some moderator to delete all the posts related to that off-topic discussion.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Exactly! I think that we can all attest to the fact that "anything's possible" but I don't see how that benefits someone struggling to understand how to ask where the bathrooms are. These forums have become deluged with inflated egos battling over contrived possibilities and doing verbal acrobatics to prove that, in the Nˆth degree, some obscure construction, under the right circumstance, could be possible. A little common sense, please.
    Ha ha
    - that resonates - this is definitely one of the reasons why I had to take a break in recent months. I am back now and see that one of the "egos" I found most irritating has been banned - and not before time in my view! I recommend the button which allows you to block/ignore seeing the posts of any individuals whom you find tedious in this way, or any other way. I just checked and my list currently stands at over 40 I am ignoring for one reason or another :D. I find that protects me from getting drawn in. Mostly

    And yes - I am self-aware enough to realise that there maybe times when I seem to be one of these miscreants myself.

    It is certainly always useful to keep focussed on the needs of the LEARNER in here. Sometimes a side-bar with enthusiastic natives can be interesting too, though. For me that can be part of the reward for generally "being of service". Knowing some regulars after 16 years of hanging out in here and exploring some ideas with them is a pleasure! We are all learners in that sense and exploring points in depth can be interesting - not merely pontificating.

    There are certainly non-native people in here whose grasp of the technical side of English far ourstrips mine, and some of my best times in here have been pretty complex translation points which were far from obvious or black and white. I have tussled to gloss some very tough texts in order to give the translator something better to go on than their original source. That's intellectually demanding and illustrates the vast range of users we meet in here - which means one style of building a thread does not suit all.

    I've seen that done in other forums.

    To give a purely personal view, I think there could be some mileage in trialling it to see how it worked in practice and whether people found it useful (in much the same way as we did with 'reactions' before they were introduced). There are threads where for various reasons it probably wouldn't do what you wanted it to, but I don't see that as a reason for not considering it.

    It does bother me a bit that there are threads which seem to ramble on so much that you lose the will to live reading them, and even if you only had a minority which had a clear "correct answer" marked it would save some people a lot of wasted time.

    I've always been a big fan of reaction buttons - especially when you can see who has given the thumbs up - I am sure regular students know who the most reliable contributors are, and to me they seem to function as a "correct" button.

    I am glad that we still have them after all the tussle to get them.
    Maybe the correct answer button could be given to foreros with a certain number of post, for example, to add some legitimacy to their use? I dunno if that is even technically possible though.
     
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    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Maybe the correct answer button could be given to foreros with a certain number of post, for example, to add some legitimacy to their use? I dunno if that is even technically possible though.
    Nice idea, but that rules out marking right answers that were given by new foreros.
    The problem with marking the best answer in one thread is that there are several 'audiences' of learners here. There are beginners who really only need to know how to ask where the toilet is. But there are other learners who are more advanced and want to know whether the person tending the cash register at the gas station will laugh if you ask where the ladies' powder room is.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Nice idea, but that rules out marking right answers that were given by new foreros.
    The problem with marking the best answer in one thread is that there are several 'audiences' of learners here. There are beginners who really only need to know how to ask where the toilet is. But there are other learners who are more advanced and want to know whether the person tending the cash register at the gas station will laugh if you ask where the ladies' powder room is.

    It doesn’t rule out marking answers GIVEN by new foreros.

    You must have misunderstood me.

    I am suggesting that the Super POWER to mark answers could be given to experienced members. I certainly didn’t mean that only “experienced members” can be marked correct! Any number of answers could get upticks by any number of experienced members.

    I don’t know what the powder room point contributes to my idea. Any right answers to either question could get validation.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    It doesn’t rule out marking answers GIVEN by new foreros.

    You must have misunderstood me.

    I am suggesting that the Super POWER to mark answers could be given to experienced members. I certainly didn’t mean that only “experienced members” can be marked correct! Any number of answers could get upticks by any number of experienced members.

    I don’t know what the powder room point contributes to my idea. Any right answers to either question could get validation.
    I appreciate the clarification. I definitely didn't understand what you meant, but now I do.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The whole idea of a forum is that people express their views. I do not think we need what would effectively be a self-elected elite to grade contributions. The "like" button we have is more than enough.

    Those who answer questions do so because they care about language. We can sometimes get carried away. I think my main point is that, whilst we need to avoid being overly prescriptive, contributors ought not to shy away from saying that something does not look right, is awkward or, when appropriate, plain wrong. There can of course be a bit of a problem with contributors coming from different traditions, but when there is a clear difference between American and British English it comes out in the discussion.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    It would not be a “self-selected elite.”
    What emotive tosh. (That’s me, not shying away from pointing out when something is wrong.)

    It would be anyone (everyone) who has shown their commitment to the ideals of these boards by hanging around enough to give a certain number of posts in a certain time.

    Basically they would have earned some credibility. It’s just a troll protection device and it’s not unusual for forums to have “staged” rights for regular posters, such as access to extra boards, being able to add photos etc. It would not stifle debate but it would guide learners to see a visual yay or nay from trusted members.

    Yes, maybe the thumbs up button is enough, but it’s just a discussion point to consider if it could be extended.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't like the idea of pulling seniority. A member's post count is visible for anyone who can be bothered to check, but it doesn't guarantee reliability.

    The "agree" symbol seems to be working well, and I feel it helps curb one's natural urge to jump in and express disagreement. These days I tend to give a "thumbs up" to an answer that I find reasonable, rather than rubbish a post I think is misleading or plain wrong.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    There are enough obvious differences between, say, American and British English that Brits can say (as is happening in a thread right this minute) "X is just wrong" whereas to Americans X is perfectly fine. Having only one right answer would be a disservice to people who want to know that X will sound fine in the UK but odd in the US or vice versa.

    But suppose it were possible, where there is a difference between AmE and BrE, to mark the best answer for BrE and the best answer for AmE, so that there would be two "gold stars." Then in long complicated threads, learners would have to know that the first gold star isn't the only gold star.

    I did a little survey a few days ago of threads in the English Only forum that ended in some period of time in May 2021. About 90% of them had six or fewer comments and half of the total had two, three, or four comments. Language learners are as intelligent as native speakers and can read six comments without needing to be told which answer is best. Often it's a matter of two or three answers, each good in its own way, that add up to one very good complete answer. So, at least for the English Only forum, I don't see the benefit to marking the best answer.

    Maybe the average thread in other language forums is much longer and more likely to contain arguments or wrong answers.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It would not be a “self-selected elite.”
    What emotive tosh.
    I am not sure why you think it is emotive. All I am saying is that senior members allowed to arbitrate will have selected themselves purely by having made enough contributions to be senior members.
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho
    I don't like the idea of pulling seniority. A member's post count is visible for anyone who can be bothered to check, but it doesn't guarantee reliability.

    The "agree" symbol seems to be working well, and I feel it helps curb one's natural urge to jump in and express disagreement. These days I tend to give a "thumbs up" to an answer that I find reasonable, rather than rubbish a post I think is misleading or plain wrong.
    I've never heard "rubbish' used as a verb before!
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I am not sure why you think it is emotive.
    Aren’t you?
    Maybe your language skills aren’t as good as you think, then? 😂

    A) it’s not “self-selected” if the owner of the site chooses a new strategy

    B) it’s not an “elite” if it’s open to everyone by dint of time-served.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I've never heard "rubbish' used as a verb before!
    We use it a lot in BE, or at least, I do. :D

    All I am saying is that senior members allowed to arbitrate will have selected themselves purely by having made enough contributions to be senior members.
    A member's post count is visible for anyone who can be bothered to check, but it doesn't guarantee reliability.

    The "agree" symbol seems to be working well, and I feel it helps curb one's natural urge to jump in and express disagreement. These days I tend to give a "thumbs up" to an answer that I find reasonable, rather than rubbish a post I think is misleading or plain wrong.

    I'm not keen on this idea of senior members being given powers to "grade" answers" or maybe I've misunderstood what's being proposed. Let's not forget that the designation "senior member" simply reflects a numerical count of the posts someone has made: there's currently no way of validating whether those posts are useful, helpful or even accurate. There's a common understandable supposition that anyone with tens of thousands of posts to their credit must know what they're talking about. Maybe if we don't want to go down the road of designating "best answers", making everyone's "reactions" count publicly visible would give an idea of whose answers were generally considered to be reliable/helpful/useful?
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Aren’t you?
    Maybe your language skills aren’t as good as you think, then? 😂

    A) it’s not “self-selected” if the owner of the site chooses a new strategy

    B) it’s not an “elite” if it’s open to everyone by dint of time-served.
    It is self-selected if the members are not chosen by anyone but attain the status simply by their own action.

    It is an elite if it is a group which exercises influence or authority within a larger group.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Maybe if we don't want to go down the road of designating "best answers", making everyone's "reactions" count publicly visible would give an idea of whose answers were generally considered to be reliable/helpful/useful?
    X posts 5,000 answers and gets 60 thumbs-up reactions.
    Y posts 500 answers and gets 50 thumbs-up reactions.
    Which person is more reliable/helpful/useful?

    Not meant to be adversarial -- I'm just thinking about how to solve the problem (if there is one).
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    X posts 5,000 answers and gets 60 thumbs-up reactions.
    Y posts 500 answers and gets 50 thumbs-up reactions.
    Which person is more reliable/helpful/useful?

    Not meant to be adversarial -- I'm just thinking about how to solve the problem (if there is one).
    Ha! On a straight quality vs. quantity equation, Y has a ratio of 1 in 10 against X's just over 1 in 100. Obviously without knowing what any of them related to, that's as much as you'd be able to tell. But it does suggest to me that Y is establishing a track record of reliability for his or her answers. None of this is going to be perfect, but I do think we should continue the quest for something which is going to be an improvement on what we've got now.
     

    swift

    Senior Member
    Spanish – Costa Rica (Valle Central)
    Are the language forums “adversarial?”

    Not by design. The contentious atmosphere you experiment in some forums is a reflection of the participants’ personality, communication style, and discussion approach. Contention is more or less tolerated—and sometimes even triggered or encouraged—by diverging moderating styles and (sub)cultures depending on the forum. Some forums have been very successful at maintaining a consistently collaborative and academic atmosphere. Others may be less consistent, although the overall quality of a given discussion is—to a great extent—solely contingent on the quality of the different contributions to that thread alone, and not on the quality of the entire collection of threads that a forum contains.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Ha! On a straight quality vs. quantity equation, Y has a ratio of 1 in 10 against X's just over 1 in 100. Obviously without knowing what any of them related to, that's as much as you'd be able to tell. But it does suggest to me that Y is establishing a track record of reliability for his or her answers. None of this is going to be perfect, but I do think we should continue the quest for something which is going to be an improvement on what we've got now.
    It would be interesting to survey people who ask a lot of questions and ask whether they think there is a need for improvement.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    It would be interesting to survey people who ask a lot of questions and ask whether they think there is a need for improvement.

    I think the fact that this thread exists is evidence that some members perceive a need for improvement. What form that should take is a much more complicated question. There are 'rival' forums out there where members are awarded publicly visible marks or points for 'helpful' answers. As things stand at the moment, relatively new members have no realistic way of assessing whose answers are liable to be "correct" and while we do our best to try and identify those which aren't, and post corrections where needed, it's not really the job of the moderators to keep tabs on this.

    Much of this was discussed when 'reactions' were trialled, in the face of quite a lot of initial resistance in some quarters, but while they have been useful, they aren't the whole answer - not by a long chalk.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    we should continue the quest for something which is going to be an improvement on what we've got now.
    I'm not sure what this particular quest is. If it has to do with getting members to be less openly confrontational in the threads (as suggested in the title of this thread) I'm all for it.

    Maybe there should be a separate area where people with differences on a topic can "duke it out."
    I suggested something similar in reports once or twice - I think it was after seeing a lot of senseless squabbling about the subjunctive in English. The same old arguments from the same people crop up in too many threads, I think. I would like to see a thread where people could discuss the subjunctive their hearts' content, so that whenever a similar point came up in a thread a mod could just provide a link to the more "adversarial discussion", for those who are interested in it.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I personally appreciate any native speaker taking their time to reply in a given thread, after all they do it selflessly and I'm sure they do their best to help. Having a few replies, I might perhaps value one the most and find it most helpful, yet I would feel bad rewarding just one person as, I guess, the others would feel slighted/offended by not having been appreciated. Thus I click on the thank you button to show my appreciation and it would be hard for me to smash other kinds of button like "helpful post". For me personally it's enough too see other natives speakers click on the agree reaction.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I'm not sure what this particular quest is. If it has to do with getting members to be less openly confrontational in the threads (as suggested in the title of this thread) I'm all for it.
    I suggested something similar in reports once or twice - I think it was after seeing a lot of senseless squabbling about the subjunctive in English. The same old arguments from the same people crop up in too many threads, I think. I would like to see a thread where people could discuss the subjunctive their hearts' content, so that whenever a similar point came up in a thread a mod could just provide a link to the more "adversarial discussion", for those who are interested in it.
    Well, as I understood it, bandini's original starting-point for this thread was how to curb what I would describe as the tendency of some members to go in for "self-aggrandisement" at the expense of actually answering the question which was asked, in a clear understandable way. Maybe voting for answers isn't the way to do it, but while allowing a wide-ranging "adversarial discussion" on the use on the subjunctive would probably fulfil a need for some people, I have reservations about what useful purpose it would serve in terms of meeting the forum's key objectives, and no way would I want to moderate one. :eek:

    Added: Let me perhaps put it another way - I can't really see how allowing an "adversarial thread" is compatible with an overall objective of "an atmosphere that is serious, academic and collaborative, with a respectful, helpful and cordial tone"
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I am not sure that self-aggrandisement comes into it so much as some contributors not wanting to appear prescriptive. "Prescriptive" though does not mean having to stick to hard and fast rules anymore than "descriptive" means anything goes. People asking questions want the answers framed with regard to standard English. That means veering towards the prescriptive. There are of course various registers and it may be appropriate to say whether something is formal or informal or neutral. What is not appropriate is to confuse learners by declining to say that something is wrong, or not something a native speaker would be likely to say, by saying there could be a context where it is right.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    This is a key challenge. I agree.
    There’s quite a continuum of correctness, though. That’s the real problem. We don’t all agree on the point at which to draw a line of “correctness”. Leaving the subjunctive well out of it, I often see things that I think are OK but others label “wrong” or, conversely, what I think is blatantly “wrong” is standard in the US or other communities.
    😳
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This is a key challenge. I agree.
    There’s quite a continuum of correctness, though. That’s the real problem. We don’t all agree on the point at which to draw a line of “correctness”. Leaving the subjunctive well out of it, I often see things that I think are OK but others label “wrong” or, conversely, what I think is blatantly “wrong” is standard in the US or other communities.
    😳
    Agreed. However, the issue is not so much how we resolve differences of opinion or differences between UK and US English, but contributors going off at a tangent trying to justify awkward or plainly wrong language.
     
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