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Sep 26 2013

OffTopic: Monitors

monitor

This is the experimental OffTopic thread. These may pop up sporadically as a non-judgmental alternative to the Thunderdome to discuss issues that might otherwise sidetrack another discussion. This time around, the subjects are…derailing, monitors, and suggestions for thread management (how appropriate for the first one!). This is not a place for angry argument, but for productive feedback and conversation.

Status: Lightly Moderated

200 comments

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  1. 1
    Inaji

    Thank you, PZ! Okay, I brought up a recent monitor discussion of PZ’s suggestion for dealing with derails or potential derails. Some of you nice peoples already responded, and it would be nice to copy those responses here.

    PZ floated the idea of creating a new thread, that when a derail is in the works, so anyone who wants to write a short description for an OP may do so, and a monitor will forward it for consideration of a new thread with that description.

    Would that be a better approach, more acceptable than a request to move to Thunderdome?

    Also, hashing out what constitutes a relevant side discussion and a derail which dominates the thread and wanders straight out of the topic would be good.

  2. 2
    cicely

    Okay, I’ll start by copy/pasting what I said in the [Lounge]:

    Maybe require someone floating a diversion/divergence to explain, succinctly, why they feel that their Apparently Extraneous Subject Matter is relevant to the discussion in hand, and if they cannot—to a reasonable standard—then send it elsewhere.

    in dealing with determining whether a derail is actually a relevant side discussion in disguise.
    -

  3. 3
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    One example of a side discussion is a recent example of someone tying woman’s rights with animal rights. Not part of the OP topic, but certainly a discussable topic. And, if properly labelled, one that those of us bored with such discussions can ignore.

  4. 4
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Recently, I’ve been avoiding reading the comments on most blog entries because the monitors’ warnings have escalated to become such a large proportion of the comments on many of them that they contribute to the break-up of the flow of conversation. This more open and obvious monitor intervention doesn’t even seem to have stopped the derails; some commentators seem to ignore the monitor comments and wade into the derail anyway, in the good, old-fashioned Pharyngula way of over-feeding trolls until they burst and sometimes the derails themselves led to very interesting conversations before returning to the original topic. So I much prefer the suggestion that a new thread be created, rather than the standard ‘take it to Thunderdome’ response, thank you.

    I like and respect the horde and think that the rough-and-tumble nature of the comment threads at Pharyngula have always been part of the blog’s strength. Comment threads used to be more fun to read than they have been recently.

    Also, whilst I understand that there needs to be a few trusted regulars that can alert PZ to serious breaches of blog commenting policy, I’d prefer there to be fewer comments about minor infractions with ‘monitor warning’ or similar in the text because it comes across as nannying; but I realise I may have missed the reason why the monitors are now more openly involved.

  5. 5
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    I’d prefer there to be fewer comments about minor infractions with ‘monitor warning’ or similar in the text because it comes across as nannying; but I realise I may have missed the reason why the monitors are now more openly involved.

    In large part, it was the result of the two-thread, recent discussion on comments, and what people wanted to see in the new commenting rules. While most of the commentariat, especially the long-term regulars, love the rough & tumble, a whole lot of new a/o newer people don’t. The atmosphere seems hostile and unwelcoming.

    I do think having new people, new voices, is important. So, it’s also important to consider what they need to feel comfortable commenting here. Part of what we’ve been asked to do is to keep threads on track, remind people to play nice (at least at first), help with html and shepherd new people. We’re still figuring all this out ourselves, so it’s nice to hear from the commentariat about what is and isn’t helpful.

  6. 6
    Inaji

    And this is what I posted in The Lounge, to a question as to why I thought a place to discuss monitor stuff would be a good idea:

    Well, the reason I have been agitating for it is because we need to communicate with the rest of the commentariat, not have these discussions in isolation, and I see a need for transparency. It’s all well and fine for the monitors to have their discussion group, and we do use it, however, if we come to a decision about how to handle things, the first time we do something, it comes as one helluva a surprise to the commentariat. I don’t think that’s fair, or right.

    Also, I don’t think we should be in a position where we seem to be above the commentariat. We aren’t. A lot of excellent ideas on how to handle threads come from the commentariat at large, and we’d be pretty damn stupid to ignore such a resource. Cicely had a great idea for handling derails, and none of us geniuses thought of it.

    As for a war over small items, I think that’s where PZ steps in and makes a decision. As it stands, a lot of people are distrusting and suspicious of the new system, don’t like the changes, and don’t trust the monitors. This doesn’t need to be the case, and I think having a place for discussions will be a good thing all around.

  7. 7
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    I’d prefer there to be fewer comments about minor infractions with ‘monitor warning’ or similar in the text

    There’s something I forgot to mention. There’s a reason for the ‘Monitor Note’. The monitors are part of the commentariat, and we take part in discussions as members of the commentariat. There needs to be a way to distinguish when we are speaking as monitors, as opposed to speaking personally. If you have a better idea for doing this, I’d be happy to hear it.

  8. 8
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Thank you, Caine. I admit that when I first started reading Pharyngula I was very reluctant to join in the comments, and that was a good thing. It led to more lurking, which led to greater understanding of the dynamics and the reasoning behind the comments, and, ultimately, to reduced likelihood of my putting my foot in it!

    I’ve since read comments by many other people who either did as I did or just jumped in anyway, got schooled, learned and became enthusiastic Horde members too.

    I’m wondering if the newness is what is leading to apparent micro-managing of some threads, particularly on sensitive topics, and this will settle down in time. Also, perhaps more monitors? Then the onus to control a particularly obnoxious commenter wouldn’t fall on the shoulders of the only monitor who happened to be reading in a particular timezone, and there wouldn’t be the large number of warning comments from just one person.

  9. 9
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Tigger

    Any chance you can remember a/o link to any threads you thought were micromanaged? It’d be good to have examples of what people think is over the top. (Or where people think a monitor maybe should have stepped, but didn’t.)

  10. 10
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    Also, perhaps more monitors? Then the onus to control a particularly obnoxious commenter wouldn’t fall on the shoulders of the only monitor who happened to be reading in a particular timezone, and there wouldn’t be the large number of warning comments from just one person.

    We have tried to cover the time zone issues with various monitors. The list of current monitors is at the bottom of the commenting rules page. I think if people would like to see someone as a monitor, they should feel free to nominate them. Mind, I don’t know what PZ thinks of that idea. I think having a variety of people with different reading tastes is important, because there are threads I never open at all, let alone read, like a thread about guns. I just can’t cope with what happens in such a thread, and I tend to lose my temper if I read, so I stay out of them entirely.

    I think things will settle down, all this is new, still being worked out, there have been fuck ups (I’ve certainly done my share) and disagreements, all that. Change isn’t always easy, but it’s doable.

  11. 11
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    Change is the only constant, and it has taken me a lifetime to appreciate that this as a good thing.

  12. 12
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Oh, and I’m having modem problems (and should have been asleep hours ago, too!) so your last two comments came whilst I was trying to get my last one through.

    I agree that more openness is a great thing. One of the strengths of the Pharyngula Horde is the equality of the commenters, with no-one pulling rank over anyone else. No ‘post counts’ or ‘date of first comment’ nonsense under people’s ‘nyms; anyone is as good as their comments, however rare and however recently they joined. I agree that the idea of some Hordelings being seen as more trustworthy or closer to PZ than others is odd.

    On the other hand, the whole idea of having only a handful of monitors was based, I thought, on the fact that PZ does not have the time to read all the comments and has such a deluge of emails each day that he needed to restrict the number of emails he had to read to get genuine alerts, and so is a Good Thing.

    Lastly, I suspect the answer is ‘No’, but are monitors able to disemvowel or render invisible the comments of someone who has ignored three warnings, until PZ can deal with them? That way, we wouldn’t have to trawl through pages upon pages of alternate Bad Stuff/Monitor Warning comments which are such an eyesore! =^_^=

  13. 13
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    From my perspective the Monitor system is working, but may need a few tweaks. When relatively new threads start to derail due to change in topic by “newbies”, the thread has gone back to the OP topic when Monitors intervened. Which is good, we don’t need trolls derailing the thread. But, after a couple of hundred posts, a certain amount of topic drift should be allowed if intervals are getting longer between posts. My 20 mils….

  14. 14
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    Lastly, I suspect the answer is ‘No’, but are monitors able to disemvowel or render invisible the comments of someone who has ignored three warnings, until PZ can deal with them? That way, we wouldn’t have to trawl through pages upon pages of alternate Bad Stuff/Monitor Warning comments which are such an eyesore! =^_^=

    No. We have absolutely no power, in any way. What we can do is what we have always done, and get an alert to PZ which will be seen, and then the situation dealt with.

    Nerd:

    But, after a couple of hundred posts, a certain amount of topic drift should be allowed if intervals are getting longer between posts.

    I think this is a good guideline, myself. Topic drift can lead to some very interesting discussions, and tends not to be completely off topic anyway.

  15. 15
    =8)-DX

    I’d prefer there to be fewer comments about minor infractions with ‘monitor warning’ or similar in the text

    While, in a perfect world, I’d prefer no monitor warnings, I have to disagree – it takes getting used to, but so far I’ve seen it have a good positive influence on thread derailers/rulebreakers.

    A good idea would be to be able to make the monitor messages colour-coded similar to PZ’s (but not red – I’d go with blue).

  16. 16
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Re-posting from the Lounge, where I said this in a different order:

    I think the off-topic thread, a Patio or whatever, sounds like an excellent choice. Twice I can think of in the last three days where I’d have taken a conversation there rather than T-Dome or here, and since I can only handle T-Dome when I’m all spooned up, it’d be nice to have a different place, where we can be all kinds of derail, without taking up all the space on the more support-and-being-nice-to-each-other-focused Lounge.

    As well and separately, and I know this would have to go to Ed, I wanted to ask what people thought of this idea I’ve been pondering lately, about how to be more a community, and try to fill that community organizing role often taken on by the Ladies’ Auxiliaries or Women’s Institutes or what have you (Jam and Jerusalem), helping people to make the social and employment and recreational connections with like-minded folk.

    The idea is this: What if FTB had a general announcement/connections/community of FTB blog? With posts drawing attention to posts by the FTBloggers, or maybe an Open Thread every now and then where people can self-promote, Plus, a set of FTB-wide resource materials, that could include explanations/answers for standard problem #387b(ii): “I am SO not a racist, here’s my dictionary to prove it”, or whatever, the kind of thing that I know is being updated at the wiki. We could have links to it at the community thread, and to the community resources we choose and that have been put together by the commentariat.

    We could invite atheist & secular organizations to send whoever’s maintaining it press releases about cons offline and on, and meetups and secular student group startups and whatever.

    Keep comments closed except for promotional/cross-linking threads, so there’s not a lot of need to moderate.

    Just basically an FTB administrivia blog, with the added advantage of a regularly-updated place to find out about atheist stuff? In time, maybe we could develop a professional job-or-school-related networking opportunity, supported with a couple of blog posts a month or whatever; or similarly a feminist-friendly games club: a way to allow progressivist people to find people to play with either online or in livespace, without having to deal with the misogyny and rape culture and homophobia and transphobia and racism and and and and…

    Would that be useful, does anyone have any thoughts about it? I do, obviously, since I’m proposing it, but I wonder if anyone has some criticism that I’m missing, or whether there’s a sense that it wouldn’t be helpful/useful.

    That’s what I’ve been thinking.

    G’nite all.

  17. 17
    =8)-DX

    @Caine, Fleur du mal #5

    I do think having new people, new voices, is important. So, it’s also important to consider what they need to feel comfortable commenting here. Part of what we’ve been asked to do is to keep threads on track, remind people to play nice (at least at first), help with html and shepherd new people.

    Rather an understatement. Both the need for new voices (although I think even the regulars fade in and out and “rotate” from time to time) and the problem with new commenters feeling uncomfortable. What seems to happen often, is that a new commenter walks in, and half an hour later is standing their horrified and what seems like another innocent outsider getting beaten to metaphorical bloody pulp. I don’t think there’s much that can be done for that, except perhaps to urge new commenters to read carefully to understand *why* some people’s repeated ignorant/trolling arguments are being dismissed so easily. So I can’t think of any monitor changes that would help here, past what’s already being done.

  18. 18
    =8)-DX

    *standing there at

    plus articles, commas… apologies for my writing skills in the morning.

  19. 19
    Inaji

    =8)-DX:

    A good idea would be to be able to make the monitor messages colour-coded similar to PZ’s (but not red – I’d go with blue).

    I did request a dedicated colour some time back, but it was soundly ignored, so I took that for a no. And I’d prefer purple. ;)

    What seems to happen often, is that a new commenter walks in, and half an hour later is standing their horrified and what seems like another innocent outsider getting beaten to metaphorical bloody pulp. I don’t think there’s much that can be done for that, except perhaps to urge new commenters to read carefully to understand *why* some people’s repeated ignorant/trolling arguments are being dismissed so easily.

    I agree, the atmosphere here can be overwhelming and seriously hostile to newbs, as well as coming across that way to people who don’t comment at all. Part of what we’re supposed to do is to remind people to read a thread first, to offer explanations about history and such to those who are unaware of it, and all that sort of thing. Having monitors taking the time to explain certain things which are well known to the commentariat could go a long way in defusing things.

    I do think there can be much more emphasis on certain aspects, and these pertain to regulars, more than newbs. Specifically:

    Justice is more important than civility. But aspire to be charitable at first.

    Recognize that your words may not perfectly convey your content — and that the words of other commenters may not perfectly convey theirs. When necessary, clarify what you mean, or ask other commenters to clarify what they meant.

    When someone says something apparently stupid or vile, verify before opening fire. Express your objection and ask them to rephrase their statement. Then open fire.

  20. 20
    Dutchgirl

    I like this idea, and since I don’t enter the Thunderdome, it offers an alternative OT venue. But I do think there should be transparent guidelines for what constitutes a OT derail. Sometimes picking apart a wrong argument, analogy, or statement is useful in clarifying and enhancing the OP and should stay in the thread. Sometimes derails are just obnoxious and deserve no time in any space.
    t nnnnnn <— and sometimes I have pets on my keyboard.

  21. 21
    chigau (違う)

    All this Thunderdome hate makes me sad.

  22. 22
    Inaji

    Chigau:

    All this Thunderdome hate makes me sad.

    Aye, me too. It basically functions much as TET did. I hadn’t realized how upset/insulted/offended people would be by suggesting a derail or discussion go to Thunderdome. I was very blind in that respect, because Thunderdome doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I like it, so I just ran with the idiotic assumption that everyone else would feel the same way.

  23. 23
    Dutchgirl

    I don’t hate the Thunderdome, I think its awesome that folks have that place to go to and do their thing. Its just not my thing. I don’t have the time, and it doesn’t suit my personality.

  24. 24
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-
    But, after a couple of hundred posts, a certain amount of topic drift should be allowed if intervals are getting longer between posts.

    I think this is a good guideline, myself. Topic drift can lead to some very interesting discussions, and tends not to be completely off topic anyway.

    For me there’s three, maybe foru kinds of “derail”.
    The mentioned topic drift once a subject is exhausted should be unproblematic, as well as “slight derails” that hover around the topic and add interesting even though not strictly relevant information about the topic, such as various posts about historical fascism in the recent “wincing” thread. This has the potential for a derail and would be an obvious candidate for a new thread. If the discussion had suddenly been dominated by a handful of people arguing about the submarine war it would have derailed the thread, not have been a “transgression that needs to be moved to TD” and it would have bored people to death in the lounge.

    Then there’s the obvious ” I don’t want you to talk about this” derail. The classical “what about the menz” derail. Those shouldn’t be rewarded by getting their own playground.

    Last there’s “legitimate topic in its own right but not here” which could get its own thread. People are interested in many different things and areas and they will kind of sneak them into discussions just because they’re on their mind.

    And a thing about monitors: If you feel we’re overdoing: give us a hint. I don’t care if you do it in TD, if people are uncomfortable with doing so it might be an idea to keep this thread permanent and open. We’re just folks, too, we can’t know whether you like how we handle things unless you tell us. Our intentions are good, but you know about the nature of intent.

  25. 25
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that the Thunderdome is sometimes used as a punishment for bad behaviour. Some intransigent commenters are banished there explicitly to be chew toys. This colour’s how many see that thread and as such I think that it’s a good idea to have a separate off-topic thread.

  26. 26
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    And a thing about monitors: If you feel we’re overdoing: give us a hint. I don’t care if you do it in TD, if people are uncomfortable with doing so it might be an idea to keep this thread permanent and open. We’re just folks, too, we can’t know whether you like how we handle things unless you tell us. Our intentions are good, but you know about the nature of intent.

    . A big hell yes to this.

  27. 27
    NelC

    Speaking for myself, I much prefer monitored/moderated spaces to free-for-all spaces, in general, so monitors flashing their badges occasionally are perfectly fine with me. It’s just a feature of the system and can be ignored easily. Even getting frustrated with the occasional moderator warning — as one inevitably does, now and then — is a feature of he system, and can be lived with.

  28. 28
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I have waffled on this for a little while now. Comments by regulars in the Lounge made me feel less like I was the only one feeling uneasy. Tigger’s initial comment upthread expressed much of what has been whirling around in my head.

    I do not like the expanded role/presence of monitors.
    (Before I explain more, I want to mention that not only do I have no problems with any of the monitors, but I also like and respect them)

    Figuring out the why of it is a bit more difficult.
    I cannot deny that the change itself is not a factor. To what degree, I do not know, but I know ‘things are different from what I am used to’ plays a role in my dislike of the new system. In considering why I preferred the prior status quo, one of my first thoughts was ‘why the need for change?’. Perhaps I missed something in the thread on commeting rules, but I did not understand what the driving force behind the added monitor duties. Comments in this thread and around the blog lead me to believe that (at least in part) a desire to make this blog more welcoming to new commenters is a likely reason.

    Of course that has me wondering ‘to what degree is this blog not inviting’? I fully accept that there will always be some people who do not like the atmosphere here, or are trolls or any of the other troublemakers we have seen.
    But what about the others? Those who want to participate here but are put off by what some perceive to be hostility ? I agree that additional voices are a good thing. It adds to diversity, which is important here. PZ has called for greater diversity in the movement so it makes sense that he would strive for the same on his blog. At the same time, the rough and tumble nature of Pharyngula is a feature, not a bug. The creation of the 3 post rule was a reasonable way to find middle ground between being welcoming and retaining the appeal of the blog.

    Of course the 3post rule was not always followed. So, what now?
    Now we get tweaks to the rules, which I do not mind. But with that, we get a change in duties of monitors. Where they used to just warn PZ about problems, now they offer tips and hints, as well as warnings. The added roles they play are in some cases merely extensions of help previously offered (html assistance). But the warnings, or rather, near commands to stop engaging in thread drift, and the increased presence does, however unintentionally, give me the impression that the monitors are indeed above the commentariat. The old method of ‘alert sent’ never made me feel that way. It was not intrusive and did not carry with it any air of authority. The current method, stands out. It not only breaks the flow of comments, but is a reminder that we are being watched. Yes, its PZs blog and we know he is around, but its one thing to know, accept and expect that from the host and another to now have multiple sets of eyes watching us.

    I do not know if I have articulated my problems well, or at all, but the new, rigid, ‘dont step out of bounds or else’ monitor system makes me uneasy and more than once that unease has resulted in me not commenting in a thread.

  29. 29
    =8)-DX

    I do not know if I have articulated my problems well, or at all, but the new, rigid, ‘dont step out of bounds or else’ monitor system makes me uneasy and more than once that unease has resulted in me not commenting in a thread.

    Has anyone actually been on the receiving end of “or else” (pod22 was removed by PZ without any real need for monitor chastisement)? And have the monitors ever chastised someone for something that PZ wouldn’t chastise them for if he took the time? I mean to me what the monitors have been doing has felt more just like a reminder to “Please don’t make any <insert genitals here> jokes”.

  30. 30
    rorschach

    But the warnings, or rather, near commands to stop engaging in thread drift, and the increased presence does, however unintentionally, give me the impression that the monitors are indeed above the commentariat.

    Given the tradition, the history, and the personal relationships between so many people here, I think one should be able to be a monitor, or a commenter, but not both at the same time. I’m completely limiting my contributions here to non-controversial topics since this was introduced.

  31. 31
    Kristjan Wager

    I personally dislike the new expanded role of monitors, and find them so problematic that I’ll sometimes stop reading a thread because of them.

    I feel they often disrupts the conversations, and often crosses the borders between the opinions of the monitors and the rules of Pharyngula.

    Also, warnings are often worded in such a way as to come across as official messages, which is hugely problematic. Newbies have no way of telling that monitors don’t have any official powers here.

  32. 32
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    OK, for all those who feel that monitors horribly disturb threads and make you afraid to comment:
    Please, can you give the instances where that happened?

    rorschach

    Given the tradition, the history, and the personal relationships between so many people here, I think one should be able to be a monitor, or a commenter, but not both at the same time.

    Yep, I’m getting all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of investing my time in caring for a community and being banned from said community as a result of my efforts. Somehow, even when I was deep in my Lord of the Rings phase I never imagined myself as Frodo.
    And since you seem afraid to be banned or harassed for disagreeing with some of the monitors, please, spell it out.

    Kristjan

    I feel they often disrupts the conversations, and often crosses the borders between the opinions of the monitors and the rules of Pharyngula.

    Also, warnings are often worded in such a way as to come across as official messages, which is hugely problematic. Newbies have no way of telling that monitors don’t have any official powers here.

    As for others, I’d like to see examples so I can understand what you mean.
    AFAIA, we’re taking care to preface anything we say as monitors with a “monitor note”. Actually, this conversation was the result of my request to have that ammended to the rules so it would be clear that we’re commenting as private persons when not posting with one.
    But yes, there is the idea that this gives those statements a note of authority. Because usually when members of the commentariat would say much the same thing the other one would just reply “fuck off, too”.

    +++
    All and in general, I kind of only half understand this. Yes, this is a change to the stauts quo. The status quo only worked for some, not all. There was a big discussion, this is the result. This isn’t written in stone, but to change it we need constructive criticism. “I don’t like the monitor system” isn’t much one.

  33. 33
    rorschach

    Actually, this conversation was the result of my request to have that ammended to the rules so it would be clear that we’re commenting as private persons when not posting with one.

    Does not compute.

    Because usually when members of the commentariat would say much the same thing the other one would just reply “fuck off, too”.

    Does not compute. Even when taking into account that English is not your first language.

    “I don’t like the monitor system” isn’t much one.

    It’s not really anyone’s fault if you can not comprehend or recognise the arguments being made, or maybe you just don’t want to.

    You know, a little birdie is telling me that Strange Gods Before Me might come out of hibernation real soon, WWTMD? Ask him to “take it to Thunderdome” when they’re losing the argument?

  34. 34
    Kristjan Wager

    The reason why I don’t mention specific examples is because it will be about them rather than a general discussion. I think it is a general problem, not only an occasional one.

    And I think it the “monitor note” part is a huge part of the problem. It creates a two-tier level of comments apart from PZ’s. This was something PZ said wouldn’t happen, and it has.

  35. 35
    Nick Gotts

    rorschach@33,

    “Does not compute” is not spelling it out. If you could be more specific about your complaints, preferably with examples, something might change as a result.

  36. 36
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Personally I find my self not staying in threads where even the slightest divergence of topic calls for taking it to the dome. I enjoyed the free flowing nature of all threads that used to exist here even with trolls and assholes and other vermin.

    By no means is this an indictment of any one monitor so please do not try and make it out to be that.

    Honestly I find myself spending far less time here in general recently. Some of this is that RL is busy as hell and some of it is it’s just not as enjoyable for me as it used to be.

    Disclaimer: this is purely my opinion. How I view this blog is purely how I view it. Not everyone wants or expects the same things that I do from here. I’m not making any judgment calls on anyone else’s experience or desired experience here. I’m just giving my $0.02 as very long time commenter.

  37. 37
    rorschach

    Nick,

    much obliged if you can point me to what

    Actually, this conversation was the result of my request to have that ammended to the rules so it would be clear that we’re commenting as private persons when not posting with one.

    is supposed to mean. Because I dont know. Same with the other paragraph I quoted.

  38. 38
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    rorschach

    Actually, this conversation was the result of my request to have that ammended to the rules so it would be clear that we’re commenting as private persons when not posting with one.

    Does not compute.

    To paraphrase: it should be stated on the rules page that when a monitor is speaking as a monitor they will add the monitor note tag to the comment.

    Because usually when members of the commentariat would say much the same thing the other one would just reply “fuck off, too”.

    Does not compute.

    There needs to be at least some weight of authority behind a monitor’s instruction to, for instance, stop using gendered insults, otherwise its all too easy for the person being addressed to respond with “fuck off” or such—and a derail quickly follows.

    It’s not really anyone’s fault if you can not comprehend or recognise the arguments being made, or maybe you just don’t want to.

    +++++

    Kristjan Wager

    And I think it the “monitor note” part is a huge part of the problem.

    Do you want to be able to differentiate between a monitor’s personal comments and their comments as a monitor, or don’t you?

  39. 39
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Kristjan

    The reason why I don’t mention specific examples is because it will be about them rather than a general discussion. I think it is a general problem, not only an occasional one.

    So, you generally and in principal disagree with the monitor system.

    And I think it the “monitor note” part is a huge part of the problem. It creates a two-tier level of comments apart from PZ’s. This was something PZ said wouldn’t happen, and it has.

    How do you suggest that this is solved? Monitors being banned from commenting as non-monitors? Going back to the state of things we had prior to the Big Rules Debate?

    rorschach

    You know, a little birdie is telling me that Strange Gods Before Me might come out of hibernation real soon, WWTMD? Ask him to “take it to Thunderdome” when they’re losing the argument?

    Some of us are adults. Others just grew tall. And maybe the problem with my writing lies on your end of communication.

  40. 40
    rorschach

    Some of us are adults.

    Ok, clearly you win.

  41. 41
    Kristjan Wager

    Ny suggestion would be to do with monitor comments and instead ask people, monitors or otherwise, to refer people to the rules if they feel they are not being followed.

    The monitor role as a group of people who can call pz’s attention to something is a good idea, and I think it should continue.

  42. 42
    PZ Myers

    We could have a guideline that says that topic drift is reasonable, maybe even inevitable, after about X00 comments, and monitors (and me!) should just let it slide. That is, after all, how TET/the Lounge got started, as massive thread drift. What number would you all like?

    I like the “monitor note” convention and think it’s a good development. The monitors are chosen because they’re active participants in the conversations here, and they should have the freedom to interact as just one of the gang, but they’re also asked to remind everyone now and then when our few rough-and-tumble rules are being broken, and also to act as advocates for n00bs. Of course it’s going to grate on the regulars a bit — it’s supposed to. The intent is to nudge the massive cliques that form and remind them to make room for new people, too.

    One worry is that the monitors become the new massive clique with a sense of entitlement. I suggested early on that I might rotate the membership a bit to prevent that from happening. So be careful, if you complain about the existence of monitors I might at some time tap you on the shoulder and ask you to be one.

  43. 43
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Kristjan

    Ny suggestion would be to do with monitor comments and instead ask people, monitors or otherwise, to refer people to the rules if they feel they are not being followed.

    I suppose there’s an “away” missing after “to do”, so I’ll answer to that, just tell me if I got you wrong.
    As I said before, the problem is that this usually didn’t get much attention, especially if the one reminded was a noob.

    PZ

    One worry is that the monitors become the new massive clique with a sense of entitlement.

    I’ve been a moderator on a forum for 10 years now. With blinking green stars under my nym and a button that says “ban user”. At our best we had several thousand members, most of them actual teenagers and there was never such a fuss. And yes there were discussions, and there were discussions involving the mods, but we’re all adults enough to take a step back and ask our colleagues whether we we’re over the top, our opponent, both or none and I don’t remeber ever getting a bonus. To the contrary, we were always held to a higher standard.
    I find the level of distrust and veiled cries of prosecution here at the moment deeply uncomfortable.

    topic drift
    Just to get a feeling on this: Those who’re participating in the “Some academics” thread: Is that level of drift and monitoring there OK?
    A quick search told me there’s one monitor note to avoid gendered insults, and one question whether “douche” qualifies as such.
    There is a sort of topic drift into literature written by people who are not white hetero dudes while the original discussion still moves on.

  44. 44
    rorschach

    One worry is that the monitors become the new massive clique with a sense of entitlement.

    Nah, that could never happen to the monitor regulars. Especially when it comes to disagreeing with another regular. That’s just crazy talk. And we have not observed that yet, at all. Nope. Not a trace.

    Ok, let me qualify my somewhat exasperated comment above. I have no issues with Owlmirror or Nick Gotts as monitors, but that’s about it. A lot of people here are personally invested in the discussions that go on here, and have been for years, and to create a top tier of commenters with monitoring rights fucks equality up. And I would say the same if I was asked to be a monitor. Which I would decline. The whole idea sucks.

  45. 45
    jamessweet

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, Pharyngula shows up just fine on my monitor…

    http://instantrimshot.com/

  46. 46
    Seize

    As a long-time lurker who has been delurking more and more in later days, I wanted to weigh in on Caine’s assertion that the hope is that monitoring will welcome new people to the commentariat.

    Monitor presence has definitely made me feel more comfortable commenting here – but not at all because of the warnings that monitors issue to commenters who are being twits. It’s more when monitors acknowledge my comments with their monitor hat off that I feel validated.

    While I’ve personally found this welcoming, it does show that monitor hat or no, monitors do become a special class. That’s just how we perceive people with more expansive privileges than us in a conversation.

    Have we considered that perhaps active monitoring should be an acute-phase response designed to mentor commenters with more diverse backgrounds and then disintegrate when new common taters beyond the usual Idaho Gold have established themselves?

  47. 47
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Have we considered that perhaps active monitoring should be an acute-phase response designed to mentor commenters with more diverse backgrounds and then disintegrate when new common taters beyond the usual Idaho Gold have established themselves?

    There is always an influx of new commenters. There will never be a point where new people stop posting.

    For example, when the monitors say “don’t use sexual organs to insult”, it means more than if I said it. I would get argued with, for the umpteenth time, which is what is trying to be avoided. I have noticed such announcements by monitors aren’t argued with.

  48. 48
    Nick Gotts

    rorschach@37,

    Sorry, I didn’t understand what your “does not compute”s meant!

    Actually, this conversation was the result of my request to have that ammended to the rules so it would be clear that we’re commenting as private persons when not posting with one.

    Substitute “added” for “ammended”. Giliell is saying this conversation results from her request that it should be a rule that whether monitors are commenting as monitors, this should be clear.

    Because usually when members of the commentariat would say much the same thing the other one would just reply “fuck off, too”.

    The Monitor note gives a degree of authority to the request/demand/instruction; without this, the target of the request/demand/instruction is likely just to say: “you can fuck off too.”

  49. 49
    frankb

    I can understand some regulars not liking the Monitor Note stuff. I found it a bit distracting at first. But I agree that encouraging new readers is important and so I am all for the monitors. When it comes to real trolls the sharp teeth of the commentariat took care of them so that some people could feel that Pharyngula was a safe place. But that didn’t work for people who needed just a little education with thin skins and lurkers who don’t like flame wars. What I really liked were efforts to encourage new or occasional commenters with a kind word or there.

  50. 50
    NelC

    Gilliel @43:

    I find the level of distrust and veiled cries of prosecution here at the moment deeply uncomfortable.

    It happens whenever an open-comment venue changes mode to a moderated one. A lot of users get paranoid at the suddenly visible limits of their freedom to comment. Then after a while, they — we — mostly calm down when the limits are mostly found to be too far away to be noticeable.

    As to accusations of privilege, the monitors here will have less actual power than moderators in most other venues. About the only thing they can do is add “Monitor note” to a post and be slightly more likely to attract the attention of PZ the Great and Terrible, Feeder of Satanique (or Ivy), who has all the power here, as he always has had.

    I’m confident that if any monitor has a funny turn and starts posting their opinions under the heading “Monitor note” they will be aptly mocked by the horde, and shortly after have their monitor duties relieved by PZ.

  51. 51
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Half of the first 14 comments (it was at 14 comments when I closed the thread last night) are by monitors. By my rough count, a third of the first 45 comments are by monitors. On a thread that’s supposed to be an open discussion about monitors. This is a problem. It’s a problem that you, PZ, didn’t suggest to the monitors beforehand that they stay out of this discussion, at least for a while. It’s a problem that not only did some of them not think it better to stay quiet for a while and read and absorb what various people had to say, but they thought it appropriate and useful to hover over the thread, responding to and trying to challenge any objections to the system.

    An example of a thread that looks micromanaged. See comments 10, 11, 18 (which wasn’t an “official” monitor note, but followed on one), and especially 33, which contained the admonition to “Avoid othering.” Because people of course know what othering means, and what it means to Caine specifically (clearly nothing about the animal other implied by the post’s title, but I digress…). If the threads had looked like that when I started reading here, I would never have commented.

    I don’t know which threads others are referring to, probably because I’m less likely to read the comments these days. But the problem isn’t any specific thread or the use or non-use or color or size or font of “Monitor note.” It’s that, somehow, a nasty dispute amongst several people, including several monitors, has somehow led to the adoption of a system in which monitors have a good deal of authority to shape the discussion here. I’m disappointed with how this change was decided on and implemented, and with the change itself.

    I’ve seen what I consider abuses of this expanded role already, not to mention an embracing of this newfound status that I find disturbing, if fairly amusing.* But this isn’t about specifics, except insofar as this arrangement creates those sorts of problems. As I said before, and rorschach and others have said here, the shift to this system is a major change. It’s obviously your decision to make, PZ, and judging from your comment above it doesn’t appear that returning to the previous system is a real possibility at this point.

    It’s a very different environment with this system, and that needs to be recognized. I don’t know if I’ll continue to comment here in the future in any case, even if things were to revert. Probably rarely or not at all, so my opinion might be of little value going forward. And I imagine this system will be acceptable or even preferred by others (the monitors seem to like it!). I hope that if it remains in place, things settle down and it doesn’t cause too much damage to the vibrant and far-ranging discussion here.

    It’s probably too late to stop the momentum at this point, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering at all. I do think instituting minor changes is unlikely to or simply won’t address what several people see as fundamental problems. So approaching this as a minor administrative matter isn’t going to help, as far as those people (we) are concerned.

    * As shown in the apparent inability to understand how statements like “Also, I don’t think we should be in a position where we seem to be above the commentariat. We aren’t. A lot of excellent ideas on how to handle threads come from the commentariat at large, and we’d be pretty damn stupid to ignore such a resource. Cicely had a great idea for handling derails, and none of us geniuses thought of it” might read to others.

  52. 52
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Giliell:
    I am sorry my comments have made you uncomfortable.

  53. 53
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    In general, I don’t have any objection to how the monitor system is working. That said, I do agree that it does change the tone around here, and that those who object to the tone bear listening to.

    Here’s my suggestion: a clear-cut, absolutely unambiguous list of “here are things that the monitors will step in over.” Spell out “after n comments on a thread, topic drift is acceptable” and such. For contentious threads where a given monitor has taken a “side,” perhaps a system whereby a monitor can ask another monitor to come in because they fear their impartiality will be questioned? I think that’s as much of what SC is complaining about as anything (SC, please correct me if I’m wrong).

  54. 54
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    You can’t have it both ways: either the ability to post with the status of monitor, using a bolded “Monitor note,” with PZ’s presumed authority behind the monitor’s instructions means having authority, whether or not the monitors can see peoples IPs or delete or move their comments, or it means having no added authority. Obviously, it’s the former. Additionally, it lends an air of authority to the monitor’s other comments about people’s posts and behavior, given that no one knows when the monitor cap is going to come on or off. This is unavoidable in such a system.

    The consensus among the monitors and PZ and some other people seems to be that this system – in which certain people besides PZ are granted this status and authority – is a good one. Others disagree. But it doesn’t help to pretend in one moment that the status and authority don’t exist because no technical moderation powers exist and then turn around and admit that the “Monitor note” and the special status and authority it conveys are necessary because otherwise people wouldn’t feel any need to comply with the monitor’s requests or orders.

  55. 55
    A. R

    I think the important thing to remember is that monitors can only advise and warn. They have no power other than that. Frankly, I think most regular commentors should have the ability to send PZ a heads up email, and we can drop the monitor issue. Failing that, I would want a regular rotation of monitors (two to three month terms, perhaps?).

  56. 56
    consciousness razor

    Here’s my suggestion: a clear-cut, absolutely unambiguous list of “here are things that the monitors will step in over.” Spell out “after n comments on a thread, topic drift is acceptable” and such.

    Unless this list is going to be incomprehensibly long, that won’t work. You need to recognize more gray areas when it concerns things like “topic drift,” not more black-and-white rules about n comments and X topics, which “deserve” monitor intervention. Because no matter how many there are and how unambiguous it is, the system’s going to be the same fucking thing that it is now, if they’re going to be treated that way. Topics are rarely ever clear-cut and unambiguous. So don’t treat them that way in the first place. They’re not simple and neither are people. So don’t expect a bunch of simple rules to do the job.

    For contentious threads where a given monitor has taken a “side,” perhaps a system whereby a monitor can ask another monitor to come in because they fear their impartiality will be questioned? I think that’s as much of what SC is complaining about as anything (SC, please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Again, step back for a second. What’s a “contentious thread”? Who is contending what? Why limit it to that, when these sorts of issues can pop up anywhere? This idea of labeling of a thread as “lightly-moderated” or “heavily-moderated,” has the same sort of problem. That might work in a few really obvious cases, but that takes the focus away from everything else. And why assume in advance that you (PZ, or you the monitors) know what everyone else is going to think, how they’re going to think, what other (possibly “off-topic”) ideas they can and should bring to any given thread? It’s like running a game on rails: you don’t get to play with the scenery or go off the map to explore. You have to follow the script for the game, then select the dialogue options given to you, even while they want you to feel as if you’re in control. The real world and real issues aren’t like that.

  57. 57
    Dhorvath, OM

    I don’t see how we can escape tiers of commenters regardless, but this system clearly marks monitors commenting as being different from non-monitors commenting to anyone who is aware that a commenter is a monitor. I am sure that we can largely tell the difference between a monitor commenting and a monitor moderating, but the weight is different. I don’t read particularly well, nor at great speed, and already find myself giving preferential time to reading comments by those I know to be monitors.

    It would be unfair of me not to note that I have always done this, giving more reading time to commenters who I know and have history with than to those I don’t recognize, I too am human. My problem is that my attention has been directed in ways I would prefer it hadn’t, which may well settle with time, but right now makes me uneasy.

  58. 58
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    whether or not the monitors can see peoples IPs or delete or move their comments,

    And I’ll add that it’s reasonable to assume that many of the people new to the blog (and even many who aren’t so new but don’t follow it closely) will think that monitors are full moderators with those technical powers, which of course contributes to their apparent authority and thus to their authority in practice.

  59. 59
    PZ Myers

    This is not a black & white world. It’s not either all of this or none of that, either having Authority with a capital A or none at all.

    Monitors of some sort or another are here to stay, because the volume of comments has grown beyond my capacity to police, both because of the expanding traffic and because this day job I’ve got (the one that pays the bills, and that I trained for) has been handing me ever-expanding responsibilities, and because I’ve got this book I’ve been trying to find time for on the side.

    So I’ve created some extra eyes who have only the power to recommend, which I would hope would be enough. I trust almost all of the regulars here, but none of us are perfect, so having a few people handed the responsibility to occasionally whisper “errm, that’s going a little too far” is all we need. They’re not here to whack you with a stick when you do bad things, they’re just here with an extra obligation to pay more attention to the rules and to newbies and to issue a few reminders now and then.

    It might be a little uncomfortable for the regulars, but if you’re being brought up short by someone mentioning to you that you should avoid gendered slurs, or to give that strange person a chance to make their case, then maybe it’s about time you felt an occasional twinge of discomfort.

    Making the climate gentler for new people is going to take a little work and a few changes. Try to adapt.

  60. 60
    teejaykay

    I have no objections to the monitor system; I’m used to a certain system on an IRC channel where the hammer hits the anvil pretty hard if you’re being obnoxious, but is otherwise pretty lax. I have to admit though, being a very nervous person and one who only comments randomly (I only have so much time at my hands, and so little privacy at home), I got a little scared by the monitor notes. Yes, they have authority. But them rules are the rules. I admit, I’ve mostly been a reader here and am nervous about posting anyway, and then when I saw all those monitor notes showing up all of the sudden, I felt a teeny bit confused and repeatedly rewrote a post that I never even posted. Nevertheless, etiquette is etiquette. The tone has changed. Yes, it has, but I’ll just have to learn to post in a different fashion. It ain’t my blog nor my rules.

    Besides, I seem to only learn from mistakes.

  61. 61
    Dhorvath, OM

    I would also note, I mostly read T-Dome these days, I too have a job that takes much of my attention and time. The dynamic I am most familiar with of late is between regulars, not new commenters. I can appreciate that the needs are different elsewhere.

  62. 62
    PZ Myers

    A.R., #55: My email is right there on the sidebar, and of course anyone can send me an email. The only difference is that monitors have a channel where I expect they’ll tell me about site management issues, and when I’ve set aside time for site management, I can go there and get a quick run down of things I need to attend to.

    S.C., #58: That the monitors have no powers at all other than to advise is spelled out in the commenting rules. If someone freaks out if a monitor makes a suggestion to them, the first response should be to send them off to take a look at those rules. I don’t know what the alternative is, short of interleaving every comment with a restatement of that simple fact.

    Also, I have ALL OF THE POWER, and I’ve noticed that that doesn’t seem to do much to impress the frequent trolls who flout those rules — I’ve pretty much grown to accept that if I give a loud clear bright red warning to someone, they’ll usually ignore me anyway. So I don’t think many people are going to be scared off by a monitor making a suggestion.

  63. 63
    consciousness razor

    or to give that strange person a chance to make their case, then maybe it’s about time you felt an occasional twinge of discomfort.

    Monitors giving out warnings that something’s “off-topic” is the opposite of giving a strange person a chance to make their case.

  64. 64
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    But it doesn’t help to pretend in one moment that the status and authority don’t exist because no technical moderation powers exist and then turn around and admit that the “Monitor note” and the special status and authority it conveys are necessary because otherwise people wouldn’t feel any need to comply with the monitor’s requests or orders.

    The “Monitor note” is designed to help enforce the commenting rules, especially with new posters. It does have a certain authority. The problem some people have is that they presume it gives special status to the ‘nym who issues it. It doesn’t. I can easily differentiate between the two. I don’t see any problems with the present system.

    Since some folks do find it a problem way around this might be for PZ to set up a ‘nym of “Monitor”, so that the persons doing the monitoring aren’t posting under their own ‘nym when giving help and warnings. There might even be a series of canned posts they could use under the “Monitor” ‘nym.

  65. 65
    PZ Myers

    #61, Dhorvath:

    The thunderdome is mostly unmoderated by intent. It’s fair to ask that monitors also back off a bit in there. We could also declare the thunderdome to be a “monitor note” free zone.

  66. 66
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    For all that in fact the monitors have no power or authority (beyond the fact that PZ reads their emails promptly), it can easily appear the opposite, especially to a newbie who doesn’t fully get how things work here. So while I agree that the facts are important, I don’t think that the appearance of power/authority can be ignored.

    Again, I have no problem with the monitor system or the monitors themselves, and I think they do a good job. But I don’t think that the complaints of “it looks like authority/power” can simply be dismissed out of hand. That’s why I suggested clear-cut rules and the like. And WRT my suggestion of a monitor asking for help: that can be accomplished with discretion. If a monitor feels that a particular thread is spiraling, and that they’re in danger of being accused of impartiality, then they can ask for someone to step in. By the same token, someone can say, “Hey, looks like [nym] could use a hand,” and step in (if they’re a monitor) or ask a monitor to step in (if they’re not). I don’t think that a pre-emptive “monitor X will step aside for this thread” is workable, which is why I didn’t suggest that.

  67. 67
    The Mellow Monkey

    I think that rotating the moderators over time is an excellent idea and I hope that does get implemented to some degree. Monitors are not special, just commenters that PZ has decided to trust in a very minor way. Rotating the monitor roster would break that up so that none of us get some lasting identity from it. Monitors are here to help–to be extra eyes for PZ, to hopefully offer some guidance and assistance to newbies–but aren’t police here to brandish authority. If I get rotated out a week from now, I’m quite okay with that.

    PZ @ 42

    We could have a guideline that says that topic drift is reasonable, maybe even inevitable, after about X00 comments, and monitors (and me!) should just let it slide. That is, after all, how TET/the Lounge got started, as massive thread drift. What number would you all like?

    I’d personally lean towards the 200-300 range. In most discussions, things start getting repetitive around then and so some drift isn’t as likely to interrupt a novel and interesting new take on the matter. Too soon before then and it might hijack the original topic before many people have a chance to respond.

  68. 68
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This is not a black & white world. It’s not either all of this or none of that, either having Authority with a capital A or none at all.

    That’s unhelpful. I’ve specified the nature of the authority and what I find problematic about it.

    Monitors of some sort or another are here to stay, because the volume of comments has grown beyond my capacity to police, both because of the expanding traffic and because this day job I’ve got (the one that pays the bills, and that I trained for) has been handing me ever-expanding responsibilities, and because I’ve got this book I’ve been trying to find time for on the side.

    Monitors who alert you about problematic behavior or recommend to you that you take a look at a thread are not the problem. (Well, occasionally they are, but that’s another discussion.) Again, if you choose to designate people to take on some moderation powers, that’s your prerogative. But we should all be clear that that is what’s happening, despite indications from you in the past that nothing fundamental would change and that this wouldn’t move in the direction of a moderated blog.

    You’ll do what you feel you have to do, and I’m not angry about that. I am disappointed, though, that this major change was implemented as it was, and annoyed by the continuing refusal to recognize that a fundamental change has been made.

    So I’ve created some extra eyes who have only the power to recommend, which I would hope would be enough.

    All of the commenters have always had that power as commenters. You’ve given a specific group of people special status and authority to control the discussion.

    I trust almost all of the regulars here, but none of us are perfect, so having a few people handed the responsibility to occasionally whisper “errm, that’s going a little too far” is all we need. They’re not here to whack you with a stick when you do bad things, they’re just here with an extra obligation to pay more attention to the rules and to newbies and to issue a few reminders now and then.

    We’ve always had and used that responsibility. Again, you’ve given some people’s “whispers” added authority. (And I’m continuing to leave my views of how monitors have used that responsibility largely to the side, but it’s not a nonissue.) Look, the reality of the changes – cosmetic issues aside – is plain. On the basis of that reality, people can choose whether or not to participate. In my case, it’s unlikely (or at least unlikely to be frequent). What would be nice is if you and others would stop blowing smoke and acknowledge that there’s now a monitor system in place that’s quite different from the previous system of alerts and effectively has some features of moderation. This is fundamentally different from a system, which existed for years, in which self-policing with the occasional input or banning from you was the rule.

    It might be a little uncomfortable for the regulars, but if you’re being brought up short by someone mentioning to you that you should avoid gendered slurs, or to give that strange person a chance to make their case, then maybe it’s about time you felt an occasional twinge of discomfort.

    Wow. Time for a break.

  69. 69
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    S.C., #58: That the monitors have no powers at all other than to advise is spelled out in the commenting rules.

    “Powers” is different from authority. As Nick Gotts clearly described above, the point of having their recommendations, requests, admonitions and orders preceded by “Monitor note” is precisely, and quite obviously, that this lends them authority. Otherwise, people could just tell them to fuck off; with this authority, they’re much less likely to, and more likely to avoid interactions in which the monitors might respond. This authority, moreover, bleeds into the monitors’ other interactions because they can adopt it at any moment. (Moreover, and specific to some members of this group of monitors, people familiar with the history here are aware that in case of a dispute you’re likely to adopt the perspective of a certain group of people, many of whom are monitors.)

    If someone freaks out if a monitor makes a suggestion to them, the first response should be to send them off to take a look at those rules. I don’t know what the alternative is, short of interleaving every comment with a restatement of that simple fact.

    It isn’t a fact at all. The monitors have special status and authority. That’s the reality, and the whole point of designating their “monitor comments” with a special label. Most new people are just going to assume they have some moderating powers, which means effectively that they do, or aren’t going to bother to discover the extent of their powers. This would all often come before the person comments, so pointing people to the rules page would never come into play. But if you point people to the rules page and they discover that the monitors, despite appearances, have no real powers, they’ll just be confused – “Why am I getting these authoritative bolded warnings from this person, and why can’t I just tell them to fuck off?” The whole system operates on the assumption of authority – that’s the whole point of the monitor designation and the labeling of monitors’ comments.

    The alternative would be not to have this system.

    Also, I have ALL OF THE POWER, and I’ve noticed that that doesn’t seem to do much to impress the frequent trolls who flout those rules — I’ve pretty much grown to accept that if I give a loud clear bright red warning to someone, they’ll usually ignore me anyway. So I don’t think many people are going to be scared off by a monitor making a suggestion.

    People who aren’t trolling? I think you’re probably wrong, particularly if they see these warnings being made frequently. But if you’re defending a policy, the argument that it won’t be effective anyway probably isn’t your best choice.

  70. 70
    Inaji

    MM:

    I’d personally lean towards the 200-300 range.

    Seconded, leaning closer to 300. I think that’s a good general guideline.

  71. 71
    lostintime

    Thanks for creating this thread, here’s my two cents. I feel that the monitoring has become heavy handed at times. When it comes to derailment, it would be better for monitors to steer the course of the conversation, rather than chastising those who cross some loosely defined boundary. To use an example, in the “like cattle” thread which SC mentions, comment #11 says “shame he isn’t eligble for the death penalty. He damn well deserves it.” Now I don’t think this is a particularly brilliant comment, but it’s immediately policed with the following message:
    “This is not a helpful comment in any way. There will be no derails about capital punishment, either. If you are unable to control yourself on this issue, take it to Thunderdome.”
    Notice the “if you are unable to control yourself” and how stern that is. My feeling is that the comment is more of a reflection on the severity of the crime, rather than a serious call for the death penalty. In any case, if it would be better to overlook this and allow some drift in threads. My suggestion is that derailment notes should be held back until it’s apparent that the thread has drifted into an inappropriate tangent. Simply chastising straight away doesn’t make for an organic discussion.

    I’d also like to see less official monitoring of conversations about intersectionality. A minority person, a black woman for example, is subordinated in more ways than one, and their experience of oppression is greater than the sum of their race and gender. It would be wrong to shut down a conversation about racism because the OP is ostensibly about mysogyny – because the two are closely related. The same is true about other kinds of intersectionality, and that kind of broader conversation, I think, should be kept in the thread rather than being relegated to another thread.

    Those are my two suggestions: more leeway before judging something to be a derailment, and more tolerance of discussion of how different kinds of oppression are related to the OP.

  72. 72
    PZ Myers

    Here’s the reality of the situation: monitors of some sort are here to stay. They’re necessary, as I explained above: I simply do not have the capacity to manage everything anymore. I have brought in help in the least destructive, minimally trampley way I can. So there’s no point in complaining about their existence, it is and will be a fait accompli.

    What would be productive are positive suggestions about how they can do their job in a way that has the smallest footprint possible…while keeping in mind that one of my goals is also to change the standard behavior in a way that reduces hostility to ‘outsiders’. Chris Clarke’s departure should have been a wake-up call to everyone that maybe there’s a bit too much unwarranted aggression going on here. I’m always fine with warranted aggressiveness, but honestly, some people are too trigger happy (and I often count myself among that group).

  73. 73
    Inaji

    PZ:

    I’m always fine with warranted aggressiveness, but honestly, some people are too trigger happy (and I often count myself among that group).

    I’m in that group, and it’s a challenge to change my own behaviour. I am trying, very hard, and still fucking up a lot. It is getting a bit easier now.

    I think it’s important to keep Chris Clarke in mind, as well as many others who spoke up in the two comments threads. It’s clear the atmosphere of hostility is seen as toxic by a lot of people, and I think there’s a tendency to not see that when you’re in the thick of it.

  74. 74
    Inaji

    Also, to emphasize something Chris Clarke pointed out, as to the aggressiveness here, it’s the effect it has on the commenters. There’s often been more automatic shooting from the hip than thoughtful, considered discussion, and it’s very easy to fall into the habit of automatic shooting, becoming nastier and nastier with each shot. People get out of the habit of thoughtful, considered discussion, especially as it’s much easier to resort to “fuck off / fuck you!” and so forth.

  75. 75
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Those are my two suggestions: more leeway before judging something to be a derailment, and more tolerance of discussion of how different kinds of oppression are related to the OP.

    Attempts to invent ties that seem irrational to a lot of people mean you personally are trying to steer the thread. Which is why you must keep in mind, not everybody will agree with your attempt to change the direction of the thread to your pet peeve. That should be taken elsewhere, if it isn’t directly tied to the OP.

  76. 76
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    One other thing people should probably keep in mind is this comment by Chris Clarke and its reference to Chas’s remark about “foxes guarding the henhouse.” (I don’t think it can honestly be said that I jump at the chance to agree with Chas.) I don’t want to imply that Clarke supports my views, or that I’m exempt from his criticisms (or he from mine). But it’s worth remembering that this has been put in place in the wake of his departure for those reasons and of a big dispute amongst a group of regulars which had much overlap with the set of monitors. To then confer more authority to control the discussion to several of the people involved in both of those issues seems…strange. Nor do I recall a general clamor on those rules-discussion threads for the monitors to be given more authority, although I’m sure some people were calling for that (including, probably, some of the monitors).

    ***

    cr:

    Monitors giving out warnings that something’s “off-topic” is the opposite of giving a strange person a chance to make their case.

    lostintime:

    To use an example, in the “like cattle” thread which SC mentions, comment #11 says “shame he isn’t eligble for the death penalty. He damn well deserves it.” Now I don’t think this is a particularly brilliant comment, but it’s immediately policed with the following message:
    “This is not a helpful comment in any way. There will be no derails about capital punishment, either. If you are unable to control yourself on this issue, take it to Thunderdome.”
    Notice the “if you are unable to control yourself” and how stern that is. My feeling is that the comment is more of a reflection on the severity of the crime, rather than a serious call for the death penalty. In any case, if it would be better to overlook this and allow some drift in threads.

    This is how I felt about the “warning” about speculations about kink as well. There have been some great and informative discussions here about kink in the past, and I’m sure some if not most of them started when someone made a stupid speculation about it. People have talked about kink and consent and the popular interest in it with the distortions and misunderstandings that entails, and others have learned from it. It might be that someone drops an ignorant or misinformed comment and no one is around with the competence or time or inclination to argue with or educate them. In that case, the comment would just be ignored and left there. I see this as less of a problem than a situation in which the conversation is stopped (on that thread) or people don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts because they might run afoul of a monitor. I’m not demanding that people take the time to educate every ignorant or ill-meaning person who appears; in fact, I think stepping back from that role sometimes might benefit everyone.

    As I’ve said, I don’t think trying to put in place guidelines or rules for the monitors who have this authority is the answer. I think the system should be scrapped. But I agree with cr’s and lostintime’s arguments about the problem with these warnings specifically.

  77. 77
    Andy Groves

    PZ:

    I’m always fine with warranted aggressiveness

    Oh, well that clears everything up then.

  78. 78
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Funny crossposts. What provided the impetus for the discussion of new rules were problems with many of the regulars, a set overlapping substantially with the set of monitors. In response to those problems, rather than just collectively defining a better set of rules which everyone is encouraged to abide by and jointly (and kindly and fairly) enforce, you’ve emboldened – literally and figuratively – this group of regulars by giving them greater authority to police conversations and other people’s behavior. That’s the problem, and it won’t be solved by adding some suggestions for the monitors.

    Here’s the reality of the situation: monitors of some sort are here to stay.

    I’ve said several times that I’m talking about the specific sort of monitor that now exists.

    They’re necessary, as I explained above: I simply do not have the capacity to manage everything anymore. I have brought in help in the least destructive, minimally trampley way I can. So there’s no point in complaining about their existence, it is and will be a fait accompli.

    As I said, that is of course your prerogative. I’ve stated my thoughts on the matter probably as well as I can, so I’ll leave the discussion.

  79. 79
    Inaji

    Andy Groves @ 77:

    Oh, well that clears everything up then.

    Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback.

  80. 80
    Inaji

    A good example of serious topic drift, into off topic is here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/09/27/good-advice-for-those-threatened-with-a-defamation-suit/

    We went from lawyers to mayonnaise. That’s fairly extreme. No one minds, because the thread is not an active one, there is no ferocious discussion over lawyers or lawsuits. I think a lot depends on how much is going on in a thread, as to whether or not it is pertinent to request a move for a drift/derail/OT.

  81. 81
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    PZ:

    …one of my goals is also to change the standard behavior in a way that reduces hostility to ‘outsiders’. Chris Clarke’s departure should have been a wake-up call to everyone that maybe there’s a bit too much unwarranted aggression going on here. I’m always fine with warranted aggressiveness, but honestly, some people are too trigger happy (and I often count myself among that group).

    The very first comment on the thread by Andy Groves, making a point which should be obvious to anyone:

    PZ:

    I’m always fine with warranted aggressiveness

    Oh, well that clears everything up then.

    Caine, two comments later, in response to Andy Groves:

    Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback.

    Working like a charm, PZ.

  82. 82
    cicely

    chigau and Caine, it’s not that I hate the [Thunderdome]—it’s that sometimes, depending on the Prevailing Conditions either there, or in my head, I can’t go there, and may, therefore, miss perfectly good and interesting digressionary conversations. The ones that, as Giliell describes it, are “legitimate topic in its own right but not here” derails.
     
    Possibly this makes me a Too, Too Special Snowflake, but it’s just the way it is…for me. I speak for no one else. Everyone’s Mileage Will Vary.
    -
    I think that Topic Drift Control should be lightened up after about the slop-over to Page 2. Easy to notice, easy to remember, and most of the very best to-the-points will surely have been made by then. Time to bring in the second string.
    -

  83. 83
    Inaji

    Cicely:

    Possibly this makes me a Too, Too Special Snowflake, but it’s just the way it is…for me. I speak for no one else. Everyone’s Mileage Will Vary.

    No, I don’t think it makes anyone a special snowflake at all. I was unaware of the prevailing feelings about Thunderdome, and it’s obviously something we need to be more sensitive to and about.

    I think that Topic Drift Control should be lightened up after about the slop-over to Page 2. Easy to notice, easy to remember, and most of the very best to-the-points will surely have been made by then. Time to bring in the second string.

    Agreed. By the time page 2 rolls over, there’s usually not much new to discuss.

  84. 84
    consciousness razor

    No one minds, because the thread is not an active one, there is no ferocious discussion over lawyers or lawsuits.

    Who’s “no one”? You don’t mind. Maybe PZ and some other monitors don’t mind. If a regular commenter minds and a monitor present at the time disagrees, chaos ensues. Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, etc.

    It’s certainly still active, no? It’s the most recent thread here. Do I need to go comment in it right now to make a silly point?

    Anyway, I have a hard time believing it’ll make a difference if it’s “inactive,” if there were a “contentious” derail that gets a monitor’s attention. Inactivity would go out the window as one of the criteria, assuming there were even a consistent concept of what that means. When the most recent thread doesn’t count, I’m not sure there is.

    Working like a charm, PZ.

    Well, monitors give themselves a warrant to be aggressive and decide what is and isn’t aggressive. So, yes, it’s warranted and working as intended.

    I think that Topic Drift Control should be lightened up after about the slop-over to Page 2. Easy to notice, easy to remember, and most of the very best to-the-points will surely have been made by then. Time to bring in the second string.

    If the topic ought to be drifted well before that, or if someone comes along before it reaches 500 comments (seriously, that’s reasonable?) … too bad, I guess.

    How is this supposed to be useful? I’d like to see some more latitude, not additional reasons for giving people less latitude.

  85. 85
    cicely

    consciousness razor, I see no reason why someone wanting to see a thread to accommodate topic drift in a particular way, can’t just suggest it. Doesn’t mean it will happen, I’ll grant you, which non-happening just posting the comment anyways avoids, but we were asked for opinions. I gave mine. You disagree with it. Fine. I’m not sure I deserved a “how is this supposed to be useful”, in that context. Or do I misread a certain “snap” in your tone? If so, I apologize for misconstruing. Crossings in mist.
    -

  86. 86
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    My two cents, and hopefully productive feedback:

    1) It’s not helpfull to dismiss (as you did yourself at #62, PZ) some commenters’ uneasiness with moderator notes as “freaking out”, or automatically assume that those commenters just don’t like being on the receiving end of one! In my case, it’s more that I tend to wince at cases like the “Like cattle” thread mentioned above, when monitors come down on comments so fast, so hard and so often that it feels like they are venting off their own emotions rather than providing guidance to the commentariat. Which I can understand, btw, it’s only human! But it has to be acknowledged, and kudos to Caine, for one, to reflect on this kind of things herself.

    2) I agree with most of what Esteleth and SC wrote, although I think the system of moderators has the potential to be useful for everybody, regulars and newbies alike, and even people like myself who tend mostly to lurk and comment sporadically. (Sometimes because time is short and RL calls, and sometimes, sadly, because I don’t have the mental resources to deal with the trolls *plus* regulars and/or moderators having a bad day.)

    3) So my suggestion would be to just embrace the fact that, yes, whether we want it or not, moderators *do* have more cachet in the eyes of other commenters (if only because they are obviously trusted by both PZ and the community in general), and add rules that help them better fulfill their role, while helping the rest of the commentariat to see more clearly where things stand.

    4) As for the specifics: first, it would be useful to clarify the “Commenting rules” posted to the sidebar, to make clear from the beginning that we have monitors and what is their role and the limits to their powers. As these rules stand, the relevant info comes last, and new readers may well read the page under the confusion that there are moderators in the classic sense, with access to a commenter’s IP address, or the power to ban someone.

    Another thing that could help: that the monitors try as far as possible to act *consistently*, and reflect on the possibility that sometimes they come harder on non-regulars than on regulars who commit the same offenses, or are quicker to give warnings to people with whom they disagree. (I’m thinking of this thread, comments #43 and further, for a case where a person tangled with a regular and was the only one told off for derailing and using logical fallacies.) Also, in the spirit of being more clear, that when monitors give advice like “Take it to Thunderdome”, they do it with their monitor cap on. When they don’t, it just look like someone is scolding you out of the blue. Especially if you are a newbie! But obviously, if we want to educate newbies (or at least filter out the untractable trolls from people who are willing to be educated), we want to make things clear, not have them figure out who is giving serious advice and who is just being snarky.

    BTW, as someone else upthread noted, the Thunderdome is also used as a sandbox-cum-punishment for obnoxious trolls, in addition to being unmoderated and potentially too hot for many people here. Which is why I support the idea of an additional thread specifically for off-topic discussions. “The Patio” sounds nice, too!

    About staying on topic and straying: I agree that it’s probably nearly impossible to make clear cut rules, but the current discussion is giving us useful info about when and how to allow OT comments and when not, so that’s a good start. ;-)

  87. 87
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Sorry about falling asleep last night just as the discussion was getting interesting!

    Amazingly, I’m finding myself agreeing with people who I never thought I’d find common ground with, and getting exasperated with people I have always admired, who don’t seem to understand that the fact that they have no additional power doesn’t stop other people from gaining the impression that they have extra authority; especially when the bolded words “Monitor note” have been used by them to invoke exactly that perception of authority (otherwise, as others have already noted, the bolded words are pointless).

    I don’t wish to point out particular instances of micro-managing or other problems, because this isn’t about any one or more particular monitor(s); it’s about the way that the system is currently working.

    I’d like to second Nerd’s suggestion that there be a ‘nym of “Monitor” under which all ‘notes’ are to be posted. It wouldn’t hide the identities of the monitors, as they are listed on the rules’ page. It would, however, allow all the monitors to take part in a thread as commenters, whilst still consulting one another and acting as monitors, without fearing that anyone they engage will be worrying that they will get a personal scolding if they engage with that monitor, just for disagreeing with them.

    Once there is no way of knowing which monitor has made a particular suggestion, the perception of authority no longer attaches to any of them individually but to the post of ‘monitor’. Especially if, as also suggested, monitors are rotated fairly frequently. I believe that there has been some rotation already?

    I think that the ‘us and them’ feelings that the recent changes to monitor roles have evoked would also be ameliorated if all discussions about such role changes were held publically, as in this thread, so that there won’t be future clangers like the one SC highlighted.

    By the way, I’m another person who rarely has the spoons to cope with Thunderdome; in its gentler incarnations, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and have even commented occasionally. However, it can often be just too stressful for me to cope, and sending all derailers there, whatever the reason*, doesn’t help. I don’t want Thunderdome changed in any way, because it is obviously fit for its purpose, but I would like to see constructive derails given their own space if they aren’t going to be allowed to continue in the original thread.

    *I know of two main reasons that commenters are asked to “take it to Thunderdome”. The first is that a discussion has started to derail and another commenter wants to continue the new discussion but allow the original room to get back on track. The second is that a commenter is asked by PZ to confine themselves to Thunderdome as a last chance before banning. The first can lead to the kind of constructive dialogue that I enjoy, so I may follow. The second I’ll no more follow than a herd of elephants with the squits. Just heave a sigh of relief that the thread is about to get back on track. Unfortunately, because of the nature of discussion threads here, one is often happening at the same time as two, so I’d prefer the Pavement Café Thread for interesting derails, to avoid them getting mixed up in the dirty stuff.

  88. 88
    Doug Hudson

    I like the monitor notes, I think they are very helpful both as reminders and in keeping discussions on track.

    Yay for monitors.

    Also, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of the people complaining about monitors in this thread have personal grudges against one or more of the monitors.

    Which, given that PZ chose the monitors, does not bode well for those people. Heh.

  89. 89
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Me:

    … I’d prefer the Pavement Café Thread for interesting derails…

    Or, indeed, the Patio! =^_^=

  90. 90
    PatrickG

    Thirding (or maybe fourthing) Nerd’s suggestion about a Monitor ‘nym. It’s an easily implemented change that alleviates at least some of the formal gravitas now attached to the monitors themselves.

    Another suggestion would be to have monitor notes end with something along the lines of:

    Click the Monitor ‘nym to see the Commenting Rules.

    With, of course, the ‘nym linked to the rules. Sidebar links are really quite invisible, as a rule of thumb. People unfamiliar with the site might actually go read the information if it’s linked directly in the thread.

  91. 91
    Inaji

    CR:

    If a regular commenter minds and a monitor present at the time disagrees, chaos ensues.

    Not at all. If someone is bothered by it, all they have to do is holler about it, or use the contact a monitor link, and it will be dealt with. Some of you are absolutely determined to argue against the changes, no matter how people are trying to work with everyone, and it’s a bit tiresome. Things are changing, and constructive comments and suggestions are much more helpful.

    Well, monitors give themselves a warrant to be aggressive and decide what is and isn’t aggressive.

    No, this is not it at all. I’m doing my best to be less aggressive, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve fucked up, a lot. I have to deal with changing my personal approach, just as everyone has to deal with the current changes. I know some people much prefer things the way they were, but as that’s not going to happen, a little flexibility would go a long way.

  92. 92
    PZ Myers

    who don’t seem to understand that the fact that they have no additional power doesn’t stop other people from gaining the impression that they have extra authority

    No, that’s entirely understood. It’s inevitable. I set aside a small group of people to be nannies to the threads, of course they’re going to be seen as having extra authority.

    But it’s done. Now what can be done to help everyone adjust to it?

    I’d like to second Nerd’s suggestion that there be a ‘nym of “Monitor” under which all ‘notes’ are to be posted…Once there is no way of knowing which monitor has made a particular suggestion

    Nope. Not going to happen. Not only does it add an extra hurdle for the monitors to jump over, but it increases my workload (what happens when I change around monitors? I’m going to have to change access to that account to lock them out), and also, not only won’t you know who made a particular suggestion, neither will I. And they are accountable to me.

    And you know, that comment: “Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback”? It’s exactly what I want. Andy wasn’t yelled at, he was given positive suggestions about how to improve his comment. What, exactly, do people object to in that? It was also written simply as a fellow commenter, did you see some unfair invocation of authority?

    I’m seeing a few examples of unjustified resentment here. Try to look at yourself, too, and ask why you are so irritated by this change.

  93. 93
    NelC

    The problem of perception of authority is entirely in the mind of the perceiver. If we continue to treat monitors not wearing their monitor hats as we do other hordelings, then newbies will not be cowed by unclaimed authority for very long. Respect the role, not the person. Or rather, respect the person as much as you would any other hordeling, long-established or Johnny-come-lately.

    Yes, things have changed, but things have changed before around here, and have been changing regardless. The question is, are they changes we can live with? The only way to know is to watch them play out. I think that PZ is responsive to criticism, and if a monitor oversteps their bounds, then he will either adjust the rules or sack the monitor, without fear or favour, because that’s how PZ, Destroyer of Worlds, rolls.

  94. 94
    Inaji

    Irene Delse:

    Another thing that could help: that the monitors try as far as possible to act *consistently*, and reflect on the possibility that sometimes they come harder on non-regulars than on regulars who commit the same offenses, or are quicker to give warnings to people with whom they disagree. (I’m thinking of this thread, comments #43 and further, for a case where a person tangled with a regular and was the only one told off for derailing and using logical fallacies.)

    Thank you for that, Irene. Yep, that’s a case where I fucked up, and I will be much more careful in the future.

  95. 95
    Doug Hudson

    Also, threads like this are helpful in an “airing of grievances” sort of way.

    And then the feats of strength!

  96. 96
    Inaji

    Patrick:

    Thirding (or maybe fourthing) Nerd’s suggestion about a Monitor ‘nym. It’s an easily implemented change that alleviates at least some of the formal gravitas now attached to the monitors themselves.

    No! No, no, no, please, no. It’s bad enough that some people already perceive us as being apart from the commentariat – we are not. We’re part of the commentariat, and spend most of our time commenting as ourselves. If you attach ‘monitor’ to me at all times, how can I comment as myself?

  97. 97
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Doug Hudson

    Also, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of the people complaining about monitors in this thread have personal grudges against one or more of the monitors.

    Which, given that PZ chose the monitors, does not bode well for those people. Heh.

    Really? How is that obvious?

    No-one, that I can see, has put in a complaint about any of the monitors – only the way the monitor system is currently working.

    No-one was complaining about the monitor system when monitors’ sole difference to non-monitors’ was that when they alerted PZ to rule infractions they’d be rather more likely than non-monitors to have their emails seen (and so responded to) quickly.

    People here have legitimate concerns about the way the changes were implemented and how they are working. To try to summarise this thread as personality clashes is ridiculous and derailing.

  98. 98
    Dutchgirl

    So far this thread seems to be inhabited mostly by monitors and regulars. on various sides of the issue. I agree that a level of authority is automatically imparted by the title monitor, and monitors should be sensitive of that, it is unavoidable. But for everyone arguing that the new system is bad, my question is: is it working to achieve the intended goals? I feel like it is. I see more new commenters and less overall hostility. The fact that I am commenting more is a point for it working. So, if it is working, what is the objection against this kind of system that promotes inclusiveness? And if you see it not working in terms of reaching this goal, can you provide examples? I don’t read many threads here, so I could be missing clear examples of it not working. I note the above mentioned warning issues against someone mentioning capitol punishment, but one example does not make a trend.

  99. 99
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    especially when the bolded words “Monitor note” have been used by them to invoke exactly that perception of authority

    In my case, that’s not to invoke any authority, it’s to catch they eye and grab people’s attention, so they read the note. In any case, I’ve done a couple monitor notes today, and I have not used bold type.

  100. 100
    NelC

    Me @93: Sorry, that should have been, “PZ, Destroyer of Worlds and Changer of Satanique’s (aka Ivy’s) Litter Tray”.

  101. 101
    Inaji

    catch they eye

    Mmmph. Should be the, not they.

  102. 102
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Caine, I don’t think that anyone wants the ‘monitor’ ‘nym to attach to the monitor’s nym! Quite the opposite! By having to make ‘monitor note’ under their own ‘nyms, the ‘monitor’ status IS attaching itself to people. So, creating a whole account just called ‘monitor’, under which all the monitors could comment, would make individual monitor comments anonymous. Which PZ has said he absolutely forbids, so that’s an end to that! =^_^=

  103. 103
    screechymonkey

    My main observations from reading this thread:

    1) The main stated purpose of making changes to the commenting around here is to diminish “unwarranted aggression” and otherwise moderate the tone of discussion. Keeping a handle on thread drift and derailing, etc. appears to be a secondary goal.

    2) The main complaints about monitors seem to involve the secondary aspects. And with good reason. One’s view on which arguments are on-topic and which are “derailing” is bound to be biased by one’s own views, and the monitors are only human. So it’s going to be common to feel that monitors are drawing the line in the wrong place and policing discussion in ways that fit their own views. Conversely, as much as the Horde hates tone policing, being asked to hold your fire per the three-post rule, etc., is not as much of a substantive restriction as being told that there are certain points or arguments that you just shouldn’t make.

    So my suggestion would be to have the Monitors ease off on the secondary aspects of their job.

  104. 104
    Inaji

    screechymonkey:

    So my suggestion would be to have the Monitors ease off on the secondary aspects of their job.

    It’s looking like this will be the only workable solution. I do want to mention that thread derails came up fairly often in the two comments threads as being one of the more bothersome aspects of discussion here, which is why it came up at all. This is where regulars and newer people see things very differently.

  105. 105
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Again, I’ll re-iterate my suggestions:
    (1) Let there be a clear list of guidelines that the monitors follow. Like how long a thread gets before derails are tolerated.
    (2) Let there be a system (backchannel is fine, IMO) where by a monitor can signal for another monitor to step in in a given thread because either they feel overwhelmed and/or that their impartiality would be questioned.

    I think both of those are (1) workable and (2) helpful if the goal is to answer the objections about how the monitors seem like they have authority and can act capriciously.

  106. 106
    Inaji

    Tigger:

    So, creating a whole account just called ‘monitor’, under which all the monitors could comment, would make individual monitor comments anonymous.

    I would fight this even harder. I think it’s important that people can call us to account, and no one should be able to hide under the cover of blanket anonymity, that would lead to abuses, I think.

  107. 107
    Inaji

    Esteleth:

    (2) Let there be a system (backchannel is fine, IMO) where by a monitor can signal for another monitor to step in in a given thread because either they feel overwhelmed and/or that their impartiality would be questioned.

    This has been established, from the beginning of the new commenting rules and changes. There is a monitor discussion group, and we do use it. (I noted this in the lounge the other day.) The reason I wanted discussion opened up to the commentariat is detailed in #6, this thread.

  108. 108
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Thanks, screechymonkey!

    That is a brilliant summary. =^_^=

    I heartily agree. =^_^=

    My points were about that, and about finding ways for making it less likely that individual monitors would get grief from just doing what “PZ, Destroyer of Worlds and Changer of Satanique’s (aka Ivy’s) Litter Tray” asked them to do. It isn’t fair that anyone should be getting stressed for trying to help make this place even better.

    The fact that many people disagree that the changes will make it better, shouldn’t be considered the fault of, or focussed on, the individual monitors.

  109. 109
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    And you know, that comment: “Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback”? It’s exactly what I want.

    And this is a large part of the problem, sadly.

    Try to look at yourself

    Right back at you.

    Bye.

  110. 110
    David Marjanović

    One very important thing I’ve noticed is how scarily many newbies don’t even understand that this is a blog as opposed to a forum (bulletin board). So many people come in and wonder what “the moderators” will do! They expect there to be several moderators with full power to ban people’s asses. It’s not hard to imagine what they most likely think when they come across a sternly worded Monitor Note!

    I suggest that the Monitor Notes be reduced to “this is the third time you’ve done this; if you keep breaking this particular rule, I’ll alert PZ” (followed by “alert sent” as the case may be).

    Also, I have ALL OF THE POWER, and I’ve noticed that that doesn’t seem to do much to impress the frequent trolls who flout those rules — I’ve pretty much grown to accept that if I give a loud clear bright red warning to someone, they’ll usually ignore me anyway. So I don’t think many people are going to be scared off by a monitor making a suggestion.

    The determined assholes aren’t scared off. They always exhaust their boundaries.

    The innocent newbies are likely scared off in droves because they’re in fear of misspeaking.

    It’s hard for me to grasp this myself, but a few people have told me they held off commenting here for a long while because they found me “intellectually intimidating” (that’s a quote from one of them). They were afraid of triggering my SIWOTI syndrome, which has earned me a mention on TV Tropes (scroll down to Curb-Stomp Battle in the alphabetical list) – and I’ve never had any power on this blog or elsewhere on teh intarwebz, nor pretended or otherwise implied to have any.

    Monitors giving out warnings that something’s “off-topic” is the opposite of giving a strange person a chance to make their case.

    Exactly.

    Let’s take the thread SC linked to as an example.
    – Comment 10 comes across as “n00b 1, shut up outside of Thunderdome (a place that sounds vaguely scary), and everyone else, be afraid”;
    – comment 12 comes across as “n00b 2, shut up outside of Thunderdome, and everyone else, be afraid”;
    – comment 18 comes across as “person 3 (a regular, but the n00bs don’t know that), I’m really angry at you”;
    – comment 19, a response to 18 that is entirely reasonable in context, comes across as implying that Caine’s wrath has real consequences;
    – comment 28 comes across as “I’m still angry at you” – it’s entirely reasonable in context (as shown by 29, the reply), but the n00bs don’t know the context, for instance that birgerjohansson is a regular and not some n00b who is treated as fair game;
    – comment 31 comes across as “but I’m still angry at you, in fact, shut out outside of Thunderdome”;
    – comment 33 comes across as “à propos of nothing, I’m still angry about the topic mentioned in my first comments – be afraid, everyone”;
    – comment 58 is by an apparently intimidated n00b who “Avoided Commenting” – that’s the entire text;
    – comment 75 comes across as Caine being scared of the possibility of a derail and therefore threatening with Thunderdome again;
    – comment 76, the reply, reads in its entirety: “Caine @76, I hear and obey! Thanks. : P “.

    That’s scary.

    I think the person most scared in that thread was Caine herself (the only monitor who participated). I think she was scared of her responsibility as a monitor.

    Caine, have I understood you correctly?

    Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback.

    This comes across as “make a suggestion we like, or STFU, n00b, even though that was your first comment and not your third”.

    Another thing that could help: that the monitors try as far as possible to act *consistently*

    This is remarkably hard to do, at least for some people. PZ himself has on several occasions explicitly warned people “I’m exhausted and angry today because of other things, so stop crossing me or I’ll ban you”, followed by the banhammer for behavior that would have been shrugged off and left entirely to the Horde to dispute on other days.

    And you know, that comment: “Do you perhaps have a non-snark based suggestion to make? Perhaps a little help to offer or a complaint? Something in the line of productive feedback”? It’s exactly what I want. Andy wasn’t yelled at, he was given positive suggestions about how to improve his comment. What, exactly, do people object to in that? It was also written simply as a fellow commenter, did you see some unfair invocation of authority?

    It reads exactly like a monitor note, except for the lack of those very words. The particular type of rhetorical question it uses has a hard time not to sound like “STFU”.

  111. 111
    Dhorvath, OM

    I appreciate that several monitors have explicitly stated, either here or elsewhere, that being a monitor presents difficulties that interact with being a commenter which are not faced by non-monitors. I don’t know as I have the head space to forge a line between the two types of interaction and that lack on my part surely plays into my doubt that others can do so. This, at least in part, accounts for my increased attention to everything I encounter from monitors. I am second guessing. I can own that it is me who is doing this and if it’s just me and others like me who are pushed away by this, so be it.

    PZ,

    I like the Thunderdome at it’s contentious best and am in favour of it continuing to provide that atmosphere which I enjoy. To that end, I would like to see how a No Monitor Note Zone impacts that space. I am not the only person who uses it and don’t expect it to remain unchanged by the new rules on the rest of the site, but I think it lends a focus that is in aligned with the ideas behind the Thunderdome.

  112. 112
    David Marjanović

    – comment 31 comes across as “but I’m still angry at you, in fact, shut out outside of Thunderdome”;

    …where by “shut out” I of course mean “shut up”.

  113. 113
    David Marjanović

    I can own that it is me who is doing this and if it’s just me and others like me who are pushed away by this, so be it.

    …It would be a pity to lose you “and others like” you, though.

  114. 114
    Inaji

    Dhorvath:

    I can own that it is me who is doing this and if it’s just me and others like me who are pushed away by this, so be it.

    I do not want you or anyone else pushed away. I find that upsetting. In the last couple of days, I’ve posted things I could have donned the monitor hat for, but have left it hanging on the hook, and things have worked out well. I will try to simply post as myself most often.

    I like the Thunderdome at it’s contentious best and am in favour of it continuing to provide that atmosphere which I enjoy. To that end, I would like to see how a No Monitor Note Zone impacts that space.

    I think it’s a good idea to leave Thunderdome as a no monitor zone. Everyone needs a place to blow off steam.

  115. 115
    PZ Myers

    Let there be a clear list of guidelines that the monitors follow.

    Yes? That’s what this thread is for. So less bitterness from everyone, more formulating that list. That would be the kind of constructive suggestion I want.

  116. 116
    consciousness razor

    (1) Let there be a clear list of guidelines that the monitors follow. Like how long a thread gets before derails are tolerated.

    This kind of suggestion does not restrict the monitors themselves in any significant way. If anything, it’s likely to be more restrictive on the commenters, not less. Threads don’t all make it to some arbitrary length (nor do they need to) before someone has a reason to “derail” in one way or another. I think they ought to tolerate some degree of “off-topicness” right from the very first comment. And when it happens and really shouldn’t be tolerated, there’s still not always a need to jump straight into a commanding, authoritative role to dismiss or shut down whatever the person is saying. All you really need most of the time is a regular commenter to say “I don’t think that’s relevant…,” “I don’t think that’s very important right now…,” etc. It might even be a really annoying or offensive derail, in which case we can all be really annoyed and say how offensive it is. There’s not such a great need for monitors to do that for the rest of us, officially and with some kind of threat of PZ’s intervention backing it up. And if they’re wrong sometimes, then what happens? Oops?

    But the bigger point I want to make is that regular commenters aren’t the only ones who need to “adjust” to the new system, right? Monitors do too. They ought to be willing to put plenty of thought into restricting themselves, not just more and more for everyone else.

  117. 117
    Dhorvath, OM

    Caine,

    I do not want you or anyone else pushed away.

    No, nor do I. But I cannot escape that what works to pull me in also pushes others out. I love hearing from people who now feel more comfortable participating. It was easy for me to start and thus easy for me to miss that when I did so others did not; so when things change to favour others than myself, I can’t truly be sad about it.
    ___

    David M,

    t would be a pity to lose you “and others like” you, though.

    Thanks, but I don’t know as pity is a term I feel comfortable with. Likely an artifact of my longterm ability to misunderstand you. I want people to be able to enjoy the people here who I know and love, I don’t want that to depend on them having the same skin I have.

  118. 118
    PZ Myers

    Consciousness razor, #116: OK, I understand, you don’t like having any monitors around. We are 100% clear on that.

    Now: there will be monitors around. It’s a fact of life. Instead of complaining about it and struggling to make your reasons for disliking them clear, how about focusing on what guidelines for their behavior would productively help reconcile you to their reality?

  119. 119
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    SC has said so much of what I have felt, but have failed to get across. That said, I think Nerds suggestion is a good answer.

  120. 120
    consciousness razor

    Consciousness razor, #116: OK, I understand, you don’t like having any monitors around. We are 100% clear on that.

    For fuck’s sake, that isn’t what I said. You can read it. Since they’re going to be around, they should have limits.

  121. 121
    Dhorvath, OM

    Tony,
    The monitor nym that was soundly rejected? I don’t know which other one you might mean.

  122. 122
    screechymonkey

    Here are my suggestions for Monitor behavior:

    Do not issue any directives, pronouncements, or rulings. If the Monitor’s sole power is to alert PZ to an issue, then Monitor statements should be in the form of either advising commenters that an alert has been made or that one is being contemplated, or else quoting a specific rule. E.g.:
    (a) “Monitor Note: I’ve alerted PZ that UberMegaSuperSkepticDood may be a previously banned poster. No need to speculate, he will handle it.”
    (b) “Monitor Note: NewbiePoster, we don’t do ‘First!’ posts here. Please take a look at the Commenting Rules.”
    (c) “Monitor Note: Screechymonkey, you’ve contributed 10 of the last 15 posts to this thread. Please note that the Commenting Rules, PZ says that he may ban users if he finds that ‘You cannot control your posting habits, and are dominating the discussion.’ or if ‘Your comments are repetitive, especially if you repeat arguments that have already been addressed’ I haven’t sent him an alert yet, but I will if you continue.”

    (a) is an example of letting the Horde know an issue is being handled, (b) is an example of pointing out a clear black-and-white rules violation. (c) is the trickiest kind, because it’s one of those rules that involves a judgment call, so I suggest that wording because it points to a specific rule and lets the commenter decide if he or she wants to take the Monitor’s advice or take his or her chances with PZ.

    The following would be examples of how Monitors should NOT post:
    (1) “Monitor Note: Screechymonkey, you are dominating this discussion. Knock it off.” The rule isn’t specific, and since it’s PZ’s judgment that matters, the Monitor shouldn’t be issuing pronouncements from the mountaintop or otherwise implying an authority that Monitors aren’t supposed to have.
    (2) “Monitor Note: Everyone, this thread is about cookies. What kind of milk you like to drink with your cookies is off-topic. Stop talking about milk.” Again, totally a judgment call. (Also, as I said in a previous post, I think this is the kind of thing where Monitor involvement is most problematic.)

  123. 123
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Having refreshed, I see PZ is against Monitor nyms.
    I also see that screechymonkey’s second suggestion @103 is a good one.

  124. 124
    Inaji

    CR:

    Since they’re going to be around, they should have limits.

    You know, I have responded to you more than once in this thread, and to others, saying all the ways I am willing to restrict myself, and have already been doing so. There hasn’t been one positive noise from you, or many of the others. If you want limits, please, list them, so we at least have a starting point, or something to discuss. So far, there simply isn’t anything productive to take away from your posts, outside of everyone being very clear that you are unhappy. Right now, it feels like I’m talking to a wall. I can’t change anything I do or don’t do, if no one wants to come out and say what those things are or should be.

    I am sorry you are so unhappy, but this is supposed to be a productive exercise. Tell me what you want me to do, tell us all what you want us to do. Or not do.

  125. 125
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Screechymonkey:
    Yes! The commands are my biggest issue, even though I have not been on the receiving end. Suggestions, sure. Warnings that PZ is going to be alerted are fine.
    “Stop engaging in this activity”–that, I don’t like.

  126. 126
    Inaji

    Screechymonkey @ 122, thank you. Those are some excellent guidelines.

  127. 127
    Doug Hudson

    Tigger @97, see #30, #67, and #76. Both Rorschach and SC express concern that the history of the current group of monitors might make them less effective.

    I was uncharitable in implying that this was simply because of a personal grudge. They might have perfectly good reasons for not trusting the monitors–they didn’t say.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been told to “take it to Thunderdome” by monitors before. And I don’t resent it–they were right!

  128. 128
    Doug Hudson

    Additional disclosure: I’m used to the commenting rules of Scalzi’s site and (whisper) Shakesville.

    I’m not saying that Pharyngula should adopt either of those policies, but c’mon people! Even with monitors, Pharyngula will still have one of the most permissive commenting policies short of YouTube.

    People are acting like PZ is implementing a secret police or something.

  129. 129
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    “Stop engaging in this activity”–that, I don’t like.

    Well, if the activity is gendered insults, use of no-no words, etc, I don’t have any problem. Like most of life, context matters.

    As I mentioned above, having a monitor say “don’t use [sex parts] for an insult” lead to positive results. Me saying that, it bring on the argument for the umpteenth time.

  130. 130
    consciousness razor

    I am sorry you are so unhappy, but this is supposed to be a productive exercise.

    I was explaining why I think one suggestion (which PZ also floated) would probably be counterproductive. That itself is productive in this kind of a conversation.

    You know what isn’t productive? PZ’s blatant dishonesty about what I said. Fuck that.

    If people aren’t willing to talk about what monitors shouldn’t do, only what commenters shouldn’t do, then I think this is going nowhere fast. I think that’s a valid, productive point, which needs a little emphasis. It might be taken in any number of directions, and I don’t care for crafting up a bunch of specific rules. If I come up with something good, I’ll share it. But it won’t come in the form of “this is what you’re doing right!!” so it’ll sound a little negative (or “unhappy”) I can promise that much.

    But when the “suggestions” mostly come from the monitors themselves, what do you expect? They may not be thinking so much about how to police their own activities — it’s naturally those other people who need rules to follow. When I just say to try thinking of it the other way too, what do I get? I’m informed that I don’t want monitors around and that I so obviously dislike them. That’s bullshit, and you all know it (forget PZ, I mean the monitors). You should know by now that I do like you.

  131. 131
    Inaji

    CR:

    If people aren’t willing to talk about what monitors shouldn’t do, only what commenters shouldn’t do, then I think this is going nowhere fast.

    People have been, and are talking about what monitors shouldn’t do. I don’t know how you’re missing this. Is it possible you’re seeing only what you want to see? Screechymonkey just posted, at 122, a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts for monitors, which I think is very good, and I’ll be adopting them.

    But when the “suggestions” mostly come from the monitors themselves, what do you expect?

    Most of the monitors aren’t in this thread. One of the primary reasons I agitated for opening up this discussion with the rest of the commentariat was to get suggestions from everyone. I’ve written, repeatedly, that I don’t think it’s right or fair for monitors to come up with stuff in isolation, then spring it on the horde. That’s why we’re here, talking.

    They may not be thinking so much about how to police their own activities

    I’ve been thinking about that, damn near constantly, and saying so. Why are you missing this, too? I know other monitors are equally concerned about their own behaviour, both as monitors and regular members of the commentariat.

    You should know by now that I do like you.

    I like you too. Want to be a monitor? I’d gladly nominate you and stand up for you. To end, it just seems there’s a fair amount you’re missing in this thread, and I don’t know how to make that right. I don’t know how to give you what you want.

  132. 132
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    I generally like screechy monkey’s suggestions in this thread. I think it could be helpful to just throw in an “alert will be/has been sent”. That little addendum to whatever warning is being issued adds transparency by explicitly saying what the consequence will be if the warning is ignored and decreases the likelihood that someone mistakenly attributes more power to the monitors than they actually have. I know that this info is already in the rules on the sidebar, but I still like the idea*.

    *full disclosure, I am quite sick right now and am not thinking too straight. One thing I think I can be confident in, even in this state, is that I am not envious of the monitor’s jobs.

  133. 133
    carlie

    The main reason for the expanded monitor duties is to have people who specifically remember to say
    “wait a minute” when people pile on a newbie, and who say “that’s not how things are done around here” in a nicer fashion when it’s a first offense. The only reason it’s being done that way is to ensure that there are people who are consciously remembering to do that – the 3 strikes rule didn’t work so wellwhen there was no one to specifically remember or remind people of it. If we were all more conscious about it, there wouldn’t have to be people who are tasked with being that person, but we’re not that great at remembering in the heat of argument .

    That’s why I do really like the idea of putting those people in regular rotation – it’s more like “you’re on call for the next few weeks” rather than “you have special privileges”. Just changing the language from “This person is a monitor” or “I AM A MONITOR” to “this person is on monitor duty this month” or “I’m on monitory duty” seems to me that it would take away the idea that certain people are inherently a different class – is it just me who thinks that way? “It’s your turn to be a monitor” carries a whole different connotation than “you have become a monitor”, I think. Plus, then it adds a lot more people into the mix without PZ having to handle an ever-increasing total number in the same way.

    Would it help to just have standard sentences that the monitors on duty use? That way it can’t ever get personal beyond a person’s nym being included. It’s too easy to say things in a way that can be insulting (whether meant to be or not), and that seems to be part of the problem too. If it was a standard set of sentences to refer to, would that make it better? So instead of “Hey X, stop derailing, I’m telling you as a monitor to cut it out right now”, its “X, please refer back to the commenting rule regarding derailing, and be sure that what you are saying isn’t a derail”, and that’s the sentence used for anyone doing that. They could then challenge in the thread that it isn’t a violation of y rule because of whatever reasons, but would be expected to address that issue rather than just continuing on.?

  134. 134
    Inaji

    Nerd:

    Well, if the activity is gendered insults, use of no-no words, etc, I don’t have any problem. Like most of life, context matters.

    I think wording is important, though. Saying something like “please avoid using gendered insults or slurs” is probably best.

  135. 135
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    carlie:

    Would it help to just have standard sentences that the monitors on duty use? That way it can’t ever get personal beyond a person’s nym being included. It’s too easy to say things in a way that can be insulting (whether meant to be or not), and that seems to be part of the problem too.

    I think standardized language for very common warnings is a great idea.

  136. 136
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I think wording is important, though. Saying something like “please avoid using gendered insults or slurs” is probably best.

    Personally, I would leave off the “please”, except maybe for the first instance by a newbie, as it is a command back by consensus of the horde. But YMMV. Do your job the best way you see fit.

  137. 137
    The Mellow Monkey

    carlie @ 133 – I really liked your entire post, but this part especially:

    That’s why I do really like the idea of putting those people in regular rotation – it’s more like “you’re on call for the next few weeks” rather than “you have special privileges”. Just changing the language from “This person is a monitor” or “I AM A MONITOR” to “this person is on monitor duty this month” or “I’m on monitory duty” seems to me that it would take away the idea that certain people are inherently a different class – is it just me who thinks that way? “It’s your turn to be a monitor” carries a whole different connotation than “you have become a monitor”, I think. Plus, then it adds a lot more people into the mix without PZ having to handle an ever-increasing total number in the same way.

    It’s monitor duty. Not membership in the Super Awesome Monitor Class. We should keep an emphasis on monitor duty being more about remembering the rules–and posting by them–and giving aid where we can. These are all things that everybody should try to remember, sure, but helping PZ as a monitor should provide a little extra motivation.

    Screechmonkey‘s suggestions at 122 are fantastic, too.

  138. 138
    Inaji

    Nerd:

    Personally, I would leave off the “please”, except maybe for the first instance by a newbie, as it is a command back by consensus of the horde. But YMMV. Do your job the best way you see fit.

    Well, we are talking about standardized language, so what people think about using “Please avoid x”, when a monitor note is necessary is relevant.

  139. 139
    PatrickG

    Caine, @ #96:

    PZ has nixed the idea, so it’s pretty much academic, but to clarify I was supporting the idea of a secondary account for Monitors as Monitors, to avoid the problems inherent in Caine (the Monitor) vs. Caine (who was a Monitor just a few posts ago *ominous music*) Your points about accountability are on point, though; it’s a goal conflict.

    I’ll reiterate my cosmetic suggestion of making sure monitor notes come with a bright shiny link to the Rules. At least until the coders get around to letting PZ put a blinking neon red sign that says “HERE BE RULEZ” on the comment form itself. You only have to go a few comments in to lose the sidebar link, and the banner link is gone just from reaching the end of some posts. Copypasta repetition in threads where Monitor Notes are appropriate certainly can’t hurt

    On the more general subject, I think the Monitor system is off to a pretty decent start, and I appreciate the thought being put into the system.

    Finally, I heartily endorse screechmonkey’s #122, and carlie’s standardized script idea in #133.

  140. 140
    Inaji

    Patrick:

    I’ll reiterate my cosmetic suggestion of making sure monitor notes come with a bright shiny link to the Rules.

    Whenever I’ve done a monitor note which includes part of the rules, I include the link, but that’s been the only time. I’ll add it more often now, thanks.

  141. 141
    chigau (違う)

    I composed most of this before my most recent cannot log into Pharyngula episode but here goes.

    Before I was appointed to be a Monitor (August 2012), I felt free to comment with a simple “fuck you” or a “don’t use gendered slurs” or instructions on blockquoting including a snark.
    After that I tried (and failed several times) to be more … instructive and less nasty.
    Mostly, I just used my easier access to PZ’s attention to send alerts.
    Often without posting a comment saying that I had done so.
    Now, screechymonkey #122 (just for example) would prefer I limit myself further.
    This Monitoring thing is not the big Power-thing some think it is.
    (I think much of what screechymonkey said has merit.)

    Sometimes I want to post as just chigau.
    Can I still do that?

  142. 142
    Forelle

    screechymonkey at 103:

    Keeping a handle on thread drift and derailing, etc. appears to be a secondary goal.
    2) The main complaints about monitors seem to involve the secondary aspects.

    Well said. Moreover, the censoriousness about thread derailing is getting pervasive. Since we were asked for examples, I’ll give one, despite the risk that Kristjan Wager points to at 34 and despite it not involving a monitor.

    Some days ago, I was happily reading a somewhat old thread about K. Stollznow’s new book. Paul K. started comment 12 actually apologizing for a slight derail which I myself read quite happily and found rather informative (agreement or disagreement does not enter the picture here). The very next comment, Esteleth (whose posts I usually like, so please don’t take this personally) told him rather magisterially that “the speech about Quakerism was not really necessary” and proceeded to comment on Quakers herself. (Yes, I read Paul K. agreeing with her later.) And then I noticed that the thread had only 26 answers. No wonder.

    Giliell at 43 asks about

    a sort of topic drift into literature written by people who are not white hetero dudes while the original discussion still moves on.

    I followed that derail — with trepidation at first, and then I thought what the hell, if I get told off, so be it. But I’m unhappy with that uncomfortable feeling.

    So my suggestion: follow what screechymonkey says at 103 and 122, ideas that others have seconded or reworded.

    A couple more notes. For what it’s worth, I love reading you, SC, and agree with almost everything you’ve said here. Whether I’m on your side or not, you always make me think. And I like that you contradict PZ now and then.

    And Esteleth, if you read this: my problem is not so much what you said, as that nobody disagreed with you.

  143. 143
    Inaji

    Forelle:

    The very next comment, Esteleth (whose posts I usually like, so please don’t take this personally) told him rather magisterially that “the speech about Quakerism was not really necessary” and proceeded to comment on Quakers herself. (Yes, I read Paul K. agreeing with her later.) And then I noticed that the thread had only 26 answers. No wonder.

    And Esteleth, if you read this: my problem is not so much what you said, as that nobody disagreed with you.

    I’m not sure what to take away from this. This isn’t the sort of a situation a monitor should get involved in, at least I don’t think so. Is is just general disappointment in the somewhat acrimonious attitude here, or something else? If you had been reading the thread when it was fresh, and saw Esteleth’s comment, what would you have said?

  144. 144
    Arawhon, a Strawberry Margarita

    As someone who only just started commenting after many long years of lurking, I like the bolded Monitor Note. I also like the stern language used when warning people. A strong “Stop doing that” or ” take that discussion elsewhere” is far more preferable to a “Please don’t do that” or “Please take that elsewhere”. The first gives no leeway to argue with the warning and sets a strong boundary, while the second comes across as a preference and merely a suggestion.

    I honestly believe the Monitors have been doing a good job of getting used to their roles and the new rules and enforcing them.

  145. 145
    Inaji

    Arawhon:

    As someone who only just started commenting after many long years of lurking, I like the bolded Monitor Note. I also like the stern language used when warning people. A strong “Stop doing that” or ” take that discussion elsewhere” is far more preferable to a “Please don’t do that” or “Please take that elsewhere”. The first gives no leeway to argue with the warning and sets a strong boundary, while the second comes across as a preference and merely a suggestion.

    Hmmm. Trying to walk the tightrope here. I know, italics! Kidding. I’ve been trying out the monitor note in regular type, and taking a much more laid back approach, which has worked well the few times I did it. Perhaps it depends on the pace of the thread, the activity level, and possibly the contentiousness? There might be times bold type would be best, as it would be more likely to catch the eye, and the rest of time, not necessary?

  146. 146
    Forelle

    If you had been reading the thread when it was fresh, and saw Esteleth’s comment, what would you have said?

    For example, that I at least had enjoyed the comment and she could have skipped it. Nothing aggresive, I suppose; we all have our moments and I’d be more interested in reassuring Paul K than in chiding somebody else, because I usually feel thankful reading so much here. Should a monitor have intervened? I’d say no, as monitors, yes as particular people — in any direction, of course. Monitors should still be able to rely on others.

    I suppose that with the example I tried to convey that I’m worried about the derailing thing. There can be no hard and fast rule and some people really have a awfully big navel, let alone be trolls. But there is a lot of freshness and joy in some derailings. Or, well, not every derail should be nipped in the bud; some will die on their own, especially if they are well intentioned, which was the case here.

    I’m sorry that I can’t offer anything more constructive — I’m not thinking very clearly, it’s late here and I’m tired. Let me say, since you’re around, that I really appreciate all the effort you’re putting. Thanks.

  147. 147
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Forelle @142:

    My objection was structured as “That speech was unnecessary, and it was also factually incorrect.” And I really don’t think that either I – or Paul K. – was the reason for the derail.

    I am also unsure of what you think people should have responded as.

  148. 148
    Inaji

    Forelle:

    I suppose that with the example I tried to convey that I’m worried about the derailing thing. There can be no hard and fast rule and some people really have a awfully big navel, let alone be trolls. But there is a lot of freshness and joy in some derailings. Or, well, not every derail should be nipped in the bud; some will die on their own, especially if they are well intentioned, which was the case here.

    Okay. I think it’s pretty clear that we need to stay backed off on the derail issue, unless it’s one of the major, well known ones, such as “what about the menz” or “what about male circumcision” in a thread on FGM, or it’s a whole new topic which ends up dominating a thread.

    Thanks for the pat on the back, it’s appreciated. It’s really good to see you posting again.

  149. 149
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    So, my 147 should say “…was the reason for the thread stopping at 26 comments,” not
    …was the reason for the derail.”

    Words, I can use them.

  150. 150
    Inaji

    Esteleth:

    My objection was structured as “That speech was unnecessary, and it was also factually incorrect.”

    I think it was your saying it was unnecessary that is rubbing the wrong way. I’m sure it seemed unnecessary to you, but it wasn’t to Forelle. Just sticking with the incorrect bits may have been the better approach.

  151. 151
    David Marjanović

    …Forelle… Esteleth isn’t a monitor, and hasn’t pretended to be one. Paul K. took offense at seeing the Quakers mentioned in what he (erroneously) thought was a list of particularly bizarre religions, and Esteleth found his long-winded defense of them bizarre. :-)

  152. 152
    David Marjanović

    Heh. I guess I’m a bit slow at half past 2 in the morning. I’m tired enough to have developed a headache…

    Okay. I think it’s pretty clear that we need to stay backed off on the derail issue, unless it’s one of the major, well known ones, such as “what about the menz” or “what about male circumcision” in a thread on FGM, or it’s a whole new topic which ends up dominating a thread.

    *like*

  153. 153
    Inaji

    David:

    …Forelle… Esteleth isn’t a monitor

    Forelle is aware of that, she made sure to point it out:

    Since we were asked for examples, I’ll give one, despite the risk that Kristjan Wager points to at 34 and despite it not involving a monitor.

    Reading carefully is a good thing.

  154. 154
    Inaji

    David:

    *like*

    *happy*

  155. 155
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    But there is a lot of freshness and joy in some derailings. Or, well, not every derail should be nipped in the bud; some will die on their own, especially if they are well intentioned, which was the case here.

    Personally there is a difference between a natural progression of a thread, and somebody jumping in and trying to insert something like liberturdism or animal rights where they don’t really belong, especially early in the thread. After a hundred or two posts, I see such stipulations relaxing…

  156. 156
    Forelle

    Thank you, Caine.

    Esteleth, thanks for your answer; I knew you’d be around. I’m very happy with the “factually incorrect” part — that’s a big reason why I read Pharyngula. But it seems to me that telling somebody that something they have just written is “unnecessary” might silence them, which is a topic here. I don’t want to “rehash” a conversation with you that never took place when it should have, but wasn’t that “unnecessary” somewhat subjective? Information (yours too) on Quakers might not have been necessary for me, but it was, well, a happy addition to a hitherto Quakerless life.

    I’ll read again tomorrow when I am less sleepy. I’ll also reread Dr. DM on his intellectually intimidating abilities (110), which looked like a very good point, but then I’ve always belonged to the Lurker Subsection of the Mad People of Pharyngula™.

  157. 157
    David Marjanović

    (a) is an example of letting the Horde know an issue is being handled, (b) is an example of pointing out a clear black-and-white rules violation. (c) is the trickiest kind, because it’s one of those rules that involves a judgment call, so I suggest that wording because it points to a specific rule and lets the commenter decide if he or she wants to take the Monitor’s advice or take his or her chances with PZ.

    I like that! It’s the fully worked-out version of what I proposed in comment 110. :-)

    You know what isn’t productive? PZ’s blatant dishonesty about what I said. Fuck that.

    It keeps blowing my mind how quickly so many people jump to the conclusion that someone is lying. Is it so hard to imagine that PZ just didn’t read your comment closely and carefully enough? Is it so hard to imagine that you didn’t express yourself clearly enough?

    I think standardized language for very common warnings is a great idea.

    Probably, yes.

    (I’m too far down the autism spectrum to have an opinion on what other people would associate with “please” or its lack.)

    I’ll reiterate my cosmetic suggestion of making sure monitor notes come with a bright shiny link to the Rules. At least until the coders get around to letting PZ put a blinking neon red sign that says “HERE BE RULEZ” on the comment form itself.

    Seconded. Especially the blinking neon. ^_^

    Forelle is aware of that, she made sure to point it out:

    …But then the rest of that comment doesn’t make sense: Esteleth saying what she thinks was unnecessary is just that when she’s not a monitor.

  158. 158
    Inaji

    David:

    …But then the rest of that comment doesn’t make sense: Esteleth saying what she thinks was unnecessary is just that when she’s not a monitor.

    It makes sense to me, David. This isn’t just about the monitors, it’s about why there are monitors in the first place, and one of those reasons is to help foster good discussions. Forelle found Esteleth’s judgement of someone else’s post to be unnecessary to be off putting, and it does speak to derails, or side discussions, because Forelle found Paul’s post interesting and enjoyable. This goes back a bit to what a lot of people said in the comments threads, that people tend to be very judgemental here, and that is true. We could all be a bit more considerate.

  159. 159
    Inaji

    David:

    (I’m too far down the autism spectrum to have an opinion on what other people would associate with “please” or its lack.)

    Maybe it should be considered as passive voice or active voice.

    Please avoid using gendered insults or slurs. Thanks. – Passive voice.

    Don’t use gendered insults or slurs. Thanks. – Active voice.

    Do you have a preference?

  160. 160
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Don’t use gendered insults or slurs. Thanks. – Active voice.

    Do you have a preference?

    The first line. I’m always trying to get the Redead to speak the active voice. Passive voice is always wrong and misinterpreted….

  161. 161
    Inaji

    Passive voice can leave wiggle room, however, it is seen as less aggressive.

  162. 162
    PatrickG

    Well, for something that clear cut in the community here(e.g. gendered slurs), I think we’re clearly in the “warranted aggression” zone.

    Fuck the passive voice.

  163. 163
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Passive voice can leave wiggle room, however, it is seen as less aggressive.

    It also means you might want to go to the commode, not that you need to go to the commode. Which is a failure to communicate (thinks of old Paul Newman Movie, Cool Hand Luke)

    Which is why the active voice is preferred when summarizing minutes and to-do lists in company meetings. No room for error…

  164. 164
    carlie

    But given that the whole situation is about trying to make things not quite so harsh on people who are just starting to comment, the active voice is often seen as aggressive.

  165. 165
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    But given that the whole situation is about trying to make things not quite so harsh on people who are just starting to comment, the active voice is often seen as aggressive.

    I have no problem with passive, aggressive, then threatening, if it can be shown to work better.

  166. 166
    Inaji

    One other thing on the passive or active voice business. I think we do need to take into account how all this parses out for non-neurotypical people, because there are a lot of non-NT people here, and David’s statement is making me think we’re approaching everything in a NT way.

  167. 167
    ChasCPeterson

    Usage Monitor Note
    That’s not what ‘active voice’ and ‘passive voice’ mean.

    Acive voice: I made a mistake. I posted a comment here again.
    Passive voice: A mistake was made. A comment was posted again here by me.

  168. 168
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I am commenting less because conversations naturally wander and to have a monitor deciding where the conversation should go or how or whether it should expand is intrusive, especially when one monitor produces 20 – 25% of the comments.

  169. 169
    Inaji

    Chas:

    Usage Monitor Note
    That’s not what ‘active voice’ and ‘passive voice’ mean.

    Acive voice: I made a mistake. I posted a comment here again.
    Passive voice: A mistake was made. A comment was posted again here by me.

    I apologize for getting it wrong, Chas. I was trying to find a way for the ‘please’ aspect to make sense to David M. Is there a better way to delineate the differences between ‘please avoid x’ and ‘don’t do x’?

  170. 170
    PatrickG

    Given that this is a Rude Blog­™, I suggest the use of passive voice vs. active voice (or rather, as ChasCPeterson notes, degree of courtesy) by a Monitor on very clear boundaries in this community, specifically the example Caine gave, is probably going to resolve itself in real-time.

    @ Caine: Perhaps view it as imperative/non-imperative instead?

    Gendered slurs are not appropriate at Pharyngula. (not imperative)
    Please don’t use gendered slurs at Pharyngula. (imperative)

    It might be preferable to have the Monitors use the least jarring language possible in their warnings, given the imputation of Authoritah to new-comers. If people don’t heed that, the commentariat will hit the Release the Hounds Tentacles button anyway.

    Just my $0.02.

  171. 171
    carlie

    I thought that adding niceties like “please” might also make the distinction more clear that monitors don’t have actual power to make demands on people.

  172. 172
    Inaji

    Patrick:

    @ Caine: Perhaps view it as imperative/non-imperative instead?

    Gendered slurs are not appropriate at Pharyngula. (not imperative)
    Please don’t use gendered slurs at Pharyngula. (imperative)

    Okay, that’s helpful. Thanks, Patrick. I do think these things can be context dependent, say if someone has gotten the please version, and goes on to use gendered insults/slurs for two more times, then a note can be stern. I’m probably worrying this too much, but I’d rather go with whatever people are most comfortable with.

  173. 173
    Inaji

    Carlie:

    I thought that adding niceties like “please” might also make the distinction more clear that monitors don’t have actual power to make demands on people.

    I thought so as well.

  174. 174
    screechymonkey

    How about:
    “Please remember that gendered slurs are not allowed at Pharyngula.”

    It’s polite, but unequivocal, and reinforces the idea that we’re all responsible for knowing and following the rules, not waiting for the monitors to point out violations.

  175. 175
    Inaji

    screechymonkey:

    How about:

    “Please remember that gendered slurs are not allowed at Pharyngula.”

    “Please remember” is good. You’re on fire with all this, I think PZ should invite you to do a turn as a monitor, you’re shiny all over the place.

  176. 176
    PatrickG

    I’d rather go with whatever people are most comfortable with

    Speaking of which, the queue for sessions with then-Brownian/now-Anthony K (I think) hasn’t moved at all. I’m not comfortable with that.

    /derail

  177. 177
    cicely

    screechymonkey:

    How about:
    “Please remember that gendered slurs are not allowed at Pharyngula.”

    I like this. Firm, but polite.
    -

    Speaking of which, the queue for sessions with then-Brownian/now-Anthony K (I think) hasn’t moved at all. I’m not comfortable with that.
     
    /derail

    Me, either.
    I blame the Horses.
    /derail of the derail.
    :)
    But seriously, I do like the idea of there being Standardized (Firm But Polite) Wording (invoking the particular Rules being leaned on) for the more obvious/popular Monitor Warnings. I think they would be less interpretable as Monitor Bullying, and strike me as being a reasonable compromise.
    -

  178. 178
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I think that the if word “please” is used, communicating there is a threat that the piranha tank will be unleashed forthwith if you don’t comply is totally apt.

  179. 179
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    What I’m getting at is that the three post non-aggresive rule requires polite posts on the part of newbies….

  180. 180
    screechymonkey

    Thanks, Caine. I appreciate you not taking my comments as being any criticism of any of the current monitors.

  181. 181
    rorschach

    I think the reality is that the monitor system is here to stay, so those regulars who are uncomfortable with the concept but want to keep contact with the social group will just have to confine themselves to Thunderdome or find other ways of communicating. I don’t have a problem with that, things change.

    I probably should also clarify something from what I wrote yesterday. I am not afraid to be told by a monitor to take it to the Dome or to cut it out in a heated discussion because they carry a grudge against me from some disagreement they may have had with me back in 2009.

    The opposite is the case, I’m worried that regulars will at times be treated better than newbies, because everyone knows everyone else!

    I thought Carlie has made good suggestions, in particular wrt monitor rotation, and I agree with what SC said earlier.

  182. 182
    Inaji

    Nerd:

    What I’m getting at is that the three post non-aggresive rule requires polite posts on the part of newbies….

    I think that is a problem. Often times, new people are at sea when first posting, or unaware of a lot of things we all take as a given and for granted, such as history and all that, or they may feel very strongly about a given subject. Going by the commenting rules, which are for all of us, not just newbs:

    Justice is more important than civility. But aspire to be charitable at first.

    Recognize that your words may not perfectly convey your content — and that the words of other commenters may not perfectly convey theirs. When necessary, clarify what you mean, or ask other commenters to clarify what they meant.

    When someone says something apparently stupid or vile, verify before opening fire. Express your objection and ask them to rephrase their statement. Then open fire.

    I think it’s incumbent on the regulars to keep these firmly in mind, and really think before jumping all over new people. In short form, keep the fangs sharp, but retracted at first, to give people a chance to adjust to the environment here. Pharyngula tends to have a steep learning curve, and I know that I often forget that, and forget how I felt when I first started actively commenting here.

  183. 183
    Inaji

    Screechymonkey:

    Thanks, Caine. I appreciate you not taking my comments as being any criticism of any of the current monitors.

    Well, I deserve a good deal of criticism, as I did good deal of fucking up. I am trying to make sure I don’t repeat past mistakes, and I’ll take all the help that is offered.

    Rorschach:

    The opposite is the case, I’m worried that regulars will at times be treated better than newbies, because everyone knows everyone else!

    I’ve reminded other monitors of the rules when they have been in violation, if that helps at all. I also think I should be smacked on the head when necessary. I do think there’s a possible problem in warning regulars, in that they won’t take it well at all, and see it as a personal attack. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m focusing on language so much.

  184. 184
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    As far as I can see, in theory I would find the system outlined by screechymonkey and carlie – which would mean but a slight extension of the alert-system that preceded the current problematic monitor-moderator-manager one, and spells out roles and rules more precisely – acceptable and maybe even promising.*

    Provided…:

    - People acting as monitors don’t see those rules as optional, or something they personally will work on or try to adopt.

    - People acting as monitors are expected to abide not only by the monitor rules but by the general commenter rules as well. (I don’t think a “higher standard” is necessary – the same rules should be good enough for everybody.)

    - People acting as monitors are expected to treat other monitors the same as they do any other commenter, including calling them out when they’re not acting within the rules. (Again, I don’t think this requires a special level of responsibility, but it probably requires some extra awareness and effort.)

    - In the case of disputes, if PZ is going to intervene, he doesn’t automatically support the positions of those acting as monitors, but evaluates the situation reasonably.

    - There are real negative consequences for people acting as monitors who repeatedly violate the rules or support those who do, and the determination of these violations isn’t left to the people acting as monitors themselves.

    - Everyone, including those acting as monitors, understands that making the environment better for thoughtful and fruitful discussion is everyone’s responsibility. It’s understood that while people acting as monitors can send alerts and have made a temporary commitment to inform about rules violations, everyone has the same capacities in this regard and shares in the same community responsibilities. This includes calling out those acting as monitors when they’re aggressive or dominating threads or whatever.

    - People acting as monitors make every effort to avoid language that separates them as a special class or implies any authority beyond that spelled out in the rules.

    - There’s semi-regular, open and critical discussion about the rules – both the general rules and those related specifically to monitors – and how they’re working out. In these discussions, everyone speaks as a commenter and not as a monitor, given that acting as a monitor is just a temporary commitment, and those acting as monitors make an effort to listen rather than explain or defend.

    There are several reasons – some historical, some involving recent episodes, and some related to this thread itself – why I’m not especially optimistic that even if those rules were adopted they would work out in practice. I would like to be pleasantly surprised.

    *And this is tentative, though I’m generally confident in the views of screechymonkey and carlie.:) I’m excited about the weekend and probably distracted….

    I think the reality is that the monitor system is here to stay, so those regulars who are uncomfortable with the concept but want to keep contact with the social group will just have to confine themselves to Thunderdome or find other ways of communicating. I don’t have a problem with that, things change.

    Or that. :)

  185. 185
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    At the risk of breaking the rules, I’m going to derail and say that SC, for all that we’ve butted heads in the past, I am very much in agreement with you @184 and comments of that caliber are why I – even when I disagree with you – get excited when I see that you’ve commented.

  186. 186
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Signed back in to say…

    Thank you, Esteleth (and others) for your kind words.

    Have a great weekend, everyone.

  187. 187
    Crudely Wrott

    I’ve been lurking the thread since it began and I’m finding the discussion fascinating in a truly Pharygulesque way.

    Before long there will be, I think, a mounting accord with respect to rules and language that will satisfy most everyone. The harder part is the judgement that will be required of our dedicated, occasionally flustered or just plain frustrated, monitors. It’s no easy task they take up.

    One of the reasons I’ve stayed around these parts for as long as I have is the inspiration I’ve gotten from seeing a disparate community face problems both personal and blogwise and find solutions. Solutions that reflect the better traits of people that come from honesty and mutual concern. Qualities that are here in copious supply. This current episode in coping with change and, face it, maturing, holds promise enough to keep me around to witness challenge well met.

    I’m trying to digest all the points and counterpoints that are being offered up and might even have some constructive ones of my own to toss out after I’ve done some sleeping on it. My confidence level is high and, while I don’t expect each and every one to be perfectly happy with everything, much progress has already been made.

    The Horde moves like the multi-armed ones of the deep, a confusion of twining tentacles that seem to be trying to move in all directions at once, all at odds with heading and speed that suddenly transforms into an economy of graceful motion. Behold the Horde.
    ______________
    One thing I’ll mention now is that all of us need to remember that we are each Junior Monitors and that some fraction of keeping order is part of our collective talent.

    Support your friendly Monitor! And don’t forget to help them to do the best job they can do! Be wise, kind and a little bit blind but do take good care of your sniny fangs. You never know when you’ll need to flash them. ;^>
    ______________
    Caine, you’re doing yeoman’s work here. I truly admire you. Do take time for deep breaths and a stretch or two to help you relax. You’ll do all right. That goes for all the other monitors too.

  188. 188
    Inaji

    I’m not having any success sleeping, so a couple of things. There’s what Seize mentioned @ 46, about having their comments remarked on or acknowledged. I have a good memory for nyms, so I do remember a lot of people who don’t comment much, but I have long made it a point to remark on new people’s comments, or the posts of people who don’t post much. That can go such a long way in making people feel welcome and comfortable, and it also dispels the idea that Pharyngula is one big clique with no interest in outside comments. It would be great if more people did this.

    Another thing, contained in the commenting rules, under courtesies:

    If you are replying to a specific comment, use the comment number and poster’s name.

    People not using a nym a/o comment number when replying was a major gripe in the big comment discussion. I understand why, too. It’s much easier to follow the flow of a discussion, and the back and forth when a nym a/o a comment number is used, and it’s little enough to do, however, a fair number of regulars will not do this, even when there has been a reminder in a thread to please do so. It makes me feel hypocritical and stupid to put that reminder out to a new person, who is likely to take it on board, when a thread is full of regulars who won’t do this simple courtesy. PZ, you’re bad about this, too. Sometimes you do, most of the time you don’t. I know it’s not a hard and fast rule, but would it be so bad to make an effort in this regard? (And yes, I know it’s a real problem when you’re communicating via phone. I think that’s an exception.)

  189. 189
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    Just a quick note – adding someone’s ‘nym when referring to a comment by them is a great idea, and one I try to follow. Quoting the part of the comment being responded to helps too (other readers can do a string-search to find the original), as does adding the comment number. Except that the number sometimes changes (frequently in troll-infested threads) so may I suggest that it shouldn’t ever be comment number alone, but ‘nym or ‘nym AND number?

  190. 190
    consciousness razor

    Caine, #131:

    If people aren’t willing to talk about what monitors shouldn’t do, only what commenters shouldn’t do, then I think this is going nowhere fast.

    People have been, and are talking about what monitors shouldn’t do. I don’t know how you’re missing this.

    and…

    They may not be thinking so much about how to police their own activities

    I’ve been thinking about that, damn near constantly, and saying so. Why are you missing this, too? I know other monitors are equally concerned about their own behaviour, both as monitors and regular members of the commentariat.

    I wasn’t claiming otherwise. I’m not missing that. I was trying to give some context for why I was criticizing the way I was. The default way of looking at any given suggestion could be “how does this ‘fix’ the problem of commenters doing bad thing X,” when you should also ask how it solves or creates problems (or potential problems) on the monitors’ end. As you suggest, this is fairly uncontroversial, and I do think others are trying to do the same sort of thing, which doesn’t suggest I should get the fucking Inquisition simply for doing it. And that doesn’t suggest it isn’t sufficiently “productive.”

    But yes, I’m cranky. And I’m not being as diplomatic about this as I could be. Sorry for that.

    ———
    David Marjanović, #157:

    It keeps blowing my mind how quickly so many people jump to the conclusion that someone is lying. Is it so hard to imagine that PZ just didn’t read your comment closely and carefully enough? Is it so hard to imagine that you didn’t express yourself clearly enough?

    First of all, I didn’t classify it as “lying.” I said it’s bullshit, which is a form of dishonesty. Nowhere did I indicate anything approaching what PZ said. There’s no reasonably-close or not-so-careful reading that renders that kind of interpretation. He wasn’t merely mistaken. It was completely fabricated.

    … What happens as a result? Knowing my history here, Caine didn’t come in to support what I was saying, knowing how much PZ was bullshitting, how it had nothing to do with what I said, and how in fact I do like her and the other monitors. (And for that matter, you didn’t support it either, presumably knowing the same thing by this point.) That’s hurtful, honestly, but I’ll get over it. As long as the monitor’s don’t take PZ’s word over my own, it’ll be okay. I trust that they know how to read for comprehension, because I don’t think I’ve misstated what I actually think.

    And I get criticized for what? I’m apparently supposed to “produce” a bunch of simple rules to take away right now, like we’re writing the ten commandments or something. It doesn’t look like that’s the only option to me. Isn’t it also productive to talk about the general approach monitors are taking? What sorts of comments get their attention (instead of something arbitrary like “no derails until page 2 … when all hell breaks loose”), how they communicate to the commenters, what sort of general attitude they take in different situations (not arbitrarily different ones, like being on page 2), why they think they ought to intervene in different situations, what exactly their goals are, how well any given thing would accomplish those goals, and so on. I can’t get inside their heads, so I don’t know what would be useful for everyone, and no list of rules (or “guidelines”) is going to cut it anyway. But we could talk about it and get people thinking about it in different ways. That could be productive, if people aren’t being too defensive, and if they’re not expecting a simple unambiguous list of conclusions that everyone can implement right now with no real discussion needed.

    That’s pretty much how I’m coming at this. That’s how a lot of other people are coming at it too, without having to deal with a bunch of well-poisoning bullshit, accusing them of having some nonexistent personal grudge or of having goals which aren’t even consistent with anything they’ve been saying.

  191. 191
    Inaji

    CR:

    Isn’t it also productive to talk about the general approach monitors are taking? What sorts of comments get their attention

    Yes, yes it is. I think it’s important, too. I’m trying to radically change my approach, personally, so that I can be calm, patient, and fair all the time, not just when I have to stick the monitor hat on. Right now, Daz and Giliell are working on standardized monitor notes, which are sticking to the commenting rules.

    As for what sorts of comments get monitor attention, I think it would be good to listen to the commentariat as a whole about comments, such as Forelle’s posts @ 142 and 146, and other cases where everyone could speak up more, because this is a whole commentariat effort more than anything else. Well, at least it should be.

  192. 192
    Daniel Martin

    Note to anyone who remebers my old “killfile” greasemonkey script – I’ve recently begun rewriting it from scratch as a chrome extension and, once I get that working as a firefox extension. My stretch goal is to be able to also handle Disqus-style comments, though that presents its own challenges.

  193. 193
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    OK, so here are the first standardized monitor notes.
    They’ve been written with the wording most people found appropriate. They all quote the relevant part of the rules and have a link back to the rules. This is not exhautive, please mention if there are some things you think need to be included.
    The Thunderdome note has been worded to apply to personal quarrels, the idea of a thread for off-topic but legitimate discussions is not dead.
    Anything you like, dislike, would like to see?

    Standardized monitor notes

    Monitor note:
    Please remember that this is the Lounge:

    The Lounge is more strongly moderated; do not start fights, do not be rude when posting there, but nothing is otherwise off-topic.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember not to do “First!” posts:

    Your post will be edited if: It’s a “First!” post.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember that gendered insults are not appropriate on Pharyngula:

    Your post will be edited if: You use bigoted slurs.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to use html tags:

    Use the HTML tags listed below the comment box. In particular, use “blockquote” when quoting someone.

    <blockquote>”quoted words”</blockquote>
    <strong> bold </strong>
    <em> italics </em>
    <a href=”LINK goes here” > Totally awesome youtube video </a>
    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to use Nyms and/or comment numbers:

    If you are replying to a specific comment, use the comment number and poster’s name.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember that it’s not appropriate to refer to mental illness when criticizing somebody’s behaviour on Pharyngula:

    Your post will be edited if: You use bigoted slurs.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to ask for clarification and be charitable at first.

    When someone says something apparently stupid or vile, verify before opening fire. Express your objection and ask them to rephrase their statement. Then open fire.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember that Pharyngula is known for its rough tone.

    This is a rude blog. Expect rough handling. Justice is more important than civility. But aspire to be charitable at first.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember not to write anything that could be interpreted as a threat or an invitation to self-harm.

    IV. You will be banned from the blog if: You make threats of physical violence or harassment.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to stick to the topic of the OP. If you have a bone to pick with somebody, please take it to Thunderdome

    Stay on topic, unless it’s an obvious “fun” thread. If you have something off topic that you must share, the Thunderdome thread is always appropriate.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to read the previous comments before you make one of your own.

    You may be banned from a comment thread if:
    Your comments are repetitive, especially if you repeat arguments that have already been addressed.
    You demonstrate that you are unwilling to have read previous comments or the opening post.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember not to use comment threads for (self-)promotion.

    You will be banned from the blog if: You are spamming a url. Relevant links to your own website are OK.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember not to carry your grudges from previous interactions to the current thread.

    Do not bring arguments from elsewhere into the comment threads.

    The Rules

    Monitor note:
    Please remember not to talk about people in the third person, address them by their proper nym.

    Do not talk about another commenter in the third person; do not call out commenters from other threads.

    The Rules

  194. 194
    rorschach

    I’ll crosspost that in the ‘dome for you, where it fits a bit better.

  195. 195
    Inaji

    Daniel @ 192:

    Note to anyone who remebers my old “killfile” greasemonkey script

    I remember it, and would really appreciate a link when you’re finished. Thanks so much for doing all that work.

    Giliell, thank you. Looking good to me.

  196. 196
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    Giliell, thanks, those look like good rules to me.

    Monitors in general, and PZ, thank you for taking all this time and effort to make Pharyngula a better place.

  197. 197
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    I like the look of those rules as well. :)

  198. 198
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I like both the look and the tone of the notes (it feels really strange supporting a specific tone round here, but it makes sense here).

  199. 199
    Crudely Wrott

    I like.

    Especially this:

    This is a rude blog. Expect rough handling. Justice is more important than civility. But aspire to be charitable at first.

    Aspire to be charitable at first. Proper guidance for this blog; proper guidance in general.

    I have mentioned how the charity and compassion that is a hallmark of the Lounge, previously TET, and a large portion of many Pharyngula threads has kept me coming here for several years. But, to be gleefully honest, the blunt, in your face, put up your dukes character of so many well spoken commentators is icing on the cake. You’ll find no better snark any where.

    That said, it can do the Horde no harm, indeed will ameliorate the offense that more sensitive occasional readers and lurkers might find troublesome, to present a pleasant face of honest interest in all commentators. At times that face will be a cunning mask concealing something quite different but to be charitable and kind costs nothing and has the potential of greater returns. Part of everyone’s responsibilities here is to lure in the unwary, to seduce the mild and unsuspecting and to woo the undecided.

    Another responsibility is to smash, yea, crush! the ignorance of unreason and thoughtless prejudice. Nicely, of course; delicately, with careful attention to detail. ;^>
    _____
    Good judgement is required of all Hordelings as well as monitors. That’s a tall order sometimes that is well met by simply “engaging brain before opening mouth”. (That must so, for the older I get, the wiser my parents become!)

  200. 200
    Daniel Martin

    Stage 1 of the project mentioned in comment 192 is ready for early alpha testers.

    See http://dtm.livejournal.com/40832.html.

    This version logs all over the place for no reason, and there isn’t yet a good way to tune that.

    Still, if you have chrome and participate in places like Thunderdome where you want a killfile…

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