Has anyone heard of the Long Now Foundation Debate format? It was mentioned recently in an article about gamergate and steelmanning. I would love, love, love to see this implemented in Discourse as a technological assist to a well-founded sociological listening practice. Basically, the practice is this: when engaging in a debate or conversation, you cannot speak your mind until you’ve first synopsized the other’s view–TO THEIR SATISFACTION.
Imagine the impact this would have on the discourse of the internet if implemented. Trolls would be virtually silenced–most are not sufficiently well equipped with emotional intelligence enough to understand someone else’s feelings, perspective, etc. The quality of debate would increase–people would be required to validate that they understand a position before responding with their own. The sense of feeling understood in the online world would increase–much of the animosity online is not because people have no voice, but because they do not feel understood. The Long Now Foundation Debate Format could change all that.
Here is what I propose (and I welcome your input in either guiding me to other discussion threads where this has already been discussed, or in connecting these ideas with specific features in Discourse, since I am only superficially involved as a user of the forum):
- create a category-level feature that can be enabled or disabled, something like “Enable Steelman Conversations”
- when this feature is enabled, anyone can create a new topic in the category
- to respond to a topic, however, an invisible/private conversation thread takes place between the responder and the OP (original poster). The response would need to summarize or show that the responder has listened to and understood the original position. This private conversation might go back and forth a few times while the responder “gets it right”. Finally, the OP would check a box that marks this person as having listened and understood their original position.
- with this new “checkbox” checked, the responder now has permission to post their point of view (response position) publicly