Cannon of Malvern Hill  #2
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rob Shenk

I was talking to a member the other day, in what was a very serious conversation about that member’s future on the site. Part of that conversation was an attempt on my part to get the member to refocus on what the community is about and not to get out of hand in discussions where people disagree with you.

This veteran member had been challenged many times by a new member. The new member disagreed with a lot of what they said. Instead of taking it as he should have, and setting an example for the new member as an established member, he took it as a battle, as if discussion on our forums was some sort of war. And this carried over into numerous other threads. This was very disappointing to me and my staff.

Now, there are plenty of communities that are basically militant debate clubs. And that’s totally cool. But, that’s not what my communities are. We aim to be a friendly discussion community. Friendly doesn’t mean that everyone agrees. It means that when people disagree, they do so politely, respectfully and thoughtfully, focusing on the points of the discussion and not on attacking the person who made the points.

Even so, sometimes, members get carried away, as we all do. Where disagreeing with someone becomes a petty game or a battle. That’s not what I want. And so I told this member, exactly: “Discussions are not warfare; this is not a battlefield.”

I continued to tell them that this wasn’t about the member, the person who disagreed with them, me or our staff: this was about the community as a whole and what it stands for. And we don’t stand for this. I believe the member got the message and hope that we turned a corner.