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Dearest Physicsmeta Stack Exchange readers,

I just got done reading through this discussion, its many supporting discussions, its answers, their comments, the answers to the supporting questions and their comments. And I gotta tell ya, you talk too much...

...without actually saying very much.

A couple of people requested that I research this issue (and a few related issues) and give my opinion, since apparently there've been some hurt feelings here and there over some of this. That's a shame. The whole point of meta is to give folks a voice in how the community is run - if you're writing this much and still feeling unheard, something is wrong.

With that in mind, I have a few suggestions for the more... enthusiastic... participants in these discussions, a few things I've picked up over the years that'll make these go a lot smoother for you:

  1. Have fun. I don't know why you're here, but I'm guessing it probably isn't your job to argue about minutia on The Internet all day1. Even if the questions you ask/answer on Physics.SE are crucial to your work, meta debates probably aren't. Hopefully, we're all here because we love the site and want it to be even better - so if this is starting to feel like a drag, go for a walk or something instead.

  2. Try to read more than you write. If you find yourself dominating a conversation (or multiple conversations simultaneously), chances are it is becoming increasingly hard for other folks to keep up with what you're trying to say; they might very well just start ignoring you. Ironically, you can end up being unheard because you talk to much! You also risk giving the impression that you don't really care about what anyone else has to say, being too busy writing your rebuttal to really understand what you're responding to.

  3. Know when a comment discussion isn't working. Comments are a great way to ask for or provide clarifications, raise concerns, or provide simple criticisms. But they can be exceedingly tedious for others to read, and not everyone has time to involve themselves in a prolonged discussion. If you find yourself going back and forth at for any significant length of time, chances are you're not getting your point across - maybe you'd be better off writing or updating an answer where you have room to expand your argument... or even taking the conversation to chat. Hint: if you find yourself posting two comments back-to-back because your response won't fit into one, you're probably doing it wrong. Stop and write an answer.

  4. Recognize that the people you disagree with probably are not Pure Evil. Sure, dividing up a happy community into tag-ghettos sounds like something that Hitler or Stalin would do, and I'm sure Pol Pot would've loved the idea of throwing tags he didn't like into a mass grave and setting them on fire. But consider: if those guys had limited themselves to bullying bits around on The Internet2, we probably wouldn't hate them so much. Try to limit the hyperbole and focus on the topic at hand; if you're having trouble doing that, maybe take a break and have a nice cup of tea instead.

  5. Evidence trumps speculation. Afraid that X will be the death of the site? You might be right. But... Prove it. Or at least, provide something to back up your assertion. Has X been tried elsewhere and failed? Say that. Is there evidence on the site itself that X is causing problems? Link to it. If the sky is falling, then stop running around screaming and show us a piece of it!

  6. Remember that there are an awful lot of people on the site who just want to ask and answer physics questions. A discussion here on Meta is just that: a way for interested parties to lay out their arguments; it's not guaranteed to reflect the opinion of the greater community. Most of the time, discussions are never really concluded here - it's always possible for someone to come in with a new answer, and ultimately what actually matters is what happens on the main site itself. Meta gives you a podium3, nothing more.

  7. Don't spend too much of your time here either.4 If you spend all of your time here on Meta, it becomes very easy to forget the reasons why you came here in the first place, place undue importance on trivial arguments, and stop having fun.

  8. Be patient. Change takes time, and remember: a lot of folks aren't as enthusiastic about following every meta conversation as you are (See #6). If things aren't happening fast enough for your taste, starting more discussions on the subject may be counter-productive (See #2). And if you're too busy hand-wringing on meta to actually follow your own advice when participating on the main site, then you're missing the chance to set an example for others to follow (#7).

Finally, remember that you elected moderators to help out on the site, settle intractable arguments, and enact the policies hashed out here and elsewhere. They're strongly encouraged to be active here on meta, but... They don't actually have to respond to every discussion or involve themselves in every debate. If you want their input and assistance, try to make it a bit easier for them to provide that.


1 Because that's my job, and you can't have it! Just kidding, we're hiring.

2 I'll bet a lot fewer people have starved to death because of Collectivist Farmville.

3 Or maybe a soapbox. A podium sounds like something Hitler would want.

4 Again, my job not yers.

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