‘Compassionate Living’ Is Not A Prerequisite For Urban Cyclists

Background Reading


I made a mistake this week and was reminded of that fact. One of the Urban Cycling Forums I haunt made it doubly clear that ‘compassionate speech‘ as well as ‘compassionate living‘ are optional at best. You cannot know what a burden was lifted from me to once again realize that Urban Cyclists are not bound by the petty contrivances that govern the lives of others.

Not showing compassion in your speech while responding in a thread is not the problem. The problem results when someone calls you out for having done it and demands that you stop.

'FREE SPEECH' Is Of Paramount Importance. Thought Police Are Not Needed.

‘FREE SPEECH’ Is Of Paramount Importance. Thought Police Are Not Needed.

In the thread on ‘moderation‘ listed above the final few replies read as follows:

Reply by Simon Phearson 16 hours ago
In my experience, too-heavy moderation tends to kill communities, not sustain them.

The dynamic I’ve typically seen begins with rule-creation and rule-enforcement. Inevitably disputes over the interpretations of the rules arise, and – since most of us have better things to do than to parse legalistically over a list of internet-rules – moderation via rules becomes a matter of moderator fiat. Stated rationales become increasingly ad hoc, or nonexistent. Users become frustrated.

When you add to that mix a large team of moderators – in my experience a team beyond maybe three or so tends to introduce this issue – you start to get a strange politics between moderators and the community they oversee. Moderator policy becomes opaque, or a matter of whoever’s got the time to clean up the day’s messes. Moderators held unaccountable to a community start to earn the community’s distrust.

And so what happens is – people give up. In the worst cases, people hesitate to say anything lest they be punished under rules that are never explained to them, their defenses waved away as irrelevant, their application never really clear. Michelle, for instance, volunteered herself to implement a robust system where she would administer rules and dole out strikes. That would have shut this community down awfully quickly.

I think that a community like this needs to be as free as we can make it, and its moderation needs to come in the form not of rules and enforcement but in a more individualized responsibility and commitment to one another. Michelle, unfortunately, was deaf to my appeals to think more about the community she joined and was attempting to reform, as a community of which she was a part, so she was indifferent to the possibility that her actions were more destructive than helpful (including with respect to her crusade against “slurs”). But most people here, I think – including the two people who recently set Michelle off – are more susceptible to those kinds of considerations, even if they might act immaturely on them. I really think the whole thing with Vilda would have tapered off if the rest of us didn’t pile on trying to convince Michelle that she was being a jerk.

I guess my point is – I think the only people, the only dynamic we need to worry about here are the kinds of people and dynamics that reject that kind of community responsibility. A chaotic off-topic thread isn’t really the end of this community. But over-zealous enforcement of rules that bar off-topic discussions in larger (for instance) will tend to undermine the casual and kind of chaotic conversations in which friendships develop.

I think everyone will agree that this community should be welcoming and safe. We should achieve that by being welcoming and responsible. Not by putting up a sign that says, “THIS SITE IS DECLARED WELCOMING AND SAFE.”

Reply by notoriousDUG 16 hours ago
I’ve heard that before here and wonder how long it is going to take you to actually follow through and do something.
I mean how long ago was it that you collected money to update the site which still looks EXACTLY the same?

Reply by notoriousDUG 16 hours ago
I do not want to moderate or enforce courtesy; I would be banned in minutes of that policy.

I would just like to see some moderation for the three things I think are the only places you should really moderate a message board.

  1. People running off topic on a personal crusade to the point of madness. When you get a single person beating the proverbial dead horse to the point it is ruling the board you need to put a leash on it. Michelle really should have, at some point the other day, been told she needed to give it a rest; her personal battle was making a mess for others. If she was unable to let it go she needed to be removed from the discussion.
  2. People being threatening or purposefully offensive need to be censored. Racial or any other slurs, threats of violence or overtly sexual content has no place here, or in any other public forum. That said trying to censor for offensiveness is difficult, we all have different limits; a word or expression I find OK but others may find offensive. I do think there are things we can all agree are not right to say and it is perfectly OK to moderate their use. Related to that purposefully using language, even if it is not something all people consider inappropriate, in order to upset a single person is pretty fucked up and should not be tolerated. Free speech is one thing but when you have somebody purposefully being offensive like Gabe was it’s time to tell them to tone it down or take a hike.

I am not advocating that we employ the thought police, but I would like to see things like what happened between Gabe and Michelle stopped before becoming the shit-show we all saw the other day.

I would also like it if the rules were fair, evenly applied and enforced quickly. I think there is a serious issue here with rules not being evenly applied across the membership. I think if somebody other than Gabe had acted like that they would have been stopped much earlier.

Reply by Nikul Shah 15 hours ago
While you make some good points Simon, I don’t believe Michelle or Vilda would have stopped. Their dynamic was destructive. I also apologize my own conduct in perpetuating Michelle’s crusade. Nonetheless, those like Michelle who flip out over small offenses within the bounds of a large/diverse community and then proceed to hold the thread hostage until everyone complies (by taking action to stop anyone making a slur) will not simply be stopped by not engaging.

This community could use a moderator who would stop extremist whose conduct undermines the purpose of a thread or this website though.

Reply by h’ 1.0 14 hours ago
I am really wanting to know at this point why your beef with Michelle is so intensely personal.

Total garbage to use this thread to rekindle your hostility towards her. If you have any genuine concern for this resource you’ll show it by not getting additional jabs in.

How unexpected that the strongest advocates for “moderation” are those who are most in need of it themselves.

Reply by Simon Phearson 14 hours ago
I won’t pretend to have a crystal ball that tells me how things could have developed. The dynamic was destructive, and Vilda was clearly antagonizing Michelle, but I felt like there was an opportunity, early on, to deflect Vilda’s attention and let Michelle naturally lose interest, if we all just dropped the discussion and convinced Vilda that it would be more amusing to treat Michelle like the child wailing for attention she clearly still is.

After a page or two of engagement with other members, Michelle said enough things about Vilda that I think Vilda felt it was too juicy an opportunity to pass up, and then we were off to the races. Still, I think a concerted effort, directed to Vilda, might have helped bring it to a halt. I think too many of us were focused on the person who didn’t care what anyone else had to say.

Reply by Simon Phearson 14 hours ago
This is exactly why “more moderation” is such a bad idea. How are any of us supposed to know that talking about a recent flame-war, in a thread about moderation inspired by that same flame-war, is actually off-topic? If you were enforcing the rules, would this have merited a “strike?” A “warning?” A non-rule-bound invocation of principle, implicitly backed by the threat of discipline?

I think we can learn a lot by thinking about that exchange and how we can adjust our behavior relative to it, while at the same time respecting this community and trying to make it better. Nikul was very active, in that other thread, in trying to find ways to convince Michelle to disengage or to redirect her energies in a way that wouldn’t torpedo the thread. I think it’s natural that he came out frustrated by the exchange; and I think it’s appropriate to talk about that experience, if what we want to do is get this community to function better.

Reply by h’ 1.0 14 hours ago
I think you have a dangerously inaccurate concept of how online communities succeed relative to problem behaviors.

If you want to extinguish a behavior you don’t reward it with attention at all.

It’s hard, but you’ll just have to imagine that others are marveling at how clever you are by not responding.

Reply by Simon Phearson 13 hours ago
Vilda struck me as receptive to arguments that, for the “greater good,” it would be better to disengage. I don’t think we could have done anything about Michelle. But I think repeated, polite, and sincere requests by community members, to Vilda, to stop antagonizing Michelle, while at the same time ignoring Michelle, might have helped put an end to the dynamic.

No one here is evil or “full of maggots,” as Michelle so colorfully averred.

Reply by h’ 1.0 13 hours ago
Sorry, I know Vilda, as do many of us (you can tell who we are because we don’t provoke Vilda) and there are only two things that would have got her to back down:

  1. Thread dies because nobody is posting to it
  2. Thread closed by admin.

And I’ll bet she’ll pop in any minute and back me up on this.

Reply by James BlackHeron 13 hours ago
What this forum needs is a “basement” where threads like the one yesterday are sent to burn themselves out, away from the front page.
There is moderation and there is moderation. Closing a thread might plug the hole in the dike but if there is enough pressure the people involved will just move the argument to another thread and it’ll all pop up again somewhere else.

But if there was a way to just banish a thread to a basement holding area where those involved could continue on with their “fun” and cry it out at each other then those who don’t want to see it on the front page don’t have to look at it. Put a link at the bottom of the forum page for “the basement” and that will take them to the threads that have been moved by moderators. Have a warning dialog pop up when the link is clicked that tells the person that “here there may be dragons” and that children might be playing rough in the basement. Enter at your own risk, yada-yada-yada…

It’s a safety valve, a place for the kids to blow of their steam away from where the adults are talking.

I’ve seen it done where email notification of new posts is disabled for threads in the basement which also tends to cool them off faster.People really have to WANT to keep engaging if they dont’ get an instant notification that a new post was made. Instead they have to keep reloading and checking the thread manually.

This would be an easy thing to moderate too. When a thread seems like it is getting out of hand just kick it downstairs. People can still participate if they want to so it’s not as likely to piss people off about “over-moderation.”

It’s win-win for everyone (except the control freaks who just NEED to tell people what they can and can’t say, and demand that they are to shut up if they don’t get their way.

Reply by Vilda 13 hours ago
Howard I love you.

Doug and Bedno have personal grudges. Let ’em run through whatever that is..

I enjoyed the nutbag that was “Michelle”. She was NEVER going to stop being a terribly annoying subhuman that flat out said she didn’t care about derailing a thread. What is the point in being kind to a buffoon like that?

Reply by Nikul Shah 12 hours ago
I don’t have a beef with Michelle nor is it personal. If anything, I’m a little saddened her passion and energy couldn’t be refocused more constructively. My only point in quibbling with Simon’s take on Michelle is for discussing how a moderator should moderate. My end point, although poorly conveyed obviously, was that a moderator would be best served by having very limited but clear functions. In this specific case, a moderator should have shut down the Vilda-Michelle war well before I even started a new thread yesterday. Thus, one specific function of a moderator would be to block users (temporarily? permanently?) who derail a thread in such a fashion and refuse to back down. I’m sorry for any miscommunication in conveying my point and my intent.

Reply by h’ 1.0 12 hours ago
Starting to seriously question your sanity here. You made it your personal mission to “take her on” and just kept attacking her from any direction via any perceived opening.

If this forum had, in your words, “a moderator who would stop extremist whose conduct undermines the purpose of a thread or this website,” your account would have been deactivated along with hers yesterday.

Reply by Lisa Curcio 6.6mi 11 hours ago
Okay, I will jump in.

  1. yes we need more immediate moderation, but it is a very difficult task that Julie is sincerely struggling with for many of the reasons articulated above;
  2. h’ is right about Vilda, and Vilda I love you and hope to see you Saturday;
  3. Michael, it seems impossible to me that you had a post deleted–must have been before my time.

Reply by James BlackHeron 30 minutes ago
If I were an evil genius (instead of just being evil) and bent on the destruction of The Chainlink community and forums (for some nefarious purpose -perhaps to create a successful competing community and suck away the membership for huge profits or whatev) one of the very first planks in my evil plan would be to work to institute a change in the way the forums here are moderated.

The way they are being run now has had a successful track record with a membership growth curve increasing by leaps and bounds over the past few years. In order to reverse this horrible trend things would definitely have to change. Instituting more moderation would be the best way to torpedo this expeditive rising membership, increased forum participation, and bountiful page-clicks.

So by all means, go ahead and institute more moderation in the forums. I’ll just be over at namecheap.com buying up all the good chicagobike domain names.

Reply by Haddon 23 minutes ago

“Reply by notoriousDUG yesterday
Are you fucking kidding me?

I think self moderation might be in order before complaining about the lack of moderation.

One of the more salient points was made by Simon Phearson:

No one here is evil or “full of maggots,” as Michelle so colorfully averred.

None Of Us Is Evil

This is in fact a paraphrase of something each murderous dictator the world over is told by his ‘right hand man‘ when the press starts to complain about the mounting body counts just outside town. I am sure that President Assad must have been delighted to hear those supportive words.

Evil is something that ‘spoilsports‘ dream up to explain so-called ‘bad behavior‘. But we Urban Cyclists know that on any given day you could check to see that ‘none of us is evil‘. And that my friends is wonderful news.

If someone ‘loves‘ you how could you be an evil person? And I am as certain that every wrongly accused dictator throughout time has had people who loved him or her. In fact the proof is obvious. If you have people who are willing to support what you do how indeed could they not love you? Every so-called dictator has had those in his high-command who were loyal to the death. Calling someone, anyone evil is just not fair. So what we know now from our reading of the ChainLink Forum is that we are all good people.

This Does Bring Up One Question Though?

While I wholeheartedly understand (after reading this thread) that we do not need ‘moderation‘ because it is something of a ‘downer‘, might I ask the question ‘how does this view fit into the campaigns to shame motorists who park in the bike lane‘? Are we doing that because they are breaking rules, rules which should never have been established in the first instance because like ‘moderation‘ on a forum is unfair to people. Or is it because these folks are not cyclists?

I only ask these questions because it is difficult for me to understand one set of allowances for ‘bad behavior‘ and an intolerance for it in others. Can someone please speak to that? Inquiring minds want to know.