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Old 12-19-2009, 04:34 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
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Default Updated Eratosphere Procedures for Members and Moderators



It has been years since a significant change has been made to the way Eratosphere operates, especially, as it pertains to members-moderators interaction. In our formative years, such changes were more commonplace, however, things seemed so much simpler then as we were smaller and nimble, and fewer conflicting viewpoints to reconcile.

Part of the challenge of Able Muse’s Eratosphere forum is that it has become a victim of its own success and explosive growth, becoming a melting pot of contrasting opinions and sensibilities on what is acceptable behavior, and competing philosophies, even among the moderators, on how much or little moderator involvement is called for. Our ad hoc ways of handling the differences are no longer working.

From our current and past upheavals, upheavals which seem to play out with increasing frequency, I have identified three significant types of problems to address:
  1. Complaints from members that their concerns are silenced by being deleted, and then are ignored.

  2. Complaints from members that the staff is oversensitive and prone to overreaction and inappropriate reaction.

  3. Uncertainty and even disagreement among staff members about what constitutes disruptive behavior.
To address the problems, we need to take steps that fulfill these requirements:
  1. First, by providing a mechanism that preserves posts even in a turbulent Eratosphere state, and allows the registered members to continue the discussion at hand. This is accomplished with a new private forum, Eratosphericals, accessible after an additional sign-in to all members registered long enough and with enough posts to earn thread creation privileges — that is almost all of you except the newly registered or the perpetual lurkers. This forum is minimally moderated by Maryann. She might move posts deemed suitable for members only to this private forum where all members with access privilege are still be able to view it or post to it. Furthermore, one sub-level of this forum is used as a nonpublic forum, Pub, for the discussion of publication issues. A second sub-level, Dear Moderators, is provided for members with access privileges to officially submit queries, issues, or a complaints thread to the entire staff, and the thread originator is able to interact with the staff on that issue through that thread. A third sub-level, Dear Administrators operates like the second one except that queries or complaints made there are visible to the Administrators (Maryann and Alex), and the thread originator only. Please allow at least 24 hours or so for the staff to look at, evaluate and respond to you in the Dear... forums due to the differences in time zones, and the real jobs — yes, most of the staff members also have real jobs and need to make time for those as well! To summarize, note that members cannot start new threads in the main forum of Eratosphericals although they can post to existing threads or threads that get moved there. Members can start and comment on new thread in all the sub-forum with the visibility constraints as previously described. Still, be advised that even posts in the private forum need to be made in accordance with the Eratosphere guidelines. Furthermore, although this private forum is available to all registered members with enabled access privileges, its contents remain private to Eratosphere. Hence members are prohibited from publishing its contents in the open and public forum areas of Eratosphere, or worse, outside Eratosphere.

  2. Second, to minimize staff intrusion into conversations on the General Talk board and the other conversation boards, a specific moderator, Adam Elgar, will be assigned there (and Maryann will stand in when he's not available). Adam will moderate these in addition to the Translation Forum. Other moderators not assigned to the Conversation forums will abstain from taking disciplinary action there unless they clear it with Adam first, although of course the other moderators may participate in the conversations.

  3. Finally, to create a self-checking and reevaluation system for moderators' actions — for the members and for the staff — we're instituting this procedure:

    1. A moderator needs to ignore actions from members when there are no clear-cut violations of guidelines or disruptive behavior.

    2. When a moderator encounters from a given member a pattern of behavior or a post that cannot be ignored, the following procedures are to be used:

      i. The moderator should proceed, depending on the severity of the situation, with either a) a friendly reminder of the guidelines; or b) a request to edit the post to conform to guidelines; or c) a private advisory that s/he will be issuing an official warning.

      ii. At the same time, moderators need to hold themselves to the same standards that they ask of other members in terms of maintaining a civil level of discourse. Posts and Private Messaging communications from moderators that are clearly provocative or insulting are just as unacceptable as they would be coming from anyone else. If a member feels that a moderator has behaved in an inappropriate way, they are requested to report the offending post or PM to Maryann. She will evaluate the circumstances and may tell the moderator to cease and desist, or take a more stringent action as she deems necessary.

      iii. If the member protests the advice or action of the moderator intervention in (i) above, the moderator should disengage, and go through a new internal staff appeal procedure—instituted to provide checks and balances on moderator actions—for instructions and the recommended action. On appeal, the course of action proposed by the moderator may be confirmed or denied. If confirmed, the moderator will make the member aware that further consultation supports the moderator’s action and ask the member to comply. If denied, the moderator will stand down completely and smooth matters with the member if necessary.

      iv. Maryann will keep in mind the special status of TDE as a forum with a high standard of poetry post and critique, summarized in its rubric, when handling appeals related to this forum.

      v. I want to draw everyone's attention to our consolidated guidelines here. These have already been up for quite some time now. These are the guidelines that are applicable when we refer to the Eratosphere's guidelines.
      Following the steps defined above will not only smooth the staff dynamics, and the dynamics between the staff and members, but will hopefully reduce complaints about the moderators, and reduce the time spent on disagreement posts and thread instead of the goals of Eratosphere — writing and critique.

Although the Eratosphere guidelines are still in force in their entirety everywhere, we hope that their application will be smoother and result in fewer misunderstandings henceforth between members and staff.

We hope that these changes will be found useful and make for a significant step forward in addressing the concerns of members about their interactions with staff, allowing for the resolution of conflicts before they lead to the kind of unfortunate public strife and deletion of posts that we have recently seen here, for which the staff and I apologize to all those who were affected. Eratosphere remains committed to free speech and democracy, and we hope that with your cooperation, these Updated Procedures will help us maintain that commitment while guaranteeing that all participants—members and moderators alike—are protected from unfair treatment on the Board.

Cheers,
...Alex

Last edited by Alex Pepple; 12-19-2009 at 07:37 PM. Reason: Extra clarification about thread creation and posting within Eratosphericals and its sub-forums.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:35 PM
E. Shaun Russell E. Shaun Russell is offline
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While I haven't fully processed the implications (positive, negative or indifferent) of all of these changes yet, I want to at least express my appreciation that something decisive HAS been done. Speaking for myself alone, that was my biggest concern regarding the recent incidents...that it would be met with silence and inaction.
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:04 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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I'm in agreement with Shaun. This is a good, positive step, and I'm pleased to note that comments and communications (and withdrawals) were noted, and there has been a reaction. Thanks to all involved.
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:35 PM
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Quincy Lehr Quincy Lehr is offline
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Alex--

While I appreciate the work you've done on this, you still don't seem to grasp the basic point--there was a general groundswell of anger against certain moderators, as well as a concern with over-moderation in general, and the reaction was to squelch it, because, apparently, "What would the neighbors think?" Well, those who actually resided here for some time felt that they were subject to too much interference and a habit on the part of the Administration of writing a new rule every time "something" (often fairly minor in itself) came up. What we have here seems to be symptomatic of an unresponsive and, frankly, repressive board culture, which seeks to curb the excesses of the very recent past (which is something, I guess) but does not get to the root of the problem--namely, that many long-time members felt that their grievances were not being taken seriously, and that they were being hounded publicly, encouraged to respond privately, and having private correspondence held against them.

In the interests of "working within the system," I attempted to log into the Eratosphericals area to register my thoughts according to stated procedure, yet my password did not work. Hence I'm stating my position here.

As for whether this is a temporary return or a more permanent one in my case remains to be seen.

Quincy
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:42 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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Is Eratosphericals running yet? It rejected my password, too.
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:44 PM
David Rosenthal David Rosenthal is offline
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My password didn't work either.

David R.
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:53 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
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Thank you, Quincy, for your frank opinions. As I mentioned in the updated procedures, we can try and we have tried to address everyone's concerns, but it's impossible to satisfy everyone no matter what is done to address those concerns. Heck, even if we let total anarchy prevail, I'm sure there'll still be complaints! But I hope that these updated procedures are a step forward and sufficient at this time for most of us to be willing to give it a try in good faith instead of outright dismissal, and indeed move forward, than was the case before.

Cheers,
...Alex
p.s. - see your PM.
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Old 12-19-2009, 07:20 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
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Eratosphericals password has been emailed to all active members who qualify for access, so check the inbox associated with your Eratosphere profile email. After you're logged in to the Sphere, you need to use that password/access key as an additional step to get into that forum or the sub-forums.

If you didn't get it and feel you should have, PM me.

...Alex

P.S. - This is a good time to make sure your profile email address is still valid, else Eratosphere notices such as the one described above won't make it to you! To verify or update your email address go here.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:13 PM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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I'm practically an original member, and I was the original moderator, so I just wanted to add my divided thoughts. On the one hand, being a moderator here is tough and I stopped doing it because I just couldn't take the childish abuse any more. On the other hand, I have experienced problems with a nasty moderator, and took a year-long sabbatical until that person left as a moderator. There's clearly merit on both sides of the complaints.

My conclusion is that we have to try much harder to leave the flaming culture of the Internet at the door and try to be a lot more civil to one another. I believe it was Aristotle who rejected the theory that the venting of anger released it. Regular venting of anger just trains you to be better at being angry, which is why I never approved of opening up General Talk to explosive nonliterary issues. Accordingly, I'm dubious that a special board to continue some of these savage debates is really a good idea, though I admire Alex's intent.

Last edited by Michael Juster; 12-19-2009 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:32 PM
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FOsen FOsen is offline
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Well, I'm offering my thanks. Encouraging members to express grievances by pm and on alternate boards will only work if the members believe the administration will respond to reasonable grievances. This seems designed to address recent concerns about repressive and non-responsive board culture. We shall see. I support it.

Frank
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