Monday, 4 July 2011

Are we there yet? No not yet

Just a quick post to let you know our behind the scenes discussions about changes to the make-up, commenting, moderation, and other aspects of the culture here at The Hand Mirror are still going on.  Criticisms raised last month (and before) are being considered carefully and there is a shared commitment to make this a better place.

We've made some interim decisions for a few short-term changes we hope will help while we do more thinking and work for the medium and longer term stuff that is needed.

We're just having a small technical hitch with a key part of the first bit (which is mostly around moderation and commenting), hence the delay.  Hopefully there will be something up later this week letting you know about the first step in more detail once we have that sorted. 

Thanks for your patience while we work through this.  And for your generosity in helping us learn and grow.


Scar said...

Have you approached any trans people for their input on how to improve your online interactions with them?

Maia said...

Scar - On the blog level we have been discussing suggestions made in these threads by trans people. I am going to suggest that before we make bigger changes (like a serious revision to our comment policy) that we have some open threads specifically to get feedback.

Acid Queen - Sarcasm about bloggers here is not a substantive contribution to the discussion - I've deleted your comment.

Acid Queen said...

OK, fine, I'll rephrase without sarcasm

I feel that some of the authors of this blog do not accept the need for the direct input of a transperson because they believe their own experiences gives them all the perspective they need on transphobia. I feel that this approach is wrong and want to challenge it.

Is that OK?

Good to know that, even if transphobic comments are still a problem, you can act promptly to remove sarcasm towards bloggers.

Maia said...

Acid Queen - The substantive comment is fine so I won't delete this post. But in the future remember that comment threads are not the place for discussions about moderation - if you want to discuss moderation take it to e-mail.

Maia said...

Sorry Acid Queen I deleted both of your comments when I just meant to delete the second which discussed moderation. The e-mail for contacting the moderators about comments is in both the comment policy and the box above leaving comments, so it's not hard to find.

Discussion of moderation in principle is fine - discussion of moderating decisions about a thread in that thread is not.

Acid Queen said...

No, I meant I don't have the emails of the other commenters of this site.

If I feel a particular comment is unacceptable but want to ask for the opinions of others commenters, I am not able to do so, since I don't have their emails.

Maia said...

That is true. You only have the e-mail addresses who have a profile and have set their e-mail to public. If people don't do that it's an indication that they don't want to be e-mailable.

Acid Queen said...

If somebody doesn't include an email that means "I don't want to talk to you via email" not "I don't want to discuss moderation with you".

It seems like people shouldn't have to choose between not being able to discuss moderation with other commenters and having to give strangers their email address.

It was discussion of the moderation policy between commentators that partly helped the recent review by highlighting examples of problems. I think THM staff would be doing something positive if they encouraged discussion of moderation among commenters.

Why not simply say "Feel free to discuss moderation in comments, but THM moderators will not respond, if you want a response please email us"? What is to be lost by allowing free discussion of moderation among commenters?

Maia said...

Acid Queen - We are not staff. We are not paid, employed, or indeed committed to doing anything for this blog. If you're looking for staff go to another website.

Discussions about moderation detract from conversations about the topics of posts. I have actually thought about having a dedicated thread for the discussion of moderation. We may talk about it as an option.

Psycho Milt said...

My email is in my comment profile, and I'd be happy to discuss the essential differences between the terms "commenter" and "customer" with other THM commenters.

Scar said...

or indeed committed to doing anything for this blog

That's disappointing. I thought there was a sort of vision or commitment to women's issues or something.

Maia said...

Scar - I was stating that as individuals we have not made a commitment (ie something that we must do) to read, comment, or post or undertake any labour in relation to this blog with any kind of regularity (or at all - you will see names on the sidebar who have not posted for years).

That is entirely different from political commitment to issues and principles.

Acid Queen said...

Maia, I'm presuming you weren't being sarcastic, so I will just say - I know you're not staff and that you're not paid. I know you don't owe me anything.

I realise that talk about moderation can be derailing. But when moderation is harmful and silencing as it has been in this blog in the past I think the need to avoid derailing is less important. Remember one of the reasons Scar was shouted down for accusing Milt and George of transphobia was that she was derailing. And you know what, that's true - she was derailing. That wasn't a post about transphobia. But I think it was a derail worth derailing.

Certainly for me, if I have a choice between derailing and letting transphobia or homophobia or racism or sexism go unchallenged, I'll derail.

Maia said...

Acid Queen - If you know that people on the Hand Mirror are not staff then it'd be good if your writing reflected that knowledge.

As for the rest - our policy not to discuss individual moderation decisions on the comment threads has been in our comment policy, I think since the beginning. We have very few moderating tools, and it is impossible to use one of the two that we have if people feel they can take a thread that needs moderating further away from its purpose by discussing moderation decisions. In my experience the people most likely to want to discuss moderating decisions are the people who feel most entitled to have their voices heard (so it usually, but not always works in the opposite way from which you suggest). Either way if people want to discuss individual moderating decisions at the Hand Mirror they need to do it elsewhere.

(and I don't think that Scar's original comment on the QtN post was derailing - it was a comment about QtN).

Acid Queen said...

Maia, I am not asking you to do extra work or make an extra time commitment. I'm suggesting an alternative comments policy that would I think actually make -less- work for you because you'd have to do less deleting of comments that broke it.

You're right that Scar's first reply was about QtN, but calling out Milt and George on their transphobic comments was a derail, since the thread was about QtN, not George and Milt's personal views. Also calling out the moderators was a derail. I made several comments in that post pointing out the need to delete or modify George and Milt's transphobic posts. Do you think it would have been better if I had not made them?

Maia said...

Acid Queen - If you think it would involve less work you have very little experience in moderating. We are talking about revising our comment policy, and if we ask for public feedback you can make your suggestions then.

Moz said...

Maia/ & Acid Queen: perhaps something like the abortion permanent discussion, where it's always open and people who want to discuss moderation can go there? Ideally you'd be able to move comments to that discussion when you needed to, but I doubt WP can do that.

I could understand the moderators not wanting to read that thread.

Maia said...

Moz - Anything we set up we would have to read. Both on a practical level - three moderators get e-mailed every comment and you can't turn that off. But also on a principled level. Unmoderated internet spaces will always reproduce the power dynamics that already exist in society (moderated forums usually will as well, but they can try not to). If we don't read them no one else could delete the truly horrendous comments we have had posted here.

The assumption that people who want to talk about moderating decisions would have the kind . Most of the complaints we have about moderating decisions are from people who are very entitled.

I can see the point of a thread, because usually when your moderating your trying to shut down a certain line of discussion. So you are as terse as you can be in your comments as unnecessary words open up the very line you are trying to shut down. There are times when it would be useful to move the discussion somewhere else, because. But such a thread could definitely not be something that was unmoderated, and it would require work from moderators.