This thread has raised many interesting issues. I’ve noticed that some people come here from “other” (more “normal”?) forums, and are surprised that this Forum is trying to be more like an “real life” experience, where constant arguing back and forth is discouraged. Mostly, but not always, they adjust.
I’ve been reflecting on what is different about an in person experience and most forums. It’s partly that being overly argumentative in person stands out so starkly. Also, if people have made an effort to travel to a monastery or other meeting place there is more of a sense of occasion. And, getting more to the point of this thread, it’s much more obvious which people are authoritative and worth listening to. That authoritativeness is, of course, obvious if someone is leading a session, but there are many other clues in real life.
And even putting aside the idea of “experts”, in real life there tends to be much more willingness to consider different views and approaches, whereas the format of forums seems to encourage argumentation for the “right” approach. There is much more nuance.
So, if a forum is going to be more of a real life experience, there has to be both way to not only figure out who is authoritative, but also a willingness amongst all members to listen to alternative views. One of the key problems is then the boundary where those alternative views are so out of kilter and distracting that they need to be ignored in the context. Even in real life, I’ve see the occasional heckler come to a Buddhist meeting and asks “Why aren’t you mentioning Jesus?”. In real life, it usually becomes obvious that no one is interested, and the meeting is about something else. and they don’t come back. That’s a very black and white example, though.
In terms of having a more “real life” experience, I think it is very helpful to have clarity about the purpose of the site, and who has expertise, or is providing key support. It also needs to be absolutely clear, as has been mentioned, that this is about expertise that supports the purpose and aims of the site. Others may have expertise in Jesus (to connect back to my example above), and that’s fine, it’s just not relevant here.