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Additions to the FAQ and a Community Statement

by Co-Rion (Monk)
on Apr 15, 2013 at 18:49 UTC ( #1028753=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

After the recent heated discussion below How many man-hours would you estimate you have invested in learning Perl?, some suggestions were made with the aim to improve how people could voice their concerns with postings here. Additionally, there was a request from TPF to clarify the relationship between Perlmonks.org and positions and statements of TPF.

I see some need to discuss the potential changes, as I do not want the actions of a few vocal voices to negatively impact the majority of the community here.

Relation to TPF

The relationship between Perlmonks.org and TPF was so far only displayed on every page as a link, but there was no description of what the relationship actually is. I would like to clarify the relationship with text in the Perlmonks FAQ like the following

Perlmonks.org is loosely related to TPF. TPF provides the legal entity representing Perlmonks.org in the real world. The postings on Perlmonks.org represent exclusively the positions of their respective authors and not the positions and opinions of TPF (nor of the site administrators, hosting providers, or anyone else).

This should be fairly obvious to the long-time users of this site, but not everybody is aware of the history of Perlmonks.org and its relationship to TPF.

The official way to contact the Perlmonks.org administators, /msg'ing gods, will also be linked from that FAQ page. As this feature is also available to Anonymous Monk, this provides a reasonable venue to get in contact should one feel the need to do so.

Some people have voiced the idea that anonymous contribution here is detrimental to the level of discussion. The recent discussions at 1024035 have not shown a wide desire or support to enforce accounts for contributing.

Community statement

This statement should be obvious, but it seems that it bears repeating:

While the community of this site welcomes people from all walks of life, we do not welcome postings outside the scope of programming in general. The specific focus of this site lies on the Perl programming language.

We have established methods for determining whether a posting on this site does not belong here, or does belong to a special section. Please review "What is consideration?", "How do I use the power of consideration responsibly?", "Where should I post X?", and "PerlMonks Sections". Please do use the consideration feature if you feel that a posting on this site does not belong here. If you feel in doubt as to whether a posting is within the community guidelines, please contact the administrators before posting.

We appreciate a civil tone here. The self-regulating mechanisms of this site tend to work very well, but when posting or replying to a post, you should respect the other person. Personal attacks are not welcome here. If you think you need to reply to a personal attack in public, consider sleeping over it or otherwise delaying such a missive. Also consider asking other site members to review a draft of your text as to whether it is appropriate before posting.

The following should also go into the Site FAQ:

Advice for long threads

"A discussion has been going on but somebody replies to me every time. How can I close a thread?"

If you get into a prolonged discussion with an individual on this site, please consider whether your discussion actually positively contributes to the topic. After ten or more replies, such a thread rarely brings some technical result and likely has devolved into an emotional battle. As it takes at least two participants in such a thread, consider agreeing to disagree and stop posting to that thread, no matter how good you think your cause is, and no matter how wrong you think the other side is.

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Re: Additions to the FAQ and a Community Statement
by Ya'akov (Initiate) on Apr 15, 2013 at 19:46 UTC

    EDIT: I think that I have made the point I intended as best I can, so rather than reprise my comments as more commenters say similar things, or reach the point of counter-productivity, I will stop adding to this thread. I believe that if you read what I have written here, and in the rest of the thread (in response to objections), with an open mind you can understand my true intentions. I know that many of you will be sure I am here to do something to you, though I can't see how I could, nor why I would want to. Nonetheless, I am glad that PerlMonks is around, and has been the great resource that it is for the Perl community. I am happy to continue to discuss these and other community issues with anyone who has an interest. You can contact me via email using yaakov at the perlfoundation.org domain. Thank you for your feedback. —Ya´akov

    Hello, Perl Monks. My name is Ya´akov Sloman, I am the Community Advocate for The Perl Foundation. Many of you will know me, others will recognize me, and many others will not know me at all. While I have been a member of the Perl community since 1995 or so, I have not been a member of the PerlMonks community (though I first looked at PerlMonks prior to 2000.)

    I am not insensible to appearing to be an interloper in this community. It is not my intention to impose any particular orthodoxy on PerlMonks. I am the Community Advocate. That is, I am not an advocate for any particular subset of the community, rather, my rôle is to listen to, and advocate for, all parts of the Perl community so long as they are within the bounds of community consensus.

    This last bit is the hard part. We, as a community, have grown past the stage where an "organic" consensus is possible. We are large and diverse enough that, the obvious and factually correct "reasonable person principle applies" fails on account of no agreement on what is "reasonable".

    Be that as it may, a baseline definition can be asserted. I have no fear in stating that the lower limit of the Perl community, vis-à-vis interaction in public forums, on public IRC channels, and on public mailing lists is tolerance for sincere disagreement and civil discourse.

    I am not a pollyanna, nor so naïve as to believe that people will not occasionally exchange harsh words, but when the discussion rises to the level of personal attack, vulgarity, and attempts to injure with words, I cannot accept that as consonant with what I know, from empirical evidence, to be the actual consensus of our community. When a forum calls itself /.*perl.*/i and concerns the Perl programming language it falls under the rubric of "The Perl Community" and members of that community have a right to expect it to reflect their understanding of ethical behavior.

    I hasten to point out that I recognize both the fact that PerlMonks has a particular culture, and your right to maintain it. PerlMonks members have great affection for the general style of interaction here. There is no legitimate basis for interfering in this culture, which is more "rigorous" than some other venues. It is not my purpose here to change that. No one outside PerlMonks has any ethical purchase to demand a change to that. It is not the subject of my conversations with PerlMonks.

    Rather, I am here to find what must be a common ground that ties all of the groups (however stylistically divergent) together into what we call "the Perl community". I am also here to assert the right of TPF to advocate for a civil and acceptable face of Perl.

    From that perspective, I will say this, unequivocally: many posts within the thread that provoked this response were completely unacceptable. They were cowardly (being posted anonymously in order to preserve a reputation), they were rhetorically violent, and they were not in line with any understanding of what is acceptable as representative of our community.

    They painted the Perl community in a very bad light, and damaged the reputation of it by association. I disclaim them, they are not Perl community contributions to the discourse surrounding the issues that were being discussed in that thread. They are simply not acceptable to the community at large, and represent an attempt at a heckler's veto to the ideas against which they were directed.

    It is important to note that this is not an attempt to quash disagreement, or enforce political correctness. Disagreement is completely legitimate and particularly on PerlMonks, expected. Instead, it is concerned with the methods, style, and content of the offensive posts.

    And so, I am hear to voice these concerns and make a request. The request is that you, as PerlMonks, don't ignore the personal attacks when you see them. That you use your standing as a member of the PerlMonks community to show that such things are not the way that we, as members of the larger Perl community expect things to be done. Speak out, or simply downvote the posts that don't match your understanding of how things should go.

    It isn't necessary to agree with the poster being attacked to defend them against personal attacks. It isn't assent to the ideas to defend their right to have them. And, by the way, it is completely legitimate to complain to the poster about their own style at the same time. It's not a zero sum game, both parties can be at fault.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it is the beginning of a dialogue, or better of action, on this issue. I am happy to talk to anyone who would like to speak with me directly about this. I understand it can be sensitive and I am certainly interested in any practical ideas you have to make things better. You can contact me here, or on IRC (yaakov).

      Excepting your introduction and postamble, it seems like your major contribution is you are saying that an anonymous monk calling someone an "annoying woman" (where the first word was derived from her own post), is some how worse than a nym attributed branding of a fellow monk as sexist.

      As contributions go, that does not seem very enlightened or helpful.

        (Due to inexperience with the PerlMonks interface, my foregoing comment was posted anonymously. I am reposting it, logged in, pro forma and to ensure that the authorship is clear. —Ya´akov)

        Where do you find that in my post? If that's what you understood from it, I am sorry that I didn't make it clearer. I took no sides in the debate itself, I complained about the tone and content of some anonymous posts.

        Could you explain how you came to your conclusion?

        As far as my enlightenment goes, I didn't make any claims about that, and, unfortunately, there are structural constraints that prevent me from being effectively "helpful" in everyone's eyes simultaneously. Perhaps I can be helpful to you in the future, whoever you are.

      "They were cowardly (being posted anonymously in order to preserve a reputation)"

      How do you know this is the case, and just not one of the many anonymous posters we have at the site, for one reason or another? It seems to me that jumping to conclusions isn't wise, as demonstrated by the thread being referenced.

        Well, there is no way to be certain of course, but the evidence leads a reasonable person to conclude this is the case. I would be surprised if you are taking this position as anything but a rhetorical stance.

        This sort of rhetoric is certainly counterproductive, whether it is clever sophistry or not. We will just have to disagree, apparently. I have no rigorous proof to offer and in any case don't feel that one is required of me. If you think so we are simply incompatible on this issue, which may well be the case.

      a) Co-Rion: your changes seem OK, (however IMHO not needed) so go on and do them

      b) Ya'akov I am very concerned about your post. You claim you are a kind of police having the right to control everything that is written related to Perl. And that this is only the best for us, as you would only oppose things that violate your understanding of what is acceptable for our community.

      I am especially concerned that you (as the self-imposed higher ethic instance) blame and insult the anonymous monk. I felt unconfortable by many of the posts of that thread. That included anonymous posts, as well as posts by some named monks and by some using throw-away-accounts. So nothing special there.

      The discussion inside perlmonks was in no way special than any other discussion on public forums: a questionable remark lead to many counterattacks, the involved parties called their allies, the amount of trolling and personal attacks increased, Godwin's Law was invoked and few days later the discussion ceased. And the community of monks provided their feedback by up- or down-voting the nodes.

      You claim that this discussion painted the Perl community in a very bad light. I strongly disagree to this. The only thing that might have painted the community in bad light were some people carrying one side of this discussion to their blogs outside (to a place where discussion and voting is not possible).

      You write There is no legitimate basis for interfering in this [the perlmoks} culture. So keep to this. We don't need no police. Nor new rules by someone not interested being part of the community.

      Rata

        Hei Rata, keep cool! =)

        He's new and he doesn't know the rules and he's no threat.

        > And the community of monks provided their feedback by up- or down-voting the nodes.

        Well I actively ignored it and I hope I wasn't the only one.

        Let's stop feeding all this ...

        Cheers Rolf

        ( addicted to the Perl Programming Language)

        Hello, Rata.

        With respect, you seem to have misread my post. I don't claim to be any sort of police, nor that I have any right to "control anything that is written related to Perl". If somehow I managed to convey that, I apologize.

        Re-reading my own post, I can't see how you draw these conclusions, but let me make it clear, I am here to appeal to the PerlMonks community, not to govern it in some way. I have said repeatedly that I have no basis for the latter.

        I singled out the anonymous posting because it contained the worst of the invective. It also did so without risk to the person's reputation here, which is cowardly. Of course, it could have been some troublemaker who wandered by and decided to post something, but I don't think you believe that. I certainly don't.

        As far as blame goes, I don't know how many times I have to say that there is blame on both sides before people notice it. I will say it again, though, as I did in my original post: misbehavior knows no ideological bounds. This is not a zero sum game, people on both sides of this polarizing issue have responsibility for level of discourse.

        Why do I deserve such a harsh response? Am I a threat? I have repeatedly said that I am here as part of the greater Perl community of which PerlMonks considers itself a facet. I am here for a discussion about these things, not to somehow force PerlMonks to do any particular thing. If change comes, it will be internal, not external.

        I respect your strong defense of PerlMonks as it stands, and I respect your right to disagree with my opinions. But, I would ask you actually consider my opinions before rejecting them. I feel, from what you have written, that you see me symbolically, not as a fellow member of the greater Perl community.

        Nothing I have written here is intended to be dismissive of your opinions, beliefs, ideas, or feelings. I am interested in them because they are informed, and relevant. I don't know that I can make this clear, but I am not the person you are concerned about above.

      so long as they are within the bounds of community consensus.
      Community consensus == lowest common denominator; # your actual goal

      I will continue to downvote—and resent—all thought police posts and political hand waving.

        Actually, that's a gross mischaracterization of consensus. Consensus is actually a matter of greatest common denominator.

        Of course you should do what you think is right, but to claim you are waging some sort of battle against "thought police" in relation to me, and my posts here, is to put your agenda before reality. I have no police powers, and I have repeatedly said that people have the right to whatever opinions (thoughts) they feel are correct, and certainly the right to express them in a civil way.

        If you resent a call for civility, well, that's just a genuine point of disagreement between us, and no matter how much you resent that I have no way to change it. It is, for me, and as I understand it after study, the baseline consensus of our community. People should be able to express themselves, civilly, regardless of what they choose to express.

        I am genuinely sorry that we can't find any common ground, but so be it.

      I know that many of you will be sure I am here to do something to you, though I can't see how I could, nor why I would want to.

      Then what was your purpose? Scare us into change? Lull us? Woo us? Debate us?

      Post-facto predendums are a cheap shot at at making or reinforcing your point without further debate. But it is a common enough tactic that many of us routinely go back over threads looking for such sneakiness.

      First, I will admit that it took me no small number of attempts before I was able to find an actual non-trivial proposal in this posting. Here is what matters to me:

      The request is that you, as PerlMonks, don't ignore the personal attacks when you see them. That you use your standing as a member of the PerlMonks community to show that such things are not the way that we, as members of the larger Perl community expect things to be done. Speak out, or simply downvote the posts that don't match your understanding of how things should go.

      I think that is excellent advice when dealing with people face-to-face or even verbally (or even just professionally). In an on-line, text-only forum, I think those are both pretty bad ideas.

      The most widely recognized problem with those ideas is the existence of "trolls". Feeding trolls is a bad idea. I'll assume that those who don't already know why can do some quick research.

      But even if somebody has not gone all of the way down the continuum to the "troll" mark where they intentionally post provocative text for the sole purpose of provoking responses, feeding text-only responses to people who are upset and being rude is very likely to back-fire and so isn't something I widely encourage.

      For me, the fact that the rudeness ended up being done "by both sides" makes for a good example of how easily and completely the idea of "intervention" can fail. Even the textually stuffing of people into buckets rather far down stereo-typed ranges ended up being done by some of those who started out complaining about a perceived textually stuffing of people into extreme stereo-typed buckets.

      Those trying to be part of the solution quickly became part of the problem. And that is completely understandable... and predictable.

      I saw a couple of replies that did a reasonable job of sticking to just trying to advocate for civil tone and avoiding getting into a heated argument over the perceived insults (or even claims of things that had potential to be insulting). And I think that is fine if the person replying has an unusual level of eloquence on the subject and has unusual clarity of judgement as to the likelihood of getting a positive reaction.

      But, for example, chromatic was unusually eloquent in Re^3: How many man-hours would you estimate you have invested in learning Perl? and I don't think he was replying to a troll. But I also don't think he and Jenda would come very close to agreeing what "help the situation" should mean. And he got a relatively healthy dose of downvotes for his efforts. So I'm unsure how much positive over-all impact his efforts obtained.

      So I give chromatic praise for not, as far as I can tell, significantly worsening the situation with that reply. But I don't think it ended up helping much and I see how easily it could have made things worse.

      So I really don't think calling for everybody to pile on in defense is good advice.

      I can empathize with a desire to "improve things". I actually thought that this particular flame fest was relatively minor compared to many. It would have been even less extreme had people remembered to seriously consider whether or not they might be feeding a troll.

      Less involvement in the thread would have been better for everybody, IMHO. And that is not because I condone or encourage creating a hostile environment for women. The majority of the thread beyond the initial pointing out of how it could be taken as hostile served to make the thread more hostile, as far as I can tell. Encouraging people to add to that doesn't help, IME, even when the people adding to it have the main purpose of trying to reduce the problem of perceived hostility.

      The key to progress here is more about listening than about asking everybody to speak up. And I can't force people to listen.

      - tye        

        So I give chromatic praise for not, as far as I can tell, significantly worsening the situation with that reply. But I don't think it ended up helping much and I see how easily it could have made things worse.

        This is the comment chromatic lead with

        What does chromatic deserve again?

      Could this spokesperson get a spokesperson? Please!

      Your post is long, long, long and ... what was the word ... oh, I see ... long! Maybe I haven't got enough sleep, maybe it's that my English is not good enough, but I got completely lost in all that "eloquent" mumbo jumbo. Did I miss anything?

      Jenda
      Enoch was right!
      Enjoy the last years of Rome.

        Did I miss anything?

        No, the "eloquent mumbo jumbo" is also known as "diplomaspeak", its a form of mesmerism

Re: Additions to the FAQ and a Community Statement
by educated_foo (Vicar) on Apr 16, 2013 at 01:07 UTC

    I neither blame nor praise TPF for anything on this site, except dumb things like this. Apparently Schwern harassed you enough that you felt required to do a bit of CYA. It's a web forum -- don't bother.

    Just another Perler interested in Algol Programming.

      Your point is sensible, behavior in web forums often fails to meet standards we apply to in-person interaction. People should include that fact in their analysis. However, not everyone is sensible, and so explicit statements are sometimes required.

      There is additional content here that I wish you wouldn't ignore, and that is that while such behavior might occur, it's not really OK that it does. People shouldn't feel free to abuse anonymity (particularly when it is clear they do so to preserve a community reputation, and not to protect themselves from non-self-inflicted harm, such as in genuine political dissent). Apparently, PerlMonks allows anonymous posting for what the community considers good reasons. But can this be one of those? It seems unlikely.

      So, people did complain about the thread, including aspects of the content. However, as I said in my original post, my rôle as Community Advocate makes my personal opinion one voice in that debate, like every other voice, excpet insofar as it deals with mistreatment of community members by one another. Where that is the principle in question, I have an obligation to speak out about it.

      So, the post wasn't simply "CYA", and the disclaimer component wasn't addressed to sensible people who already discount deviants as outliers. It was addressed to the sensible people who can see there is a problem with abusive interaction here, and all over the online Perl community, by a loud and small minority. This minority doesn't comprise one or another side of any given issue, they are just willing to use hurtful rhetoric against one another, or even casual attempts to engage them.

      As I said, I am aware that PerlMonks culture is particular and enjoyed by the participants. As it turns out, the reason I am not a regular member of this community is that I don't enjoy it. Nonetheless I a not not referring to the intense and often challenging tone, or the demand for rigor in answers. I am talking about outright attacks, and those, it seems, even here, require a mask.

        It's a web forum -- on-line interactions have their own mechanisms and illegal postings are deleted as soon as possible.

        Nobody closes a crowded street because people occasionally bounce into each other.

        The potentially "mistreated community members" know this and I'm quite sure they would rather prefer solutions w/o external lawyers getting involved.

        I apologize if you are just expressing your opinion as a simple community member.

        Of course you are welcome to join and attribute to our social system.

        Cheers Rolf

        ( addicted to the Perl Programming Language)

        my rôle as Community Advocate makes my personal opinion one voice in that debate, like every other voice, excpet insofar as it deals with mistreatment of community members by one another.
        As a (fairly insignificant) member of the Perl community, you don't speak for me. You speak for yourself, only and always. We're discussing a fairly standard flame-war, and flames on Perlmonks are far less frequent and vicious than they were on Usenet, back when the Perl community was there. Perlmonks is a pretty friendly place compared to most of the Internet -- its existing mechanisms work better than most.
        Just another Perler interested in Algol Programming.
Re: Additions to the FAQ and a Community Statement
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on May 04, 2013 at 21:29 UTC

    Having been here since late 2007, and certainly having from time to time been the subject of “downvoting” and some fairly harsh statements . . .

    I simply take all of these things in-stride as being an inevitable part of any-and-every online community of actual people.   There is not one single forum out there, anywhere on the Internet, that does not from time to time exhibit these dynamics.   They are especially to be found among the passionate, and truly brilliant, personalities that are the “Triple Crown Winners” which you do find right here.   (Present company excluded.)

    Give me this.   I welcome it.   Let me be among the Triple Crowners and I shall endeavor to avoid their hooves.   A man may call me a Fool to my face and I shall not hold it against him.   Let him speak freely, so that I, but a Fool indeed, may yet learn from him, for this is why I have come.

    When a flame-war breaks out, I tend to duck it and go about my business.   I might wince at the thread (if I happen to read it, which is quite unlikely), but I won’t say that anyone is actually on the attack, such that someone (e.g. on the TPF = “corporate” level) would need to “intervene.”   If you don’t see and expect to see flame-wars, then you are not among the company of real humans.

    As a matter of principle, I (almost) never downvote.   I sprinkle a handful of up-votes but normally do not use up my daily quota.   I have twice expressed the opinion that downvotes should be removed and have been decisively opposed each time, so I yield the point.

    But let me absolutely and clearly declare this:

    perlmonks ... humanity and all ... is the best online community of professional programmers that I have ever experienced... period.   And, in spite of its somewhat-quirky foundation software, it is remarkably free of “moderator hand-of-God intervention.”   Therefore (and, aye, no matter what ye think of me), I think that all of us are doing a lot of things very right here.   Somehow.

    And that calls for ... Beer!

    Here’s a toast ... of proper Trappist Ale.   “Aye, for, no matter how bad a scoundrel we Holy scoundrels are, we’re not so bad after all!”

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