What action should be taken on offensive threads?

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dohball
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Apr 14 2012 13:17
What action should be taken on offensive threads?

A post with a salty flava – maybe not so strange that the same substance borne in tears can sear a wound clean.

I have respect and interest for many aspects of this site and its forum discussions. However if some asks me if I would recommend the site all I can say is that its good to make use of and add to the library, check out the news sometimes but avoid the forums unless you’v got the energy to sift though lots of crap.

Recently I asked 5 friends if they would be interested in helping with the libcom reading guides. I gave my main reasons for contributing as being the amount of traffic the site gets, the fact that people who are newly drawn to anarchism seem to be using it as point of exploration and the quality of the library. In one of the emails back one mate mate said “also for the email re: libcom, it's true, i think i always kind of had that feeling that libcom was sort of a place for the sexist/macho strain of workerist-marxist-anarchists and that's probably why i usually only lurk around there... but it would be great to have more of a feminist/queer/anti-colonial/anti-racist presence there, for sure.”.

When I first contributed to the forums in the Macho Posting on Libcom and SolFed discussion the responses I got back from the admins seemed relatively ok. Now looking back they seem a bit disingenuous as they never acknowledged how central the admins themselves were to contributing to at times pretty toxic atmosphere on the forums.

My initial feeling on reading the 'PC gone mad' rant and transphobia threads was that I was done with libcom. Certainly I remain clear that (on the basis of reading those x 2 threads) JK and choccy would not be welcome in our home. However as with many public writings I guess some of the people who post here are kind of doing their growing up in public..? The fact that the thread was only 3 years ago doesn’t inspire much trust. However I find other things JK has said insightful and how he conducts himself online nowadays respectful. Life would be pretty bleak if we didn’t give each other room to change and grow.

I don’t think the mentioning of either thread was raised n a constructive way. I also found the generalised response to them dispiriting. Personally I found both of them upsetting to read and they have sat in my thoughts in an ill way since I read them.

I remember at school often being subjected to hearing the ‘wisdom’ of people’s dads. My dad says: ‘skodas are shit’ ‘he should be shot’ ‘she did very well for a girl who grew up in a council house’ and jokes about how maybe ‘black one legged lesbians’ were going to be taken into account. Years later I read an article about how the percentage of civilian casualties in wars kept on increasing and how the amount of amputees keeps on increasing globally due to the changing nature of weaponry. Knowing that the majority of those casualties are people of colour and taking that statistic of 1 in 10 people identifying as being gay at temporary face value I thought again of the proverbial one-legged black lesbian. There must be hundreds of thousands of people who fall into that category. I remember the crouched feeling I had inside whenever someone talked about homosexuality at our school. I remember how all the pupils in my year who were people of colour moved to other schools because of bullying. Those posts give me the same feeling of just wanting to get the fuck away. It also really made me feel again the truth in the slogan transphobia = death.

Sometimes it feels like white guys ‘own’ and control the beautiful, practical ideas of anarchism/libertarian communism, even although I know that isn’t true.

Right now the forums are like bluebeard’s castle – but you don’t know which is the door you don’t want to open. It’s a funny sort of ‘bin’; more like all the rubbish is lying around on the floor. You click on what might be an interesting thread and it turns out to be a load of racist, boys club bullshit.

I think the opinions in the other thread on this subject are misplaced when they focus on condemning particular individuals. I think the responsibility fro the crap aspects of libcom ‘forum culture’ is more widely spread than that. None of us are perfect. The point is to improve ourselves, generate radical movement etc. life online is limited – I question whether I’m just pissing away my time (which id v limited just now) even writing this. But then I am pissed off!

Anyway my current thoughts are to not erase history but to put all those shitty stupid threads into one place called libcoms dodgy past. Have it inaccessible to non- members, buried quite deep in the site and make it so it doesn’t come up in the related posts at the bottom of the page.
Then the ambivalent present can continue.

radicalgraffiti
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Apr 14 2012 14:32
Quote:
Anyway my current thoughts are to not erase history but to put all those shitty stupid threads into one place called libcoms dodgy past. Have it inaccessible to non- members, buried quite deep in the site and make it so it doesn’t come up in the related posts at the bottom of the page.
Then the ambivalent present can continue.

i agree with that, also threads in the bin should come up in searches, unless some specific decides to search the bin

edit, it might also be an idea to hide ALL threads older than a certain date

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Picket
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Apr 14 2012 15:28

We're all doing our growing up in public. Unless libcom goes closed-membership there will always be a steady stream of new members in various stages of "growing up". Because of this I don't think it's possible to draw some kind of line in time after which all threads will be wonderful. It would only be possible if the site was dead.

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Steven.
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Apr 14 2012 18:06

Thanks for that thoughtful OP.

We have been having discussions for a while about what to do with the forums, in particular old posts and search results. We are considering a number of options, but at the moment we're working on finishing the redesign before we start sorting out the technicalities of this stuff.

However, we appreciate people's input which could help shape the option we go with.

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Evie
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Apr 14 2012 19:46

Dohball

I agree that the library, news, and blog sections of libcom make it a great resource, and if pointing anyone at the site these sections are the reasons why. Conversely the forums are the reason I hesistate to make the recommendation.

Like you and your friend I made the decision to (occassionally) contribute to libcom as I felt the balance of the site would not be improved if I, and others like me, avoided it - as much as I often hate the tone of discussion it won't change if it's not challenged. That said challenging it can be pretty depressing, and though I post infrequently I have on more than one occasion drawn the attention of posters who appear to be actively trying to bait me into an argument.

The first time I considered posting (though I put it off until a few months later) was when the macho posting thread appeared. Reading that thread in retrospect I also think it isn't nearly as positive a thread as I had thought at the time - it's just so much better than former discussions of the same topic that it gave the illusion of being a great step forward. That being said, I don't agree that the admin responses were disingenuous - having read them back the admins talk of libcom collectively and agree it was shit, and admit that it often still is - JK says for example:

Quote:
"it's always easier to see the error of your former ways, so to speak"

Given that he has apologised fully for the thread that has brought this to the fore - and that in the 18 months or so that I've been using the site this is the first evidence I've seen of him posting in an offensive manner - I personally don't see any reason not to accept that he's telling the truth when he says he accepted the criticism and changed. Like you say, if we didn't give anyone a chance to change "life would be pretty bleak". I think the same goes for accepting that they have changed, particularly when there's a lack of any evidence to the contrary.

I definitely agree with your analogy of the forums as bluebeard's castle - especially if you're searching for particular topics. I know I've searched for gender and feminism in the past and the results are, at best uninspiring, and at worst, quite horrific. Tbh, given that the admins accept the discussion on the forums can be dreadful, I don't see why forums even come up in searches (unless specifically selected). Surely the results would be much better if they were excluded unless specified? This goes especially for stuff in the 'bin', which also comes up in searches - and worse, in the 'more like this' section at the end of articles/blogs.

I have seen people argue that these posts, horrific as they may be, should be preserved as they're 'the history' of the site, or that deleting them is 'dishonest' or 'revisionism'. However, I don't see how this is the case; if anyone were to make such a post now they'd be modded (edited or deleted) as against the site rules, I don't see why this shouldn't be retrospectively applied to stuff that's come before - as long as it's applied equally to admins and users.

And given as the bin is described as "troublesome threads marked for deletion" I really don't understand why so much of it still exists anyway.

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Steven.
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Apr 14 2012 23:54

Yeah, thanks for that post Evie. In particular your comment saying that you think the site would be better if people like you to stay here and challenge negative behaviours. All of us admins wholeheartedly support this. While all of us have been responsible to varying degrees for contributing to the negative atmosphere here a few years ago, we have made a real effort to improve things over the past 2-3 years in particular. However as a group of nine people there is only so much influence we can have on a site with 4000+ posters, so we do appreciate everyone else who has been pushing for this as well.

The suggestions people are making regarding the forum discussions and what to do with them with respect to searches/more like this etc are ones which we have discussed internally as well. We just haven't had the time to work out the best way of dealing with it yet.

Spikymike
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Apr 15 2012 17:54

Given the amount of repetitive discussions (only some arising out of total newcommers asking basic questions) I think it is important that former, often more detailed, related discussions on other threads DO get linked automatically and by effort of the rest of us but not those in the bin.

dohball
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Apr 22 2012 13:39

Just mailing to say thanks for all the responses to my post. i'v also been following the discussion about these issues on the Employment, gender and race discussion thread.

i think it would be shame to erase all past threads that predate a certain date. cos some of them are very good/interesting. i would be more inclined to put all the threads that would be deleted according to current moderation guidelines in the bin. & then send it to the landfill of history. i think rob ray made a suggestion that sounded like it might be good but i can't remember what it was...

@steven, cheers, that's a bit reasurring - if it is of any use to yous then that's good..

@pikel
i am not expecting totally wonderful threads + i don't think my own contributions have been wonderful, bit floundering really some of the time. & i don't have to agree with everything someone says or not think that they're sometimes talking shite to be able to still enjoy their company.
but i do think the site admins are in a different position of responsibility from posters in a variety of ways, including that their demeanour & opinions help to set the tone of discussions.
by 'public' in this context i meant having any stray remarks that you made left up for public record on the internet - i foruntately amn't in that position!

@evie
i appreciate your reply. briefly with regards to trust.. i haven't actually read an apology from jk or choccy anywhere, i'm not sure where they are in the site?
i suppose i think trust comes in various depths...i think i actually felt more shocked by jks OP because i had come to have a certain sort of trust for his thoughts on the basis of his posts (whereas choccy i hadn't really read or noticed that much & isn't a site admin). in general i don't do the talking to folks i don't know over the net thing or have a personal facebook, partly cos i'm always quite pushed for time..so this way of 'knowing' people is new to me.
so briefly i have trust that jk has a genuine desire for a sort of society that i would probably enjoy living in & that if we actually knew it each other we could probably sit down and get over this. and i'm sure that's quite possibly the case for choccy as well. that said i can't just erase what i'v read from my memory and common sense leads me to bear it slightly in mind when i read contributions by those 2 folks. but i don't feel or think damning thoughts of them or think that this project (libcom) isn't worthwhile as a result of this...

part of my annoyance from the combination of the x2 threads stemmed from the fact that the subjects both have direct bearing on my family, loved ones and (unpaid) political project that we run and totally disses them all.

in general for what its worth i stopped actually feeling pissed of about this all shortly after i posted this. obviously when i think about the x2 offensive threads i still think their offensive, but in the meantime i will get on with making a v. minor contribution to the site with the reading lists when i can...and of course i take it in good faith that the admins are working out a way to improve these things - i can see how the site has gotten better over the last while.
i don't see it as a matter of moving into some bland restrictive 'middle ground' but having a bit more ground for everyone. i sometimes enjoy arguments, including heated ones - as opposed to a discussion but only if they'r basically friendly.

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libcom
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May 2 2012 20:21

We've discussed this as a collective and are in the process of doing a number of things:

  • Excluding all old forum threads from the search index (and therefore from 'more like this'). Good ones can be manually opted back in.
  • Locking old threads, as they often get bumped without people realising they've been dead for years.
  • Moving all old libcommunity threads to the bin.
  • Regularly unpublishing binned stuff. It's 'marked for deletion' but we never got round to writing a script to do it automatically.

We'll obviously be applying the posting guidelines to all new discussions, but going through and retrospectively moderating thousands of threads would be far too time consuming, so we've settled on the above.

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jef costello
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May 2 2012 23:16

Don't delete old libcommunity posts. Apart from that it all sounds fine.

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Chilli Sauce
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May 3 2012 00:14

Yeah, as much as libcommunity is full of shit (it is), there's a wealth of worthwhile humour there I don't think should be lost.

That said, would there be a way to to sort of nominate old threads to (1) remove them from search functions/related posts and (2) be permanently delete posts that are recommended for deletion as opposed to a permanent, automatic deletion?

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Chilli Sauce
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May 3 2012 00:16

Dohball, thanks for this thread by the way. It's opened up a discussion that I think needs to be had.

Spikymike
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May 3 2012 10:22

Outvoted on this it seems!

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Kronstadt_Kid
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May 3 2012 12:14
libcom wrote:
We've discussed this as a collective and are in the process of doing a number of things:

<ul>
<li>Excluding all old forum threads from the search index (and therefore from 'more like this'). Good ones can be manually opted back in.</li>

I really like reading some of the old long threads with useful political discussion in.

radicalgraffiti
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May 3 2012 13:46

how are you going to pick good threads? do you want help with that

bastarx
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May 4 2012 01:15
Kronstadt_Kid wrote:
libcom wrote:
We've discussed this as a collective and are in the process of doing a number of things:

<ul>
<li>Excluding all old forum threads from the search index (and therefore from 'more like this'). Good ones can be manually opted back in.</li>

I really like reading some of the old long threads with useful political discussion in.

Probably around once a year I'll go back through some old threads, usually starting with tracking my posts. I'm embarrassed by some of the stuff I've said but not enough to want to delete my posts. Overall there's some pretty good discussions deep in the archive and it would be a big mistake to delete them IMHO.

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Steven.
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May 4 2012 07:24

Just to say we're not going to delete them, just remove them from search results en masse. People can still find them through the tracker and through the forum navigation, or Google - just not through searching the site or clicking "more like this".

Old threads which are decent we can manually opt into search results/more like this. So we could probably do with some help identifying those decent old threads nearer the time

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Juan Conatz
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May 4 2012 07:59

SOme of those old threads are mixed though. Like some of the IWA ones provide pretty much the only English language info on a lot of the IWA groups and what they've done in the last 20 years, but they are also filled with horrible, insulting bickering...

bastarx
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May 4 2012 08:24
Steven. wrote:
Just to say we're not going to delete them, just remove them from search results en masse. People can still find them through the tracker and through the forum navigation, or Google - just not through searching the site or clicking "more like this".

Old threads which are decent we can manually opt into search results/more like this. So we could probably do with some help identifying those decent old threads nearer the time

Yeah sorry, reading comprehension fail.