written by Adrian

The anatomy of a robust discussion

I try to ensure that TgR is a place where we can have robust discussions about important topics without them degenerating into flame wars as we see on other forums. So when a robust discussion starts I do watch it closely to try and keep it in productive territory, and look to see if I need to make any adjustments to the forum to nurture it.

Those reading the forums in early 2013 will be aware that we have/had such a robust discussion in multiple threads talking about the concept of a Transgender Community, its voice and the message it might project.
Between 31st December 2012 and 25th January 2013 there were 129 posts on "Community" and closely related topics.

When we look at the posts per day we see that posting occurred in 3 bursts or phases with an idle day or two between each burst. To analyse the way this discussion developed I have labelled the three phases as
1) Proposal
2) Engagement
3) Frustration

I want to look at who posted in these threads, how much was posted, and what the general nature of the posts was.

Have a look at the discussion graphically:

During the first week a small group of about 6 members started a discussion on community. During the Proposal phase about 35 posts were made and another 3 people were attracted into the discussion. The tone of the postings was exploratory - with people trying to establish more precisely what they were going to talk about.

After a pause the second week of discussion started with a bang with the highest daily posting count (8 posts) on the first day. This seemed to trigger a more sustained pattern of followup posting which petered out towards the end of the week. In the Engagement phase 48 posts were made, and another 9 members were attracted to post. In this phase 14 memberswere engaged and the tone of the postings was largely positive and constructive.

After another pause the discussion entered a third phase. This was characterised by a less positive tone in the postings. A core of about 6 members continued the discussion for 9 days (up till the point where this analysis was performed). This small group made a further 46 posts many of which contain expressions of frustration, anger or despondency with the way the discussion had progressed. Not unsurprisingly, this pattern of discussion didn't attract others into participating - with only one new poster (and post) being made in this time. I'm not sure if the frustrations in this phase may degenerate into flaming but there is clear potential for this to occur.

I may update this post when the discussion finally dies down. But for the moment I find it interesting to speculate why the productive phase of this discussion Engagement fizzled out and didn't continue its early pattern of engagement and posting.

If we could manage to keep discussion in the Engagement phase for longer I'm sure we could achieve more.. but I wonder how!

Finally can I point out - this thread is about the anatomy of a discussion - it is not about the content of the discussion that was analysed.

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