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Old 08-18-2015, 07:14 AM
Location: WV and Eastport, ME
10,257 posts, read 10,376,934 times
Reputation: 6929


I closed a "What if" thread yesterday. It generated a few responses. Among the comments are: Why did you close this one and leave so many others open? I've said for a while that we need a what-if forum to rid the History forum of dippy stuff like this. In explanation, the remaining "What if" threads were already open when I started moderating the History forum. Two others were deleted, so you can't even see them.

What I want to see here is your comments about what should be included in the History forum.

Obviously, we expect you to follow the Terms of Service. I assume everybody has read the TOS and understand the part about copyrighted material. If you have any questions, send me a DM and I'll try to find an answer.

I would like to add a point to the posting parameters. City-Data has a language filter. Working your way around the filter is unacceptable to me. That means you can't c*ss, cu$$, or C.U.S.S. It just seems to me that following this allows up all to communicate without offending anyone.

I don't think the "What if" threads are History. They fall into the realm of fantasy or speculation. What do you think?

I think that Current Events and Politics have their own forums, so we should avoid those topics here. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

How old does an event have to be to qualify for discussion in the History forum?

Let's hold a civil discussion for a while. I'll make this thread a Sticky until we have some of this stuff talked out and then summarize some posting guidelines to put at the top of the forum.
Moderator posts are in RED.
City-Data Terms of Service: http://www.city-data.com/terms.html

Old 08-18-2015, 07:28 AM
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,945 posts, read 17,425,944 times
Reputation: 16782
Working your way around the filter is unacceptable to me
I want to know why you are writing about things that are acceptable or unacceptable to you. Shouldn't your concern only be what is acceptable or unacceptable to the people who operate this forum? Either they permit this or they do not.

Is your job enforcement of rules or the creation of them?
Old 08-18-2015, 08:33 AM
14,777 posts, read 34,490,118 times
Reputation: 14278
I do agree with GS that arbitrary enforcement of your own "pet peeve" is a little beyond the scope of a good mod, but that particular thing is something other mods do enforce. Use a little bit of common sense. I've been known to add the occasional "filtered word" to my posts from time-to-time. I've also used tricks to get around the filter because it is blocking the proper names of people or places because they contain a certain string of letters in sequence. I guess I would argue that you should use common sense.

As to your questions/parameters...

"What if?" threads are not universally non-history or "fantasy". I think they have a useful place in the forum. If you feel there are too many of them or they aren't appropriate for the main page, then move to a subforum. I would argue that many times the discussion of "what ifs" leads to an in-depth examination of the actual historical events and situations to attempt to prove what the most likely outcome would be. We've had some very good threads start out as "what ifs".

The most annoying and useless threads in the history forum are the "is this year more like this year or this year" threads or the "tell me what it was like to live in the 1980's". These devolve into nothing more than nostalgia trips over popular culture and viewing someones favorite time in rose-colored glasses. I've honestly never seen anything really positive come out of those threads. I'm not sure where they belong though. I suppose some of them could fit into the broad definition of "history" but they don't really feel like they fit in the same grouping as threads discussing the Roman aqueducts and the trenches of WW1.

Work to keep the race baiters, neo-nazi's, religious fanatics and conspiracy nuts to a minimum. This is the area that the history forum has tended to self-police pretty well. The one infraction I've ever received on CD came from a new mod who received a complaint against me from a religious/conspiracy nut who I had "called out" and had words with. So, sometimes those of us who have spent years battling those types may get a little carried away with our attacks on their ideas. They tend to come in waves. Afrocentrics and anti-semites are drawn to history debates like a moth to a flame.

Current events and politics certainly have their own forums and any topics that fit those areas should be moved there. However, there are certainly aspects of topics that have a historical element. Certain topics lend itself to discussion of modern events. For instance, the history of the founding of the nation of Israel is a topic that is hard to avoid politics or current events while discussing.

I would caution about specifying a specific age of events that would qualify for discussion. For instance, "tell me what it was like to live in 1989" is not really a history discussion per se but yet discussing the events that occurred in Berlin in 1989 would certainly qualify. I think the spirit/intent of the inquiry determines whether or not its appropriate.

As a form of general guidelines, these from the Stanford group seem to be pretty good:

History is an account of the past.

Accounts differ depending on one's perspective.

We rely on evidence to construct accounts of the past.

We must question the reliability of each piece of evidence.

Any single piece of evidence is insufficient to build a plausible account.
Old 08-18-2015, 10:13 AM
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,945 posts, read 17,425,944 times
Reputation: 16782
I endorse Goat's post and note that he mirrors some of the points I had made in my private communications with you, Mensa.

Common sense is preferable to inflexible rules. And certain types of topics, usually instantly recognizable, are the sorts which lead to brawls. I reference the "We All Know That There Was No Holocaust, But If There had Been, The Jews Would Have Deserved It, Right?" sorts of threads, the "Did You Know That Everyone Who Has Ever Been Important In History Was Actually A Black African?" sorts of threads, and the Mickey Mouse threads Goat mentioned, the "Was 1999 More Like 1998 or 2000?" sort.

Those I would blow right out of the water. The "What if.." threads should be judged by individual merit. If it is posing a legitimate consideration of an alternative outcome, that can lead to a discussion which highlights how important the actual outcome was to our history, allow those. If it is something silly or inconsequential, 86 those.

As for the masked w*rds, I would like it if the moderators convened a meeting to update the list, the forum is dragging behind the culture in this regard. If it is something which is commonly said on basic cable television, then I do not see why it cannot be said here. Context should be considered. If a m*asked word is being employed as part of an attack on another poster, that seems a clear violation of the intent of the rule. If the masked word is something being quoted from a source and obliterating it completely ******* leaves readers using their imaginations to come up with an even more offensive word, the poster should be able to use the masking to at least let everyone know what the original word was.

It is said of baseball umpires that they do their best job when no one notices them. I would think the same holds true for a moderator. As long as you avoid the extremes, things should be okay. A hands off never get involved moderator would be one extreme, the "I'm the new Sheriff in Dodge and I'm a aiming to clean up this here board" would be the other.
Old 08-18-2015, 10:26 AM
11,563 posts, read 17,491,775 times
Reputation: 17201
I for one appreciate you asking.
Generally the regulars do a pretty good job here of self-moderating, we have ways of chasing those posters out who stray from historical topics. You probably don't want to hear that, some of our "ways" stretch the TOS, but it is effective. The less moderation the better.

But there are several annoyances:

Please, PLEASE, no more "is 1989 more like 1999 or 1979" type threads. They seem to come in spurts. I think that's my biggest irritation.

Political threads irritate me. Not the subject as long as it's in a historical context. But even the most innocent thread may tend to go political and address current politics, and all it takes is one post and the P&C forum guys come in - and those guys that post there are, shall we say, not normal.

Those guys that just cut and paste from a wiki article or blog somewhere (particularly if it's uncredited). Annoying.

"What if" threads don't really bother me.
Old 08-18-2015, 10:29 AM
1,534 posts, read 817,120 times
Reputation: 2153
Over on Historium they have an alternate history section. Could be a sub section of the history section.
Old 08-18-2015, 10:30 AM
Location: Howard County, Maryland
4,928 posts, read 3,129,832 times
Reputation: 14819
Put me down as one who finds "what if" threads to be not only interesting, but within the proper scope of historical discussion.

Back in June, I posted a thread that was essentially a "what if": if the Japanese had deployed their naval forces differently for the Battle of Midway, would they have been more likely to have won? Strictly speaking, this is not history, in that history is the record of what DID happen, not what MIGHT HAVE happened. But on the other hand, it's difficult if not impossible to intelligently discuss this scenario without having a working knowledge of a specific historical event, i.e. the Battle of Midway.

Moreover, if such a thread were to be banned from History, where would it go? There is no forum for Military Strategy or Maritime Affairs. (I do find it interesting that there is an Aviation forum but nothing for ships or trains or buses. Perhaps it would be good to create a "Non-Automotive Transportation" forum, with several subforums.) Besides, someone who would be inclined to discuss an aspect of the Battle of Midway isn't going to go looking in some other forum; they would go to History.

And I don't think that a separate "What If" forum is the answer, because people wanting to discuss what-ifs will naturally go to the forum of that subject matter. Someone who wants to discuss "What if Luke Skywalker married Princess Leia" will go the Entertainment forum; someone who wants to discuss "What if President Obama is impeached" will go to the Politics forum . . . and someone who wants to discuss fleet deployments at the Battle of Midway will go to the History forum.

EDIT to add: I was referring to an entirely separate "What If" forum. hawk55732 posted at the same time I did, and I think that his idea of an "Alternate History" subforum is a good one.

As for when "history" begins, I would ask you this question: if I wanted to start a thread to discuss the events that transpired during the September 11th terror attacks, where would I put it? It seems to me that History would be the best place for it. It's not a Current Event anymore, and Politics and Other Controversies doesn't quite seem like the right place either. So if you think as I do that a 9/11 thread would go in History, then that means that History can be as little as 14 years ago.

I do agree with a previous poster that the "What was life like in the 1980s" are stretching the definition of History. Maybe there should be a "Daily Life" or "Popular Culture" forum where such things would be a better fit.

Last edited by bus man; 08-18-2015 at 10:54 AM..
Old 08-18-2015, 10:39 AM
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,945 posts, read 17,425,944 times
Reputation: 16782
Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post

Those guys that just cut and paste from a wiki article or blog somewhere (particularly if it's uncredited). Annoying.
The above slipped my mind so I am grateful that you raised it. I would favor a rule against what I think of as the "How about this?" type threads where the OP provides neither personal comment, opinion or any sort of hint as to the direction of the desired discussion. In these the OP simply pastes some article or provides some quotation, usually something controversial, and writes "Discuss."

There should be a minimum requirement of at least one explanatory paragraph where the OP explains his or her position on the matter, or at least suggests the central questions which he or she thinks should arise.
Old 08-18-2015, 11:12 AM
Location: Aloverton
6,564 posts, read 11,877,684 times
Reputation: 9953
Originally Posted by mensaguy View Post
I would like to add a point to the posting parameters. City-Data has a language filter. Working your way around the filter is unacceptable to me. That means you can't c*ss, cu$$, or C.U.S.S. It just seems to me that following this allows up all to communicate without offending anyone.
Oh, we can still offend one another without the assistance of profanity. However, we will at least look less stupid when doing it. I have no problem with the filter, nor the prohibition on circumventing it. I am much more offended by 'f#!%' (as typed) than by any fully articulated swear word, because it looks much stupider than a swear word. The forum prohibits cursing, that's that, live with it.

Originally Posted by mensaguy View Post
I don't think the "What if" threads are History. They fall into the realm of fantasy or speculation. What do you think?
I not only agree with you, I think that most of them are infantile in concept. It's like a not-too-bright child wandering into the grownup discussion and expecting to be taken seriously. If people want them, I'd love for them to be segregated in their own forum. We might call it What If Apartheid, where we banish them to Whatifistans.

Originally Posted by mensaguy View Post
I think that Current Events and Politics have their own forums, so we should avoid those topics here. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
That's a challenge. We live in an era of political incontinence, one in which a certain segment of the population is prone to drop trou and take a politics in any place, on any subject, and believes that this is not barbaric and filthy. On my Facebook wall, I ban all US partisan politics. All of it. You drop the L-word, the C-word, the R-word, or the D-word in a current events context, get your post deleted, shazam, don't care who, don't care why, will even do it to old people everyone loves and whom we're supposed to exempt from social rules. Issues, yes; politics, no. For the history forum, we can't fully discuss history without addressing political divisions, but there's always some person who loses continence and tries to bring in the current stuff. Anything that is pure politics, with a close eye on today, probably does belong in the Politics or Current Events forum. However, in the theoretical case in which you could find some people continent enough to discuss the second Bush administration's historical impact without some current politics partisan lowering his or her pants, it would work. The closer you get to our current day, I think, the harder it will get.

Originally Posted by mensaguy View Post
How old does an event have to be to qualify for discussion in the History forum?
I think it is how it is addressed rather than how old it is that makes the distinction. I think with the right people, we could have a discussion about US-Iran relations since 1979 and how they fit into the historical context, how they will look to figure generations, and so on. But in a public forum, you don't get to pick and choose your participants. I don't think a hard and fast timeframe rule will work, but I think if you start deleting posts that verge into Current Events, some people will get the message.
Old 08-18-2015, 01:13 PM
Location: Miami, FL
8,088 posts, read 7,311,669 times
Reputation: 6650
The alternative history topics have finally grown on me and is interesting although I really do not consider any of it history. The questions posed are insights into how folks see history developing. If it clogs the board then deletions have to occur.

Some folks do inadvertently place current events or POC items here. I think they can be moved at your discretion.

If there is enough sound literature from reputable sources than a topic is solidly historical. Less so with certain areas where the literature is immature or controversial. Our War on Terror as an example.

Young folk asking about the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s as if it were old history is interesting in what they ask or what they find interesting. I do not think they should be excised unless it is deemed poorly phrased as in are the 1950 more like the 1990s. Which generally create humorous responses from regulars. An example of near time frame events being useful.....The What Was Life like in the 1970s is a wonderful thread which certainly provides considerable data to anyone compiling a social history of the 1970s as seen by specific age groups. I guess enough distance has passed since the 1970s where it can be treated as a historical topic rather than journalistic one.
I think if we use good sense it is not an issue.

The aspects I dislike is when someone posts a thread which shows the poster has not done any reading and is stirring controversy. Example, is why were the Jews not enslaved but blacks were.... I could see rephrasing so it is useful but the OP in that one appeared to not have researched anything and came to unsound conclusions in his opening post to make one believe it was just trolling.

Lately some new folks have been condescending other posters without reason just to "win" an Internet argument. I do not like that either.

I have no issue with the language filter. I understand controls are needed because it only takes one to abuse an honor system.

Once we do a subforum, as occurred in the automobile section with the brand specific creations, I find I never enter the subforms and only use the main page. To me, CD is for interactive entertainment and a bit of information and not something I delve too deeply into to search for topics.

Last edited by Felix C; 08-18-2015 at 01:42 PM..
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