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This morning's Chatterbox contained an discussion that I thought worth bringing to the larger community. Specifically, there is apparently some concern about the geographic makeup of the Janitorial staff. I'm told that "The bulk of the senior members (editors/power users/gods) are based in the US and that a bunch of senior monks (non-editors etc) think there is an issue. Specifically, there are no Editors available when many 'Euro-monks' are online."

(Note: The quote is adapted from multiple private /msg's sent to me from one of our European members. I believe I've retained the spirit, though not the direct wording of those comments.)

Now, I'm going to specifically limit the discussion to Editors only since a) I only a member of Editors and cannot speak to the goals or missions of the other groups and b) the other groups are closer to root than Editors and therefore membership requires a far higher level of trust than the Editors group.1

With this in mind, here are the questions I'd like to discuss:

  • Is there really a problem?

  • Is it necessary to have an Editor available at all times?

  • Are we (as a community) comfortable with a with a four to six hour response time?3

  • Is there, perhaps, some other way to more widely document the editorial process and how the average monk can use it to best advantage?

In general, I don't feel there's a real problem. Consider:

  • Slightly more than 20% of the current editors are located internationally (See Appendix I below) and many of the U.S-based one have been known to appear at very strange times in their diurnal cycles.

  • In the last eighteen months I've been hanging about, I can only think of four incidents that required an immediate response.2 Given the amount of "strangeness" and clean-up we've seeing during that time, it seems like the percentage of "real risk" to "actual problems" is very low.

  • While I have no evidence to support this, it seems that there's at best a four to six hour time frame between the appearance of an Editor. Given this, it seems there's only a limited amount of time for true disasters to have effect. Since this site is a technical information site hosted by a reputable organization, I can't imagine that it would be entirely necessary to have an Editor standing by 24x7.

  • The current convention of sending private /msg's to one or more editors seems to work well. I know I've tried to respond promptly when I get such messages and I believe that the others take their duties as seriously.

  • It may be sufficient to expand the existing documentation to include more information about how to handle problems requiring clean-up. For example, I would be more than willing to add to existing nodes (possibly reordering the list of Editors to reflect the ones on most often), modifying FAQ's and so forth.

  • In my experience, it's best to keep support teams as small and as reasonable autonomous as possible. We've already run through some growing pains with the number of Friars and other high level monks and I would hope we can avoid those with the support teams as well.

If there is a problem that I'm not aware of, then please, describe it and we'll see what we can do.

Also, I'm not against adding more editors, regardless of location. Given the amount of "strangeness" that appears, Anyone willing to fix HTML code, change node titles (including in replies), scan for accidental typographic errors, and perform other clean-up tasks is (imho) welcome to participate.

However, it's important to note that the Janitors also have a responsibility to make reasonable and fair changes. The power to change a node can be very easily abused (and is one reason why we do not allow certain root nodes to be modified). In short, the fearless leader needs to be able to trust that all editors (and members of other groups) will not abuse their positions. This is, after all, his site.

That's really the whole idea of this post in general. If there's a problem, let's discuss it as a community and see if we can resolve it using existing tools. After all, that's generally how we've operated in the past and it might keep some of us from being distracted from other projects we're working for the Monastery. As I said earlier, I can see a case for adding one or two people (hopefully from different time zones), but I do believe it's a little more complicated than simply asking for volunteers. Given that, I'd rather try to optimize existing capabilities rather than add new ones.



Appendix 1 - Summary of Editor Locations:

 US (or US Assumed)18-1/2
 The Netherlands1-1/2

In reviewing this information, please note the following:

  1. "US Assumed" was based on either prior knowledge or the monk's specified time zone/GMT offset
  2. The "1/2" counts refers to a monk currently in the U.S. for educational purposes, but who also lists The Netherlands in their location.
  3. All data collected is generally based on the information provided on the monks home node or from a site linked to that node.

(Interestingly, while there are an expected number of Californian editors, I note that there are also three located in the Seattle region. I would hope, however, that this wouldn't be interpreted as a risk due to the nearness of a certain software vendor of ill repute.</joke>)


1 - The two groups I excluded are more administrative in nature than Editors. Since I know I would be unwilling to grant anyone else administrative access to my servers and databases unless I knew them extremely well and could personally vouch for their integrity, I presume that vroom and the other trusted members of the site feel similarly.

2 - Here are the events:

  • A troll harassed (in a criminal fashion, according to U.S. laws) certain members of our order.
  • Someone posted a node containing private data (real names, addresses, etc.)
  • Someone posted source for DeCSS, something currently extra-legal in certain jurisdictions.
  • An inquiry was made into the personal reasons for the one monk's handle was chosen.

3 - I say four to six hours because I believe that's the average window between visits, however I do not have data to back that up. If someone has data to demonstrate that the window of vulnerability is larger, I'd love to see it posted.

In reply to More Non-US Editors Needed? by footpad

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