Limiting the length of threads

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I feel quite strongly that discussion should be productive and useful. Of course people are free to talk as long as they like, but then there's plenty of places on the internet where people can hold long discussions with each other, YouTube video comments, Facebook posts, even email.

Metabunk is about exposing bunk, about whittling things down closer to the truth. Unfortunately there seems to have increasingly been several threads that drag on and on, branching into multiple topics, and never actually resolving anything. They have no focus, and anything useful is buried pages deep, lost to anyone looking for something specific.

I try to split threads into more focussed subjects where possible, but it can be quite tricky when multiple topics overlap, which becomes increasingly more likely the longer a thread gets.

So I'm considering some limit on the length of threads. Unless it can be tightly focussed to the original topic, I do not think that any thread should go over 100 posts. If it goes over 80 posts (two pages), and the are multiple topics then warning will be given that the thread need to be split, and/or shut down.

The simplest way would be to just lock the thread. Then if the discussion needs to be continued, then people can start a new topic (appropriately titled) with a link back to the last relevant post in the old thread. A moderator can then add a response to that post, linking to the new thread. If previous posts are sufficiently extricable, then they can be moved to the new thread.

To that end, I also suggest that people restrict their actual posts to single topics. If there's two topics in a post you are replying to, then make two responses.

Feedback, yay/nay on this idea is appreciated.
 

Trigger Hippie

Senior Member.
That might work, or you might end up with a pile of unresolved two page threads instead of having it all concentrated in one thread. I think I see what you're aiming for but it might be easier to herd a bunch of cats.

What about locking the thread when you, the moderators, or TPTB conclude the central premise has been sufficiently debunked? Maybe accompanied with a short synopsis of the debunk as the last post.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Maybe the thread length should be more of a guideline, and the focus be on keeping things on topic. And focussing on starting things on topic.

I think the problem is topics that are naturally wide ranging, threads that "make a case" for one thing or another. That's not really what debunking is about - it's more about looking at specific claims of evidence to see if they are true or not (or how likely they seem to be). Broader arguments are by their nature unresolvable, and so add very little.

It's like the difference between:
"Does God exist?"
and
"Are there intermediate evolutionary forms of the human eye?"

The first is not going any where, just big mosh pit of arguments. The second is something you should be able to answer with much more precision - thus providing a firm foundation (or removing bunk) for the broader arguments.

It's like the 9/11 threads, or even the WTC7 threads. The same arguments go round and round, but because it's hard to pin down individual points, it devolves into a natural Gish Gallop.

Threads should be about specific claims of evidence, about debunking specific claims, or about specific questions, ("what is the aluminum content of rainwater"), broader conclusions should be unnecessary.

This isn't a social club, or a debating society. It's about efficient debunking.
 

SR1419

Senior Member.
This isn't a social club, or a debating society. It's about efficient debunking.


I appreciate the sentiment...and I truly apologize for contributing to the anarchy of thread bloat...and will work on avoiding that.

Its hard though...when people come in and throw out a bunch of claims or make sweeping generalizations etc...its hard not to want to address the bunk in them even if they are off topic to the thread. I know, start another thread :)

Moreover, it seems like this might be a lot of work for the admins.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Moreover, it seems like this might be a lot of work for the admins.

If it's nipped in the bud, then it might actually represent less work.

If a thread is allowed to get out of control, and becomes a 500+ post monster, then the various topics get to intertwined and are hard to extricate. The only recourse tends to be to shut the whole thing down - which is a shame as good work can be lost in the mess.

But a little pruning, trimming, and judicious re-planting and grafting - that can make the whole thing flourish, and produce something actually useful.
 
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Landru

Moderator
Staff member
If it's nipped in the bud, then it might actually represent less work.

If a thread is allowed to get out of control, and becomes a 500+ post monster, then the various topics get to intertwined and are hard to extricate. The only recourse tends to be to shut the whole thing down - which is a shame as good work can be lost in the mess.

But a little pruning, trimming, and judicious re-planting and grafting - that can make the whole thing flourish, and produce something actually useful.

I agree. There should be better policing of off topic posts. I often reply to bunk posts even when they're off topic because I hate bunk just sitting there.
 

Trigger Hippie

Senior Member.
If it's nipped in the bud

What if the initial post in a thread were to require a moderators approval? Or perhaps making the first post conform to a specific format that explicitly and clearly outlines the claim and supporting bunk/facts. That would reduce the "does god exist?" type posts and might, at least initially, have the narrow focus you're looking for.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
What if the initial post in a thread were to require a moderators approval? Or perhaps making the first post conform to a specific format that explicitly and clearly outlines the claim and supporting bunk/facts. That would reduce the "does god exist?" type posts and might, at least initially, have the narrow focus you're looking for.

I'd considered that, but I think it might be a bit stifling. Thread starters can always be reformatted later if needed, and rambles can be moved to Rambles.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
A general bit of advice for debunkers (and myself):

You really don't need to debunk every new claim made deep in threads.

Page 2 or beyond = almost nobody will ever see it.

Here's some stats on a more popular older thread:
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/de...to-enslave-every-man-woman-and-child-jfk.319/

In the last 30 days:
Page 1 = 3,610 unique visitors
Page 2 = 28 unique visitors.
Page 3 = 16 unique visitors.

And for a more active thread, last 28 days.
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/can-someone-debunk-vigilant-citizen.1317/
Page 1 = 1,637 unique visitors
Page 2 = 119
Page 3 = 66
Page 4 = 44
Pages 5-9 about 40 each.

If you want to debunk it, then make a new thread. Otherwise you can usually just ignore it - long term you are better off debunking on Page 1. Preferable post #1. Otherwise you are just chatting.
 
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JeffreyNotGeoffrey

Active Member
I agree some what Mick. After a while it devolves into Whack A Mole. If you read How to Win Friends and Influence People you know you cannot win an argument. Even if you convince the other person, chances are you alienated them to the point of them not wanting to talk to you for a while.
 

David Fraser

Senior Member.
Once a thread is closed is it possible to pm an admin to have something of value added? I was mainly thinking links to resources or news articles that may be found further down the line. Maybe a post at the end as an addendum containing a precis with relevant links, similar to Happy Monday in the UK thread and some openings you have amended over time.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Once a thread is closed is it possible to pm an admin to have something of value added? I was mainly thinking links to resources or news articles that may be found further down the line. Maybe a post at the end as an addendum containing a precis with relevant links, similar to Happy Monday in the UK thread and some openings you have amended over time.

Sure, just "Report" the last post in the thread and add the request there. Threads can be re-opened if needed.
 

Belfrey

Senior Member.
It's a good point, Mick. If I'm new to a forum, I'm probably not going to bother to jump into a thread that's 10 pages deep. The "how to talk to a climate change denier" thread started out as a useful and valid discussion about effective debunking - right now it's a typical AGW debate thread (a situation to which I'm actively contributing). I think that the focused threads are a really valuable feature of this forum - they're super-useful when people are doing a Google search, trying to debunk a specific claim or idea.

But I also think that there has to be a place for looser discussion. I just can't stop myself from responding to certain points such as the classic AGW "skeptic" claims, and I know I'm not alone. If that means splitting those loose discussions into separate threads in the "rants and rambles" subforum, then so be it.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I suppose there's really not too much harm in letting threads go long - seeing as nobody ever sees whatever they turn into. So if you are having fun, then go ahead.

My goal here though is to maximizing debunking. Sometimes there's some good debunking done on one of the branching sub-topics of a thread, and it's a shame that it gets lost, and the effort then has to be duplicated. That's why I try to branch new threads wherever possible.

I should think about some better mechanism for thread splitting - as it comes up a lot. Maybe I can write some add-on software for the forum.
 

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