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This is an email from Simon Peyton-Jones to the Haskell mailing list last year, which effectively (In my opinion) expresses the difference between desirable debate and undesirable behavior.


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    Thank you for linking this, and it’s talking about something important. Simon said it very well.

    I expect you brought it up in part because of current discussions about lobste.rs, so I should mention in that context that I feel that although a focus on respect is important, it isn’t the only thing that is. There are other factors too.

    To give an example of a community management factor that almost never comes up here, and therefore hopefully won’t be too controversial: One thing I think about is whether somebody is demanding too much emotional labor from people who haven’t volunteered to give it? If so, I generally like to educate them on what that means and how they can better find the support they need.

    Another factor that’s more important for lobste.rs is that sometimes people are acting in bad faith. I think I’ve only seen two or three people in that category in my time here, but that’s in part because the community tries not to normalize that behavior, which is an active effort on everybody’s part. In other parts of the internet it’s much more prevalent. (I suppose this is angersock’s “do you want ants?” theory, with a slightly different subject matter.)

    I know that people have a lot of fears about being labeled as “bad faith” over imagined offenses, and I’d like to reassure people on that point. My strategy in those situations is generally to give people a chance to directly demonstrate that they’re unrepentant assholes - for example, by asking for an apology and seeing whether they respond with insults instead. That then makes it a trivial decision rather than a very hard one; I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone who is in fact a jerk not take me up on that opportunity. I do still find it important not to go to that point without a high degree of confidence, because accusations can’t really be taken back if they turn out to have been spurious.

    I haven’t yet had a chance to talk with @pushcx about any of this, and it would be cool if he would also weigh in with perspective. :) I never spent large amounts of time talking with jcs about moderation philosophy, which was part of my reluctance to take action, although I don’t anticipate much change since that seems to have worked fine for this community. But there is certainly an opportunity to have a public conversation about all this, and if there’s some sort of consensus that would make it easier to know what to aim for. (Consensus to me means: Every minority viewpoint gets a veto.) I’m glad that conversation is happening.

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      In what sense would emotional labor be a part of lobste.rs? I am familiar with it in other contexts, but here I’m imagining it has something to do with moderation/voting, and that is not-obvious enough that I’m not quite sure what you mean.

      I have at times thought these sorts of voting based platforms ought to do more to incentivize conscious voting. Too often voting is purely a knee-jerk reaction. If, for example, people had to select “up” or “neutral” from a list of 3 random new submissions before seeing the front page for the first time that day, the “labor” of curation would be spread more evenly. You could do the same thing with comments.

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        It isn’t, really, something that happens here very much. The closest is when there’s a flamewar. Trying to calm people down is very much emotional labor (mostly done by peers in this case, not by me). But we haven’t had an all-out one in quite a while…

        I’m certainly interested in thinking through changes to how voting works; I’d need to chew on that one.

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      I wish all trolls were like xQuasar.

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        I didn’t know what this comment was referring to so for those who are also confused: https://gist.github.com/quchen/5280339

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          Daw. :3

          There’s truth behind the saying “Don’t feed the trolls”.

          Kill them with kindness.

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            We are cooperating with you, you’re just not aware that your goal is learning Haskell


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          I see the comment often that it should be assumed that others are acting in good faith, but in my experience there seem to be people that don’t.

          It seems fair to me to ask that to be the starting ground for interacting with other people in a community, but this letter seems to not really address any guidelines for that or ways to distinguish between “respectful” conversations with people that are acting in bad faith vs actually striving for kind and productive interaction.

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            It’s /not/ fine to imply that they have hidden (and bad) motives

            What if someone actually does?

            or declare them [..] deliberately obtuse (i.e. 2). This has no place in our public conversations.

            Someone might well be deliberately obtuse too. So whenever one of these is actually the case, then you’re saying truth has no place in that conversation.