To the comments area of the PCA site.
I have noticed for some time that the exchanges generated by reader comments have become hot even offensive at times. This rather subdued exchange about the iPhone4S is a lesser example but it makes the point.
Speakers Corner has quietened down noticeably since I returned to its shores after an absence. Perhaps our well respected FE should transfer his skills to the comments area of the site?
**"There have always been light hearted threads (tinned tomatoes!) but now every attempt to introduce a serious point is quickly reduced to inanity and farce. No doubt the FE and others who have been around as long will see it as a simple cyclical thing, but for me the site is a shadow of its former self"**
Interesting comments. I take it that when you say 'the site' you mean the forum areas?
The forum seems to function in a cyclical way, and of course we depend entirely on forum members when it comes to content. There have been times when Speakers Corner was much livelier in terms of the numbers of threads and posts, often because there was a lot of arguing going on. It has always been my theory that heated debates tend to produce higher traffic figures as more people tune in to read the latest exchanges in an ongoing wrangle.
When that kind of thing flares up I get emails from people who ask me why I allow things to become so heated, and often I get mail asking me to ban this or that outspoken contributor.
When the tide of opinion seems to be swinging in favour of more rigid control I try to oblige - often by writing privately to the people who regularly get into hot water - and by exercising a greater degree of editorial control on content. Then, when that policy produces a lull in proceedings I see the 'why has the forum gone quiet?' comments, it often feels like a no-win situation. The truth is, most people enjoy a little spice in the mix, and there have always been regular contributors only too pleased to oblige.
There are also people who seem to think that the forum is here as a kind of social club - a place where they can indulge in bouts of fairly bland and sometimes rather pointless chit-chat about nothing in particular with their like-minded forum friends. I confess that I find that kind of thing pretty irritating, and I tend to discourage it when it goes on for too long.
If you want to raise and discuss serious points then go ahead and do it - I'll make sure that the 'inanity and farce' level is kept to a minimum - but be prepared for some robust debate; serious subjects tend to polarise opinions, and that results in conflict.
It's your forum, and you decide where and how it goes. I look forward to seeing more threads about serious matters, but remember that one person's serious matter is another's recipe for boredom. We need to be a broad church here, in the secular meaning of the words.
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