Sunday, July 29, 2012

Article #4, "A few definitions"

There are some terms that have proven to be useful shortcuts in Meta (and metacore) discussions. Community and its definition, of course, will still be being debated long after we are dust. Von Neumann machines will probably be thrashing about it as the universe sputters to a halt around them, at Tipler's Eschaton.
Thrashing is a major feature of non-threaded systems. (I do not have enough experiance with threaded systems to know if the system itself moderates thrashes, or if they are a feature.) A thrash is somewhere between reasoned discussion and a flamewar. The flames are usually directed at management of the site where the thrash is occuring or management of another site that forms the seed of the thrash. Example: Neopoeia. Created as, partially, an alternative to Cafe Utne, the debate about censorship and bootings at Utne has sustained a busy conference there since the board's creation, and continues apace, and will continue until one or both boards closes.
Booting is management's final recourse, the banning of a person from a site. Lesser penalties include restricting a person's ability to post. This can vary from the E2 system of borging for a few minutes, to only allowing a person to read articles and comments, taking away the ability to make new ones. Thrashing about bootings can go on for years, especially if the person wants to have access to the site. Imagine if DMan or Jay Stile tried to register at E2 every day under a different name, dropping barbs, stirring the pot. Although management has the tools to handle this, it can lead to innocent people who unwittingly choose a suspicious ID being banned from the site, or auto-registration being shut down altogether, or banning webmail addresses from registering (such as is done at The Mote), or requiring a valid credit card for identification. All of these can damage the community at a site, by decreasing the trust levels and stemming the flow of new users. Without an influx of fresh ideas and opinions, a site risks turning from an existing or nascent community into a small exclusive social club.
Another aspect of booting is when a user is booted from a site not for their poor actions at a site, but for stating unpopular or counter-management opinions. Sometime's it's hard to tell if someone is a troll or sincere -- the only way to tell is by their behavior over time. This does happen at a variety of sites, and I'm not trying to start an interboard thrash in this topic. Sometimes it's hard to discuss meta issues objectively when you feel that it's happened to you or someone you esteem, but for now I'm looking not at the individual issues but why they happen at all and how they can be prevented at any site with an interest in community building.
YOYOW is the doctrine that You Own Your Own Words. This has copyright aspects (for example, if the site states up-front that it will own the copyright to all user-contributed material, or if the site quotes a user's posts in another venue, atributing them to itself rather than the original poster), censorship aspects (for a deleted post may not be retrievable, thus denying the creator access; a booted user may claim the right to enter the site to redact or erase or archive their own posts, this depends on the copyright and access policies of the site), and responsibility issues. There are two ways to read YOYOW -- one is that you have legal right to your words, the other is that you have the responsibility to own what you say, to not present falsehoods as truth, to not flame others without expecting to be flamed back or otherwise face censure by your peers or management.
The Golden Rule. In any dispute with the upper levels of the hierarchy, it comes down to this. Treat others as you wish to be treated, and whoever has the gold, makes the rules. This does not make site management malevolent or benign, simply that the people who have invested money or time into the system will have the final say in what happens at their site. When the actions they take are inconsistent with the site's stated purpose (one of the largest non-cultural reasons a lot of people go there) or are clearly not fair, the fighting, the meta, begins. One of the functions of a Metacore group is to try to understand, illuminate, and, in a best case scenario, solve the dispute. I'm not talking about formal mediators or an advisor panel or a system, although one such may be suggested by the metacore. It's the people who are the most interested and who have no personal axe to grind who may be closest to finding a solution. If the parties involved are not interested in a solution, if the management insists that theirs is the right to make the decisions by fiat, or if the person who feels wronged is not sincerely interested in finding a solution, the metacore's influence stops there -- although solutions rejected by one site may apply at another.
Meatspace. Where your body is.
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1 comment:

  1. wherever you have been, epo, welcome back. I didnt realize you had been posting here again...

    And oh don't those words bring up some memories pleasant, painful, and confusing.