Or how to stop worrying and love debates

Much electricity (as opposed to ink) hath been spilt here about surefire ways to write a node that will sink like the Titanic. Also there are many complaints about how whenever they express political views of some stripe they get unfairly beat up upon. While I don't know what makes a node positively popular I do seem to be able to write nodes of some controversy without getting downvoted much more than they are upvoted. (My Reasons to vote for Al Gore is a good example of this. It is destined to vary between -2 and +2 it seems.)

  • Use words like "seems", "some", "a few", and "sometimes". Make it clear that you are not issuing a blanket condemnation of something or someone. Calling all, conservatives, liberals, roleplayers, Christians, Atheists, or whatever responsible for some negative thing is not a way to endear yourself. Positive Example: My write up in Liberal Metanode
  • Be humble. Being proud of your opinion/ideas will not automatically get you voted down, but it certainly does not help. If you annoy voters the best you can hope for is no vote at all.
  • Never use insults or diminutives like "Brit", "Yank", "asshole", or "idiots" unless it is like I have done here, as examples. Make it absolutely clear that you are not using these words against anyone in the audience. Also avoid language that sound like that used by a group's harshest opposition. Saying "militant gay radical" or "reverse discrimination", may be factually accurate, but they have a negative connotation, an association with very radical organizations.
  • When you do find it necessary directly condemn a group or idea make it clear what and why you denounce them. If people mistakenly think they are part of the group being attacked they will vote you down. Be very specific.
  • Try to make it about a specific idea (rather than a group) and for factual reasons rather than just an unsupported opinion. Be careful about your research being accurate. If you fudge even a little someone will notice eventually, especially in a forum like this one.
  • If you can use softer worlds like "dislike" rather than hate. Do not compare a group to the Nazis unless that is the topic of discussion. Dragging other groups into it just brings in more emotional baggage. Godwin's Law
  • Being sarcastic or doing a parody of something you dislike is probably a bad idea. Without the extra meaning lent by tone of voice available in conversation it is very easy to read in completely different meanings to jokes.
  • Go for moderate length. If you have more to say or define you can do it in another node. Too long can be just as bad as the one line condemnation with one link. Cut it off at three screens worth.
  • Offer positive suggestions of how things could be better, or concessions of the good that a person or group has done rather than saying everything they do is bad. A spoon full of sugar after all... Example: Problems with Ralph Nader

It is perfectly possible to have a node that gets voted up despite the fact it ignores all these guidelines. I am not saying that anyone has to do these things. Just that if you are going to be controversial it is a good idea to act as though you were making dynamite, error on the side of caution.

In response to SpudTater let me say that I am certainly not advocating never saying what you mean or dishonestly avoiding conflict by only attacking strawmen. I am saying that a person should be sure of who and what he is really attacking. Are you really against 'liberals' or 'conservatives' as a whole or do object to specific positions on some topics?

Also, while ranting against things nobody likes or supports may not be interesting, it is not likely to garner down votes. I am not saying this is good or bad, just stating how people tend to vote on Everything2. And isn't it better than pissing lots of people off for no good reason?


"When you do find it necessary directly condemn a group or idea make it clear what and why you denounce them. If people mistakenly think they are part of the group being attacked they will vote you down. Be very specific."

There is a thin line between narrowing your target of condemnation, and conjuring up some 'phantom enemy' to make your point without attacking anyone.

E.g. "I can't stand these 'right-to-bear-arms' freaks! Not the ones who are satisfied with handguns and things - they're okay. But the ones who insist on their right to bear grenade launchers and machine guns!"

This is obviously a way to rant while only opposing a tiny group of people. (In fact, this is probably a good way to slip in a bunch of writeups without attracting downvotes... hmmm...) 8^)

The problem lies in the fact that you are not saying anything; you are not expressing any useful political or moral opinion. If you're going to say something, at least have the guts to make your stance clear and your attacks wide-ranging.

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