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Improving The Quality Of Discussions -

Madhava - Tue, 18 May 2004 20:20:20 +0530
Thank you for taking the time to read through this.

Several senior contributors have recently expressed concern over the quality of discussions in the forums. Anyone who has been following up the course of the forums has certainly noted the recent surge in the quantity of posts, which sadly has not made up for a loss in quality. This thread exists to explore avenues of bringing up substantial content.

The original mission statement of the forums reads as follows:

GAUDIYA DISCUSSIONS was founded to serve the ever-growing audience of people who share an interest in the teachings and the tradition of Sri Caitanya, the Six Gosvamins and the subsequent great teachers, such as Narottama Das and Visvanatha Cakravartin.

We would be very fond of seeing the forums come close to their original intent in terms of the quality and the focus of its content. While we appreciate the fact that many of us have been involved with ISKCON and Gaudiya Matha in the past, and that consequently many of us have a need to discuss related topics, it does not speak well of our participants that their eyes are fixed towards the past instead of the future so much so that the subforum dedicated to related posts is currently 40 posts away from having the most posts in the entire board -- despite the fact that it has existed but a few short months!

Along with discussions on current issues surrounding the aforesaid Gaudiya-groups, we have seen a rather unpleasant increase in posts in which the posters throw in snide remarks at each other, leading to tit-for-tat wars, or otherwise post one-line comments that contribute nothing substantial at all. We would really like to see that come to an end, and if necessary, are ready to make several members moderated if that's what it takes to get the message through. When you post, please post something that is relevant to everyone. Do not post merely to amuse yourself.

So, how do we proceed?

For quality discussions to take place, we should come up with quality ideas for topics to discuss. We have been cooking up some ideas in our fertile brains, but would be glad to see ideas coming from our members. Please feel free to post ideas on topics you'd like to read and participate in, even if you do not feel comfortable starting one yourself. Someone will get inspired and take up the task.

We would also like some of our members to commit themselves to posting a regular essay, say twice a month, to be posted under the editorials-section. The topic is free, as long as it is relevant.

Any further thoughts, comments or questions?
betal_nut - Tue, 18 May 2004 20:26:10 +0530
Make me a moderator and I'll deal with the trouble makers appropriately.
Madhava - Tue, 18 May 2004 20:32:05 +0530
But who will deal with you? You would have to moderate yourself. This is not for cutting jokes now, please try to understand. We seriously want to see discussions favorable for the cultivation of devotion, discussions which deepen our insight into the Gaudiya-tradition.
betal_nut - Tue, 18 May 2004 20:39:06 +0530
I wasn't joking! mad.gif
Madhava - Wed, 19 May 2004 00:15:49 +0530
I see. So, if you want to sign up for being a moderator candidate, to begin with you should try to increase the amount of substantial posts and decrease the amount of posts likely to incite tit for tat.

We don't really need more moderators. We need people who can make sane, and moreover high quality contributions which are a pleasure for all to read.
vamsidas - Wed, 19 May 2004 05:37:39 +0530
QUOTE(Madhava @ May 18 2004, 10:50 AM)
it does not speak well of our participants that their eyes are fixed towards the past instead of the future so much so that the subforum dedicated to related posts is currently 40 posts away from having the most posts in the entire board -- despite the fact that it has existed but a few short months!

I notice that the ISKCON/GM forum has had four topics with HUGE (for this board) numbers of responses -- 333, 249, 227 and 171. I wonder, too, whether those numbers are inflated by the tendency toward "tit for tat" posts in these topics?

If we remove the four busiest topics from the count in each forum, the picture looks quite a bit different:

Q&A - 1253 posts, in 133 topics
ISKCON/GM - 656 posts, in 23 topics

I suspect that if there were a way to quantify "substantive" posts, the ISKCON/GM forum would similarly diminish by comparison.

I suspect that if you are able to raise the overall quality of posts on, the proportion of new posts in the ISKCON/GM forum will decrease quite a bit -- but the quality will remain high enough that their presence won't be such a disappointment.
Gaurasundara - Wed, 19 May 2004 08:20:16 +0530
For increasing the quality of posts, the following points should be useful:

- Does your post improve the quality of the discussion?
- Do you actually have a substantial contribution to make?
- Has the point been made before and are you repeating?
- If asking questions or making points, is your question or point borne out of genuine enquiry, or an unfortunate desire to provoke a reaction?
- Did you consider that any question or point you make may be a form of subtle aparadha?
- Is your point/question mocking, demeaning or generally a source of upset to other members?

Add more points to the above list if you like, I'll follow them all.
Gaurasundara - Wed, 19 May 2004 08:27:48 +0530
[quote=vamsidas,May 19 2004, 12:07 AM] that it has existed but a few short months![/QUOTE]
I notice that the ISKCON/GM forum has had four topics with HUGE (for this board) numbers of responses -- 333, 249, 227 and 171. I wonder, too, whether those numbers are inflated by the tendency toward "tit for tat" posts in these topics? [/quote]
Right. I thought that the ISKCON/GM forum was meant to be a place to resign any flogged-horse topics. Madhava provoked a slight controversy with his "If you absolutely have to discuss.." but I thought his purpose was pretty clear.

Unfortunately it seems to be the most popular forum.

In fact, I was just planning to comment on Madhava's "Any Gopi-bhava thread?" that I found it extremely ironical that there does not seem to be much gopi-bhava recently, as Madhavaji pointed out. It was the gopi-bhava and general sweetness that attracted me to this forum back in the "Raganuga" days. These days I am sorry to say that I find myself constantly bored with reading the political/material topics and ISKCON-bashing that takes place. Apart from Jagatji's and Revatiji's nice beautiful pearls I do not find much to read and I have surprised myself by finding I am visiting this forum less. This is not to say that none of the points made are not valuable or anything, it is just not my cup of tea that is all and not what I expect to read. I'll take pure unadulterated krsna-katha anyday.

Or, I can just spend my time diving into the archives back when there were real good discussions going on.
Indranila - Fri, 21 May 2004 02:16:24 +0530
If you want the nature and the number of the posts in ISKCON, GAUDIYA MATHA, ETC. to change, you will have to moderate this subforum for some time until it comes to the desired standard. Mere appeals for quality posts will not do, as you are hosting an unmoderated board with free registration.

And you need clear separate guidelines for the subforum which can pop out as soon as a new member visits the subforum for the first time. I personally was not aware that "looking back into our past in ISKCON and GM" is not appreciated here. If you provide a subforum called ISKCON, GM, ETC., what do you expect to see discussed there?

Another possibility is to compile a FAQ with the commonest ISKCON and GM related objections/ questions and their answers from your (raganuga) perspective, close the subforum and refer all future postings about ISKCON and GM to the FAQ.
Jagat - Fri, 21 May 2004 02:43:38 +0530
We have no objection to discussing Iskcon and the Gaudiya Math. There are many people who have very conflicted ideas about their experiences there and they need to have a place to vent.

It is not our object to create an area for Iskcon-haters to be shrill and obnoxious. Rather, we see this forum as a place where those who have become disillusioned with the Iskcon-GM culture and still have an attraction to devotional topics to come and find a place where they can encounter a more multifaceted vision of bhakti.

What we want to do here, as far as possible, is to elucidate and encourage inquiry into Gaudiya Vaishnavism that has a certain amount of sophistication--one that has a broad vision of Gaudiya Vaishnava literature, history, and one that takes into account modern sociological, psychological and theological issues.

We would like to encourage people to exercise their faculties as thinkers and practitioners to find the best in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and to share it with others.

I think that this is almost impossible to do without understanding and genuinely appreciating the contribution of the great acharyas of the Gaudiya Math and Iskcon. I personally consider my own spiritual inquiry a service to A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, because I believe that this is what I was predestined to do when I came into contact with Krishna consciousness through him. Through him I entered the family of Jahnava Mata, Ramachandra Goswami, Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Lalita Prasada Thakur.

So, if you don't find what you are looking for here, we ask you to contribute your realizations. Take your time, and share your most profound thoughts.

Jai Radhe!

By the way, I am glad you are enjoying the pearls and lila katha.
braja - Fri, 21 May 2004 03:50:08 +0530
QUOTE(Jagat @ May 20 2004, 05:13 PM)
We would like to encourage people to exercise their faculties as thinkers and practitioners to find the best in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and to share it with others.

Some of Jagat's posts, in particular, actually go a long way to showing the teachings of BSST when they may not otherwise be known to modern members of the GM-family. For instance his introduction to the Bhaktivinode Bhajan Companion succinctly gathers key points underlying the GM approach to raganuga bhakti. And more recently he has commented on other aspects. These discussions, when carried out with dignity and sensitivity, can actually benefit a follower of any path. Indeed, even if you disagree with the points presented, there may be edifactory value if you are an essence seeker.

I think there is probably some merit in even expanding the scope of the ISKCON/GM subforum, but perhaps with a view to collating and comparing tenets rather than a fist fight. For instance, it might be worthwhile to have threads where statements by BSST, ACBSP, BR Sridhar Mhrj, Narayana Mhrj and the like are collected (without debate?) just for the sake of recording those views. As participants come across notable statements, they can submit them. At least having the different views gathered in one place would make it simpler to compare/appreciate/attack (depending upon your mood) and for some, it may help them understand the teachings of their own guru varga more clearly. This might also lead eventually to the FAQs that Indranila mentions. Maybe even dueling FAQs! Or like that joke with the guys in the bar quoting numbers to each other instead of retelling complete jokes. (I don't even remember the punchline of it. 42?)
Jagat - Fri, 21 May 2004 04:16:46 +0530
I wanted to edit my previous post to add the following: This forum is not meant to be a place for recruiting new members for traditional Vaishnava lines, nor for wooing Iskcon and Gaudiya Math people away from their respective avenues of faith. Indeed, I would hope that deep-thinking individuals from those groups would share their true experiences in spiritual life with us here.

What I am getting at here is this: Let's try to find a mature platform for discussing Gaudiya Vaishnava spirituality without resorting to sectarian quibbling, which for the most part degenerates, just as Braja says, into stereotypical forms. "I parry your #42 (BhP 10.37.3) with a #27 (BhaktiS 237)," or something like that.

This requires a little self-observation and scrutiny.

Just one more thing: The basic premise of these forums is that there is value in Krishna consciousness. That like any other human phenomenon, however, it can go wrong. One has to understand any thing by the anvaya-vyatireka method (see BhP 1.1.1 and catuHsloki Bhagavatam)--both through analyzing its positive and negative aspects--where it is and where it isn't.
Madhava - Sat, 22 May 2004 00:02:52 +0530
We need to get rid of pointless one-line posts. I will start splitting them off into a separate area effective immediately.
Madhava - Fri, 18 Jun 2004 03:45:42 +0530
Jagannathdas wrote in another thread:

Gaudiya Discussions seems to have an issue with quantity verses quality, I believe that there used to be more quality discussions going on in the past. The more popular you make the forums the more tedious arguments we encounter. As the forums have expanded it seems that the result is just more political argument. Originally we where dealing with raganuga bhakti, then it became widened to Gaudiya Discussions, then extended forums for political issues, what next? Everyone begins talking about Marx, Darwin and Freud and there is a small corner for the conservatives who wish to discuss raganuga bhakti!

First of all, I would like to express that we all (most of us, anyway), whether conservative, liberal or hybrid, certainly are most fond of the topics discussing raganuga-bhakti and the teachings of the Gosvamins in general. Sadly, it seems that there is a scarcity of such topics.

As far as the way the structure of the forums has grown over the last two years goes, let me offer a word as the person who is the primary mastermind of all those subsections (yes, you can blame me). They haven't been created to particularly invite or encourage topics of a certain nature, but rather they have been created to isolate different topics that have arisen amidst other forums under whose mission statement they have not fit all that well.

Perhaps the clearest example is the ISKCON/GM subforum. When it was first created, it was unpopulated and was populated with topics moved away from our main subforums or otherwise split off from amidst threads in those forums. The copy and paste forum was created to not clutter discussions with long articles. Some categories were created to give static content the place it deserves without becoming lost amidst numerous discussions. The underlying rationale has always been to better organize topics. To isolate certain discussions, or to better facilitate certain discussions, depending on which side of the fence you are. The idea is that you can easily find the kind of content you wish to read.

If you have any suggestions, they are most welcome. In addition to being a board of theological reviews or a questions and answers office, we strive to be a virtual community in which its members can interact in a broad variety of ways.