Well, the sleep deprivation continued, but the weather transpired to cancel work today, so I can get at least some key thoughts out there just under the wire.
I am also going to pull out of and trim from a draft I started a while ago, so, some of this might be a little redundant or organized poorly. Apologies!
The prompt starting this has made it somewhat difficult for me–in a good way–by encouraging feedback to focus on the “what” rather than the “how,” as I feel I’m really more of a “how” person than a “what” person. Maybe it was said that way because that’s far from uncommon and without specifying this would just be the Cool Idea thread. Whatever, mostly what I wanna say here is “challenge accepted,” even though I’m sure I’ll fail on some level, if not a deep one.
I’ll also try to keep my normal verbosity in check. I have to even resist the urge right now to elaborate on exactly why I’ll be doing that in a detailed way, so, a spirit of generosity is appreciated!
First I want to respond to some of the things laid out here:
Formalizing Forum Direction, Culture, and User Guidelines
More formality will help articulate why we are here, how we aspire to treat each other, and guidelines for equitable treatment for infractions.
I’m really highly in favour of this and it’s quite long overdue. I’m very critical of the sort of “Chill” Subreddit Laissez-Faire In Denial Style of pretending that all a code of conduct requires is one phrase: “don’t be an asshole,” which, in practice, eventually just ends up “don’t do things the individual moderators don’t like” even if they really try to be objective. However I’m also critical of the sort of more neoliberal performative taxonomizing of all social grievances (which are focused on identity in such a way that it will never be truly all-encompassing) where the end result is basically to just give everyone an instruction manual for being each other’s cops.
I think a good code of conduct will speak to the heart of our collective values and be more about describing actions or modes of behaviour and relating to others that we want to encourage or discourage. And it’s really valuable for them to be written down and publicly visible, not so that we can be cops for each other, but so that we all have something to point to and feel investment in, in order to figure out how to act while we spend time here.
Even more important than this is that it gives a definite reference point to defining grievances. It could be that a user might have an especially uncomfortable interaction with someone else, but, they don’t feel they are capable of understanding or describing the nature of their discomfort, which in turn might compel them to just feel they need to just get over it (which isn’t a solution to most things), or they gradually don’t feel comfortable being here and stop returning. The ideal code of conduct should allow that user to review the code, and then feel that specific sections describe either how they feel they were treated, or the opposite, how they feel they should have been treated.
Admin and Moderation Team Update
This will take place over the next 2-4 months.
We have had a single user-moderator for too long and the community has grown where we need to share the load - which is one of the reasons I’m typing this! One of the reasons the original forums were on hiatus was that they were not able to be effectively managed by the tiny team. We intend to grow the team and protect the forum and the users.
This is of course now even more important that Syzygy has decided to take a leave of absence. As well, I’d say this is what is really the beating heart of how I feel about the forum in its current state–I am really quite concerned about the idea of placing so few people in a position of full accountability to a relatively large group that is possibly only going to keep growing. And, by accountable, I don’t mean that I fear the administration/moderation will act with impunity. On the contrary, I fear that in the midst of a crisis, the right person will not be available or aware.
I feel an urgent need to strike at this point out of an awareness that, seeing as most of us are in the English speaking world and thus embedded within crumbling and increasingly toxic western/American hegemony, it would at least be prudent of us to recognize that for a lot us, things are the absolute shits, and there’s no signs of any of it getting better any time soon. We may only be connected via an internet forum, but, well, I don’t feel that this connection isn’t real, or even any lesser than in-person. Whether we want to be or not we could be a literal lifeline for any one of us. I mean, even though I’m not sure I was ever really in danger per se, but as I shared just under a year ago, this forum was a fundamental part of my support network, even though I didn’t openly share that until I was out of the woods. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through being state violence’d away from my partner for over a year without everyone here.
Essentially… this isn’t a reckoning that I think is exclusive to our forums, far from it, and it’s extremely crucial to point out that we aren’t profesisonal mental health experts or crisis counsellors, or even if we are we aren’t necessarily logging in to this forum to do volunteer work. However, at the same time, with the world as it is, we should probably be collectively mindful of the fact that we’re all most likely a key part of someone’s support network implicitly, and we may be acting as amateur crisis counsellors without even knowing. And, maybe I’m just critical of the idea in general that these things need to be professionalized so constrainedly in the first place. Feels kinda like neoliberal technocratic horseshit.
I guess what I mean to really get at here is that we have a uniquely healthy and cohesive community, so we should take advantage of it. I personally think that we should be sharing this responsibility more collectively. I don’t think it’s necessarily conducive to keeping the community safe and healthy if we just had 20 mods and decided to be cops at each other. But I think that it would be best overall if there was some kind of community management role in between a moderator and the larger userbase that was more open to participation, get more people invested and collaborating on this. Even before Syzygy announced they were going to step away for a while, it did not feel fair to put this on the tiny number of people who it was on. We are capable, even being there for someone in a crisis is easier than it sounds if you have never done it.
Initial Community Feedback
I guess to sum up how I feel, I feel the key word is “Initial.” We all have a lot of work to do.
Lastly, a meta suggestions for this process itself, perhaps there should be a way to contribute to this kind of process thread anonymously (without showing one’s user name) and/or privately (provided to the admin/moderators only, not posted publicly). You could facilitate the former with a Google Form and the latter via PMs.
I probably failed at avoiding “how” a lot there, and if I keep going I’ll start babbling bout Jane Jacobs and the Zapatistas and consensus building, so, I’ll say miigwech for reading.