Many discussions are unproductive. Especially on the Internet. Worse if the conversation has any connection to offline events, people and organizations. What usually happens is that Internet commentators and bloggers value attention, sensationalism and stirring things up. A given controversy multiplies exponentially over the blogosphere, leading to entrenched “sides” bickering until it subsides a few weeks later, because people move on. If the struggle being fought online has any offline relevance, the topic is bound to come up at a later time, rekindling the situation. People and groups become entrenched, and very little changes.
Naturally, it is completely understandable that it is hard to focus when emotions run high and cherished positions are being critically (or sometimes not-so-critically) examined. It is especially troublesome when the subject(s) at hand have been given a skeptical free pass in the sense that there is a strong, active resistance to apply the same skepticism in that particular situation as is usually applied routinely and consistently in most other areas. This is not a demand to spend equal time for all skeptical issues, but to the problems with the resistance against examining particular issues with the same skeptical laser that is generally used. In some areas, such as feminism and misogyny, personal anecdotes are accepted as evidence by many sides, while they would be summarily rejected as actual evidence in any other field. However, it is important to listen and validate the feelings being displayed in such issues and take the best possible actions to rectify the situation. Misogyny should never be tolerated or accepted and neither should baseless accusations. Personal anecdotes may be inadmissible as convincing evidence, but they can form the basis for a more detailed, scientific examination of the issue. The wrong response would be to defend anecdotes with emotionally charged objections.
So banal conflicts in the blogosphere has its problems. They are escalating and emotionally charged. They tend to involve individuals on both sides who rarely apply the same skeptical criticisms of their own favorite position that they do to their opponents. They rarely result in a productive conversation across the divide. So what alternatives can there be? One such alternative is to focus on knowing what is reasonable, as oppose to wanting to be right at all cost (not my original phrase).
So, an attempt at seeking a broad consensus, rather than conflict, may be an option. Instead of listening to gather materials for a counter-attack, listen in order to understand. Make sure that you do understand the position of your opponent. Paraphrase it in your own words, and wait for confirmation or modification. More often that you think, your paraphrasing will be wrong. Then, in the clearest language possible, take some time to clearly articulate where and how your own position differs from that of your opponent. Then, make bullet points for those areas that you agree on. Ask for confirmation. Then, cautiously add to the list additional points. Have your opponent (now hopefully a cooperating contributor) to rephrase, modify, add or exclude content. Work towards shaping a list of points and issues you agree on. For those parts you disagree on, try to find the maximally bold statements that you both can agree on. Remember that this process is a collaboration and continually ask for opinions from your collaborator.
Once you two (or more) have established the strongest and most detailed statements that you both can agree on, then write a paragraph each detailing your point of disagreement. Make sure that your collaborators understand and accept where the disagreement lies. If needed, make the required modifications.
In the end, the agreement may be bigger and more practically significant than the areas where your positions part way. Or it may not. In that case, clearly articulate and agree to what differences exists between your positions. After that, you may ask each other what would be required to change your position to that of your collaborator(s) and try to fulfill it. If that does not work, then there is not much to do except part ways in this particular discussion. You have listed your points of agreement and the areas where you disagree and why. If you have presented specific facts or arguments to try and sway your collaborators after they have listed what would be the requirement to change their mind, make a shorter argument map with argument-rebuttal-defense for each argument provided by each individual.
If the conflict is not resolved, then there is no point in dragging it on. Thank each other for the collaboration and part ways knowing that you have been much more productive and cooperative than you otherwise might have been. I’m not sure how realistic this approach would be, and it would probably have to be put in action before emotions run high, otherwise it may be less productive if people do not want to collaborate in the first place. Also, this method may not be that workable in the blogosphere, as it requires a great deal back-and-forth that lacks sensationalism.