|Said I, elsewhere:|
Pretty soon we will segue into "what have we become?", and actually there's a kernel of sense in that transition. Even if we feel that we have removed a basically malign influence from Barbelith - or helped a malign influence to realise that ze doesn't want to be here anyway - we have still done something which is going to require a chunk of post-match analysis.
And here we are. The discussion of the banning of Shadowsax took a lot of discussion, which I hope to some extent was because it was a test case on a number of areas - that is, I hope that the next such banning, if it requires discussion, requires less discussion. However, the intention of this thread is to talk about how to avoid where possible and deal with effectively such situations. Tom said:
The major thing that I've said to him is that although I think he should probably be leaving the board, I've not been entirely comfortable with the way we've handled this situation. Ganesh's proposal to take this to a thread and have a week to debate it was - I think - completely right. But what I want us to consider now is how things got to this state in the first place. If we're prepared to spend a week and a half debating whether a problematic new user should be ejected, then perhaps we should be prepared to spend more time helping problematic new users acclimatise themselves to the board, get their head around the politics and appropriate behaviour, and to actually spend a bit more time persuading people and supporting them so they don't make the mistakes that might get them into this situation.
I'm going to propose that we move straight on from the banning of ShadowSax directly into another thread now about how to avoid situations like this one in future, how we can improve the ability of people to get acclimatised and to understand the culture and the limits, and also to look at how we might change or focus our own behaviour to stop it reaching these states.
I'd also like us to look at users at the moment who are reacting badly to the culture that exists here and actually ask ourselves as a group why they're feeling that way, why they're having problems and be prepared to adapt a little to respond to them - not necessarily to meet them halfway but at the very least to figure out where the problems are and be critical enough to explore whether some of them lie with us. I think we need to do this honestly and openly and positively - not because anyone in particular was wrong in the handling or treatment of Shadowsax, but because it's in everyone's best interests to stop this happening again.
There are points that I would take issue with - for example, the description of a member of a year's standing as a "new user", but certainly we can look at how we approach dealing with people with viewpoints found objectionable or adverse to the project of Barbelith. However, before we really get our guilt on, Flyboy also offers a salutary objective:
I completely agree that a sort of 'aftermath' thread is needed. However, I think it should be presented as a more general review of the process, which allows for contributions from people who, for example, rather than asking what more the board could do in future to persuade and support the likes of ShadowSax, are interested in discussing what more the board could do in future to support those people who are the targets of a poster such as ShadowSax's direct or indirect abuse.
Speaking honestly, I hgave a lot of sympathy with Flyboy's position, for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the bromide that there are plenty of places where behaviour like Shadowsax's is entirely acceptable and indeed encouraged, and not being able to cope with this not being one is not something we have to fix or indeed feel guilty about. That's the point. I would further suggest that objectives interact with each other in a complex fashion - for example, a softer, gentler approach with the Shadowsaxes of this world risks alienating other members who will see it as appeasement. More time spent dealing with the excitable fringe means less time to contribute elsewhere on the board - there's a reason the Head Shop looks like an adventure playground at the moment.
So, this thread, I suggest, is for suggestions for making the process of dealing with such issues more efficient and also less painful. Suggestions on how to avoid reaching the point where bannning has to be discussed are a part of this broader project.
Before we go on, a couple of suggestions from my end.
1) Some people are more valuable to Barbelith than others. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.
2) Unfortunately, the risk that x or y will leave cannot be balanced against the worth of keeping z on the board, as leaving is reversible and only revealed once it has actually happened.
3) However, "good people leave the board, and when asked why point to this sort of behaviour" does have some force as a reason to take action in the future.
4) Disciplinary proceedings are linmited to banning by the technology of the Board at present. Banning is currently applied inconsistently - usually by attention being drawn to Tom's attention. This is the first time that something like a plebiscite was taken.
In light of 4), I'd certainly look for this thread to help to understand what bannable behaviour should _look like_. People in the Shadowsax thread have maintained that, however unpleasant he may have been, his behaviour was not bannable - that they either know what bannable behaviour is, or do not know but would recognise it if they saw it, and did not. Since it is clearly de facto bannable, we need to sort that one out. My rough starter there would be that behaviour risks banning on grounds of incompatibility with the values and methods of Barbelith if:
1) It causes offence to other users on the grounds of insult to their gender, race, sexuality (other)
2) This offence is sufficiently widespread that it is adjudged not too be an idiosyncratic reaction (that is, the gold standard of "you're overreacting" is not whether the person being reacted to believes it)
3) The suit shows no interest, either vocally or through their continuing actions, in looking at why their behaviour is causing offence, and either continues to do so or reserves the right to continue to do so at any point in the future
4) Mitigating factors do not exist (this one is perforce rather catch-all, but I thought it best to stick it in for the moment)
If all of those conditions are fulfilled, I think it's reasonable to start talking about a ban, and if the conditions do not look as if they will stop being fulfilled then the ban should be enforced, by the password of the suit being changed by Tom. There's some ancillary stuff about what to do with PMs, but that's logistics. Personally, I don't believe banning should come down to a simple majority, but that's just me.
Now, ideally we want to prevent this situation from ever occurring - that is, to prevent 1-3, and/or whatever other qualifiers people believe are valid to activate the banning discussion from becoming and remaining the case.
Personallly, I feel Shadowsax might have given us a bit of a gift on that one - we can now point to him and say "look, being an asshole does actually get you bannned. We're refining the process by which it happens, but it does happen". This would not have been useful _with_ Shadowsax, or for that matter with Laila, but in other members it might provide a degree of pause.
Another suggestion, which has been PMed to me and which I would like the person who proposed it to expand on when ze gets back to the Internet, is having "101" threads - threads in the Policy where some of the really simple stuff is laid out for new posters. There's a degree of this already going on - people ascribing actiions to "political correctness" are being directed to the thread on it in the Head Shop, and others have been pointed to the "Feminism 101" thread or the "the Problem with Feminist Spitfires" thread. Having these threads in the Policy would allow for tight moderation, and might help to deal with... well, let's say people whose offensive behaviour is motivation primarily by ignorance rather than volition. It would also show that we were working to provide a resource to avoid obvious flashpoints. So, for example, the next person who said that feminists, in whole or in part, said that all heterosexual sex was rape could be pointed to "Introductory feminism". Likewise, somebody asking why the gays insisted on shoving it in people's faces could be directed to "Homo 101", and possibly directed there to "A question for the pride parade people".
This is not a complete solution, but it might save some repetition on the part of value-contributing members of Barbelith, might help members to contribute greater value, and would be a clear sign that we were making an effort to help people to understand why they were not getting the reception they might expect. It would also be another tickbox - somebody directed towards a place where something they are working from which is not as uncontroversial as they believe is debunked who carries on down that path can be considered less interested in remaining on Barbelith than interested in resisting contrary information. In practical terms, they might just be tooo excitable to let reading a thread get in the way of speaking their brains, but if the danger of being mistaken for a DFT and banned helps to focus minds, that needn't be a bad thing at all, I think.
Right. Starter for ten, there. Who's up next?