In the wake of recent events, we realized that we’re big enough now that Freethoughtblogs needed some more formal rules, so we scribbled some up. I’ve put the tl;dr version below the fold, but here’s the shorter version.
We’re an atheism+social justice+science network…we were Atheism+ before there was an Atheism+. Get used to it.
Big picture management is by an executive committee. It’s not democratic, because its job is to just get stuff done.
There is a confidential backchannel to discuss management issues. And gossip.
No rules to regulate individual blogs.
You want to join FtB? Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Membership is largely decided democratically, with some mandated vetting procedures and final approval in the hands of the executive committee.
You want to get kicked off FtB? Act like a raging asshat and the executive committee will oblige you.
The current executive committee consists of Ed Brayton, me, Ophelia Benson, and Greta Christina. A fifth person is in the process of being elected. Don’t pester the executive committee about signing up your blog, because they’re just the janitors and they don’t get to bypass the rest of the network to let people in; the people you want to beg are those on the admissions committee, and we’re not telling you who they are.
These are provisional rules. We’re going to implement them now, and in March 2013, after they’ve had a fair trial, we’ll consider revisions.
Freethoughtblogs is a community of bloggers who share a goal: the advancement of secularism through argument and discussion. To achieve that goal, we also value diversity (reaching every element of society is a priority), social justice, equality, and science and reason. We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism.
Our network of blogs is designed to encourage independent thinking and individual autonomy — freethoughtblogs.com itself is a vehicle for giving vocal secularists a venue for discussion of their values and interests. The administration of this organization will interfere in the activities of individual blogs as little as possible, and will not impose any specific dictates on how individual blogs are managed. However, there must be some minimal regulation of the activities of the network as a whole that require some administrative structure, and providing that is the purpose of this document — to define a hierarchy to regulate the network (but not individual blogs) activity, and to lay out a set of procedures for changes to the network.
The official entities in this organization are:
Manager: Ed Brayton, founder of the network, fills this role. The Manager’s job is to handle the business side of the group, selling ad space, disbursing revenues, and managing network hosting.
Webmaster: The webmaster is in charge of the technical aspects of the site. He or she answers only to the Manager.
Executive Committee: The Executive Committee will have the job of making decisions about new additions to the network, and taking punitive measures against bloggers who violate rules. Decisions made by the Executive Committee will be based on feedback from the Network.
The Network: The group of individual bloggers who are hosted at freethoughtblogs will be referred to as the Network. Each blog will have equal input to all decisions affecting the group.
Other committees: At the discretion of the Executive Committee, other committees may be formed from members of the Network to perform specific tasks. In particular, an Admissions Committee will be formed to evaluate candidates for new blogs.
The Executive Committee
The membership of the committee will consist of:
Two members to be appointed by Ed Brayton, with renewable one year terms
One member to be elected by majority vote of the Network, to have a renewable 6 month term.
The Executive Committee will meet by Skype or phone conferencing at least once a month, to discuss the state of the organization and to evaluate any pending action items. Minutes will be taken and published to the Network mailing list.
All decisions of the Executive Committee will be made by a majority vote in a conference call or email conversation.
Every blog on freethoughtblogs.com is considered a part of the Network. Each blog (not each blogger, since some blogs have multiple contributors) will have one equal vote in all decisions. Any questions submitted to the Network for voting will be announce on the network mailing list, with a specific deadline for voting; a 2/3 majority of the members that actually reply is required for passage.
The Network Mailing List
The network mailing list is maintained by the webmaster; it includes every member of the Network who wishes to be on it, except those who have had access restricted.
All emails sent or received on the list are considered to be private. Disclosure of the contents of discussions on the mailing list to others outside the Network is grounds for revocation of mailing list privileges; continued or egregious violations of privacy will be grounds for removal from the Network.
Since the purpose of the mailing list is to encourage open communication between members of the network, all discussions must be civil and drama is frowned upon; disagreement and criticism is encouraged, but only in the spirit of constructive improvement of the content of the Network. Other kinds of disagreement must be taken off-list, so that they do not disrupt free and friendly discussion. The mailing list is not to be an arena.
Threats, harassment, and personal abuse will not be tolerated on the mailing list. If personal conflicts are interfering with your ability to discuss matters politely, take it to the Executive Committee by email for mediation.
The Executive Committee can revoke mailing list privileges in response to any violations of privacy. The purpose of the mailing list is to allow discussions, however, so revocation should never be made lightly or permanently; losing internetwork communication is a very serious issue.
Admitting new bloggers to the Network
There are certain criteria a blogger must fit to belong to this Network:
They must be a freethinker, not a proponent of a specific religion or dogma
They must have demonstrated quality and reliability of output, with good reason to think they will be active bloggers
They must share a commitment to the values of the Network, which include diversity, equality, and social justice as well as atheism
They should be collegial, and willing to participate enthusiastically in the shared goals of the network
As a Network, we’ll also aspire to recruiting diverse bloggers to the cause; differences in background, values, and priorities within the broad framework of our mission are to be sought out and valued.
The Admissions Committee
A committee of at least 3 members will be formed by nomination of the Executive Committee. The role of the Admissions Committee is to mediate nominations for new members, conduct preliminary assessments of candidates, and to carry out interviews of potential new Network members.
At any time, the Executive Committee can dissolve the current Admissions Committee and request the Network to form a new one.
Any Network member can suggest new bloggers (Nominees) to the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee will maintain a list of suggestions, and carry out preliminary investigations of the suitability of Nominees.
The Admissions Committee, and only the Admissions Committee, can at any time request that the Executive Committee consider a nominee for admission to the Network. The Executive Committee is then obligated to make a decision within two weeks about whether the Nominee should be taken on.
A request to the Executive Committee to consider someone for admission requires:
Documentation of the current writing skills of the candidate
References from at least 5 Network members other than those on the Admissions Committee who approve of the Candidate
Results of a poll of the Network that show a majority approving of admission
A summary of a direct, personal interview of the Admissions Committee with the candidate to assess the suitability and collegiality of the candidate
The evaluation will be submitted to the Executive Committee for approval.
Dismissal of bloggers from the network
Removal of unsuitable bloggers from the Network is never to be undertaken casually. The criteria for asking that someone be removed are:
Multiple violations of privacy
Persistent disruption of the mailing list with violations of etiquette
Harassment — continuation of a behavior when requested to stop
Criminal behavior, such as the posting of child pornography
Active violations of the mission of the network: using a blog to set up an anti-atheist, racist, or anti-gay center, for instance
Prolonged abandonment of the blog, without suitable explanation (for example, a soldier sent off on active duty, or a blogger with a book commitment are reasonable excuses)
The following conditions will not be considered valid reasons for expulsion:
Disagreement on tactics, style, or focus
Change in philosophy or religion, unless it actively conflicts with the mission of Freethoughtblogs
Any blogger can request the expulsion of another, given good grounds. However, these requests should not be made on the mailing list, nor should the mailing list be used to threaten colleagues with expulsion. This is not behavior conducive to uninhibited communication, and can poison the well for further discussion. All suggestions for expulsion should be sent to the Executive Committee by email.
Consideration for expulsion will be made entirely at the Executive Committee’s discretion. Do not nag the Executive Committee; requests will be tallied and discussed privately.
If the Executive Committee decides that there are reasonable grounds for expulsion, this fact will be disclosed to the offending blogger, and they will be given an opportunity to explain and correct their behavior. This will not be subject to public discussion. That a blogger has been censured will not be disclosed to other members of the Network, and if the problems are addressed, will never be revealed to the community.
The blogger may request a conference call with the Executive Committee to discuss the issues.
If the offending blogger is recalcitrant or in any way refuses to address the concerns of the Network, the Executive Committee will vote to determine if the blogger should be removed. If a majority agree, the Webmaster will be asked to immediately remove the blogger from the mailing list, remove the blogger’s posting privileges, and close all comments on their blog.
Because continuity on the network is important, the blogs of expelled bloggers will be retained on freethoughtblogs (without the option for adding new posts or comments) at the bloggers choice. If they decide otherwise, the blog may be deleted. A backup of the archive will be provided for the blogger.