Dear EA Community  

Prepare for some constructive Criticism.    
A few days ago, I posted my first essay on your forum entitled “How to Prevent Wars”. Although the reviewer was not very impressed, I am very happy and grateful  that someone took time to read it and make comments.

I wrote the essay primarily because the topic is important to me, and secondly because I wanted it to be a “poke in the eye” to your community, to see what reaction, if any, it produced. I have looked at your forum web site and to be honest I’m not very impressed. The postings that have stuck in my mind are by a lady asking why  people join EA full  enthusiasm, but drift away disillusioned, and another by a poor chap who, like all of us, wants to make the world a better place, but felt totally excluded because he is not an academic or an intellectual. However I think he is very brave to be so honest, others would have stayed silent. I don’t think he has a problem, but the problem is with your community.  

The reviewer of my essay had two basic criticisms of my essay. Firstly he disagreed with the content. This is great. If I’m wrong, I want to know about it. Secondly he criticized the writing style and he advised that before I posted again I should look at other postings and follow suit. This prejudice against writing style I object to. It is a restraint to the basic human right of freedom of speech and a form of censorship. It excludes all those who do not have the skill or desire to write in the “approved Style”   and will mean that the wisdom and experience of ordinary people will be lost. How does excluding peoples genuine points of view make the world a better place?

I have read that the Dali Lama, when mulling over a problem, will go and talk to the cleaners. He values the wisdom of their alternative view point and incorporates it into his thinking. Often he finds that they know or say more than high ranking officials, because they are free to speak without the fear of a superior criticizing them and mix with both ordinary people and high ranking ones (whilst cleaning their rooms), thus having access to more information..

After the intro to my essay, I kicked off with the heading “Know Yourself”. In my opinion these are the wisest words ever written. They were carved over the entrance to the temple at Delphi about 300BC. 
My interpretation, is that, because we grow up in a relatively isolated social group, we all have built in, learnt prejudices and bias’s, which warp our thinking to that of the group. It helps social cohesion. But, if you can understand these prejudices and also the limits of your knowledge, ie know yourself, then in later life you can compensate for these internal prejudices, bias‘ and ignorance’s, and thus under stand the world with a greater degree of accuracy. Achieve this ie understanding the present, and predicting the future becomes simple. Ironic, isn’t it, that the Ancient Greeks came from all over to consult with the oracle, and the key to prediction was written over the front gate for all to see!

So EA Community I call on you to “Know Yourself”. The EA website will be what you want it to be. At the moment there is a conflict between your invitation for all to “write stuff” and an undercurrent of “only if it is written in our approved style”. If you want it to be exclusive, that up to you, but be honest and don’t pretend to be open to all, when you are not.   





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The reason for the enforcement of style within the forum is not to keep out the wisdom and experience of ordinary people, but in the long run, to increase it. It seems a bit backwards that keeping posts out would increases the amount of posts but consider this:

If the forum was a lot of spam about miracle cures and flat earth, few people would be think it's a good place to post their ideas about agricultural reform.

If the forum had lots of good ideas but they were all 1000 page books, few people could read them, and the comments could not discuss one point together since there would be dozens to respond to.

If the forum had lots of good ideas but they were all tweets, few nuanced ideas could get discussed.

I also think very few ideas will be missed because I don't think it's too steep of a barrier to ask people to write their main points in a few sentences. I think it is still inclusive even of people with very different backgrounds.

If people had to sort through unrelated poetry, personal rants, and many repeats of the same old ideas, the good points would be difficult to find. Ironically, those people/ideas would get drowned out if there were hundreds of posts without much content. So we ask everyone to be as concise as possible.

Encouraging posts that are concise, encouraging friendliness, encouraging criticism, are all are for the sake of keeping the discussion productive and moving forward.

There is some component of style, that is arbitrary and unnecessary - for example a lot of academic writing is overcomplicated for no good reason. Or using too much jargon, where you could say the same in plain English. I agree that there's no need to imitate such things.

But a large part of some style is meant to serve a purpose. I think EA forum style is in general well oriented towards finding the truth - by emphasis on clarity, concreteness, honesty and backing things up with sources.

Even if expecting all those writing virtues may feel demanding for writers, I think it definitely is justified, and it would be sad to lose those virtues.

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