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Arguing The Toss

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I'm playing devil's advocate here, but not without some genuine feelings behind it:


Would it be an idea for people who want to 'argue the toss' (colloquial English expression) in long protracted threads to set up their own Forum ?.


I believe that this type of competitive discussion, dominated by a few individuals, actually intimidates a lot of people from contributing to the threads. It certainly puts me off. There are times when I feel "I'd like to say something on that", but I don't bother because I don't want to get involved in a non productive 'point scoring' type of argument.



The recent thread on whether to re-pitch/temper concertinas was, to me, a good example of what discussion threads should be. Lots of people contributed with different views, but you got the impression that other contributors actually listened to what was said (and not just to see how they could win a point), even if they did not agree with it.


By contrast some of these 'point scoring' threads seem to become a 'war of attrition', where the main point is to win the argument by any means, rather than to listen or develop and exchange ideas.



If we were to segregate this 'point scoring' approach to a separate forum then I feel that the other forums would become far more intersting and open. As it is many potentially interesting threads get completely stifled.



I am now going to duck back behind my parapet!




Edited by Clive Thorne
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A "nice" thought, Clive, but for it to work the "offenders" would have to

1) Admit -- first to themselves and then to the public at large -- that that is what they are doing.

2) Agree that such behavior should be so "quarantined".

3) Actually bother to shift discusions to a different Forum when they begin to display such behavior. (They rarely start out that way.) That's something most folks don't even do now when the subject of a Topic changes radically, e.g., from sale of a particular instrument to significant matters of history or construction.


I'd be happy to settle for a new "Learning" Forum. :)


But I will try to limit my own participation in such offending exchanges. I know I am one of the "offenders".

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I agree with Clive - it is safer to lurk than to participate these days.


In addition to easily getting off topic, the new quote feature seems to allow folks to comment on everything that is put into print, with no effort on their part.


Keeping folks "on task" is tough. The best we can do is set good examples.




P.S. I too will now duck and run for cover




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Well, I'm dissapointed.


I thought I was being controversial and was bracing myself for a flurry of replies, if not agreeing with me then at least calling me rude names. But, with the two exceptions (plus the two that I'm still puzzling over), very little response.


Is it that the names people want to call me are unprintable perhaps?



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I am responding so that you know people have read and thought about your idea. I understand the frustration you express and agree that it is important not to intimidate or bore newcomers to the concertina. We need every one. Yet that doesn't mean that every discussion must be held at a "beginners level," or that sincere if respectful arguments are out of place. As long as newcomers are not excluded or "hazed" by the more experienced, I think they will appreciate that passionate disagreements are one symptom of a serious cultural activity! But there are ways and means to have a productive public argument, and I agree with you there is room for improvement here.


What to do? You already know I'm the kind of guy that takes a format as given and tries to find a way to communicate within it. You and others have suggested changes in format, and I can see they might have value. Mainly, I take what I understand to be your point -- that much of the discussion here could be less personally antagonistic. I for one will try to keep this in mind, whether or not the format changes.


Changing the subject, (but responding to a comment in this thread), I agree that "staying on topic" is important for pigeon-holing, for searching topics, etc., but to me it is the sign of an interesting discussion that general ideas can emanate from concrete cases and many concrete cases can re-condense from the general ideas. I enjoy the time and space allowed in a discussion by correspondence where each "point" of discussion can be the focus of many radiating connections. A discussion (even via a bulletin board) that occurs over time should be able to live, breath, and change direction. Otherwise we should each write and read only encyclopedias. Having said this, Jim, I have agreed with you each time you suggested a topic change.


But to keep all in perspective -- I belong to the Hammond organ technical mailing list, and (even scarier) the South Florida folkchat list. The "thread drift" there - not to mention the sarcasm, ad hominem attacks (MOSTLY jesting), political grandstanding and scatological humor might spin your head and singe your ears.


Paul "the drifter" Groff

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Hi Clive,

I must admit that I have ‘hung back’ a bit to see what response this thread would get but am perhaps a little less surprised that you at the deafening silence.

I maybe expected a little more response from the newer members but those who participated in the old forum have seen time and again this very discussion about a separate room for ‘punch-ups’ and whether or not ‘offending members’ should be censored/censured or even blocked out, and may be pretty tired of the subject.


I am quite sure that during the forum's argumentative phases, and they do seem to be phases, many folks who otherwise would, are deterred from posting, for fear of attack.

I personally dislike the line-by-line dissection and rebuttal of posts and when I write, by and large, I try to avoid this and set out my case in a more standard prose format. This can result in quite long posts, perhaps long enough to deter some folk from reading them, but I sincerely hope, never of a character to deter anyone from posting a reply.


Short of outright censorship, which I am sure no one wants, contentious subjects will continue to result in head-to-head discussion of widely varying and firmly held points of view. It can only ever be the responsibility of each individual to carefully read and consider what others write and then to respond fairly and honestly and exercising all common courtesy.


I too miss the old format which allowed you at a glance to see who had responded to what thread or offshoot and to make a direct reply to a particular person. It was also easy to avoid the flare-ups and did make it easy to rename and make ‘followable’, the sometimes wild tangents that often flew off from the original topic. For me that was part of the fun of it.


We have the new forum now and those particular attributes are no longer available. What I hope we do still retain is a friendly and caring group identity and we should each do our best to lead by example though I am sure occasional failures will continue to be forgiven....... mea culpa!

I most certainly don’t think a new separate ‘Bear Pit’ Forum for messy or protracted arguments would in any way help matters. The very presence of such would serve to condone the existence of an antagonistic culture.


There will be those newer and quieter members who feel sufficiently intimidated to prevent them from making a first posting or have real concerns that they might be attacked, stamped down or ridiculed.

To them, all I can say is that really most unlikely to happen. Even the most ‘battle scarred’ argumentative old reactionaries here only tend to round on their own kind and are always polite and helpful to all others.

In the unlikely event that someone did step out of line there would be plenty of 'good guys' to come to your support.


Please, stop lurking, seize the moment and start your own post!!





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I should touch base here too... I hadn't yet probably due to time constraints and my thoughts that this was just a "tempest in a teapot". Not to denigrate the seriousness of this topic, Clive, but I think folks here are remarkably polite and pleasant compared to several groups I've been in.


I *would* appreciate it if folks would kept on topic and start new ones rather than significantly digressing. Also, I find the one word or short sentence "empty" replies, and oblique personal asides to be more frequent than I'd like.


There are also the argumentive/rebuttal things which I find frustrating. I like learning things and appreciate discovering "errors in my ways". But having to deal with communication snafus, misleading (unintentional or otherwise) and meandering missives, underresponsive and indistinct replies.... is taxing.


Everybody has choices. At some point mine is to disengage. That point usually occurs when I feel that the discourse is not adding anything informative or interest to our community, or when I'm frustrated, or bored, or??? I try not to initiate or perpetuate contentiousness, but sometimes find myself embroiled and in a defensive position -- a tough spot to be in. I hope that I've been reasonable about it. And if/when I'm not -- I'd appreciate a nudge from someone!


PS: What does "argue the toss" mean?

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Hi Richard,


I am inclined to agree that, now the facility to go 'off topic' under a re-named thread line has gone, when we do need to digress from the original , we need to give more consideration as to whether we really ought to be starting a new thread.


As to the meaning of 'Arguing the Toss'.

When I hear (or use) the expression it carries (for me at least), the suggestion of noisy and extended antagonistic argument about something of very little consequence.


I had assumed it to be related to the toss or flip of a coin to decide a matter, though the Oxford dictionary records the use of 'toss' as having (in 1540 at least) the meaning:

'to bandy a question or subject from one side to the other in a debate'

Like so much in the English language , we shall probably never know its origins.


To convey a similar meaning, my Grandfather used to use the expression:

'Arguing the leg off an iron pot'


Having said all of the above, it is more appropriate really that Clive should comment on what the phrase means to him - after all, it is his thread title.



Edited by Dave Prebble
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Thanks for the definitions, interesting that it has been around for so long.

I must admit it's an expression I use without really having analysed what exactly it means.


Thinking about it now, my own interpretation is more like arguing for the sake of it, or an argument that is going nowhere. Re the coin tossing, this would fit, i.e. the coin has been tossed, its landed on heads, everyone can see taht its landed on heads, but you still argue that its tails.


(There is of course the other meaning of 'Tossing' which sometimes springs to mind with regard to this expression, but not lets even think about going there!! )


On my original subject, perhaps, rather than 'bannish' the point scorers, it would be more appropriate to start a new forum where the said arguing is not welcomed. Perhaps it could be called the 'average enthusiasts', or even 'Pub chat'. Somewhere where people can discuss ideas, and contribute based on there own experiences and perceptions, without being asked for evidence, or having their opinions mercilessly destroyed.



Can I make it clear that I have no problem with detailed, mathematical or controversial discussion. As others say above, this is the way that we learn things and develop ideas. It is the manner in which these are sometimes conducted that I find irritating. This is typified by the point by point rebuttals which, from the responses above some other people also find tiresome. Not only is this type of argument tiresome, it is also most unlikely to change anyones mind!.




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Hi Clive,


I like your ideas regarding 'Arguing the Toss' and certainly agree that it carries strong overtones of 'arguing for the sake of it'.


Nice one Turning the original idea on it's head to form a 'Pub Chat'

Now that is much more the mark! :)


It works for me and I would think would soon become a home from home for quite a group of 'regulars'


Will they serve Marstons or Theakstons I wonder ??




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  • 1 month later...
Edited to make sense.

Are you sure? ;)


I'll stick with my original arguments as to why your proposal just won't work.


I think what we have now may be the best option, to scroll past such exchanges -- or even whole Topics -- if they bother you.

Edited by JimLucas
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In view of the 'Ding Dong' going on in the 'size isn't all that matters' thread

I thought I'd move this subject back to the top to see if any new thoughts were forth coming.


Hi Clive,


Surely, the answer is really quite simple.

Since +90% of such flare ups involve Goran's indefatigable views on the component parts, and mythical 'whole', of some imaginary 'Ergotina' and of course the inevitable frustration and annoyance they seem to cause amongst our members; then the solution would appear to already exist and lie pretty much in our own hands.


Where a new topic covers such 'ergonomics related' subject matter then it should be started in the correct forum and, if necessary be moved there by a moderator. (as indeed was the 'Reforming concertinas' thread')


Where a post in an existing thread diverges (some might say 'is hijacked') into such ergonomic design/redesign arguments, we should ALL simply refuse to reply in that thread.


Surely all that is needed is to leave a new post to act as a 'signpost' in the original thread and then restart the new material by quoting the full 'diverging post' and any reply thereto in a new thread in the correct forum.





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