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    Adding a "politics"-related tag? ask meta

There have recently been a few posts on topics that people have been complaining are “too political”, such as https://lobste.rs/s/yy5vf0/everyone_should_have_moral_code_says, and there was some discussion related to the RMS story here https://lobste.rs/s/skds9f/reduce_merge_story_window too (there were a few other instances, but I haven’t saved them anywhere. If anyone has a list, I’m sure it could help the discussion).

I know this is a controversial topic, since many consider the topics very important and would want to discus the issues with this community too. But at the same time, this always generates a meta discussion that I believe should be taken more seriously, as to solve this issue and set some guidelines.

The simplest thing could be to have a tag that designates a “politics”-related post, not a post on a political issue. This could help those who either aren’t interested, don’t know enough or cannot engage in politics to filter it out. Problems I see would be when such a tag should be applied, since some posts just start or mention a political issue, without it being it’s main focus. But I guess that would be manageable.

This issue (if one even wants to call it such) will only become more urgent as the United States election rolls on, and the whole internet becomes it’s battleground. It’s certain that technical issues will come up, and as to keep the comments focused and civil, setting standards on the developing interests of our community seems appropriate.

Edit:

I would like to clarify that a tag shoudln’t promote political posts, but rather allow for them to be automatically categorized. I have suggested co-tags, such as “political” (name by @guan) that can only be added but dosn’t suffice as it’s own tag for these kinds, which I think could help, and prevent this issue from further developing. Maybe adding a different colour could help make it more visible?

Edit 2:

There seems to be some confusion on this, so I’d like to clarify it:

“Politics Related” /= “Politics”

I, and I hope many others too, most certainly do not want a tag that would allow any political posted to be shared here on lobsters. This is about categorising and filtering.

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    Background for me: I do my best to be political and informed, I regularly donate to political causes, and I volunteer for one of the election campaigns. I cheered when RMS resigned. I think that technology, politics, and society are intertwined and separating them out is extremely hard.

    I’m much happier when lobsters discourages politics. It’s nice to have a space where I can focus on just the technical side of things. Politics is inevitable, but I think its possible to carve out a space and say “in this place, at this time, we’re not talking about it.”

    I think people keep bringing it here because lobsters is a fantastic community of excellent people, and people want to talk about important topics with people they know are great. But I worry that normalizing political talk will erode that fantastic community of excellent people. If I had my way, all the ICE, RMS, and “npm bans funding” stuff would be off-topic. I realize that’s probably stricter than most people want, that’s just where I, personally, am happiest.

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      I’m against this. I want to have at least one place on the net where that kind of topics are considered out of scope.

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        Everyone upvoting this needs to realize it’s already in scope. We’re doing it on the regular. The majority voted for politics. Several people, including a mod, threatened to quit the site if it changed. Politics is staying.

        From there, a politcs tag that can be used as a filter is an improvement on current situation. It doesn’t legitimize or threaten anything since what’s being tagged is already legitimate by majority vote. A tag can give Lobsters minority something to help them.

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          Meta tags are how we fix scope.

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            That’s fine. Im saying you cant get changes if you open with statements or base your plans on the idea that there aren’t a huge pile of people already discussing politics, that have been for years now, and who vote in favor of it (including several mods).

            People’s statements and proposals should include the fact that they exist.Then, try to win some of them over (the moderates). Alternatively, do what the political side has been doing more than no-politics side: invite many like-minded friends who might vote for same stance.

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              While it’s tempting to believe we can find a compromise where everyone can “live and let live,” I’m skeptical that adding a politics tag will do anything but legitimize that lobsters is no different from other news sites.

              And, honestly, if a mod is going to quit over something like “I’m upset we can’t discuss politics,” they might not be a good fit for moderating a technical-only board.

              There are other people who would do a fine job as moderator. You, for example.

              The point is that I don’t think “Some moderators are willing to leave” is a good argument to depart from the mainstay of the site: lobsters has been for tech. Everywhere else is for tech and politics.

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                What is “technical only” even mean though?

                I think there’s a lot of social stuff around tech that can be interesting and feels relevant to lobsters (example: governing structures for certain open source projects. Would be weird if we didn’t talk about what happened in Python over the past 18 months)

                I am for tags to help people slice things up as they want to (after all there are other tags on the site as well!), but I think we should at least agree on a premise.

                As to the difference with other news sites: well, compared to the orange site there’s a lot less “entrepreneur” posts. Lot less “growth hack” stuff. That’s how I read the difference

                Unrelated but is the RMS thing “politics”? There’s surely a better tag name for this stuff. “Social”? Could let people filter out posts about linus’ rants (not that that happens anymore)

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                  Unrelated but is the RMS thing “politics”? There’s surely a better tag name for this stuff. “Social”? Could let people filter out posts about linus’ rants (not that that happens anymore)

                  Yes it’s absolutely politics. Your opinion on whether it was good or bad that RMS was forced out of the FSF is directly related to your opinion about feminism, the correct way to talk about sexual assault, how to weigh the value of freedom-preserving software against other non-technical values, and a host of other opinions about how humans ought to interact with one another that have nothing to do with technology. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of politics that is bitterly controversial, and thus is the sort of thing that people who don’t want to deal with bitter controversy would want to analyze as “politics” so they can ignore it in favor of things that aren’t bitterly contested, i.e. the sort of politics that made this meta thread exist.

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                    so they can ignore it

                    I’ll add that many of us just want to ignore it in select places like Lobsters to get (a) more value from those places and (b) a break from the politics. Throwing that in there since some people here kept pushing the no politics here = want none everywhere / head in the sand.

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                      Yeah, I get my political coverage elsewhere. The SNR on political threads here is abysmal; loads of undergraduate level mudslinging, people arguing past one another, jumping on anyone who isn’t already sufficiently woke… it’s a mess.

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                        I appreciate that you ssid something. I didn’t know if anyone with your leanings thought that way. Maybe I was assuming too much there.

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                  “While it’s tempting to believe we can find a compromise where everyone can “live and let live,””

                  I’ve about given up on that with how many groups’ politics have gone. They want to go against their outgroups. Looks like human nature in action.

                  “There are other people who would do a fine job as moderator. You, for example.”

                  I appreciate the vote of confidence but I’m saying No 100%. I’m good at helping folks and calling them. Mainly a catalyst for change at various levels. Folks like me are also disruptive enough in most communities that it’s better we be moderated than try to moderate.

                  “ they might not be a good fit for moderating a technical-only board.”

                  I’m normally in agreement. Given the style of politics, maybe let them do what they want to advance our better cause [for this web site]. I made an exception for her, though, since she has shown unusually high commitment to addressing her own biases and being careful in her role when subjects trigger them. Way more than most in far-left, P.C. politics. Likely more than many in moderation positions. Doesn’t seem right to encourage people of such character to leave over political disagreements on a site currently favoring such politics. There’s still alternatives to explore that keep us mostly together before going to that extreme.

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            1,000x this. It’s everywhere else, all the time. This is one of the few (largely) politics-free bunkers left on the internet, bunkers with a technical focus. I’m so sick of politics, it’s probably starting to make me physically ill and I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels that way. It’s stressful and distracting. There are already so many websites you can do the politicking on.

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              Lobsters is not free of politics, it just goes undiscussed and unquestioned. It’s not like you can opt-out of it by pretending it doesn’t exist.

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                We’re not “pretending it doesn’t exist”, it’s just off topic. There are other sites to discuss politics. I think creating a tag would tacitly encourage such posts.

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                  When you say it’s off topic, would you have examples of what would be on or off topic here?

                  To be honest I think a lot of us are mostly aligned but the term “politics” is vague

                  Examples:

                  • technical breakdown of figuring out the sourcing of the 2016 election hacks (assumption: on topic since it’s a technical post)

                  • article on Google lobbying efforts to avoid privacy legislation (assumption: kinda off topic cuz it’s basically business and legislation stuff)

                  • an article discussing Python governance and the walrus operator (assumption: on topic on account of being around governance on developing OSS, as well as being news about pythons future in general)

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                    I can’t speak for maddogshark. The first item would probably be accepted because it’s a technical post that might teach people things tech-specific. The other two wouldn’t despite having value. They’d likely learn about that from other sites when their mind was in gear to deal with all the crap that came with them. Technical posts probably were relaxing by comparison. May or may not be speaking from experience.

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                        I’ve been wrestling with writing another comment on this topic, but you articulated it well.

                        Lobste.rs is based in the US, and many of its users are from or in the US, but not all. As a non-US citizen it’s quite frustrating following along with US political debates and not being able to do anything about them - because I cannot vote in US elections.

                        There’s a large community of tech people for whom English is a first or second language. Not all of them are from the USA. Inviting political topics will inevitably lead to proportionally more content that only US tech people have any legal way to act on. Is that really what we want?

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                    I agree entirely with the gist of your point, but actually and shockingly, people can and do opt-out of it by not understanding that there is no such thing as apolitical technology. The reason that this disconnect is so contentious is down to the definition of the word ‘politics’. For some people ‘politics’ is the thing that they see politicians doing - it involves elections and governments; it’s covered on the TV, it’s social-interaction and media driven; it’s entirely uninteresting and irrelevant - it’s just unoptimised human beahaviour. For other people ‘politics’ is how we live together – every decision an individual who is part of a community makes can have an effect on the other people in that community and ‘politics’ is how we figure out how to live together.

                    By the first definition, technologists understandably choose to opt-out of politics. They prefer to work on their craft, and they leave the ‘politics’ to other people. The technology they build is not ‘political’ because it doesn’t directly have anything to do with this notion of politics.

                    By the second definition, all tool productoin is completely political, therefore everything every technologist does has a political effect. By this definition much of the work of technologists influences or drives poltics directly. Because technologists tend to use the first definition, they unwittingly conceding the immense power of their work to others who do not understand it and wield it for political or capitalist reasons.

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                      Except the thing you leave out is that the majority of Lobsters talking politics usually vote in the far-left, PC camp. They push for political things most people, majority or minorities, don’t push for. Many equate dissent with personal attacks and other extremist reactions. Their outgroups get downvoted into oblivion since they have superior numbers and non-political side mostly avoids those political threads (their votes invisible).

                      So, rather than “discussing politics,” what you’re actually advocating for in this environment is for folks wanting political conformance to their belief system to talk about their belief system, other people to speak in a way that’s not seen or just torn up by majority, and majority beliefs on politics to float on top of the technical posts as they sometimes do. That with no change to anyone’s tech, job status, political affiliation, etc. Just a shout-down by whoever is in majority at a given time enjoying seeing their beliefs in a high place with lots of people clicking a button instead of out there making their supposed goals happen in the real world. (Some exceptions.)

                      I can’t imagine what good that does here on a site hardly anyone reads. Most political topics require prominent or popular people to enact change. Alternatively, massive numbers of everyone else which requires putting the message in sites of massive reach. If they’re putting it here, they’re probably not really doing politics so much as getting a mental high on Internet feel-good points (i.e. slacktivism). Lobsters has some benefit in politics that I’ve seen. It’s just not that by far.

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                          Many Lobsters have downvoted, flagged, called out, commented, PM’d on, etc posts on how they were offensive or non-inclusive for their content. I let them do that to me for a long time to my own posts to understand their views. Although mostly aggressive, some were helpful responding with links in public or PM’s to help me understand what they believed.

                          Thing is, I spent much of my life in states with the most blacks and plenty women who didn’t believe damn near anything like they claimed. They said they were “creating inclusive environments” for those people but were actually systematically shunning and eliminating anyone with different beliefs than *themselves” who seem like they weren’t minorities or were quite privileged. I’ve only seen one survey that even attempted to confirm or refute this with most whites and minority members disagreeing with the politics of Lobsters that’s supposedly about including minority members. If survey is true, they’re actually racist and sexist as can be excluding as many of them as necessary to achieve conformance to their political goals.

                          You can keep attempting to call me out. I’m just countering this myth that these political Lobsters represent minority groups down here who mostly seem to agree with me on these topics and often love working with me. Such a jarring mindset where political Lobsters think these people would hate me super-worried about my speech online when most in real life down here like me with few concerns about online forums. They’re mostly worried about overt racism/sexism, getting jobs, paying their bills, promotions, funding, etc. Shit that actually impacts their lives.

                          Keep calling me out about text on an online forum instead of helping them with the things they care about. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. (sarcasm intended)

                          Edit: re sarcasm, double true for the folks in the hood that have no air conditioning in these hot summers. How about all you people so concerned about minority members do a collective funding drive to make sure they have A/C so they don’t fucking pass out or aren’t affected by heat exhaustion so much they can’t improve their current situation? As always, you could be doing plenty for them if focused on them not what articles are on tech forums or the topic of the moment with outrage culture.

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                              I would like to discourage nickpsecurity from deleting anything they’ve posted so far. It’s not ugly, it’s perfectly reasonable and relevant discussion given the topic at hand.

                              It is the case that “far left” people come to lobsters, regardless of whether by “far left” you mean traditional socialists/communists, or more modern progressive moral authoritarians who define all sorts of ordinary activity as oppressive against nonwhites, women, or various queer demographics. My own impression is that people with leftist politics are a large proportion of the site’s active membership, but not an overwhelming majority, and I don’t have the data to guess at percentages.

                              nickp is talking about the black people he knows in his IRL community because a lot of the political rhetoric that progressive moral authoritarians use is grounded in understandings of racism from the US black civil rights movement, and it therefore makes sense to talk about how that rhetoric is inconsistent with the opinions of actual black people he knows. Even using the word “minority” as if it centrally means “black Americans” in opposition to ethnic majority “white Americans” is grounded in the facts on the ground of the 1960s civil rights movement in America, not necessarily of America today, or of any other place in the world.

                              Certainly nothing he’s mentioned is out of line, incorrect (as far as I can tell), and it’s certainly on-topic in this sort of meta-discussion thread about what sort of political rhetoric should be allowed on lobsters. I don’t like the suggestion that this is something he should feel like he has to delete.

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                                In particular, I really appreciate reading from nickpsecurity on this stuff because I’ve always lived in a nice part of town, and I get too much of my info about the world via social-justice-flavored social media, while he actually lived - and lives - in the spaces that get talked about but not invited to the table.

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                                  Been going through threads still on my phone since I’ve been so busy. Just got back to this one.

                                  (I appreciate @Hail_Spacecake’s accurate analysis of what I was doing. I’ll just add that I’ve done this in many places across many cities and towns mostly with poor to working-class people with quite a few middle class. Idk about upper-class blacks since they mostly ignore me like other upper-class people. I dress down on purpose to appear less significant to get more out of observations and surveys.)

                                  I appreciate you, Daniel, for ID’ing yourself as the other side, reading perspectives of your other side, and noting impact of bias. I wasn’t sure if more than a few of you existed here based on majority comments. So, thanks for the feedback. Makes the work more worth it.

                                  Got one more example for you tonight I’m sending as a private message.

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                      It’s like bringing you beef patty to a vegan grill party. One could do it, but people would honestly question whether that person is just doing it to annoy them.

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                        We’re discussing it, we were discussing it on recent articles, debating it heavily on Palantir thing, had the “Community Standards” thread with proposed CoC, and so on. It goes plenty discussed with several metas questioning or advocating the hell out of politics here.

                        Again, it’s better if nobody pretends Lobsters is something it’s not before attempting to accomplish something with it. Addressing the actual site and what goes on here will work out better.

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                        1,000x this. It’s everywhere else, all the time. This is one of the few (largely) politics-free bunkers left on the internet, bunkers with a technical focus.

                        This view is why I initiated this discussion, for there seems to be plenty of disagreement and implicit understandings on what is permissible and what is not. If there weren’t any political discussions, there wouldn’t be a need to talk about them. But as I said, since it looks like there is a change in the community, it could be worth reconsidering, not to please one or the other, but find an common agreement.

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                        I’m against this. I want to have at least one place on the net where that kind of topics are considered out of scope.

                        The posts have survived the front page and all -1 Off-Topic flags that people have piled on it. From a puristic standpoint, you’re completely right, they’re off-topic, but people upvote them anyway, and there are evidently moderation actions taken against them. I think the battle on that front is completely lost; the posts are too popular. At least with a tag, we could filter the stories, as opposed to have nothing at all right now.

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                          That’s how Im seeing it.

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                          What if one had a tag, but it’s hodness modifier would pull it down, as to not motivate discussions, but enable filtering.

                          A technical solution could be that this tag would be a co-tag or a partial-tag, meaning that it wouldn’t suffice for a post, but can only be added to other tags.

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                            A co-tag could perhaps be “political” instead of “politics” to further underscore that the post is not primarily discussed as a topic of politics, but it has political implications.

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                              You’re right, that sounds better.

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                                I like that.

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                                If we’re going to go with a technical solution, make the “hotness mod” so negative the story does not show up on the site.

                                If someone were to start a clone of lobste.rs for more culture and political talk, I’m all for it. I would really like to see much less of it here. It has had a serious impact on the value of the site, in my opinion. Lobste.rs is less and less a place I want to visit (but I still love it).

                                Clarification: it’s not so much the culture and political talk as it is submission of news items.

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                                  Or create a politics tag, but make it opt-in (instead of opt-out).

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                                    That would effectively make the tag a community-shadow ban, which doesn’t have to be restricted to politics, but isn’t quite where I was going at. It seems like a one-sided solution, because it would only be in the interests of those who are totally against interacting with any political posts, but ignore those who are interested in it, which are still a considerable bunch. “Ruthlessly” privileging one of these camps over the other is something that I think should be avoided.

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                                      My point was somewhat facetious. I don’t think there should be any technical solution to this. I’d rather see a community agreement to avoid political posts at all.

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                                        As @nickpsecurity says, we’re past that point already. It will be most difficult, to agree because

                                        1. there is such disagreement on the issue
                                        2. it’s hard to draw a line on what is and isn’t political
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                                          I don’t want to drag this thread out too long (that never works well). I don’t think we’re past that point and I am not swayed by the cited argument.

                                          I want to be clear that I am not against a political discussion, nor do I think it is something that can be avoided. I do not, however, want to encourage it. Adding a tag would not help in this regard. Right now political discussion (mostly) comes out in the comments. Adding a tag for it would make it explicit in the stories, more so that already exists. It will exacerbate the problem.

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                                        Not really one-sided. It is a way to keep it away from folks that don’t want to see it. That’s one thing tags already do here. However, it will also highlight the content for politics supporters. That’s the other thing tags do.

                                        They’ll also still be able to discuss it amongst themselves and folks that don’t filter.

                                        Edit: Added an example highlight in case some of you don’t know of or forgot it.

                                        Edit 2: Clicking that tag myself led me to the Texel submission I somehow missed. See! There it is in action.

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                                          I get that, but my issues was that a “minus infinity” hotness-mod, would effectively hide the content from everyone, anything that gets posted lands on the last page of the feed, making filtering it irrelevant. That means, even for those who would be interested, it wouldn’t be highlighted, because it just never appears.

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                                            Oh no, I wasn’t agreeing with minus infinity thing. Just a tag that could be suggested, highlighted, and/or filtered.

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                                              Oh, my bad then.

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                                        Wow it’s almost like you wish you could filter the items about politics. I sure wish there were a feature for things like this!

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                                          It’s not just that. These political articles aren’t just objects in a vacuum, in their own way they mould the site culture and content.

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                                          If we’re going to go with a technical solution, bring this ‘hotness mod’ under user control by letting every user choose for themselves whether or not to mute this political tag? I don’t see why it would need to be banned for everybody.

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                                            That’s already the case. Anyone can choose what tags to filter.

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                                              Indeed, that is what I was hinting at. I should have spelled it out, perhaps. Thanks for making sure I knew :-)

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                                                Oh, my mistake, wrote that response in a hurry :/

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                                        If you’re against politics on the site, you should either leave or advocate for a politics tag so you can filter that content. It’s always been here, and it always will be here. If you’d like to totally avoid politics I honestly suggest watching home cooking videos on Youtube instead of browsing a website oriented around discussion and news about a multi-million dollar male-dominated industry that regularly contributes to devices used to harm people around the world. Those cooking videos are comparably extremely chill.

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                                          The about clearly states that: content that does not fit into any of those categories should not be submitted. There are many interesting things on the net that I’ve decided not to post here because I value what we have here and don’t want to post inappropriate (for this community) content. By creating ‘politics’ tag we legitimize such content and risk significantly increasing number of politics related (or even worse - politics only) content submitted. I would prefer to keep lobste.rs as free of politics as possible so for me the best option is to flag and hide such content, which hopefully sends clear signal to submitter.

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                                            I’ve been here since 2014, you’re wrong. “Culture” is the catch-all for this content. You would prefer whatever you prefer, but I don’t really care about that. Filter the tag if you don’t want to see it.

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                                              Filtering the tag doesn’t solve the issue that the mere existence of it attracts a certain … kind .. of people I’d rather not spend time with, because they have not much to contribute.

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                                                I’ve yet to have to filter a tag here. I assume that by filtering a tag, you do not see the submission nor associated comments? Because I usually read /comments before I read /newest, personally.

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                                                  Correct. For example, if I filter the webdevelopment tag because those stories are not relevant by and large to my work in embedded engineering, those stories will not show up for me at all on the front page. Useful to improve the signal to noise ratio, since lobsters covers a variety of tech topics.

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                                                  The “culture” tag has been on this website since 2015, and has since regularly found its way to the front page with distinctly political posts. If politics “attracts” some type of people you don’t like, they’ve long been here already.

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                                          The uptick in political discussion has, to my observation, coincided with the uptick in the submission of news stories. “News stories” meaning stories on recent events and don’t have much analysis around them. Sometimes they are full of factual holes because they are still developing.

                                          Those kinds of stories only exist to generate clickthroughs, karma, and outrage discussion. Seeing the rise of news story submissions has been a huge disappointment for me, because I really like what Lobste.rs is at its best: a nice feed for interesting technical stuff with light discussion around other’s experience with those technologies. I’ve learned a lot from Lobste.rs. I’m learning a lot less lately.

                                          Politics is unavoidable. You can’t have a place “free of politics”. That’s a fantasy. But you can have a place that doesn’t encourage its discussion. I’d like to keep/make Lobste.rs that kind of place. A politics tag will only make the situation worse.

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                                            I upvoted this for everything except the last paragraph.

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                                            Please, no politics. There are other platforms to share such news and opinions.

                                            Leave Lobsters politic-less.

                                            Make tech, not politics.

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                                              Political discussions cannot be avoided, but I believe they should not be encouraged on Lobste.rs. There are many other venues for that.

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                                                Tags do tend to promote certain kinds of posts. Adding a politics tag will encourage political submissions; I don’t think we want to do that.

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                                                  A few days ago HN’s front page was littered with RMS stories. I don’t know whether a “politics” tag is good or bad, but I definitely don’t want Lobsters to become a place like that.

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                                                    I am also against this, with this caveat: we should discuss ethics and morality because they’re part of being any kind of professional. If you can’t discuss ethics and morality without bringing up current events, then we we shouldn’t talk about it at all.

                                                    In this case, I define morality as my personal convictions to stay true to myself and whatever I think about as a higher moral authority. It is personal and I would not expect any other human in the universe to have the same morals as I do. Immoral things bother me but they exist in the world. Ethics is a professional concept, what sorts of behaviors do we think we should engage in so that our profession remains strong and people think nice things about us; so that when we work, everybody knows what to expect.

                                                    The two are related because some things bug the frack out of me but I don’t find unethical; I would never counsel another developer not to do them. We have to discuss ethics, in my mind, so we’re kinda stuck at least disambiguating ethics from morality if we want to do so.

                                                    I think far, far too often we toss out everything that comes along because it’s “politics”. I’ve been around this merry-go-round for many years, and here we are living in a McFacebook Surveillance World because of it. We can and should talk about the general kinds of things we should do or not do and why. We should not discuss politics. Surely as coders we can sort these two out.

                                                    The reddit history forums have a 20-year rule. If it happened in the last 20 years, you can’t mention it. I’d suggest maybe a 12-year rule for us. No example from the last 12 years. Any provided will be deleted. Maybe 8 years. I don’t know. Tech moves very quickly.

                                                    I’d love to have a discussion about telemetry, monitoring software, logging, feedback, and the importance of data both when creating statrtups and to marketers many years later. I have no interest at all in discussion some current law about those topics. One is professionalism, morality, and ethics. The other is politics.

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                                                      A year-based ban seems to be a reasonable idea.

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                                                        I’m really impressed with what the history guys have done with their forums on reddit. They’ve taken what could have been a dumpster fire and turned it into a nice place to learn.

                                                        I think their insight was that people get excited about stuff and then move on to other things. At some point, no matter what it is, it’s just not something folks want to emote over.

                                                        It still fails, though, but rarely. I think as you increase the time-frame the number of possible controversies dies off rapidly.

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                                                          Yeah, I love browsing that subreddit too, specially because the discourse is so high quality.

                                                          I like the idea of some kind of time delay. My bet is that we could get a lot of the benefits with a much smaller time ban. For example, six months or a year.

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                                                      There wasn’t a clear consensus to add this tag, perhaps due in part to it not having a working definition.

                                                      At the same time, we’re seeing more politically-oriented threads that go poorly. Most of them descend into heated arguments and personal accusations where nobody learns anything or changes their mind. I finally have some free time after a week mostly offline with work and personal obligations, so let me braindump a bit on where I think we’re at and going.

                                                      Political flamewars are a problem now because the Lobsters community started as one person’s social circle and everyone had a closely-shared background and implicit norms. We’ve grown past the scale where that works effortlessly.

                                                      Moderation on the site has always been pretty hands-off and unspecified. Most of what I spend time on is maintaining the codebase and cleaning up title/tags. The exciting stuff like deleting comments and banning users is infrequent and mostly unobjectionable for responding to personal attacks or unrelenting commitment to disrupting conversations. Merging the Stallman story was consistent but an infrequent enough action that people read varying editorial judgements into it. Merging is exciting this week, but it’s also been waiting for an implementation for 15 months.

                                                      Suggesting policy and getting consensus and implementing things is not exciting but is vital to the site’s health. Please step up and try. @zge, thanks for doing so. Even if this is not The Solution, I think the discussion is a decent step in the right direction.

                                                      Despite hyperbole about falling into utter chaos we’re at the stage where maybe you occasionally hide a story to skip a thread. That’s bad but not overwhelming, so I think we need an equivalently un-radical approach. Most of what’s needed is small, boring, often difficult incremental steps. A meta thread to define once and for all what’s on- and off-topic would be a big fight. Picking a specific place to draw one line and writing a definition is not.

                                                      For my part, I’ve been sharing lots of data and writing policy down because so much here is implicit and our growing user base brings different expectations into that absence. If I’m doing it in small steps and every step is fairly unobjectionable, great, I’ve built up something shared to reference and develop on as our growth calls for. At the least, this contributes to Lobsters having an accurate understanding of what’s happening in our community.

                                                      I’ve added the proposed unkind flag. I’ve regularly asked for folks to get involved, so let me close by saying it again: Lobsters is more ephemeral than the code running the site. Everybody collaborates to build this community out of our the links we share and the comments we write. Lobsters is the sum of your actions. Please keep collaborating.

                                                      1. 1

                                                        Are you going to remove it if it gets abused in a manner similar to, say, the troll flag? We still have issues with people being a bit trigger-happy on flagging comments without elaboration.

                                                      2. 7

                                                        I would like to clarify that a tag shoudln’t promote political posts, but rather allow for them to be automatically categorized.

                                                        But it does. At least according to the current story submission guidelines:

                                                        If no tags clearly apply to the story you are submitting, chances are it does not belong here. Do not overreach with tags if they are not the primary focus of the story.

                                                        Apparently, this guideline isn’t really being taken that seriously. For example, your “everyone should have moral code says” story is apparently tagged with programming and philosophy, but those don’t look right to me. At best, both of those tags are a big stretch.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          For example, your “everyone should have moral code says” story is apparently tagged with programming and philosophy, but those don’t look right to me. At best, both of those tags are a big stretch.

                                                          As you say, the absence of a tag doesn’t stop these stories, it’s just posted under some other tag that sounds like what the poster wants to discuss. We basically want only part of the tag feature, the “it can be filtered” without the “it belongs here” (which is my suggestion).

                                                          1. 6

                                                            Yes, I understand your argument. I just don’t buy it. The existing guidelines coupled with an explicit tag is only going to serve to increase the flow of political oriented submissions. I think this is a very very bad idea.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I get that it could incentivise most political posts, but when considering hotness mods and filters, why is it a “very very bad idea”? Genuinely curious, because I wouldn’t want to suggest something with a mistake I haven’t spotted yet.

                                                              1. 6

                                                                What I’m saying is bad is an increase in the number of political posts. My belief is that a politics tag will do exactly that. I think a politics tag is a step too far in the direction of opening up this site to more and more off topic submissions. Hotness mods and filters shouldn’t be used as a hammer to permit this.

                                                                This is almost certainly a difference of opinion.

                                                                1. 7

                                                                  FWIW, I agree with sushi on this. It seems obvious that a politics tag will increase the frequency of politics-related submissions. Right now people have to reach for dubious tags like “philosophy” and “culture” to justify their political posts. Making it easier will increase the frequency.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    Hm; what if the new “political” tag had a description comment of “Please don’t”, “Please try to avoid”, or something similar to this end? Just an idea, not sure if good

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      The submission guidelines are already not being followed, so I don’t see it helping.

                                                                      Besides, we are approaching this from two fundamentally different angles. I think adding a tag will normalize and encourage more political submissions. I think we should instead be cracking down on existing submissions. Either by more people flagging them, or by having moderators step in.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        The submission guidelines are already not being followed

                                                                        Can you give a recent example? I personally try to flag as much off-topic stuff as I can.

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          https://lobste.rs/s/yy5vf0/everyone_should_have_moral_code_says

                                                                          Neither philosophy nor programming tags are appropriate here IMO. Or at least, they are a huge stretch. I mentioned this in my comment towards the beginning of this thread.

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            I think giving people some leeway in tagging is fine, it can always be corrected by suggestions later.

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              Yes? I mean, I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with that. Obviously there has to be a line, and I think that post crosses it. You asked for an example, and your response makes it sound like there is no example I could have given you that would make you happy.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                your response makes it sound like there is no example I could have given you that would make you happy.

                                                                                I’m sorry, that was not my intent. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

                                                                                I’m thinking that there’s two ways of reading tags that are inappropriate - honest mistakes / not being familiar with the site’s preferred way, or disingenuous mis-tagging to slip in content that’s off-topic.

                                                                                I personally don’t look at tags that much when I determine what’s off-topic or not, but I do suggest on tags that are extraneous or missing.

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                                                                                  Sure that’s reasonable, but that’s kind of the crux of this discussion. Does adding a politics tag mean we will get more political submissions? I think it will.

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                                                                                    Agreed. That’s why I personally am against adding such a tag to Lobste.rs.

                                                                      2. 2

                                                                        The “Opt-In” idea that was also mentioned could convey that idea.

                                                            2. 11

                                                              I’m against this. The culture and practices tags already encompass these topics just fine. You can filter those if you don’t want to think about the social aspects of our profession

                                                              1. 3

                                                                I might have a misunderstanding, but to me “culture” and “practices” have a implicit “technical-” prefix. So “culture” is about something within a technical community, such as an article where a project lead announces something to the wider community or a member of said community writing on an issue she/he perceives. And “practices” is stuff like “developmental practices” or how a team uses a tool. Am I wrong, because the posts I remember that could be seen as political don’t seem to fit into either…

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  Right. Politics unconnected to the technical community would be off topic. We haven’t seen any posts about politics unconnected to the technical community. The call here seems to be for a tag to add to posts that are about the culture and practices of our community that are “political” in the sense that they make some people uncomfortable, which is when that term gets thrown around.

                                                              2. 13

                                                                I think this is a great idea, especially because “politics” is much broader than people often think.

                                                                Specifically, politics is about how power get allocated.

                                                                1. Why do we have both snap and flatpack? Power.
                                                                2. Why do some people (not me) dislike systemd so much? They think it’s taking some of their power.
                                                                3. Why was OpenStack created, and run the way it was run? Power.
                                                                4. Container-land’s never-ending technical soap opera? All about power (technically, about money, but often this comes to the same thing).
                                                                5. Why do we have different open source licenses? Different theories about how power should be allocated.
                                                                6. How do organizations decide on software development methodology, prioritization, etc.? Power within the organization.
                                                                7. How do decisions get made in a community open source project? Power. E.g. some people are committers, some aren’t.

                                                                Example of the last category: I recently became maintainer of https://github.com/jupyter-incubator/sparkmagic/ by asking for commit access. Other people could have done that, but didn’t, presumably because of lack of time. I did because I have because I’m being paid to maintain it. Money gives you power, time gives you power.

                                                                Unless you’re working on a hobby project only you use, power—and therefore politics—is inescapable.

                                                                1. 5

                                                                  There is a large difference between a discussion on the technical politics of Systemd and “I deleted my code to hurt ICE”.

                                                                  1. 6

                                                                    Is there? It’s the same form of power, applied against two different targets.

                                                                    1. 3

                                                                      The power differentials around systemd are within the tech community. “I use my tech power to hurt ICE powers” is an outward battle (tech attacking something else), while “net censorship” is an inward battle (politics attacking tech).

                                                                      I think the case could be made to allow discussing (perceived) tech-on-tech power abuse given that both parties are in this community, but not the other two kinds.

                                                                  2. 1

                                                                    I don’t think any power (allocation) can be equated with politics (I have power over my own decisioned, but I’m not politics; parents have power but families aren’t, intrinsically, political). If such a tag is introduced, I think it would be better that is explicitly is targeted at “real world” (for the sake of simplicity) politics, the politics of states, countries, governments, etc. Otherwise I think it’s too broad.

                                                                    1. 5

                                                                      Dude, people went on the barricades in the 70s to redefine familial politics. It’s totally politics. Power doesn’t exist in a vacuum and has ramifications on everything you do. You can ignore that but your state, your landlord and your boss won’t, so it’s just a way to get fucked over by everything and everybody.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        This is a very complicated topic, if only because the family in many different forms precedes any state/society and as such any politics. Then again, the family has been redefined by economical factors, that have also had influences on the state. Nevertheless, the fact that parents have more “power” (concrete, physical) over/for children, due to biology, isn’t in it self political, if you ask me. But then again, this is really not what I was going at, and I will admit I was hesitant to add this as an example, because I feared misinterpretations like yours.

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          Biology can be subject to political decisions so I don’t see why should it be separate from politics. Also the idea that parents have power over their children just because they share blood is very political and far from universal.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            Setting aside that your response is unrelated to what I wanted to say, and that it’s not-related to what is being discussed, it’s a good example of why political discussions make little sense. Honestly you and a few others here promoting (so-called) politics have shown that it’s more or less impossible to have discussions on these topics. For example, you and I have such a disjunct zoo of definitions and understandings, that just trying to “discuss” these thing makes little sense, and I imagine there are people with even more radical differences.

                                                                      2. 1

                                                                        that is explicitly is targeted at “real world” (for the sake of simplicity) politics, the politics of states, countries, governments, etc

                                                                        “World politics”

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Does that exclude local or regional events, such as local elections and related technical topics?

                                                                    2. 6

                                                                      Totally favorable.

                                                                      I also believe “politics” is a bit too restrictive and there should be some more tags to discuss other non-technical topics. I created gambe.ro that is intended to be a “lobste.rs with politics” in Italian and we spent a huge amount of time thinking about these tags and I believe that there’s lot of value in expanding the tag set.

                                                                      1. 14

                                                                        The idea that spaces for technical discussion should not permit anything which can be seen as political is nonsensical. For instance if one considers the argument over removing or not removing a slur from the name of a software project, of which there have been a number recently, political - which I imagine most people here would - then referring to that project by the unchanged name is also political.

                                                                        That said, I do think that there’s a difference between “keep politics out of technical spaces” and “keep technical spaces on topic”. For example:

                                                                        • If we choose to restrict our topic to prevent, as /u/hwj says, “front page was littered with RMS stories”, then we should not talk about individuals at all. To allow discussion of individuals when there is no allegation of wrongdoing but to instantly ban such discussion because that individual is involved in “politics” (i.e. they did/said something shitty towards a minority) is to make a political decision in favor of those actions.

                                                                        • If we want to take /u/DanielBMarkham’s advice and only “ethics and morality without bringing up current events”, then we should not discuss ethics and morality for much the same reason - where one places the cutoff is a political decision. To say that it is okay to discuss Therac-25 and decry IBM’s support of the Third Reich but not to talk about current tech companies enabling genocide today is to make a political decision in support of those companies and that genocide.

                                                                        • The assertion from several, best articulated by /u/olegkavalov, that we should “make tech, not politics” is a very clear political decision in the direction of the status quo - if we make tech, which enhances and enlarges power, in a political world where some have more power than others, and refuse to discuss the politics of that power, we tacitly endorse any use of that technology, which will always and inevitably be most useful to those who already have the most power.

                                                                        1. [Comment from banned user removed]

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                                                                            Why do you think all reasons for not wanting politics here has to do with whether or not someone wants/does/could care about politics? I mean, just as one nominal example, one might not want politics here for purely practical purposes with respect to the health of the community itself. If discussion of politics—as it is practiced on today’s Internet—is inherently divisive and tribal, then it would be perfectly reasonable for someone to advocate against the discussion of politics in a particular forum regardless of whether they personally care about politics.

                                                                            I mean look at this thread. Even talking about talking about politics is resulting in deeply tribal comments. I mean, someone just posted a comment relating the discussion of politics itself as a fight against autocracy. How can anyone reasonably argue against that without being accused of being an autocrat? Political discussion too easily devolves into people making arguments that leave no room for reasonable disagreement. That kind of shit is toxic. We already have a hard enough time with that same problem on more technical topics. You yourself have done it in your comment by casting all purported detractors into one of three camps, where you’re either aloof or blissfully ignorant. Talk about being uncharitable!

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              My bad, shoudln’t have wrote a comment around half past twelve. I guess was talking about people “non-political” people pre se, not in this forum. Other than that, I totally agree with you, that is probably the most critical argument.

                                                                            2. 4

                                                                              I wonder if we perhaps aren’t synced up on what’s meant by “politics” here. I’m very used to people in tech calling anything about society, especially around social, economic, or ecological justice, “politics”, mostly as an excuse to avoid talking about it, and that’s the sense the people I quoted appeared to use it. If you mean politics in the sense of which politicians to elect I am absolutely on board - that needs to stay off Lobsters. That’s not what is being discussed in the rest of the thread, as far as I can see, aside from perhaps the Stallman discussion.

                                                                              There’s a difference between arguing about which politician to elect and refusing to be complicit in genocide, and I think maybe we need to be careful not to conflate those.

                                                                          2. 11

                                                                            tl;dr: we shouldn’t pretend technology is apolitical, but I am fine with people having a way to mute stories discussing aspect, therefore I am fine with a ‘political’ co-tag.

                                                                            Tech-related politics are on-topic at Lobsters

                                                                            Lobsters’ collection of topics is wide-ranging: Its About page describes it as “a computing-focused community”, and its tags include accessibility (a11y), books, cryptocurrencies, design, devops, education, finance, graphics, and hardware (and that’s just a third of the alphabet).

                                                                            Lobsters’ collection of topics is so wide-ranging that to ban ‘political’ stories would amount to allowing discussion of every aspect of computing – but not the communities that develop computing technology, and not computing technology’s effect on the communities that use it. Anyway, banning politics is not being considered.

                                                                            (If Lobsters had a tighter central topic, question, or aim, I’d be fine with it saying “discussing [politics related to main topic] does not further our knowledge of [our main topic]”. But that is not the case.)

                                                                            I do think making ‘political’ a co-tag, instead of a tag, is a good idea: that reminds people that not all politics goes, the politics must still be related to computing.

                                                                            How do we signal that a topic is on-topic? By creating a tag for it.

                                                                            It’s fine by me if people have a way to mute stories that consider the political

                                                                            We are not in the re-education business. You can’t teach somebody who isn’t open to learning. Different people need different things from this website. Social websites should empower users, not force-feed them things they can’t get away from. These are all

                                                                            How do we allow people to mute a topic? By creating a tag for it.

                                                                            Conclusion

                                                                            A ‘political’ co-tag will

                                                                            • (a) signal that tech-related political stories are okay on this website, and
                                                                            • (b) give people an option to mute political stories if that is what they want from this site.

                                                                            Win-win.

                                                                            1. 4

                                                                              One could argue that virtually anything is related to politics to some degree. As long as it’s highly technical, there’s no problem. I don’t think you would gain a whole lot by filtering a content that’s full of tight on-spot technical sweetness, but touches a political topic as part of it. As for the “moral code” article, I’ve been surprised to see it hold on the top spot of the front page. I would rather not see it here at all. (That’s just my opinion, of course.)

                                                                              All in all: On-topic content doesn’t need to be categorized as politics-related, because that’s not reason to prefer it nor ignore it (consider article about game theory that also mentions real world politics or stuff like that). Off-topic content doesn’t need subcategorizing.

                                                                              Thus, I don’t support this idea.

                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                We could make exceptions for content that has a political element but is mostly technical. We already do for some marketing pieces that have in-depth tech.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  We could, but I mean… What is the use-case?

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    These threads have been going on long enough I’d rather ask for clarity before replying. Of what? The exceptions or the tag itself?

                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                      The tag itself. I don’t see how it could be useful. You either have on-topic or off-topic content. Off-topic content doesn’t need any more subcategorizing and on-topic content doesn’t benefit from being assigned such a broad label as “politics-related”. I doubt there’s someone who is interested in that type of content in particular and avoiding technical content regardless of relevance just because it somehow vaguely relates to politics doesn’t make much sense either.

                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                        I see that it would be mainly used for filtering by anti-politics-on-Lobsters camp with other one highlighting it and/or saying the flags or users filtering meant something justifying their position. Each would react to it.

                                                                                        I don’t know if it would benefit us, though. I’m just curious what would happen in an experiment with it available. Kind of like when jcs removed downvotes for a while.

                                                                              2. 4

                                                                                I am in favour so I can filter out these posts. Thank you. It was annoying to me to see HN style discussion on https://lobste.rs/s/yy5vf0/everyone_should_have_moral_code_says

                                                                                1. 7

                                                                                  I’m strongly in favour of a venue for the discussion of political and social issues relating to the development and use of the technologies that are discussed on lobste.rs. Although I would love that it would be, I don’t think this should be lobste.rs because although there is strong opinion on both sides – as seen in the many previous sub-discussions on this subject it – is clear* that the motivation of the people who started and run lobste.rs intended for it not to include political discussion. Changing that now would cause a large rift in this community.

                                                                                  If we follow patterns from the free software community, we should not be afraid of forking forums so that the two distinct viewpoints can each exist in their own spaces. Given that the start-up effort of a new site using the lobste.rs code base is relatively low, it seems unneccessary and a needless source of conflict to attempt to combine two different communal needs in one space.

                                                                                  The reason this issue is so critically important is that most people involved in the production of technology are unaware of the poltical effect of the technology they create, not least because many of them choose to filter themselves from that world to focus on their work on technology. It is their right to do so, however the outcome of this is that people who do have political motivations then are able to leverage the work and knowledge of the apolitical people for their own means, to great effect. We are experiencing the outcome of this phenomena through the political and capitalistic use of technologies in ways that are, presumably, far far different and poorly understood by the masses who created those technologies.

                                                                                  In my opinion, it is irresponsible to not spend time thinking about the social effect of the work you do; however that does not mean that people who want to have that discussion should be able to force it into any space.

                                                                                  * in at least one place in this comment I am summarising my own experience of conversations in lobste.rs without citations; my bad, I will add later if I have time or if it’s important to back up my position.

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    hmm I think you mean “politics” (spelling in title)

                                                                                    Also: personally I would like to be able to filter these non-technical topics out somehow so adding a tag would be nice.

                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                      You’re right, but I think someone already suggested an edit by the time I saw your comment.

                                                                                    2. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                                      1. -3

                                                                                        Your post is too political and scary for me, hotness mod -100

                                                                                        The above is what users like @GeoffWozniak are advocating for in this thread. Really pathetic.

                                                                                        1. 6

                                                                                          Misreprenting what they believe is one thing; calling them pathetic like that is another entirely, and it’s completely uncalled for.

                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                            That’s why I’ve been getting more specific about inconsistencies in that crowd’s politics. They’ve called out and downvoted comments for being uncivil, non-inclusive, etc. That’s mainly folks in other camps, though. Then, if its their side’s beliefs, they use dismissals or personal attacks thinking it’s justified. Most, but not all, do that. So, they seem no different to me.

                                                                                            That’s what a pro-politics vote is really backing here. It’s pro-conformance to an often-vicious religion disguising itself as civil, political discussion. My old rule: “If you can’t question it, it can’t be science or anything remotely democratic.” Probably not anyway.