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Re: Safety and Civility

Posted by shar on September 15, 2002, at 14:01:56

In reply to Safety and Civility, posted by mair on September 15, 2002, at 10:24:02

Mair articulated several important points, especially as related to moderators. One was: The deputy or deputies who are poised to intervene...are eventually (regrettably) going to become as much convenient targets as is Bob.

This is, I believe, very true. And it is of concern to me because it is no fun being attacked, and can really hurt people (which is, I recall, why blocking started in the first place). It is good to have this point made at the outset, so that at least moderators know that this might occur, and are equipped to deal with it. In a sense, having decisions questioned (sometimes quite intensely) is part of the job, goes with the territory, so having a coping strategy will be important; such as not taking things personally. If we were children, it would be quite different because we wouldn't expect to be able to reject someone else's findings, or feel we could rightly voice our displeasure over official censure.

This will be true even if posters behave themselves as well as they can, there will be times when a brou-ha-ha will erupt and angry words are said, either among posters or poster-to-moderator, or whatever other combinations exist.

Another important point: "My guess is that in practice, civility rules would not be applied all that inconsistently and that people would take a little more care and personal responsibility for their own posts if the moderator is a friend..." I agree with this also. However, I wonder how long a moderator will be able to have the same friendships that existed prior to their new duties of handing out PBC's and blocks, or warnings. It is sort of like when a friend becomes your supervisor at work. For a while, things are the same, but there is a very real power differential that exists...they can fire you or write you up. It would be natural to become more closed to that person, to watch what one says, to hold back certain thoughts that previously would have been expressed because the consequences are now different. That does not bode well for continuing closeness, in my opinion.

I don't believe that moderators will, for long, still be treated the way they were when they were "just" posters. The 'good will' generated by being friends will eventually erode, in my opinion, as PBCs and blocks are handed out, especially if there is conflict over what's meted out. It is good to mention this early on, just in case someone felt hurt when it happened. It's better to know it can happen up front. If it doesn't happen, all the better.

Another point I agree with is that PBCs and blocks are more frequent than before, and people might be getting cut off before they can work things out. I believe conflict is a part of life on this site, and that trying to squelch it is not going to prove effective (it hasn't so far). I wonder if instead of being encouraged only to ignore threads and avoid unpleasantness, if a 'resolve it' approach was added in and encouraged, what would happen. Or, maybe there needs to be a "go to your rooms" (GTYR) category that doesn't single out one poster who may only be responding to something that was nasty to begin with, but would apply equally to everyone in the thread who is involved in the uproar. 8-)

So, no one individual will receive the punishment for a 6-post argument. The GTYR would apply to the *thread* becoming too rambunctious and heated, and anyone who chose to post "uncivilly" after a GTYR would be given an individualized PBC or block. At the very least, it would give folks a chance to back off when they knew the thread was being seen as getting too hot. I do believe the vast majority of posters here are well-intentioned, even if they do get 'het up' occasionally. They might appreciate a warning. Or, we could have a threadomometer, based on the 'defense condition' (DEFCON) ratings, like DEFCON 1 is normal, DEFCON 4 is 'yellow alert.' Just some sort of early warning system, when things are heated up. Notice, I did not say before things are heated up...this wouldn't be another attempt to avoid conflict, this would be after a thread got heated but before it is out of hand.

I may have wayyy to much time on my mind these days, to be thinking these things up.


> Theoretically, a moderated Board should feel "safe" to people. I understand that there are those who are concerned that a poster-moderated Board would essentially be an unmoderated board, but I don't think that's the case where, as here, you have so many posters who have been here long enough to develop relationships with other posters, and a sense of responsibility to the site. I don't think the fact that several of the more disgruntled PB members have left or mostly left this site specifically because they couldn't abide Bob's moderating decisions is at all an indication that there would be anarchy if he stepped back and left the day to day monitoring more to the membership. In my opinion, as long as Bob is the sole arbiter, he will be a lightening rod for controversy and criticism and the Board will continue to become polarized. Controversies on the board become less about who said what, and more about Bob. The deputy or deputies who are poised to intervene when Bob's not on-line (how will they know), are eventually (regrettably) going to become as much convenient targets as is Bob. Dinah's tenure as substitute moderator was successful, I believe, because people had no expectation that Bob was really lurking in the shadows. Decisions about whom to admonish and how they should be approach were hers, not his, even if she made her determinations with Bob in mind. I also think her efforts were appreciated because people understood that she had undertaken a job that was particularly tough for her and would not have been as tough for Bob.
> I don't believe it's necessarily a bad thing that multiple moderators, serving on a rotating basis, might apply somewhat different moderating standards. If it's understood that this could happen, people could adjust. My guess is that in practice, civility rules would not be applied all that inconsistently and that people would take a little more care and personal responsibility for their own posts if the moderator is a friend or if he or she has served as a moderator too.
> The alternative, a board where people are almost paranoid about how a post is going to be construed, or who don't want to end up in the middle of a swirling controversy over what they "meant" to say, hardly seems safe or supportive or affirming to me.
> There is no question in my mind that PBCs and blocks are being handed out to a far greater degree than ever before. I think all of the "old timers" would agree. It's too easy and convenient to say that this is a mere outgrowth of the expansion of the site. I think it can equally be argued that this has happened because Bob is so much more of a visible and active presence on the site. People don't have to or aren't given the opportunity to work out misunderstandings themselves. The resulting tone is different.
> Mair




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