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Usually, when users ask for invites on #lobsters someone will quote the chat page, which says

New contributors are always welcome on Lobsters, but pestering other members in the channel for invites is not acceptable. If you are the author or otherwise involved with a story that was submitted to the site, ask and someone will invite you.

However, the about page specifically says

Invitations are used as a mechanism for spam-control and to encourage users to “be nice”. New users must be invited by a current user, though there is no vetting process and invitations are not intended to promote exclusivity. The most efficient way to receive an invitation is to talk to someone you recognize from the site or request one in chat.

My view is that there is nothing wrong with requesting an invite on #lobsters as long as you ask nicely and aren’t flooding the channel with invite requests, but I’ve heard otherwise from other members.

Could we get some clarification on this?

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    Entering the channel and saying “can I have an invite” is fine, and if anyone is around they will probably engage and try to vet the person to give them an invite. Private messaging a bunch of users in the channel asking for an invite is “pestering” and not acceptable. Of course, nobody is obligated to give an invite.

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      Speaking as the person who wrote some of this language, I would love to see more clarification, because I just kinda went, “Hey, this is what I think they should be but I’m uncomfortable pushing my thoughts to be official community policy so everyone please chime in” and then nobody did, which only made me more uncomfortable.

      I would really like to see an explicit public documentation of whether or not invites exist to:

      • prevent automated spam or easy sockpuppeting
      • punish people who invite trolls
      • promote high-quality invites of cool people
      • …other goals?

      And then also a more deliberate, “If you want an invite, do steps X, Y, and Z” because I think there are plenty of potentially great contributors who don’t feel confident navigating an informal, individually-run evaluation process. Which could be as simple as “visit the chat room and paste a gist link for a nice comment you want to leave, or a cool link you want to share, or note that one of the stories on the site is about something you made”. And the flip side of that is some language for existing users like, “Hey, if you invite someone through this process we won’t ban you if they happen to be a bad troll, because you can’t know that without tons of investigation”, which is more specific than the current “as needed” in “the user that invited them may also be banned, going up the chain of invitations as needed”.

      (We’ve had a few small meta threads in the last year about invites/invitations that haven’t gone anywhere, if anyone has a few minutes to dig them up and link them I think that’d be handy.)

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        I don’t really mind people asking for invites on #lobsters or whatever–I think in the last week I’ve seen only one or two such requests. In the last year I’ve gotten maybe five or six contacts via email, and it’s been pretty easy to do a quick check and see if I felt they were worth inviting.

        And the flip side of that is some language for existing users like, “Hey, if you invite someone through this process we won’t ban you if they happen to be a bad troll, because you can’t know that without tons of investigation”, which is more specific than the current “as needed” in “the user that invited them may also be banned, going up the chain of invitations as needed”.

        I personally think that anyone extending an invitation should do a bit of poking around beforehand. The main strength of Lobsters is that the community is primarily technical as is the content–and that means that people we invite should probably have some kind of code available, some experience in tech, or something else that helps them exhibit the capacity (if not necessarily desire) to comment in a meaningful way on the primary subject matter of this site.

        We can do a tremendous amount of damage to the Nice Things we have here by indiscriminately onboarding anybody who clicks a link or submits a form. Unfortunately, that’s the way of the world.

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          The main strength of Lobsters is that the community is primarily technical as is the content–and that means that people we invite should probably have some kind of code available, some experience in tech, or something else that helps them exhibit the capacity (if not necessarily desire) to comment in a meaningful way on the primary subject matter of this site.

          Don’t forget that Yui had experience in tech and seemed knowledgeable enough during his stay here. I don’t think a person’s technical knowledge is enough to guarantee their character. I think @pushcx’s proposal that the member who sent the invite should be given a bit of leeway still holds in this situation.

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            I’m sort of amused at how that user still haunts our dreams to this day.

            I agree with angersock about technical aptitude. A technically proficient asshole is relatively easy to spot and removing them from the community if they become disruptive is easy to justify. Letting in lots of well-intentioned folks whose main ‘problem’ is not wanting to share or talk about programming/technical topics results in a cultural shift that is a lot harder to counteract.

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              I see it as, in a way, a good thing that we still remember that user as egregiously bad: It’s because nobody has behaved that way since (that I’ve seen, at least). There are certainly places online where that stuff is “normal” behavior, and it’s excellent that the community was decisive that this isn’t going to be one of them.

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                Also responding to @angersock’s sibling comment in this thread.

                I think we both agree then. I was under the impression that @angersock was suggesting that we try to judge people’s character through investigation. But if he just means checking for technical skills, then I agree. I usually ask for a Github account or similar before inviting.

                Maybe we could document this somewhere as a standard protocol.

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              Sure, and if memory serves Yui made more than zero useful comments (in addition to the really irksome and trollish shit that got them banned). As @austinz points out, it’s easier to remove an asshole than to remediate a population that’s set the culture adrift.

              Also, recall that users can do all kinds of non-comment activity that at once both harms the community and at the same time is not visible as trolling (say, clever downvoting, bad submissions, etc.)

              I do agree with you and @pushcx that an immediate ban up the hierarchy is probably not the right tool.

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                Yui made more than zero useful comments

                Part of the reason it still saddens me that all his comments were deleted. Not to mention the productive threads he was in that now make no sense.

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                  Imagine somebody having to go through it all and triage, though.

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                    IIRC, there was only like one comment, maybe, that would have been harmful to leave. You wouldn’t have to remove troll posts IMHO, only threats, spam, doxxing, etc.

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            This process is very frustrating. It would be really cool if we adhered to a strict policy that would not push away people that are genuinely interested in contributing

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              On a side note, what happened to the “request an invite” button that we used to have? IIRC that’s how I got my invite, and I think it might be a good idea to bring it back.

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                The people in charge decided to go full freemasonry: in order to become one, you need to ask one. ;-)

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                  Gotcha, and thanks for replying. I was starting to think I might have hallucinated that feature or something :)

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                    It’s still in the codebase, but can now be disabled on a per-site basis. Here’s the commit where that option was added (and then presumably switched off for Lobste.rs).