AI: Newbies


We have all been newbies at one point or another in our lives. Introducing ourselves to new communities, new ways of thinking, or even just new areas of interest can be quite daunting.

One of the goals of Queereka is to give voice to LGBTQ+ skeptics. Part of this involves hopefully drawing out people who otherwise might not participate in the skeptical community for any number of reasons related to sex, gender, and/or sexuality. It can be quite intimidating going to a website with an established community and becoming an involved and active participant.

Personally, it took me a really long time before I felt comfortable enough posting comments on Skepchick. I spent a lot of time reading comments sections, going to links commenters posted, and just getting a general feel for the atmosphere of the Skepchick community. I think this is a vitally important point for any newbies going into any already established online community: spend time getting to know what the community is like before you go all in.

I know that there are often links to Feminist 101 writing in the comments section of Skepchick (I’ve been one of the people linking them from time to time) pointing people to places to read up before they continue to comment on particular issues. Part of the process is self-education–do not just appear in a community and expect people to educate you on the issues.

So, these are a couple of my suggestions for newbies to online communities, but particularly to Skepchick and Queereka.

What do you think newbies should know before becoming involved in online communities? What has it been like for you joining already established online communities such as Skepchick? What are some resources you can point people to who may be interested in commenting but not feel well read enough yet?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 3pm ET.

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  1. Well, this is my 3rd post on Queereka in the last week, which is more than I’ve posted in Skepchick during the last few years. While I’m a committed skeptic, my skills are stronger in more social and arts-based arenas, making commenting feel daunting at times on Skepchick; I feel like I have expertise and experience when it comes to queer issues, and I’m generally excited about Queereka as a new venue.

    I would say to definitely read quite a few posts; it will give an idea of informal patterns or unspoken guidelines. Making sure that one has suitably thick skin if needed – I’m part of a few other forums where mods are efficient and don’t pull punches when calling out any cissexism/heterosexism/ablism etc., in speech or assumptions. It’s something I appreciate in term of making that space safe, but many people are entirely unaccustomed to being called out at all (especially if they consider themselves allies).

  2. I’ve been reading and passively participating in various skeptical communities for the last six years. Only recently have I found the urge to speak out and comment. I’m not sure why it took so long, really.

    I would say to someone new… post your questions and comments, but do so respectfully. I think if you read the comments in these places for a week or two you’ll get a sense for social propriety.

    We like complete sentences, the good faith use of spell-check, paragraph breaks, coherent thinking, and interesting observations/questions. Most people also appreciate punctuation.

  3. I lurked on Skepchick for a long time – EG dragged me kicking and screaming into the comments.

    I don’t know about advice. Avoid walls of text. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong, and if challenged, try not to take it personally.

    And, please, don’t begrudge people their anger.

  4. I’ve also mostly been a lurker for the past few years, and have just started to comment on things more frequently.

    I think for me, the most important thing in an online community, especially one that encourages frequent discussion and debate, is to always rely on the good-faith principle until things are proven otherwise. A corollary to this is to take extra care not to build strawmen based on a presumption of bad faith or that people mean something other than what they say.

    If in doubt, “Are you saying…” questions are better than “So you’re saying…” assumptions.

    And yes, always be open to criticism and try not to take it personally when someone points out privilege or criticises your arguments or premises. Nothing is really served by denying a different experience.

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