I'm losing patience

It may not be obvious to everyone posting here, but there are two primary categories on this site: Article Comments and TidBITS Talk. (The third is Site Feedback, but that’s seldom used and only for technical meta-discussions of Discourse and this site.)

Article Comments are just that—they are associated with and appear under articles on the main TidBITS site through Discourse’s integration with WordPress. In contrast, topics created in the TidBITS Talk category appear only here in Discourse.

If I’m going to spend hours researching, writing, illustrating, and editing an article, it pains me to see the comments underneath it to be vitriolic attacks on Apple’s executives or intentions, back-and-forth sniping between participants, or anything that veers off-topic. It makes TidBITS look unprofessional and unpleasant, and it makes me look bad as an author.

I’m not saying that any of those things are acceptable in posts in the TidBITS Talk category, but I’m a bit less picky because the conversations don’t reflect directly on work I’ve done.

I spend significant amounts of time, money, and effort running this site and trying to help people, both directly here and by expanding on our articles for those who run across them later. When I see people arguing and complaining and changing topics (usually to get a whine in), it makes my stomach hurt. It’s not funny, it’s not being direct, it’s not telling truth to power—it’s just unpleasant. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this stuff than you are—tough. It’s my site, it’s not a democracy, and if I stop having fun running it, I’ll shut it down.

I’ve taken another pass at the rules for discussion here to clarify them. Posts containing the following types of content are not acceptable and may be edited or deleted without notice or explanation:

  • Trivial replies like “Thanks.” (That’s why there are minimum post length settings.) Click the heart button under a post to indicate positive feedback.

  • Signatures. Every post has your profile information attached to it, and email signatures in particular just clutter topic threads.

  • Whining about Apple. I am so sick of whining. If you don’t have anything constructive to say, don’t say anything at all.

  • Disparaging comments about individuals, either other participants or public figures. Disagree with posts, not with people.

  • Venomous language. You can make a point without referencing the Nazis or suggesting capital punishment or using other forms of extreme language.

  • Subscription or membership questions. Send email to support@tidbits.com instead.

  • Press releases, commercial notices, or Web site announcements. It’s fine for an employee of a company to mention its product if it’s relevant to an existing topic.

  • Spam of any sort. Posting spam will result in account removal.

  • Anything I feel is inappropriate, particularly off-topic posts or personal attacks that will cause arguments.

Finally, let me make it clear that I don’t want to waste even more my time having discussions about why I’ve edited or deleted something. The answer will always be in the list above.

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Maybe you could be more specific about what your goals are with this site, and we could then help you achieve them.

Are there different rules for the two forums: Article Comments and TidBITS Talk? When we write for one forum or the other, is there something we should keep in mind?

Do you distinguish between “criticism” and “whining”? Some examples might help.

Do you forbid any criticism of Apple? I haven’t used names. That’s one way to avoid legal trouble, if that’s what concerns you.

I’m accustomed to the internet, so negativity doesn’t bother me much. There are different kinds of negativity and varying degrees. I’m OK with conflict and confronting people. I prefer that to censorship or running to the teacher.

Have you seen a doctor about your stomach? If you want to talk about this subject, you can email me.

It certainly is your site, and you can do what you want.

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My goal is that I want to be proud of the content that appears on my sites.

As I noted, when people are commenting on an article, my bar is higher. Comments should add detail or background to the article, provide first-hand experience, ask questions about things that maybe weren’t clear, and so on. It’s all about making the article more valuable to readers.

Yes. Criticism makes realistic, constructive suggestions for improvement. For instance (to make something up), any suggestion that Tim Cook should be fired as CEO because Catalina dropped support for 32-bit apps is whining. It’s neither realistic nor constructive, and shows an ignorance of how a massive multinational company operates. It would never, ever happen, and it’s just a waste of everyone’s time to read.

Criticism of Apple, with realistic, constructive suggestions for improvement, is totally fine. We publish articles that are critical of Apple all the time. But that’s very different from criticizing a particular person at Apple—very few decisions in a company of Apple’s size are made by a single person, and few of those that may be the work of one person are made by someone that is known to the public. Similarly, making broad, unsubstantiated statements about what Apple thinks or how the company behaves, is shaky ground.

And you’re welcome to your opinion. I hate whining and complaining and negativity, and I don’t want to read it on my site.

I was speaking metaphorically.

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“My goal is that I want to be proud of the content that appears on my sites.”

Can you be more specific? When I see negative comments in any post, I don’t automatically think, “This is all Adam’s fault”. I’m a little unclear why what someone else writes should reflect poorly on you, unless it’s so far beyond the pale that it’s unacceptable. I haven’t seen anything like that here, and I’ve been on a lot of internet forums. This is probably the most mild-mannered forum I’ve seen.

No one here is morally or legally obligated to solve someone else’s problems. If Apple wants me to solve their problems, they can pay me. If Apple causes my problem, you can bet I will mention it. If a forum participant has a problem, and something occurs to me, then I might write something. But everyone’s experience is different, and our time and talents are limited.

I wrote a lot of literary criticism when I was younger. But in no essay did I feel obligated to show or even try to show what would a make poem, story, or novel better. I didn’t see “criticism” as a negative term, perhaps thinking more of “analysis”. When I wrote book reviews, that was a little different because I had to answer to an editor who told me I should keep the consumer in mind.

I agree saying Tim Cook should be fired is silly. But I think it’s OK to show where one disagrees with him—or anyone else for that matter, so long as the response is relatively reasonable and sensible, though those aren’t words that I identify with the internet. Some people like to blow off steam on the internet. I guess it’s better than some of the alternatives. Let’s be frank, there’s not a lot of good sense on the internet.

It’s difficult to talk about problem-solving without talking about people, because sometimes people are the problem. Leaving names out may be one solution. I try to follow the rule of other forums: criticizing the post but not the person. It’s an imperfect rule that can be circumvented many ways, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

I remain puzzled by the degree of your disgust, the intensity. I don’t know that anyone here has been misbehaving. In fact, I don’t have any problems with this site, with your writing or any of the articles. If I did, I would leave it.

Your exasperation surprises me and puzzles me. There is some ambiguity and fuzziness regarding what you want to accomplish with this site and why you feel the site no longer measures up to your expectations.

This forum has existed for a long time, and there have been periodic flareups of “bad behavior” over the years. Perhaps TidBITS’ reservoir of tolerance is simply nearly empty, even if recent incidents are not as incendiary as previous ones (to my mind), or maybe @ace already deleted the errant comments before I read them.
¯_(ツ)_/¯

Sure. I just posted an article about tasks that will be necessary after migrating to a new Mac. The goal is to provide a resource that helps people understand how much work will remain, and what sort of confusions and problems they’ll have to work through. Many things won’t work until the services are connected, drives reselected, and so on. But I can’t possibly know about everything that falls into that category and I hope readers will contribute other examples.

I’m also happy if someone posts about a problem they’re having that’s related to an article and if someone else helps out by providing the answer.

I want people to know and understand more after they’ve read a TidBITS article and its associated comments.

It’s my site. Everything reflects on me and the job I do managing the site. One of the inside jokes among TidBITS staff is that readers think I write every article. It’s far from true, of course, but I do edit every TidBITS article in detail, and I stand behind everything we publish. Mistakes may still happen, and if so, they’re as much my fault as the author’s when they do.

Obviously, I can’t and don’t attempt to exercise the same level of editorial control over article comments and TidBITS Talk, but that’s a practical limitation. In the early days of TidBITS Talk, many years ago, I actually read, edited (usually lightly, but to fix egregious errors), and posted every message by hand. Nowadays, I merely read every message and try to keep discussions on track after the fact.

I think that’s a different world. In the tech sphere, and at least here, I want criticism to be constructive.

If someone wanted to disagree (rationally) with actual words spoken by or officially attributed to Tim Cook, that would be fine. Disagreeing with corporate decisions made by Apple and saying they’re Tim Cook’s fault (and don’t get me started on “If Steve Jobs were still alive…”) is inappropriate. Even though I stand behind everything TidBITS publishes, there are still author opinions that differ from mine. We have no way of knowing what Tim Cook thinks about specific Apple decisions, many of which undoubtedly never even crossed his desk.

Much of what I do is behind the scenes, such that only the people involved would have much of a chance of knowing. I dislike conflict and prefer not to host it or have to deal with being a peacekeeper. It’s an unnecessary waste of my time. Even writing this post and having this discussion has taken time I didn’t have to spare today.

Also note that when I say that it’s time to shut down a discussion that’s veered off-topic, it bugs the heck of out of me when people keep banging away on it. I’m not putting up with that anymore.

That’s very likely the case. :slight_smile: There’s no way to know who sees what when now, as opposed to the old mailing list days, and when I can delete or edit or split or merge a topic quickly, I try to do so. The other change that comes with a Web-based forum is that everything is permanent and on public display, so I care more deeply that it be good.

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I have to agree with Adam on much of this. I have followed Tidbits for decades and in the last few months have found myself Left swiping topics because I just did not want to hear the complaints and negativity. Maybe I am more sensitive with the ongoing pandemic, but I just want to find useful information and like it more when people share things they find useful than complain about all the things they don’t find useful.

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Why not have one forum rather than two? After an article, accept no comments. Provide a link to the forum to talk about it. That would put a clear line between article content and forum content.

It sounds like you want this site to be somewhat like the old MacFixit site by Ted Landau. That was a great site.

I return to the same point. There may be more negative comments about the tech world because the tech world is becoming intolerable. It would be odd to suggest things haven’t gotten worse. Read what John Gruber wrote. Pretty heavy.

Or it could be that people just like to complain no matter what.

Rather than continually asking for more clarification, people could just try to be less relentlessly negative.

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For myself, all I can add to this is TidBits Talk and article comments was at once a safe refuge of exceptional, kind and generous people, and an invaluable resource for valuable answers to both common and obscure issues; from the top down and back, it was a productive exchange of thoughts and ideas, triggered by great writers’ works offered to readers, and readers actively involved in expanding the conversation.

Sadly, at some point, diving into the discourse stopped being either fun or productive for me, and switched from a joy of trying to be of use to others, to an unpleasant chore of wading through the seemingly constant whining and whinging and sniping. My health leaves no space for such tedium, and so I learned to avoid diving into a dirty pool that left me feeling exhausted, rather than refreshed.

To whit, this conversation on this post shouldn’t even be happening. Adam / @ace wrote a crystal clear message about his experience and expectations, and, presumably, as adults, our only job is to read, absorb, and seek to comply if we want to be a welcome part of his community. It doesn’t require another lengthy editorial debate, or an invocation of Nazi Germany.

Just take Adam’s above-re-posted rules and considerate admonitions to heart, and think before you post. It’s simple. It’s just a written version of the unmistakable look your Father gives you from across the dinner table when guests are present; it’s certainly not a time to discuss and debate your manners; just sit up straight, put one hand on your lap, and politely pass the potatoes, please.

Happy Tuesday, and Kind Regards to All

F

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Federico’s post could be construed as whining. I don’t see it that way, but some might. It’s negative, isn’t it? It chastises everyone in this forum. I haven’t done that. The truth is, Adam isn’t our father, so it makes no sense to treat him like one. That’s another example of unrealistic expectations.

Many “negative” things are being done by people in computer industry, not just Apple, and it’s important for us to face them rather than stick our heads in the sand. I agree that it sounds faintly totalitarian to be advised to do so. There are serious problems that need to be confronted. If people don’t complain, that’s a guarantee things won’t change and that they will get worse. Silence means consent. It’s possible that “complaining” will cause something to change. What’s the alternative? It’s better than another class action lawsuit or visit to Congress by the executives. Both happen often. It’s no one’s imagination or excessive complaining. These are real problems that need to be confronted.

I’m astonished to hear one more person say, in a forum of all places, that talk is bad.

Sure, I only joined recently, so I don’t know from experience if this forum has “gone downhill”. But I would be v. careful about assessing blame.

The architecture that I’ve chosen for my sites isn’t up for discussion here.

Nor are my rules for participating in this forum.

Which is why I’ve deleted a bunch of the posts above and closed this topic.

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