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On Moderation

by footpad (Abbot)
on Jan 31, 2001 at 22:03 UTC ( #55513=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I'm happy and grateful that more people are helping to moderate the site's content. However, I've noticed something regarding Nodes to Consider and, like other observations, it's made me pause.

Specifically, we're seeing a number of older posts (and some new ones) being considered for a number of reasons:

  • Abusiveness.
  • Topicality.
  • Frequently (and answered) posted question.
  • Incorrectly posted to the wrong area.

While many of these assessments are accurate, it troubles me to see so many older nodes appear and it troubles me to see so many "previously answered" nodes appear.

I wonder if even more discretion shouldn't be exercised when placing nodes into consideration, especially older ones.

I ponder this for a few reasons:

  1. Let's not stir up old feuds. There are many nodes in the archives that, if posted today, would rightly be considered. However, the community responded using the tools available at the time (downvotes, correctional replies, updates, private /msg's, and so on).

    If we allow these things to remain in the record, they can illustrate (among other things) the practices and postings we find distasteful. Much can be learned by reading replies to certain notorious nodes. If we purge the archives of the nodes prompting these replies, it removes the context the replies were made in, thereby reducing their effectiveness and value.

  2. In various discussions on topicality, it seems that many are comfortable with some off-topic discussion. After all, Perl is rarely used in a vacuum and I personally find obliquely related discussions very enlightening and educational.

  3. Everyone has had a bad day or post at times, including the most respected. I believe there's certain benefit in allowing those to remain in the record, if only to demonstrate that we're not perfect and that we all make mistakes.

    People reveal a lot about themselves when they post and much is revealed about the community in the way it responds to bad posts.

  4. Everyone starts somewhere. Our membership ranges in age, expertise, background, and experience. In an effective community, you share information and you see people grow.

    To illustrate: During my brief tenure in hell, I mean technical support, I worked with one caller many times over the course of several weeks. While his first calls were incredibly simple and annoying (I was younger and far more arrogant), they eventually became more interesting. About a month after fielding his first call, I realized that the light had finally gone on and that he was "getting" it. That realization was one of the most rewarding ones I had during that time. I had helped someone. (To be fair, there were about 40 of us on the team, so we'd all helped. Given the number of times that he'd landed in my queue, he'd had to have called many more times and talked with many other techs.)

    The point being that one of the rewards of training, in whatever form, is the satisfaction of seeing that spark illuminate even the most difficult student. One of the Monestary's goals is to teach.

  5. Along the same lines, nearly everyone has gone through a learning process with Perl and the Monastery itself. Newer initiates almost always post questions that have already been answered or ideas that have already been discussed. (I know I've made my share of related mistakes; I suspect I'll continue to do so for quite some time.)

    Before placing such nodes into consideration, it may be wise to consider the point of view of the poster. For example, a new recruit appeared last night and asked about the site's purpose in CB. He (assumption) confessed that he was 15 and that he was only slightly experienced with Perl. The monks online at the time gave him some pointers and links. It was a good discussion.

    Later, he posted some code that could greatly benefit from the wisdom offered here. This morning, that node is being considered. Would it not serve our purposes better to reply and point our new friend to nodes outlining the answers and knowledge he needs? (I suspect the reason he doesn't use is because he doesn't know about it, modules, CPAN, or other bits we take for granted.)

    By helping people learn the best practices, we help expand their understanding of and enthusiasm for Perl. We also help them become better programmers.

    Let's not develop a tendency to knee-jerk nodes into consideration. Point them to FAQ's or tutorials. If you can't find an appropriate one, reply and then write up (and post) a relevant FAQ or tutorial.

  6. Someone (Vroom, one of the Editors, or other high-level monks) has to finally decide what to do with considered nodes. Each decision takes time. Regardless of the amount of time spent on each individual decision, logic suggests that it adds up as the number of considered nodes increases.

    This is time that could be spent responding to legitimate nodes, improving the Monastery, updating FAQ's, and so on. Let's not abuse the kindness of our caretakers by overloading them with work to take care of.

In summary, Consideration is a powerful device. Respond swiftly and firmly to patently offensive or completely off-topic posts. However, please use a light touch when going through the archives. After all, a lot of wisdom, information, and ideas have been expressed since the Monastery's founding. Let's not tinker too heavily with the past or the character of our heritage.

Votes should be your first moderation tool. If you feel strongly about an older post, vote on it to see its reputation. If it's extremely low, see if there are good replies. If there are, I urge you to wait a few days before you place it into consideration. After all, other monks certainly know the post is there. If it's not already been considered, then it's possible someone feels it's worth keeping.

If you're out of votes, then write down the node id and check it out the next day. If it's not yet in consideration, then I would urge you to consider your desire to consider the node. There may be value in leaving it alone. Alternatively, bring it up via CB and see what others think.

If you're not comfortable doing that, then privately /msg a senior monk for their reaction. This won't work in every case, as a few of the most senior don't like to be /msg'd, but I've found most to be very approachable via that device.

Please understand that I'm not speaking of obvious consideration candidates: newly posted personal attacks, improperly formatted nodes, objectionable material, obvious trolling, and so on. These should be immediately and promptly fed to the Reaper.

I'm speaking of the questionable ones. Instead of looking for opportunities to consider, look for opportunities to help, to add value, to teach, and (most importantly) to learn. As I noted earlier, some of the best material on the site has been posted in reply to a duplicate or frequently asked question. Let's not lose that opportunity.


Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: On Moderation
by mirod (Canon) on Jan 31, 2001 at 22:24 UTC

    I completely agree, I am also surprised at the number of old posts that are being added to the Nodes To Consider list.

    I must say that in most cases I vote to keep them. Removing old posts, besides being quite useless, after all who reads them?, is also an attack on freedom of speech. To me it is akin to revisionism. These post have existed, they were read and were part of the Monastery. Trying to deny they ever existed. by deleting them is childish and short-sighted.

    For example having Parallels Between Perlmonks.ORG and Religious Cults (Retirement Announcement) in this list is plain dumb. What, this post was never written? I don't think so! As much as I like to make fun of its author he had, and actually still has, a role in the dynamics of this site which can't just be discarded.</p.

    A node should be sent to the Nodes To Consider only if it is a duplicate post, an obvious troll or so OT it is not even funny (job posts for example) or of course a post in the wrong section. I am not even sure post including improper language should be removed.

    So easy on the consider checkbox, it's easy to use (maybe to easy actually), but it should be used only in extreme cases.

Re: On Moderation
by turnstep (Parson) on Feb 01, 2001 at 00:03 UTC

    The slew of "older" posts to the Nodes to Consider is my doing. I am in the process of going through the musty halls of the Perl Monks Discussion section and giving it a thorough cleaning. The majority of the ones I moved to consider are ones that should not be in the discussion area but somewhere else, usually SOPW. Some even have replies by vroom stating that they should be moved to SOPW. My main goal is to move everything that does not belong in Discussion to the proper place, so that anyone combing through the archives will only find relevant posts.

    I realize that it seems like a lot of considered posts, but realize that I have already gone through over 800 posts (and their threads) and over a year of material. So, not too bad relatively. For the record, I am done now, and it will be a while before I move on to any other section, as I have more (non-considering) work to do in the Discussion wing of the monastery first.

    Some of the older ones I also considered because they were trollish, ill-written, or had a bad reputation. If the consideration feature had existed when they were written, I am sure they would have been considered at that time. The age of the node should not matter, IMO, as many of the navigational methods of the monastery (e.g. searching) are non-chronographical.

    Finally, remember that even a reaping by Scary Monk does not remove a post from the site, but merely places it one click further away from its previous position.

      Two comments. First, I think that perhaps digging up a whole list of old posts to be moved might be better done outside the Nodes to Consider framework. Even if you get a ton of people to agree that a post should be moved, nothing is going to happen until one of the gods comes by and moves the post by hand. I think it might make the gods' job easier if you collect a bunch of node IDs and group them by where they need to be moved to and let one of the gods do the whole batch at once (probably via Editor Requests).

      Unless you think there will be some controversy over whether a post should be moved, I see no value in using Nodes to Consider for such things. If you aren't sure whether an old node should be move, then I say you should just leave it be rather than solicit a bunch of votes on the matter.

      Second, I've seen several new nodes put under consideration saying they belong in another section. New nodes can be moved to a new section via the approval nodelet, so whoever is using Nodes to Consider for that needs to turn on their approval nodelet and use that instead. Sometimes a node gets approved to the wrong section and then can't be moved in this way. In that case, I suppose Nodes to Consider might be an appropriate place (though Editor Requests might be better since there is no "move" vote option and again, if the decision to move or not is not clear, then rather than vote on it, I'd rather just leave it be). A better option is for everyone to pay attention to the section a post is in before approving it.

              - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")

      Sorry to follow up on my own post, but the work I alluded to above is mostly finished now - check out my home node for the results of my Discussion cleaning. Next stop, the Meditations! :)

Re: On Moderation
by PsychoSpunk (Hermit) on Jan 31, 2001 at 22:39 UTC
    Recently, I would have to concur with footpad, too many old skeletons are appearing in Nodes to Consider. I'm not sure if it's because the people burned by some of the offenders have finally reached the level where they can consider nodes or whether it's because the Reaper is actually working, finally, and old grudges die hard.

    Unfortunately, if you revise history to your benefit, then you end up with the distopian society that we should naturally wish to avoid. It is a mark of a society that is slowly strangling itself to death. Personally, I don't want to suffer the fate of /., but I also don't want it to be stifled into non-existance because I and others suddenly find ourselves on the wrong end of a grudge.


Re: On Moderation
by flay (Pilgrim) on Feb 01, 2001 at 19:27 UTC

    I think it's worth remembering that newbies like me can learn as much, if not more, about the values of the Perl Monks community from what that community hates as from what it likes.

    A bad node is likely to prompt many replies explaining just why it is getting downvoted. After a week or so of reading, this sort of thing becomes obvious but in that first week, when newbies are at their newbiest, it can be very helpful.

    On the other hand, it doesn't take a saint to realise that princepawn's wilder excesses were never going to win friends and influence people.

    The bottom line is that, IMHO, even a bad node should have its educational value considered, and that although the Reaper doesn't render them inaccessible, making them less accessible might lead a newbie to overlook them.

    Tom Waddington

Re: On Moderation
by phathead22 (Novice) on Feb 01, 2001 at 02:44 UTC
    Good topic; it brings up a question I've been pondering...
    Where is the correct location for PERL specific questions? I have seen technical
    questions posted in PM Discussions, Seekers of P Wisdom, at the Monastary Gates, and
    other places. Being a relative newby, I'd like to do it right...(if I already knew,
    I wouldn't be asking now, would I?).

    I would like to say that this is the best programming site that I've ever come across;
    in fact, it's entertainment value is only surpassed by it's technical value.



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