Use of moderation

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Use of moderation

Gregory Maxwell
In the thread "WMF seeking to sub-lease office space?"
On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 10:51 AM, Austin Hair<[hidden email]> wrote:
(to Gregory Kohs)
[snip]
>  I've placed you on indefinite
> moderation with the goal of improving the signal:crazy ratio.

With something like 40 posts made to that thread after Mr. Kohs' last
I think it is clear that the squelching of a (admittedly,
trigger-happy) critic was ineffective at improving the SNB
(signal-to-blah) ratio.

…while at the same time it increased the scent of idea-centric rather
than presentation-centric censorship.

This is doubly a concern when moderation is used against someone who
made an error that any one of us could have made and jumped to some
hasty conclusions.

Certainly there are non-profits which are little more than fronts for
their operators' private gains, ones started for that purpose, and
ones which fall into it after years of normal operation. In some
places and at some scales the kind of self-dealing Mr. Kohs was
concerned about are arguably the norm.  I don't believe that they
currently apply to Wikimedia but my confidence is in part derived from
that fact that were there any real evidence of such things the critics
would be all over it.  (I do, however, think Wikimedia has done a
worse job than it could have at avoiding the perception of
self-dealing)

Kohs was gleefully pointing at some supposed evidence of
naughty-naughty. He missed a critical detail which made his position
laughably wrong. I have no doubt that it was an honest mistake: in the
end it only made him look silly. It was a mistake anyone could have
made if they didn't begin by assuming good faith but the value of a
critic is that they start with a different set of assumptions and
values.

I'm of the view that the further growth and development of Wikimedia
and its family of projects is utterly dependent on having solid,
well-considered, and productively-spoken critics. Internet forums are
highly vulnerable to groupthink: as we work together we become a
family. It's all too easy to avoid thinking critically about your
family and about things you've invested time in. It for this reason,
under other names, that we invite outsiders to serve on our board. A
view from outside of WMF's reality distortion field (and from inside
someone else's RDF) is essential.

Mr. Kohs is frequently not an ideal critic: by being too prone to
extreme positions, and by falling into accusations, he loses
credibility. But even an off-the-wall critic can help make an
environment more conducive to productive criticism. Someone more
moderate may feel more comfortable speaking up when there is a strong
critic handy to take the unreasonably extreme positions and the
resulting heresy-fire and the existence of someone with an extreme
position can help other people find a common ground.

I'd prefer that moderation of this list be used as a last resort to
maintain civil discourse and not as a tool to impose an external view
of the desired traffic volume and especially not in a way which could
be construed as prohibiting criticism.  Dealing with criticism,
including occasional off-the-wall criticism and sometimes outright
nutty criticism, is one of the costs of open and transparent
governance.

I make this post with over a year of consideration: had this kind of
(in my view) heavy-handed moderation been effective at improving the
discourse on this list, I would be left with little to say.  I don't
think anyone here can say that it has improved. As such, it's time to
try something different.

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Re: Use of moderation

Milos Rancic-2
+1

On 2009-09-09, Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]> wrote:

> In the thread "WMF seeking to sub-lease office space?"
> On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 10:51 AM, Austin Hair<[hidden email]> wrote:
> (to Gregory Kohs)
> [snip]
>>  I've placed you on indefinite
>> moderation with the goal of improving the signal:crazy ratio.
>
> With something like 40 posts made to that thread after Mr. Kohs' last
> I think it is clear that the squelching of a (admittedly,
> trigger-happy) critic was ineffective at improving the SNB
> (signal-to-blah) ratio.
>
> …while at the same time it increased the scent of idea-centric rather
> than presentation-centric censorship.
>
> This is doubly a concern when moderation is used against someone who
> made an error that any one of us could have made and jumped to some
> hasty conclusions.
>
> Certainly there are non-profits which are little more than fronts for
> their operators' private gains, ones started for that purpose, and
> ones which fall into it after years of normal operation. In some
> places and at some scales the kind of self-dealing Mr. Kohs was
> concerned about are arguably the norm.  I don't believe that they
> currently apply to Wikimedia but my confidence is in part derived from
> that fact that were there any real evidence of such things the critics
> would be all over it.  (I do, however, think Wikimedia has done a
> worse job than it could have at avoiding the perception of
> self-dealing)
>
> Kohs was gleefully pointing at some supposed evidence of
> naughty-naughty. He missed a critical detail which made his position
> laughably wrong. I have no doubt that it was an honest mistake: in the
> end it only made him look silly. It was a mistake anyone could have
> made if they didn't begin by assuming good faith but the value of a
> critic is that they start with a different set of assumptions and
> values.
>
> I'm of the view that the further growth and development of Wikimedia
> and its family of projects is utterly dependent on having solid,
> well-considered, and productively-spoken critics. Internet forums are
> highly vulnerable to groupthink: as we work together we become a
> family. It's all too easy to avoid thinking critically about your
> family and about things you've invested time in. It for this reason,
> under other names, that we invite outsiders to serve on our board. A
> view from outside of WMF's reality distortion field (and from inside
> someone else's RDF) is essential.
>
> Mr. Kohs is frequently not an ideal critic: by being too prone to
> extreme positions, and by falling into accusations, he loses
> credibility. But even an off-the-wall critic can help make an
> environment more conducive to productive criticism. Someone more
> moderate may feel more comfortable speaking up when there is a strong
> critic handy to take the unreasonably extreme positions and the
> resulting heresy-fire and the existence of someone with an extreme
> position can help other people find a common ground.
>
> I'd prefer that moderation of this list be used as a last resort to
> maintain civil discourse and not as a tool to impose an external view
> of the desired traffic volume and especially not in a way which could
> be construed as prohibiting criticism.  Dealing with criticism,
> including occasional off-the-wall criticism and sometimes outright
> nutty criticism, is one of the costs of open and transparent
> governance.
>
> I make this post with over a year of consideration: had this kind of
> (in my view) heavy-handed moderation been effective at improving the
> discourse on this list, I would be left with little to say.  I don't
> think anyone here can say that it has improved. As such, it's time to
> try something different.
>
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-l
>

--
Sent from my mobile device

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Re: Use of moderation

Nathan Awrich
I don't think that this sort of moderation has been common in the
past, but I think the moderation of Greg Kohs went a bit far - and for
the reasons outlined by Greg Maxwell.

Nathan

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Re: Use of moderation

Marc Riddell
on 9/8/09 8:18 PM, Nathan at [hidden email] wrote:

> I don't think that this sort of moderation has been common in the
> past, but I think the moderation of Greg Kohs went a bit far - and for
> the reasons outlined by Greg Maxwell.
>
> Nathan

I agree with you, Nathan. And I also agree with Mr. Churchill when he said,
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it
takes to sit down and listen."

Marc Riddell


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Re: Use of moderation

Erik Moeller-4
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell
2009/9/8 Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]>:
> As such, it's time to try something different.

What do you suggest? Are there models from other mailing list
communities that we should experiment with to create a healthier, more
productive discussion culture? What, based on your own experience of
this list, would you like to see change?
--
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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Re: Use of moderation

Birgitte_sb
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell


--- On Tue, 9/8/09, Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]> wrote:

> From: Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]>
> Subject: [Foundation-l] Use of moderation
> To: "Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List" <[hidden email]>
> Date: Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 6:05 PM
> In the thread "WMF seeking to
> sub-lease office space?"
> On Sat, Sep 5, 2009 at 10:51 AM, Austin Hair<[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> (to Gregory Kohs)
> [snip]
> >  I've placed you on indefinite
> > moderation with the goal of improving the signal:crazy
> ratio.
>
> With something like 40 posts made to that thread after Mr.
> Kohs' last
> I think it is clear that the squelching of a (admittedly,
> trigger-happy) critic was ineffective at improving the SNB
> (signal-to-blah) ratio.
>
> …while at the same time it increased the scent of
> idea-centric rather
> than presentation-centric censorship.
>
> This is doubly a concern when moderation is used against
> someone who
> made an error that any one of us could have made and jumped
> to some
> hasty conclusions.
>
> Certainly there are non-profits which are little more than
> fronts for
> their operators' private gains, ones started for that
> purpose, and
> ones which fall into it after years of normal operation. In
> some
> places and at some scales the kind of self-dealing Mr. Kohs
> was
> concerned about are arguably the norm.  I don't
> believe that they
> currently apply to Wikimedia but my confidence is in part
> derived from
> that fact that were there any real evidence of such things
> the critics
> would be all over it.  (I do, however, think Wikimedia
> has done a
> worse job than it could have at avoiding the perception of
> self-dealing)
>
> Kohs was gleefully pointing at some supposed evidence of
> naughty-naughty. He missed a critical detail which made his
> position
> laughably wrong. I have no doubt that it was an honest
> mistake: in the
> end it only made him look silly. It was a mistake anyone
> could have
> made if they didn't begin by assuming good faith but the
> value of a
> critic is that they start with a different set of
> assumptions and
> values.
>
> I'm of the view that the further growth and development of
> Wikimedia
> and its family of projects is utterly dependent on having
> solid,
> well-considered, and productively-spoken critics. Internet
> forums are
> highly vulnerable to groupthink: as we work together we
> become a
> family. It's all too easy to avoid thinking critically
> about your
> family and about things you've invested time in. It for
> this reason,
> under other names, that we invite outsiders to serve on our
> board. A
> view from outside of WMF's reality distortion field (and
> from inside
> someone else's RDF) is essential.
>
> Mr. Kohs is frequently not an ideal critic: by being too
> prone to
> extreme positions, and by falling into accusations, he
> loses
> credibility. But even an off-the-wall critic can help make
> an
> environment more conducive to productive criticism. Someone
> more
> moderate may feel more comfortable speaking up when there
> is a strong
> critic handy to take the unreasonably extreme positions and
> the
> resulting heresy-fire and the existence of someone with an
> extreme
> position can help other people find a common ground.
>
> I'd prefer that moderation of this list be used as a last
> resort to
> maintain civil discourse and not as a tool to impose an
> external view
> of the desired traffic volume and especially not in a way
> which could
> be construed as prohibiting criticism.  Dealing with
> criticism,
> including occasional off-the-wall criticism and sometimes
> outright
> nutty criticism, is one of the costs of open and
> transparent
> governance.
>
> I make this post with over a year of consideration: had
> this kind of
> (in my view) heavy-handed moderation been effective at
> improving the
> discourse on this list, I would be left with little to
> say.  I don't
> think anyone here can say that it has improved. As such,
> it's time to
> try something different.
>

I agree completely with Mr. Maxwell (we seem to have too many Gregory's on this topic) about the usefulness of critics and inappropriateness of using moderation to suppress criticism.   When Mr. Kohs was first moderated, I was not at all concerned.  I had just previously contacted him off-list to try and influence him to alter the tone of his emails while still continuing to share his substantive message. He complained to me of the moderation as suppression right away.  I dismissed him, saying he had given plenty of reason for being moderated by the style of his emails and that I saw no reason to believe he was being suppressed as I was sick enough of his style to stop reading him for this reason alone.  I told him that he could expect his messages to passed on through moderation if he altered his tone, and if he proved to maintain this change he should expect to be taken off moderation.  I was confident in my understanding of how we all felt here to set
 these expectations solely from my own speculation.  I thought Mr. Kohs was making moderation out to be more than it was.  I thought we were using it as a tool to bring him around to the acceptable tenor of conversation on this list.  I still hope that those initial thoughts were correct and there been merely an error of execution in this case.  But I am now concerned that this moderation was to be applied as Mr. Maxwell describes above rather than as I explained to Mr. Kohs off-list.  Mr. Kohs has shared with me that a message he sent to the list was rejected by the moderators with "No reason given" (I suppose this what the program generates when the field is left blank). And despite his request for clarification he assures me that he still has not been given any information by the moderators about how they mean to judge his e-mails as acceptable to be sent on to the list. So he has been left blindly guess what they might find appropriate enough to send
 through. Whether it might be his tone (which I found so problematic), or the subject, or perhaps even the position taken on a subject.  Moderation can be useful tool, when those who cross the lines are given adequate information on what we find acceptable and how we expect them to change.  It is an inappropriate tool to use to suppress anyone's contributions without explanation and requires better communication than has happened here.  

Birgitte SB


     

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Re: Use of moderation

Austin Hair
In reply to this post by Gregory Maxwell
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 6:05 PM, Gregory Maxwell<[hidden email]> wrote:

> I'd prefer that moderation of this list be used as a last resort to
> maintain civil discourse and not as a tool to impose an external view
> of the desired traffic volume and especially not in a way which could
> be construed as prohibiting criticism.  Dealing with criticism,
> including occasional off-the-wall criticism and sometimes outright
> nutty criticism, is one of the costs of open and transparent
> governance.
>
> I make this post with over a year of consideration: had this kind of
> (in my view) heavy-handed moderation been effective at improving the
> discourse on this list, I would be left with little to say.  I don't
> think anyone here can say that it has improved. As such, it's time to
> try something different.

I agree, Greg.  Moderation obviously doesn't solve the underlying
problem; it's unevenly applied, and seldom fair to the parties
involved.  I try to avoid it, and limit moderation to cases of blatant
incivility and/or ridiculousness.  A fair bit of trolling is put up
with, as long as there's a purpose—Anthony has this down to an art.

In Buenos Aires I had multiple people ask (even practically beg) me to
do something about foundation-l.  One person said "fucking moderate
foundation-l, already!"—to which I explained why I didn't think that
moderating individuals was a solution, but had to admit that I didn't
really have a better one.

I've created http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Improving_Foundation-l for
brainstorming of how to make this list a little bit less of a
cesspool.  Please feel free to ignore the initial thoughts I banged
out as a starting point and refactor as you will.  If there's
consensus on a better model, I'll happily implement it; even if there
isn't, at least getting more people's thoughts on the matter is a
start.

As for Greg Kohs, what finally got him moderated was the way he
reacted to the ongoing thread once his hasty conclusions were proven,
er, misguided.  Being nasty and uncivil isn't the only way to find
yourself moderated; few people are interested in having a thread be
drawn out for another week after it's descended to the point of
absurdity.

Austin

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Re: Use of moderation

Sue Gardner-2
2009/9/8 Austin Hair <[hidden email]>:

> In Buenos Aires I had multiple people ask (even practically beg) me to
> do something about foundation-l.  One person said "fucking moderate
> foundation-l, already!"—to which I explained why I didn't think that
> moderating individuals was a solution, but had to admit that I didn't
> really have a better one.
>
> I've created http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Improving_Foundation-l for
> brainstorming of how to make this list a little bit less of a
> cesspool.  Please feel free to ignore the initial thoughts I banged
> out as a starting point and refactor as you will.  If there's
> consensus on a better model, I'll happily implement it; even if there
> isn't, at least getting more people's thoughts on the matter is a
> start.

Thanks Austin -- I have a lot of sympathy for your task here, and I
really appreciate you trying to come up with solutions that will help
foundation-l improve.

Personally, I use foundation-l because it's our most accessible public
channel for information-sharing and dialogue -- but that doesn't mean
I like it much; I don't.  I'm sure we all know plenty of people who
unsubscribed long ago, either because they don't like the generally
negative tone here, and/or because they find the signal-to-noise ratio
too low to suit them.   I assume that becomes (or long ago, became) a
self-reinforcing cycle, with an increasing number of
constructive/positive people leaving or falling silent, ceding the
mailing list to negativity.

It may sound like I am being really critical of the people who _are_
active here: I actually don't intend to be.  I think tough questions
and constructive criticism, done in good faith and with an open heart,
are a service to us all.  But I also believe we've lost our balance a
little, and it would be good to have some more appreciation and warmth
amidst the other stuff.

So I will do my bit by appreciating Austin. Thanks for making the page :-)







--
Sue Gardner
Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

415 839 6885 office
415 816 9967 cell

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!

http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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Re: Use of moderation

Brian J Mingus
In reply to this post by Austin Hair
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 7:44 PM, Austin Hair <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I've created http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Improving_Foundation-l for
> brainstorming of how to make this list a little bit less of a
> cesspool.
>

Austin, your page says nothing about the kinds of conversations you would
like to see on foundation-l.

My take on foundation-l is that the foundation doesn't take it very
seriously. They recognize the potential of a mailing list and like the
possibilities, but in practice there are too many people being overly
critical of the foundation here for it to be useful to them. Also, the
topics of discussion often seem like useless jabs that aren't really in the
direction of progress. People are just itching to find the foundation doing
something wrong so they can start a riot.

This is unfortunate - why are so many people more interested in
backwards-looking criticism than forward-looking progress? Some of us feel
that the foundation has become out of our reach. That no matter how much we
discuss and try to reach consensus it will just be too hard, or there will
be a lack of interest in our consensus at the foundation, for any real
change to happen. You practically have to get a grant on behalf of the
foundation anymore in order to convince them you've got a good idea.

Sue recently posted a couple of articles to foundation-l that were cookbooks
for how to shut people that you perceive to be unproductive out of your
community. That was obviously a flawed e-mail to send. Of course we are all
aware of people who want to discuss the color of the bike shed. Discussing
the difference between red and blue is not, in fact, a priori bad, and there
should be some of that. More generally however the foundation should take it
upon themselves to increase the level of discourse on these lists by seeding
it with great topics, and, more importantly, allocating time from each of
their employees in which they are expected to participate in these
discussions. This is, after all, the Wikimedia Foundation's mailing list.
And yet with dozens of employees the Foundation's voice is but a whisper
here.

To me, this is the thing that has gone most wrong about this list. The
Foundation just isn't here. They may be subscribed, and they may read, but
they do not participate. They do not lead by example (with a few notable
exceptions) by raising the level of discourse, and most all of Foundation
business is conducted either in person, or in private e-mails. We feel like
we have to shout in order to get their attention, and that not only do we
not know what they are up to, but we have no say in it.

I have seen it said several times that this list has too much traffic. I
think that's an overgeneralization - it has too much negative traffic. This
list can handle as much productive traffic as the foundation cares to seed
it with. Rather than having that conversation over private e-mail, consider
whether it could benefit from the voices of a few community members. If
nobody replies that's fine because by sending it the foundation has both
increased the level of transparency in its thinking and operations and also
let the community know that it takes what they say seriously.
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Re: Use of moderation

Sue Gardner
Sorry for top-posting, Brian. (I'm walking home, am on my Blackberry.)

I don't feel super-comfortable posting on behalf of the staff, but I think it's fair to say that some of the staff are a little afraid to engage on foundation-l --- it can be intimidating, especially for new people. I think the staff feels both an obligation and a desire to engage with community members, but some tend to do it in forums that feel safer and more supportive (which might be on internal-l, in structured or semi-structured IRC conversations, etc.). I think that's not necessarily ideal, but it's very human and understandable.

I don't think the answer to the problem is to focus on reducing the level of negativity -- I think that's backwards-looking and hard to do helpfully. But I think that if we aim to be generous and kind with each other, when that is appropriate, that could/would create a virtuous cycle of its own :-)

-----Original Message-----
From: Brian <[hidden email]>

Date: Tue, 8 Sep 2009 20:29:09
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List<[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Use of moderation


On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 7:44 PM, Austin Hair <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I've created http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Improving_Foundation-l for
> brainstorming of how to make this list a little bit less of a
> cesspool.
>

Austin, your page says nothing about the kinds of conversations you would
like to see on foundation-l.

My take on foundation-l is that the foundation doesn't take it very
seriously. They recognize the potential of a mailing list and like the
possibilities, but in practice there are too many people being overly
critical of the foundation here for it to be useful to them. Also, the
topics of discussion often seem like useless jabs that aren't really in the
direction of progress. People are just itching to find the foundation doing
something wrong so they can start a riot.

This is unfortunate - why are so many people more interested in
backwards-looking criticism than forward-looking progress? Some of us feel
that the foundation has become out of our reach. That no matter how much we
discuss and try to reach consensus it will just be too hard, or there will
be a lack of interest in our consensus at the foundation, for any real
change to happen. You practically have to get a grant on behalf of the
foundation anymore in order to convince them you've got a good idea.

Sue recently posted a couple of articles to foundation-l that were cookbooks
for how to shut people that you perceive to be unproductive out of your
community. That was obviously a flawed e-mail to send. Of course we are all
aware of people who want to discuss the color of the bike shed. Discussing
the difference between red and blue is not, in fact, a priori bad, and there
should be some of that. More generally however the foundation should take it
upon themselves to increase the level of discourse on these lists by seeding
it with great topics, and, more importantly, allocating time from each of
their employees in which they are expected to participate in these
discussions. This is, after all, the Wikimedia Foundation's mailing list.
And yet with dozens of employees the Foundation's voice is but a whisper
here.

To me, this is the thing that has gone most wrong about this list. The
Foundation just isn't here. They may be subscribed, and they may read, but
they do not participate. They do not lead by example (with a few notable
exceptions) by raising the level of discourse, and most all of Foundation
business is conducted either in person, or in private e-mails. We feel like
we have to shout in order to get their attention, and that not only do we
not know what they are up to, but we have no say in it.

I have seen it said several times that this list has too much traffic. I
think that's an overgeneralization - it has too much negative traffic. This
list can handle as much productive traffic as the foundation cares to seed
it with. Rather than having that conversation over private e-mail, consider
whether it could benefit from the voices of a few community members. If
nobody replies that's fine because by sending it the foundation has both
increased the level of transparency in its thinking and operations and also
let the community know that it takes what they say seriously.
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Re: Use of moderation

Austin Hair
In reply to this post by Brian J Mingus
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 9:29 PM, Brian<[hidden email]> wrote:
> Austin, your page says nothing about the kinds of conversations you would
> like to see on foundation-l.

You're right, it doesn't.  I don't see it as my place to dictate, and
I'm looking for most of the input to come from others.

I do, however, hope we can all agree on a bare minimum of "a civil
forum for anyone interested to discuss Wikimedia Foundation issues."
As a practical matter, improving the signal:blah ratio makes the forum
more accessible—to community members, to trustees, to WMF Inc. staff
(who, often new to the community, may feel intimidated jumping in).

> To me, this is the thing that has gone most wrong about this list. The
> Foundation just isn't here. They may be subscribed, and they may read, but
> they do not participate. They do not lead by example (with a few notable
> exceptions) by raising the level of discourse, and most all of Foundation
> business is conducted either in person, or in private e-mails. We feel like
> we have to shout in order to get their attention, and that not only do we
> not know what they are up to, but we have no say in it.

That's what I'm hoping we'll improve.

> I have seen it said several times that this list has too much traffic. I
> think that's an overgeneralization - it has too much negative traffic. This
> list can handle as much productive traffic as the foundation cares to seed
> it with. Rather than having that conversation over private e-mail, consider
> whether it could benefit from the voices of a few community members. If
> nobody replies that's fine because by sending it the foundation has both
> increased the level of transparency in its thinking and operations and also
> let the community know that it takes what they say seriously.

I agree, but also assert that this isn't going to happen as long as
95% of the traffic comes from 1% of subscribers and an extremely high
percentage of the overall volume is spent disputing minor points of
semantics and prose.  Volume is a problem, and it may not be one we
can solve, but maybe we can put more effort into the art of pith?

Austin

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Re: Use of moderation

Tim Starling-2
In reply to this post by Erik Moeller-4
Erik Moeller wrote:
> 2009/9/8 Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]>:
>> As such, it's time to try something different.
>
> What do you suggest? Are there models from other mailing list
> communities that we should experiment with to create a healthier, more
> productive discussion culture? What, based on your own experience of
> this list, would you like to see change?

I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
can be moved or locked.

Mailing lists, by their nature, have a large potential for abuse by
trolls and spammers. It's trivial to impersonate another user, or to
continue posting indefinitely despite being blocked. We're lucky that
the behaviour we've seen here has been merely inconsiderate, rather
than malicious.

Discussion on the English Wikipedia continues to function despite
hateful users who try every dirty trick they can think of to disrupt
the community. We're lucky that foundation-l has only seen the merest
hint of a reflection of that turmoil, because the tools we have to
deal with abusive behaviour on mailing lists are far less capable than
those that have been developed for Wikipedia.

-- Tim Starling


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Re: Use of moderation

Philippe Beaudette-2

On Sep 8, 2009, at 10:37 PM, Tim Starling wrote:

> I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
> instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
> postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
> can be moved or locked.


+me - and I would also point that for those who wish to be tied to  
email many web-based forums will send you email messages....


Philippe

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Re: Use of moderation

Anthony-73
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 11:37 PM, Tim Starling <[hidden email]>wrote:

> I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
> instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
> postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
> can be moved or locked.
>

I only find that acceptable if a web-based forum can be found which allows
me to email myself every post/reply.  Citizendium switched to a web-based
forum and I absolutely hated it.  I have all my mailing lists accessible in
one location.  I am not interested in logging in to multiple websites.

I'm sure a web-based forum can be made to handle this request.  But I
haven't seen one that does it yet, only ones that do it partially and
half-assedly.

Anyway, I've already made my proposal.  Create a separate mailing list for
low traffic well-thought-out posts, and leave this one here for writing
what's on your mind without worrying about what percentage of subscribers
are going to like it.

Alternatively, put David Gerard in charge of foundation-l, or someone else
who isn't going to complain that the list is a cesspool but not be willing
to dictate to us what to do about it.  Basically, you've got two choices.
The second is to get off the pot.
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Re: Use of moderation

Milos Rancic-2
In reply to this post by Austin Hair
On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 3:44 AM, Austin Hair<[hidden email]> wrote:
> I've created http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Improving_Foundation-l for
> brainstorming of how to make this list a little bit less of a
> cesspool.  Please feel free to ignore the initial thoughts I banged
> out as a starting point and refactor as you will.  If there's
> consensus on a better model, I'll happily implement it; even if there
> isn't, at least getting more people's thoughts on the matter is a
> start.

Let's try something different: As a list moderator, make a working
group to make a proposal (ask foundation-l participants to join you
and make some selection). When your group make a proposal, put it on
public discussion. And after changing the proposal according to
reasonable suggestions, implement it. I think that three months are
enough for this task.

Without any model, all of us may talk about everything: Tim suggested
forum, I would suggest that we should wait until Google Wave becomes
reality. And we may continue to talk about everything endlessly.

At the other side, I think that the vast majority of us would be happy
with some user-friendly, free speech-friendly and workable solution.

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Re: Use of moderation

Erik Moeller-4
In reply to this post by Brian J Mingus
2009/9/8 Brian <[hidden email]>:
> Some of us feel
> that the foundation has become out of our reach. That no matter how much we
> discuss and try to reach consensus it will just be too hard, or there will
> be a lack of interest in our consensus at the foundation, for any real
> change to happen. You practically have to get a grant on behalf of the
> foundation anymore in order to convince them you've got a good idea.

Really? Can you give examples of stuff that used to be easy that's
become harder now, and where consensus has been ignored where it would
have been swiftly acted upon in the past?

I do believe that much like in Wikipedia itself, we're past the low
hanging fruit phase right now when it comes to WMF's objectives. It's
one thing to set up a MediaWiki instance and call it Wiktionary, it's
another to actually design software for supporting a multilingual
dictionary and thesaurus. And so it goes with virtually every major
challenge we're facing today. The "easy stuff" at this point is only
easy in that it is obvious (yes, MediaWiki usability sucks), not in
that it is easy to fix.

Part of traditional professionalization is also to only make a
commitment when you feel you can uphold it. So where a casual,
informal organization is more likely to say "Yeah, sure" and then
never do anything (FlaggedRevisions and SUL being two examples of this
happening in the past, with no execution over multiple years), a more
formal, professional organization will only make the commitment if it
can allocate resources to keep it. So, as an organization matures, it
will by definition say "no" more frequently, because saying "yes" too
often is one of the most common signs of immaturity. We've certainly
not reached the end point of that process yet.

But for a _volunteer_ driven organization, it's important to make a
further transition, not from "yes" to "no" in 9 out of 10 cases, but
from "yes" (and nothing will happen) to "yes, and here's how _you_ can
make it happen", except for the truly bad ideas. :-) I think this is
where we're failing right now -- engaging more people to help us solve
problems. The strategic planning process is the first attempt to scale
up the small-room conversations of the past into the largest possible
meaningful consultation. How do we transform those plans and proposals
into volunteer workgroups and actions?

[ And yes, that's a bit off-topic for the thread, but I think pretty
on-topic for the list. ;-) ]

--
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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Re: Use of moderation

Robert Rohde
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 8:37 PM, Tim Starling<[hidden email]> wrote:

> Erik Moeller wrote:
>> 2009/9/8 Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]>:
>>> As such, it's time to try something different.
>>
>> What do you suggest? Are there models from other mailing list
>> communities that we should experiment with to create a healthier, more
>> productive discussion culture? What, based on your own experience of
>> this list, would you like to see change?
>
> I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
> instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
> postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
> can be moved or locked.
>
> Mailing lists, by their nature, have a large potential for abuse by
> trolls and spammers. It's trivial to impersonate another user, or to
> continue posting indefinitely despite being blocked. We're lucky that
> the behaviour we've seen here has been merely inconsiderate, rather
> than malicious.
>
> Discussion on the English Wikipedia continues to function despite
> hateful users who try every dirty trick they can think of to disrupt
> the community. We're lucky that foundation-l has only seen the merest
> hint of a reflection of that turmoil, because the tools we have to
> deal with abusive behaviour on mailing lists are far less capable than
> those that have been developed for Wikipedia.

Some modern forums have features that can interact very intelligently
with email, which to my mind might be the best of both worlds.  Such
things would still allow the features you mention such as thread
locking and removal of abuse from the archive, but would also allow
people to continue to receive email copies of posts if that is what
they prefer.

For example, have a forum where people can subscribe to receive email
copies of either all posts or just specific threads of interest.  Most
systems would require that you then visit the website to post replies
(which could be facilitated by including a reply url in any emailed
copy), though I do recall once seeing a forum email manager that
created a unique reply-to address for each thread/user, hence allowing
one to email replies directly onto the forum while still having those
replies be subjected to any thread and/or user specific rules that had
been put in place.

In any event, I think we could probably set up a system that provided
more flexible control over threads and users without necessarily
sacrificing the convenience of email for people that prefer that
approach.  And of course, people who don't want email interaction
could just use such a web forum as a web forum without enabling any
email features.

-Robert Rohde

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Re: Use of moderation

Brian J Mingus
On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 1:45 AM, Robert Rohde <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 8:37 PM, Tim Starling<[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> > Erik Moeller wrote:
> >> 2009/9/8 Gregory Maxwell <[hidden email]>:
> >>> As such, it's time to try something different.
> >>
> >> What do you suggest? Are there models from other mailing list
> >> communities that we should experiment with to create a healthier, more
> >> productive discussion culture? What, based on your own experience of
> >> this list, would you like to see change?
> >
> > I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
> > instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
> > postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
> > can be moved or locked.
> >
> > Mailing lists, by their nature, have a large potential for abuse by
> > trolls and spammers. It's trivial to impersonate another user, or to
> > continue posting indefinitely despite being blocked. We're lucky that
> > the behaviour we've seen here has been merely inconsiderate, rather
> > than malicious.
> >
> > Discussion on the English Wikipedia continues to function despite
> > hateful users who try every dirty trick they can think of to disrupt
> > the community. We're lucky that foundation-l has only seen the merest
> > hint of a reflection of that turmoil, because the tools we have to
> > deal with abusive behaviour on mailing lists are far less capable than
> > those that have been developed for Wikipedia.
>
> Some modern forums have features that can interact very intelligently
> with email, which to my mind might be the best of both worlds.  Such
> things would still allow the features you mention such as thread
> locking and removal of abuse from the archive, but would also allow
> people to continue to receive email copies of posts if that is what
> they prefer.
>
> For example, have a forum where people can subscribe to receive email
> copies of either all posts or just specific threads of interest.  Most
> systems would require that you then visit the website to post replies
> (which could be facilitated by including a reply url in any emailed
> copy), though I do recall once seeing a forum email manager that
> created a unique reply-to address for each thread/user, hence allowing
> one to email replies directly onto the forum while still having those
> replies be subjected to any thread and/or user specific rules that had
> been put in place.
>
> In any event, I think we could probably set up a system that provided
> more flexible control over threads and users without necessarily
> sacrificing the convenience of email for people that prefer that
> approach.  And of course, people who don't want email interaction
> could just use such a web forum as a web forum without enabling any
> email features.
>
> -Robert Rohde
>
>
If an enterprising hacker were to enable fully bidirectional e-mail <->
 liquid threads functionality then I can see this being accepted, but
otherwise it seems implausible. Despite all the benefits of forums they
don't come close to the global usage habits and convenience of e-mail.
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Re: Use of moderation

David Gerard-2
In reply to this post by Anthony-73
2009/9/9 Anthony <[hidden email]>:
> On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 11:37 PM, Tim Starling <[hidden email]>wrote:

>> I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
>> instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
>> postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
>> can be moved or locked.

> I only find that acceptable if a web-based forum can be found which allows
> me to email myself every post/reply.  Citizendium switched to a web-based
> forum and I absolutely hated it.  I have all my mailing lists accessible in
> one location.  I am not interested in logging in to multiple websites.
> I'm sure a web-based forum can be made to handle this request.  But I
> haven't seen one that does it yet, only ones that do it partially and
> half-assedly.


wine-users - http://forum.winehq.org/

It started as a mailing list, then the forum was set up with a two-way
gateway. The forum is where most of the posters actually post from,
but so far it works ... surprisingly well!

Presumably we could ask Codeweavers for technical pointers. Mostly
it's little details, e.g. spam control.

The main thing Wine found is that the forum promptly had 10x the traffic!

The point is: it has been done and can be done. And that way, those of
us (e.g. me) who hate forums and don't want yet another web page to go
to can have it all happen in in our email.

So I heartily suggest we go to a forum with a fidelitous email gateway.


> Alternatively, put David Gerard in charge of foundation-l, or someone else
> who isn't going to complain that the list is a cesspool but not be willing
> to dictate to us what to do about it.  Basically, you've got two choices.
> The second is to get off the pot.


No and hell no ;-p


- d.

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Re: Use of moderation

Henning Schlottmann
In reply to this post by Tim Starling-2
Tim Starling wrote:

> I think we should stop using this outdated technology altogether and
> instead switch to a web-based forum, where comments can be
> postmoderated (i.e. removed after posting), and unproductive threads
> can be moved or locked.

Web boards are crap, partly precisely for the reasons you claim as
advantage here. Biggest flaw: They use pull protocols, you have to
actively go there to look. Further: Access to web boards is proprietary.
Each board has different address, format, GUI, options.

Mailing lists are push media and they are one stop: the new posts come
to my own mail folders automatically. Their look and feel is always the
same: that of my mail program (or web mail operator). Browsing through
"your" web boards in the morning takes much, much more time than with
appropriately processes mailing lists.

Moderation and s/n ration: If you read mailing lists as (pseudo)
newsgroups, which is of course the recommended way of access, every
reader has the most comfortable options for filtering and scoring. Web
boards have central, mailing lists individual moderation. You, the
reader, can filter authors, topics, threads or whatever you want or
don't want to read. That gives you autonomy and responsibility.

The only real advantage of web boards is that they run in a browser and
everyone thinks they can use them. Processing and reading mailing lists
is much more comfortable, but obviously not anyone knows how to do that
anymore.

Ciao Henning


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