DKOS community norms

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Contents

Purpose

To record an expression of what community norms are. It's not to state a bunch of rules, it's not to impose those rules. It's to act as a guide for those looking for such (e.g. newcomers) and act as a statement that help to describe the community of dkos as such.

Status and State

[comment by galiel] A useful and accessible introduction to community management can be found in Dereck Lakaff's article, "Norm Maintenance in Online Communities: A Review of Moderation Regimes", at http://lackaff.net/research/moderation.html


TEXT BELOW IMPORTED WHOLE FROM (some slight editing has now occurred) THIS DIARY, this should be edited to not use first person, to clean up the formatting (cut and paste isn't friendly to html or structured text) and for "correctness", as nec., e.g. to incorporate good additions found in the comments or thought up since

Note also this post by kos.


Overview

Mon Oct 4th, 2004 at 17:31:04 UTC

In Markos' post on community last night, he mentioned his anxiety when the community experiences some turnover. The history of the community gets lost for a time, and eventually re-establishes itself, though not without a few knuckle-biting weeks or months of pissing, moaning, sniping and bitching.

Now, this is a phenomenon that I am familiar with. Part of what I do in real life is help communities get back in touch with their history and claim it so they can move into the future.

There's two ways they do that. One is to tell stories about themselves. Kos, if you or any of the other front-page diarists are reading this, I think it'd be great to open up a "reminiscing" thread, where folks can add what they know about the history of the place. They might even say a nice thing or two about you.

But the other way communities get ahold of their history (specifically the "rules" that define the community) is to spend some time spelling them out. That's what I'd like to focus on in the extended text.

Diaries :: pastordan's diary ::

We all know (or ought to know) the diary rules:

1. One diary daily maximum. If you need to post more, perhaps it's time to start your own blog. 2. No single-line diaries. If you want to bring attention to a single link, or make a one-line pithy comment, head on over to the Open Threads or an appropriate post or diary entry. 3. No repetitive diaries. If it's been blogged or diaried, there's no need to repeat it. Take a moment to ensure your topic hasn't been blogged. And if you post your same diary entry twice, consider it grounds for banning. 4. Use "Extended Copy" box. If your diary entry is longer than three paragraphs, use the extended entry box. Be considerate and don't clutter up the Diaries home page with epic entries.

To which we might add a word of explanation: the diaries go by mighty quick around here. The last I heard, we had somewhere north of 200 entries per day. That's a lot of information to wade through, and it's helpful for everyone if we don't have to waste it hearing the same stuff over and over, or getting a morsel of perspective that might have been better appended to somebody else's thread.

Update [2004-10-4 13:57:14 by pastordan]: If you plan on posting regularly, you may want to reset your diary display to show more than 10 diaries at a time. Many people use 50--it gives you a fair number of things to look at without getting to be too out of date. See the comments below for directions on how to do this.

Remember as well that you can always delete a diary, if you've accidentally duplicated somebody else's, or if you're just not satisfied with it.

Next, we might want to explain the rating system. There are almost as many systems as there are users, but the way it's designed to work is this:

  • A 4 means the comment is superb. Generally, 4's get handed out for comments that are particularly insightful, informative, moving, or just plain funny.
  • A 3 is for above-average comments. Not great, not terrible.
  • A 2 is for a fairly marginal comment. These comments don't add much to the conversation, and the 2 serves as a kind of "shot across the bow" to warn that you may want to reconsider adding such comments in the future.
  • A 1 is an "unproductive" comment. These are comments that are basically devoid of content, add nothing to the conversation, and/or are offensive. You need to be a bit careful when assigning these, as people can get offended.
  • A 0 is a "troll-rated" comment. Generally speaking, 0s are reserved for auto-generated comments, or for comments that serve no other purpose than to sow hurt, confusion and dissent among the posters. Only Trusted Users may give 0s.
Comments that fall below an average ranking of "1" become hidden comments, meaning they disappear off the thread. Trusted Users can see hidden comments, and are allowed to either rate this comment down to keep it off the board, or to give it a higher rating so it remains visible, if this helps the conversation. If a comment collects two 0 ratings, it automatically becomes hidden, regardless of its average rating. (n.b. #1: a comment's rating does not become visible until two users have rated it. A rating of 0/1 is not necessarily a zero; it simply means only one person has rated that comment. n.b. #2: Comments currently cannot be edited, and ratings can be changed, but not removed altogether. Users are encouraged to exercise caution in what they say and how they rate.) Ratings reflect an evaluation of behavior, not of agreement. Users should not give 1s or 0s to comments simply on the basis of disagreeing with another user's perspective. They should give out 1s for language that is rude, abusive, insulting or otherwise offensive. This is a self-policing community, and we covenant with one another to make this board a place where all voices can be heard without fear of ridicule, hostility, or overtly hurtful responses. There is some disagreement about how best to apply these standards, and about what exactly "all voices" means. The first is probably an intractable argument; many users means many standards, unfortunately. But there is general agreement on the second that Republicans, Naderites, etc., are welcome on the board, as long as they're respectful, and as long as they don't try to sidetrack or defeat the overarching goal of the site: to build up a strong Democratic party capable of resisting Republican political domination. Update [2004-10-4 14:55:4 by pastordan]: As KidOakland points out in the comments, a good basic rule is to debate or rate, not both at the same time. Onwards: this site relies on what's called the mojo system. The system boils down to this: hang around the board long enough and collect enough 4s, and you become a Trusted User. This enables you to see and review hidden comments, and to give comments a 0. In return, Trusted Users are asked to take extra responsibility in policing the site by helping to banish trolls and ensure the fairness of comment ratings. Trusted User status is not permanent for most folks: if you collect enough 1s and 0s, you can lose it. But it can also be regained by more productive contributions. Hang around long enough and collect enough 0s and 1s, and you become a troll, and are liable to get kicked off the board. While Kos and some other users have the ability to summarily eject particularly difficult users, most banishees are removed by an automated system. A dKos tradition for dealing with trolls' diaries is to post recipes on them, rather than address the substance of the post. This has caused a number of trolls to stumble off the board in confusion, as well as distributed some delicious food ideas. The precise workings of mojo are shrouded in mystery deliberately to prevent gaming the system. How do you know you've become a Trusted User? When you see 0 included in your rating options, or when you can access the "Review Hidden Comments" page. How do you know when you've become a troll? Presumably, you get a notice informing you that you're no longer welcome to post. General guidelines: generally speaking, the lower the User ID number, the more respect a user is accorded. (You can find the UID by holding your cursor over a user's handle in a comment.) This for a couple of reasons. One, they're assumed to know more about the ethos and history of the board, and therefore to be better instructors. Two, they often have established themselves as welcome and appreciated members of the community. It's considered bad form for a newbie to insult or mark down an established user without some strong justification. Discussions on the board can get heated at times. Many Kossites (Kossacks, Kosopolitans) are people with strong opinions. Again generally speaking, it's acceptable to hold a contrary opinion; what's not acceptable is to shove that opinion in somebody's face, or to stick to it for so long that your insistence becomes obnoxious. If your exchange isn't producing new understanding on either side, or if other users are telling you that your enthusiasm is a bit misplaced, it's probably time to let it go. This is particularly true if your conversation is sidetracking the main thread or making it difficult to carry on the main conversation. As Kos himself pointed out, you're liable to reap what you sow. Trash a candidate, and you'll hear from that candidate's supporters. Offer constructive criticism (outside a rallying thread), and you're likely to be thanked for your insight. It's considered rude to insult or swear at a conversation partner on the board, and it is never acceptable to threaten physical violence. (Kos, if you're reading this, making threats should probably be grounds for automatic expulsion.) If you can't get through a conversation without telling the other person to go Cheney themselves, or threatening to hit them so hard their vertebrae come popping out like Chiclets, it's probably time to turn your computer off and go get drunk. My personal guideline is to treat people as if I were meeting them at a diner until I get to know them: be polite, don't make assumptions, listen carefully to what they have to say. They may be the biggest jerk you've ever met; but they may also have something to teach you. Whew. Anybody have anything to add? [editor's note, by pastordan] Guess so. Thanks to everyone, whether you're credited or not!! [dissent by galiel] "Norms" in the sense of voluntary civil standards don't really apply to large-scale communities. Think of it like this: In an isolated small town, where everyone knows everyone, people will stop at the intersections and courtesy will be enough to let people pass. As a community grows, police are necessary to control the flow of traffic. When the community becomes a sprawling metropolis, hand-waving and courtesy don't work anymore. There aren't enough police to monitor every intersection, and people driving through downtown don't know each other. That is why you have traffic lights, flow analysis and (ideally) anticipatory urban design. Norms work in small, close communities. Moderators work in medium-sized, homogenous communities. Neither work in large-scale communities. The equivalent of traffic lights are community management tools and technologies and efficient traffic flow requires deliberate design. The above should not be taken too literally. One danger is assuming that what works in "offline" communities works online. That is not necessarily so. a) Online communities are potentially much more vulnerable to disruption by destructive individuals. A determined, hostile individual can perform much greater harm to an online community than an offline community. b) The barriers to destructive behavior are lowered in online communities. Behind masks of anonymity, people feel less restrained, and faced with other anonymous masks, people feel less empathy and tend to be less sensitive to the consequences of their communications. There are far fewer of the cues (visible, auditory, and other sensory) that humans have evolved to rely on beyond pure content to enhance and evaluate communication. c) Online communities, because they are not limited by physical geography, and because of the nature of their many-to-many discussions architecture, end up involving much larger numbers of people in continuous conversation than is feasibly sustainable offline, and often more diverse membership, in terms of the personality types, social norms and standards. This is a wonderful thing, in and of itself. Text is a great equalizer, and offers the opportunity to evaluate the merits of a thought without the prejudicial filters that affect us offline. However, it also means that people, who are used to mostly engaging with people they get along with offline, have to learn to interact with people online who may not think like they do, interpret things as they do, or behave as they do. All of which means that a different "architecture", and a different set of management tools, may be appropriate for online communities. Thus "traffic lights" doesn't really map to an online community function; rather, the relevant analogy is the shift from trust-based systems to (benevolent, yet) authoritarian systems, and ultimately to self-sustaining systems and, most importantly, to intelligent anticipatory design. [Some Preaching by Heronymous Cowherd]

People Are Not Machines

One really big "red flag" that we should mention (it has been mentioned above, but it could benefit from reinforcement), is that we really need to remember that these are people we are dealing with, not 'bots or abstract personalities. People are complex and vital. We can cause tremendous damage without feeling any repercussions ourselves.

1. THE INSULATOR
The Internet has become a huge insulator. It insulates us from the consequences of our words and actions. This means that we can't see the other person's face fall when we make an offhand remark that hurts them. When you have a conversation with someone, you are constantly cueing on their reactions to what you are saying, and you adjust your delivery accordingly.
2. FLOW CONTROL
If, for example, you are a man, talking to a woman, and you mention that there's a bake sale going on...and ask whether or not she's interested in making anything for it; you may notice her face fall when you mention "bake sale," so you smoothly alter your conversation to mention that you'll be making brownies for it, and, by the way, does she cook?
This can't happen in long postings. Usually, you write it all up at once, and hit "Send." Chats are a bit better, because there is some flow control.
3. APOLOGIES
Apologies are a good thing. America has a culture of unapologetic insensitivity, and that can be a problem. If you find that you have made an error, resulting in some damage to the online relationship or thread, please apologize. You don't have to grovel. Apologize only for the single transgression. It's OK to stop them from trying to pin additional stuff on you, but it's important to apologize.
Conversely, if they apologize, please be gracious, and realize that they are making themselves somewhat vulnerable. Do not dismiss or denigrate their apology. If you don't feel it is adequate, then simply use self-referencing terminology, such as "I don't feel as if you appreciate how that comment made me feel."
An apology is a precious gift. Treat it as such. When making an apology, think very carefully about the wording.
3.1 WHEN AN APOLOGY IS NOT AN APOLOGY
3.1.1 LEFT-HANDED APOLOGIES
Left-handed apologies are not good. (LEFT-HANDED: "I'm sorry you took it that way.", as opposed to RIGHT-HANDED: "I really didn't mean it that way, and I apologize if I was not being clear.") If a left-handed apology is the only way you can apologize, then just do everyone a favor, and keep it to yourself.
3.1.2 PUBLIC TRANSGRESSION, PRIVATE APOLOGY
Another way to remove the worth of an apology is to apologize in private for a transgression made in public. If you insult someone in a public comment board, and then send them a private email, apologizing, don't expect them to be particularly gracious about accepting the apology.
A good formula is to make the apology in exactly the same forum as the transgression. This has the additional benefit of improving your stature amongst the other viewers of the forum. This is because they usually know that you're wrong anyway, and this will repair some of the damage you did to yourself.
4. AD HOMINEM
Ad hominem attacks are directed at people. e.g. "You are an insensitive dolt!" or "I think you're full of s**t!" When a thread reaches the ad hominem stage, it needs to be truncated. Even if the other person has written some incredibly ignorant and insulting material, don't respond in kind. There's a couple of ways that debaters deal with ad hominem attacks:
4.1. JUST IGNORE THEM
Stop responding at all. This is 100% effective. The flame war is now over.
4.2. ADDRESS THE ARGUMENT, NOT THE ATTACK
Ignore the fact that the poster said bad things about your father and a monkey. If there was any substance to their actual (non ad hominem) argument, then pretend their deadly insult was not even heard, and address the argument itself.
"Despite all that, I believe that Rush Limbaugh is being overly simple in his protestations. I do not, in fact, agree that 'Rush Rules.'"
4.3. HUMOR
Judo-style, turn it around. A favorite riposte to "F**k You" is to say "You wouldn't like it. I just lie there and sweat." If they continue to press, then start to gush about how honored we feel to have been chosen by them, and start negotiating the specifics (e.g. "Now, I'm a man, and you're a man, so that means that one of us has to...") This usually stops it pretty quickly. In some cases, they may call the bluff, and we just stop responding altogether.
In other instances, it can turn the entire conversation into a good-natured banter, and it becomes a positive experience. However, be careful if you are doing so in a public forum. The example above may easily become offensive to gay members, or to people who are very sensitive to things like this (For example, victims of past sexual abuse can be incredibly sensitive. We don't need to rub salt in their wounds).
It is virtually impossible to express humor without it becoming offensive to someone. A good rule of thumb is to keep the humor self-deprecating, urbane and good-natured. Keep it to areas about which you are familiar, and don't speak for others. Bill Cosby, as opposed to Sam Kinnison.
4.4. RECIPES
This seems to be a very creative way to address the issue.
5. OFFLINE CONTACT
One thing that should be remembered about public forums is that they magnify stress. People are very concerned about how they appear to others, and a comment made in public has a great deal of potential to aggravate.
If possible, it is often beneficial to contact the person by email or private message, so the stress of a public forum is removed. It is often far more possible to be frank when doing so.
5.1 NEVER EVER POST PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE IN PUBLIC
This is a very old rule of "netiquette." If someone sends you a private email, then it is considered the height of discourtesy to post it in public. This can be exacerbated by the fact that it is usually done out of context, cherry-picked or even deliberately altered.
In some cases, you may post something that you, yourself have written, but care should be taken that it does not reflect what was written to you (such as a reply that either includes or references a private correspondence sent to you).

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