Handling commenting policy is hard and it’s one of those things that you don’t realize how hard it is until you try to do it. Historically, the editors at Ordinary Times have tried to handle it by committee, basically. This has the upshot of trying to find a consensus on where the lines are, but the downside of slow reaction times to offensive comments, and sometimes arbitrary-seeming enforcement depending on the person who sees the comment in question first.
So we’re going to try something new. Instead of trying to handle everything together, we are going to have one person that we trust entirely and allow them to operate with autonomy. This will allow for quicker and more consistent enforcement.
We are thrilled to announce that our new Community Editor will be Maribou. The official start date is tomorrow, September 1st, but start listening to her today. Do not challenge her authority solely for the sake of challenging it. Do not push boundaries solely for the sake of pushing them. And please, please help her by making use of the Report button because she simply cannot be expected to be everywhere at once.
We are very fortunate that she has agreed to do this. It is, as I said, a difficult and thankless job. We have every confidence in her ability to do it fairly.
I have a large amount of experience with managing communities where some people don’t treat other people with respect. And being patient for too long with someone who has those problems and can’t rein them leads to much bigger problems. Problems the site as a whole has been experiencing. Problems which include people in general being nastier to each other, people leaving, people feeling like their “home” doesn’t have room for them anymore…
This will never be a “safe space” in the pejorative sense of the term and I wouldn’t want it to be. But it does need to be a safe *enough* space, not a space where a couple of people for whatever reasons – empathizable or less so – make it hard for a large part of the community to enjoy themselves. We’re not the town square, here. I don’t have to worry about what should or shouldn’t be legal. I just have to worry about what does or doesn’t make this an acceptable place for most people to feel welcome to speak their piece, to listen to other commenters, and to engage in conversations that push their Overton windows *wider*, not to one side or another.
I’m also doing my best to avoid a chilling effect. I know it’s extremely disheartening when people you aren’t bothered by get booted from commenting because other people are really bothered by them. There are websites I won’t ever leave a comment on because of that. There are a few websites (left and right and not really either) I’ve been banned from for taking up for the wrong side over the years, and Jaybird makes my “banned” record look paltry.
If I seem blunt with people when I’m moderating, it’s because I generally appreciate people being blunt with me: “This is what you’re doing, this is how I perceive it, you’ll stop or you’ll eventually leave, I don’t care which.” When people talk to me that way, I can regulate what I’m doing (even if I grouse about it for a week). As with the people I have to ask to leave my workplace and not come back a few times every year, having a great deal of empathy for folks in that situation won’t keep me from making the decision I feel is best for the community as a whole. Not a *good* decision or one I would ideally make in an ideal world, but the best possible bad decision.
I actually think any action taken by a moderator on any comment, here or on other sites, should be the best possible bad decision. But not taking any action can be far from the best possible choice…
I hope that helps y’all understand where I’m coming from, even if you think any, some, or all of my moderator actions are bad decisions.
Image by HowardLake