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Postings from April 2011
Re: Nature of this list
From: Shlomi Fish
April 24, 2011 02:36
Re: Nature of this list
Message ID: email@example.com
see below for my response.
On Sunday 24 Apr 2011 03:30:17 David Christensen wrote:
> On 04/19/2011 06:26 PM, David Christensen wrote:
> > So, my next question is "has the complaint resolution process broken
> > down?".
> It's been 4 days, and I haven't seen a reply to the above question.
Sorry for not noticing it earlier. I think you should have kept more context
for your original post, though.
> Right now, per the "Beginning Perl mailing list FAQ" (FAQ) , this
> list is controlled by "moderators".
> One of the duties of the moderators is to administer justice -- to
> receive complaints, to investigate, to make charges, to judge, and to
> carry out punishment; all in private. There is no public trial, no jury
> of peers, and no appeal.
Yes, and most people who are newcomers have not bothered to complain, possibly
because they did not know better. That put aside, I'd rather not start a
snowball of punishing, boycotting, etc. people from this mailing list, like is
prevalent on many IRC channels, primarily of IRC networks which don't have a
centralised ChanServ/NickServ/etc. We shouldn't make people feel uncomfortable
to comment or answer, or penalise them unneedlessly.
I also think it is a better idea to put someone who is acting in an abusive
manner on manual moderation before actually banning them.
> I'm not an attorney, but any public disclosure of the proceeding makes
> me think "libel". (As I understand it, "freedom of speech" is not an
> legal defense for publicly denigrating people, whether or not they
> "broke the rules").
You are right that it's not.
> And, any order for apology, goods, or services
> makes me think "extortion". Satirical references to "large, yet padded,
> clue-sticks" and "XQJ-37 nuclear powered pansexual roto-plooker[s]" 
> are meaningless when it comes time for a moderator to do their work.
> That said, I believe the FAQ correctly identifies two legal means for
> punishment -- (1) terminating the thread and/or (2) banning the
> convicted from posting to the list (with the presumed power to set the
> duration of the ban according to the severity of offense). I wonder if
> there are more.
I also suggest adding keeping someone in moderation, with the ability to reply
and correct their posts. This is less harsher than banning. I think ezmlm-idx
should be able to do it, and maybe we can move to something more actively
maintained and modern such as http://www.sympa.org/ . I have made a gradual
transition on @iglu.org.il from ezmlm-idx to Sympa in the past, which worked
pretty well, albeit the machine was underpowered which made keeping MySQL
alive unusable. Now @hamakor.org.il which succeeded @iglu.org.il is using GNU
Mailman, which has been less actively maintained than Sympa, but is also
pretty decent (though it has a very confusing set of admin screens.).
> In addition to existing tort laws and case precedents, criminal "Cyber
> Bullying" legislation is coming into effect all around the world . I
> believe we can all understand the necessity of not running afoul of the
> criminal justice system.
Well, online bullying is a problem, but I don't think that saying "Your Perl
code sucks" or "Please don't post misleaing answers to people's Perl
questions" would qualify as online bullying. Of course, it's up to the judges
to decide, and given the poor phrasing of many such laws, it is likely that
this may make you effectively guilty. See for example:
http://www.lightlink.com/spacenka/fors/ ("State of Oregon vs Randal
The way I see it, "Cyberbulling" is much more persistent than just making one
comment on a post to a public mailing list. I'm not saying being rude is a
good thing to do, but it's still not as bad as online bullying.
> If you think about it, acting on a complaint involves risk and failure
> to act on a complaint also involves risk -- it's a Catch-22 situation.
> Whether they know it or not, many interests are currently at risk, and
> will remain at risk, so long as this list is in operation --
> complainants, witnesses, moderators, Internet Service Providers, the
> Perl Foundation, and likely others.
> Assuming that we want this list to continue, then we all have a stake in
> understanding and mitigating the risks.
> Other Internet forums, notably Slashdot, use democratic means for
> dealing with undesired posts. From a technical standpoint, this
> requires infrastructure not normally found on mailing lists. We're Perl
> programmers, so, technically, that's not a problem. But, I don't know
> if such processes have a better legal risk assessment and/or mitigation
I don't suggest turning firstname.lastname@example.org into something voted and deomcratic
like Slashdot.org, Stackoverflow.com or perlmonks.org . I think that voting
things up (and especially down) would be demotivating, and would yield to a
lot of karma wars and whoring. We should be an open forum where people gain
esteem by helping other people in a nice way, and the manners in which they
are manifested are by saying "thanks" etc. I'm not saying democratic forums
don't have their place (some people seem to enjoy them, and I got some help
from Stackoverflow.com in the past, and naturally, when some of my (and
others) online features were successfully Slashdotted, it was a huge boost of
traffic, esteem and commentary.), but if you want a democratic forum for Perl,
you can use http://stackoverflow.com/ which is more suited for that, and we
should keep this mailing list with an implicit karma and not an explicit one.
> This isn't the only mailing list on the Internet; these issues must have
> been discussed elsewhere. Is there a canonical forum for discussing such?
Maybe a meta-mailing list mailing list? ;-) Well, these issues were discussed
in Usenet for a long time before mailing lists were popular (which were
considered a novelty back then). Also see:
> Better yet, is there a legally-researched and vetted solution that we
> can adopt?
We can put some measures, but I think it's also useful to do a proper
discussion and convincing in written English, without having any authority or
"power". And like I said, I've been on this list for a few years, and don't
think I have ever seen any public form of cyberbullying (though maybe some
people did it to other members of this list in private and if so, should
report it to the @perl.org admins.).
We can also more stuff to the list with addresses to contact upon abuse. This
seems like a good idea to me.
> This issue affects all perl.org mailing lists and/or web forums. Does
> the Perl Foundation have legal counsel, and does he/ she/ they need to
> be involved?
Let's not lose our senses here. I don't think we are at risk of being accused
of online bullying, at least not on our public forums. (I don't think I have
ever seen a case of it on a @perl.org mailing list.). I don't rule out that
people have been bullying other people in private, but what Randal or Uri or
whoever do is not bullying, and my classmates and I have said much worse
things to each other back in preschool. Reportedly the Academia is filled with
people criticising each other works, and as opposed to most software hackers,
they also sometimes say that people are horrible professionals, as a way of
gaining esteem, and they are not at a risk of considered as "bullying".
I'm not saying the social anti-patterns that this thread discusses are
desirable, and I certainly would like to see them reduced to a minimum, just
that they should be taken into proportion regarding their legal-context (and
naturally ethical context - they are not a crime.).
Sorry for writing such a long message.
>  http://learn.perl.org/faq/beginners.html
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_bullying
Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
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