Every year we get between 15 and 30 diaries with “Modest Proposal” somewhere in the title. The majority of them are satire, or at least hopeful satire. Very few go anywhere. At a rough guess, there are 10 times that number of diaries in any given year that can be reasonably tagged as satire, though they may not be so tagged. And even the best of them have blown up in people’s faces.

Gaelsdottir brought up one recent case in Jessica Sutherland’s recent diary on writing workshops, and there was a fair amount of conversation about how it could have been handled, which I mostly didn’t agree with from a moderation standpoint. I’m now going to say why I don’t agree, and hopefully we can take a look at the whole problem of satire making it past the gantlet of the community. (And yes, I ran this by Gaelsdottir before I finalized it.)


I started looking up the literary definitions of Satire, and very quickly came to the conclusion that if I was going to bore people, I could come up with more interesting ways to do it. Thus, what follows is my own take, which probably misses more points than it hits. This will give commenters plenty of room to tell me where I got it wrong. 😉

Since everybody seems to start with Swift, let me suggest that you’ve got it all wrong — almost all of you. Everyone is trying to write their own “A Modest Proposal” without having any idea of the context within which it was written or the audience it was intended for.

IMHO, it was aimed at the haut London crowd (many of whom had estates or business in Ireland), and it was intended to put a bee in their bonnets on the subject of proposed reforms in Ireland, so that hopefully they might actually think about the subject, rather than exiling it to the vast trove of “things not worth thinking about in the first place.” To perhaps establish that there were problems worth thinking about, for people to whom “the Irish Problem” was a vague, amorphous thing that only politicians cared about.

Rule #1: You don’t write satire about those things that your audience cares deeply about and is committed to changing. You write satire about those things you think they don’t care enough about.

You might, of course, try a smaller work about a possibility for change that has been dismissed as trivial, if you think it might wake a few people up to look at it.

In any case, you need to know your audience pretty well, to avoid major amounts of backlash.


And why is this a community moderation problem? Let’s try another way of stating what’s just above:

The purpose of satire is to make your opposition uncomfortable.

So, for instance, a satirical article intended to make a right-to-life audience uncomfortable, published here, would work if the eventual intended audience was a conservative publication, and the author was asking for help sharpening the message, and the satire, to make conservatives more uncomfortable. That is a purpose that a number of commenters could, I think, get behind easily. To simply publish it here without that type of framing, though, simply pushes all the current hot buttons the audience may have. When your audience is already aware and committed on the subject you are trying to satirize,  they’re not going to be a particularly good audience.

Thus, I suggest that one of the things a moderator might do in these circumstances is  to suggest to the author that they need to either find a better venue for the article, or frame it so that the audience here is being solicited as an editorial proving-ground for the article, rather than its target.


And as for the TOTALLY off-topic part:

From elsaf, in Jessica’s diary on writing workshops, for those people following my site statistics work, what I think might be a real possibility for the posting downturn. Elfling has seen it, but in any case, I wanted to let people think about it, especially those who’ve been using smaller devices more often (and yes, I did ask whether I could copy and use it here).

Something I haven’t seen yet in this thread is the impact of the platform readers use to access the site. I think this is why participation is going down as views go up.

The current site design is much more phone friendly than the past designs were. For that reason, more of my views are coming through the new interface than the old.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the current interface. But previously, I never bothered reading DK on my phone. I always used my tablet or laptop. On the phone it was nearly unreadable.

That switch has reduced my diary writing.

I keep my tablet and laptop in old front page mode. My phone, naturally is in the new. Now, I tend to see what’s going on on DK multiple times through the day.

But for my old typing fingers, writing more than a few sentences on my phone is a PITA. If I’m going to write a story, I head for my laptop. And the greater ease of reading on my phone has encouraged me to spend less time on my laptop.

I’m writing this long comment on my phone, and I’m being reminded of what a PITA it is.

In short, I suspect community writing is going down, at least in part, because mobile access is up, and mobile access is reading friendly, but a lot less writing friendly.


The Archive  for the group “A Guide to Community Moderation” remains, and I’d appreciate it if people would comment or message me with links to new diaries that you think might belong there. I expect to be doing these at least once a week for some time to come, as open threads. Think you have an interesting topic? Leave a comment, or send me a message. Tuesdays at 8 pm Central still looks like a good time. 😉

Comments are open.

Thank you all.

General Caveat:

I am not on the Daily Kos Staff; I have no official position at Daily Kos, except Member and Trusted User. I do not speak for the Help Desk, and just about everything in these except for direct quotes from the Rules of the Road is my personal opinion. Some of it I can back up with numbers, some is pure guesswork, and some of it is pulled straight out of thin air (or something), because it seemed to make a reasonable argument at the time.

Net Nanny for the ages. ;)

Wednesday, Jun 23, 2021 · 1:05:15 AM +00:00 · siab

If you want to discuss the Karen meme, there are lots of places you can do that tonight. I’m open to looking at it next week, after some of the brouhaha has settled down.

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