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Re: Moderation

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Steffen Mueller
February 12, 2018 20:57
Re: Moderation
Message ID:
[Resend. There seems to be something horribly wrong in mail
post-gsuite-migration email setup and how it interacts with the
email infra. This email was sent on Feb 9th and I'm now giving up on
thinking that it's stuck in moderation.]

Preface: If anyone following this hasn't seen my previous email in this
thread, please read it because it is the actual response from the
moderators to Andreas' original question.

In the following, I don't speak for any of the other moderators, and I'm
describing only my opinions and feelings.


we've known each other online and from conferences for many, many years
now. I have the utmost respect for you, for many reasons. Obviously, your
technical and thought-leadership contributions to the community are
tremendous. But even more importantly, I've come to know you as a kind and
respectful person who is willing to spend a lot of effort on trying to work
out what's best for the greater good and best for Perl's users. For
example, I very eagerly lapped up your zen on PAUSE take-over requests over
a decade ago.

It's this context in which it really pains me to say that I feel the
attitude that I gleam from your recent emails is rather hostile. Given how
(I think) I know you, you must clearly think that there's somebody being
wronged* by somebody else's *deliberate* actions. I feel that you do not
trust the set of moderators, and that you do not give us the benefit of
doubt about also trying to do the right things. Considering that we're all
here for choice, and in many ways because we're trying to render a free
service, as well as the deep respect I have for you, the impression I get
from your communication does hurt and disappoint.

I believe that the purpose of having moderators - and trust me, each one of
us would prefer if none were required - is to ensure that perl5-porters is
a place where people want to contribute, feel valued, can have
constructively critical but not insulting or hurtful debates, and
correspondingly keep coming back, as well as grow as hackers in the process.

Now, the line between what's hurtful or not-in-good-faith and what's just
curt constructive criticism is very hard to draw. Therefore, moderation
needs to be done (sparingly, as you've said yourself in a previous email)
by people and cannot be written down as policy and automated by a shell

I've been a professional manager for a large software engineering
department for some time now, and if you'll allow me preach from experience
for a brief moment: The single most helpful rule for attaining the above is
to always use the most charitable reading of what others say, assume that
their intent is good (like yours is, and please believe me, mine), and of
course also always maintain good intent oneself. I'd like to ask everyone
to take a step back and consider whether they are assuming good intent of
their peers, particularly when engaging in meta discussion such as this.

Thank you for bearing with me. I will try to respond to your questions
below. I may run out of time if the kids wake up, and if that is so, I'll
send a partial response. I am unlikely to be able to engage in extended
further discussion for lack of time and sleep, and I'm doing this in the
hope that something is better than nothing. I hope for your understanding.

Kind regards,

* There was indeed, Marc, but by error, not evil deliberation.

Reminder: This is my opinion only and hasn't been discussed with any of the
other moderators.

On Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 6:18 AM, Andreas Koenig <andreas.koenig.7os6VVqR@> wrote:

> >>>>> On Wed, 24 Jan 2018 08:14:22 +0100, Andreas Koenig <
>> said:
> >>>>> On Sun, 21 Jan 2018 20:42:54 +0000, Aaron Crane <> said:
>  >> My fellow list members,
>  >> Please note that, as of commit
>  >> ef7498d2b69936a5c6476ecf1950066f638b2dac, the section of perlpolicy
>  >> relating to the standards of conduct has been updated.
>   > So how did the voting process go? I suppose there was one, and the
>   > voting moderators are not shy to stand to their decisions, right?
> Ping?
> I have asked some more questions to some members of the community and
> have received the feedback that they are worth being asked. And I was
> told that I should provide some insights about how we could move forward
> from here. I believe the questions themselves partially contain hints
> about a way forward. It all depends on the reaction of the rest of the
> community to determine which ways are reachable.
> Before I present the questions, I ask the moderators for obvious reasons
> to suspend moderation completely for the duration of this investigation.
I do not at all find that conclusion obvious.

I also feel that your tone is one of an inquisition and find it altogether
inappropriate, demeaning. Your use of the word "investigation" implies a
sanction that does not exist.

That being out of the way, here they are:
>  1. was the whole group of moderators informed about the state of
>     the incident with Marc Lehmann's ban?

Not sure I understand: Do you mean "did all moderators know at the time of
Marc's ban that it was to be only for a limited time?" Then yes, we all
know as we'd discussed it. Or do you mean "did you all know about how we
failed to unban him at the right time?" Then yes, all moderators knew
because we discussed that. Without wanting to put words in anyone's mouth,
I think I can say that nobody was happy about having missed that (thus also
the apology). Note that all of this was before Todd and Karen's involvement.

>  2. was the whole group of moderators informed about the mail from
>     former pumpkin Ricardo in which he said that he believes it was an
>     accident and apologizes and is sure that this will be fixed quickly?

Yes, that was after our discussion. None of the moderators can lift the ban
ourselves, that's done by the (wonderful and volunteer, I might say)
admins. They did so, but I don't think there was an immediate email to p5p
(or Marc) about the ban being lifted (typically when multiple people are
involved => misalignment on who communicates what).

>  3. was the whole group of moderators informed why the issue was not
>     fixed quickly but was dragged on and on for over three weeks?

I believe the ban was lifted much quicker than that. I think it took a few

>  4. since it was a pumpking who instigated the moderation team, do the
>     moderators believe they should report to the pumpking or to
>     perl5-porters? Or to nobody at all?

To the pumpking.

This being said, if the pumpking (being that Sawyer now or anybody else
past or future) said "ye must decide this way or that", I would not blindly
follow that order but rather if I felt that it was wrong in a significant
way, I would clearly state so, and if need be, resign. In other words, I
believe the pumpking delegates the responsibility.

I may also add that Sawyer has been extremely responsible about this and
has done a stellar job at avoiding any abuse of his influence here. He's
stayed out of moderation decisions where he had an involvement in the
p5p-incident that preceded the moderation discussion. If he were to get too
close to that line, I would be very blunt to him about that, but I know him
to be highly sensitive and sensible to this.

 5. what was the reason why it took so long to apologize and fix the ban
>     settings?

Order of things as I remember them:

a) realization
b) head-desking
c) lengthy discussion among the moderators about what exactly to do (to
avoid any of us accidentally speaking for the others, see also my
disclaimers about what I'm doing here)
d) apology from Rik
e) asking admins to unban
f) unbanned
g) failed or delayed notice about being unbanned as discussed above

Now, the times between steps (specifically a to d and d to f) were, I
believe a few days each. Do not forget that

 6. which moderators have access to the system that handles bans?


>  7. who has access to the logs of the system?

I don't believe any of the moderators do.

>  8. who has investigated, how the ban against Marc Lehmann was entered
>     into the system? When and for how long was it entered by whom?

You know very well who maintains the mailing list services. And it's none
of the moderators. Why would you even ask that? I am really trying to give
you the benefit of doubt here, but I find this whole thing to be very

>  9. have the other moderators been informed about the findings?

"Findings"? What are you even talking about? A ban was put in place way
back when. Somebody should have remembered to remove it. (Typical mailing
list software - mailman or whatever else - doesn't support
automatic-time-dependent-removal of bans as far as I know.) Nobody did.

10. which safeguards have been considered and/or implemented to prevent
>     that such accidents will not repeat?

None and I do not think that any are warranted. You do realize that this
could have ALSO been fixed by a simple reminder, right?

> 11. when did the discussion about the changes to the moderation rules
>     that lead to commit v5.27.8-10-gef7498d2b6 take place, who
>     participated, who voted how?

Unanimous among the moderators, but before Karen and Todd were added to the
group (adding them was also unanimous, I believe).

> 12. where are the meeting minutes?

Please. It's an asynchronous email thread among people in different time
zones. What kind of shadow organization do you think exists here?

> 13. did anybody of the participants in the discussion come to the idea
>     that changes to the rules would have to be discussed with and
>     decided by the people on perl5-porters themselves and not by the
>     moderators alone?

I can't speak for the others.

I will say, however, that I don't think that this type of discussion makes
sense to run on p5p. Mostly the same thing that necessitates even having
moderators in the first place. Mailing list membership does not come with
some entitlement to vote about anything.

14. how do the moderators think about the idea that they might have to
>     obey rules set up by the members of the community, not by
>     themselves?

The moderators are asked to keep things on the list civil by the pumpking.
In the past, that duty had fallen on the pumpking alone. Rik then decided
to get help and reduce the risk for singular personal bias that way.

Do not fall into the trap to equate membership of a mailing list with a
sense of community either. It's unfortunately a VERY fuzzy line and we're
constantly reminded of that when people refer to "the echo chamber".

> 15. did nobody in the moderation team realize that the new rules might
>     be perceived as authoritarian?

I cannot speak for the others. But I stated about what I think the purpose
of the moderation is. I believe that the current rules are a good tool for
that. And even more so, that having people who do their best to make
participation in perl development via p5p as constructive and enjoyable as
possible. Yes, that requires judgment calls.

16. did nobody in the moderation team realize that the new rules might
>     be perceived as: perl, the superglue of the internet now glueing the
>     cylinder lock to lock members out forever?

Andreas, now you're just being cynical. I feel very disappointed.

> 17. who had the idea that the maximum penalty we have to have on
>     perl5-porters needs to be indefinite? How long is indefinite
>     compared to the age of the community? Compared to longest reign of a
>     pumpking? Compared to the longest grant paid out by the perl
>     foundation?

Do not forget: If a productive, constructive, and civil person chooses to
leave perl 5 development because of a toxic environment, that is also
indefinite. So the aim is to balance that as much as possible such that
this doesn't happen while bans remain a very rare and dire exception. A
single toxic contributor can drive away many others. You can't really win,
can you? See also: The trolley problem (except that this isn't congruent in
that participants make decisions about their behaviour).

18. would you agree that the border between acceptable and unacceptable
>     behaviour is not cast in stone and for this reason the moderation
>     team might decide wrongly, at least occasionally? Which part of the
>     moderation system would automatically correct such potentially wrong
>     decisions?

Yes, mistakes can be made. Which is why there's the opportunity to appeal
to lift the ban. There is no automatable and fully deterministic solution
to such things and frankly, I think that anybody who would seriously argue
that this can be automated (which you haven't done, I might add, but you
seem to imply it by the phrasing of the question) clearly can't be serious
or somehow has lost touch with other human beings.

> While it may sound ungrateful when I present such a shitload of
> questions, I'd like to let you know that I'd rather not have had to go
> into this endavour. But it's not about my personal inclination when I
> set up this catalogue. I hear the questions and I have to spell them out
> because apparently nobody else does, while still they actually are
> awaiting to be dealt with.
I do find your questions to be overbearing, seemingly ungrateful, and
phrased in a very unfortunate way, likely out of great frustration. I feel
the questions are accusatory, do not give any benefit of doubt, show no
assumptions of good intentions, and appear to show many underlying
assumptions on your part that I would not agree with if spelled out. The
style has made me want to sever my ties to perl development altogether
since I'm sure to feel miserable about this for some time to come. I'm
quite convinced I'm not alone in this dread and some others would be a much
bigger loss than I by far. Being involved in p5p is a hobby for me. As
such, it needs provide something positive to warrant the time and energy
spent. Maybe a feeling of community and friendship. Maybe a sense of
achievement. Maybe a sense of comfort about social interaction. You name
it. Whatever it is if the involvement makes me feel dreadful and drained,
that has an impact on more important thing such as my ability to give my
best to my family, or to have maximum empathy available for looking after
others whose career I influence in my work.
Why do I expand on what this means for me so much? Because the way I feel
is exactly what I believe should be avoided inflicting others because it's
sure to drain our ability to keep perl5 healthy.

I hope my (personal) responses above are helpful.

Kind regards,

> Take care,

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