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Re: Having our anonymous cake and eating it too

by pemungkah (Priest)
on Jan 23, 2014 at 18:47 UTC ( #1071797=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Having our anonymous cake and eating it too

Rather than replying in a fragmentary fashion to numerous posts (and thank you very much for reading and considering my idea!), I'll summarize here in a direct replay to the original node.

“…anonymous posting must be left as is because anonymous posting is a feature of this site and really lowers the barrier of entry for asking a question.”
As jdporter says, blocklists or ‘block anonymous replies in this thread” don’t affect this. A top-level node is always postable by the Anonymous Monk; if someone has blocked the AM, then they simply won’t see that node and following thread.

“If I marked this post (the one I'm writing now) as disallowing anonymous replies, then Anonymous Monk would still be able to reply to the points I've made - they'd just have to click "reply" under the top node, or under Corion's node.”
If the top level node is marked “no anonymous replies”, then all nodes below it inherit the “no anonymous replies” flag, so none of the nodes is eligible for an anonymous reply; same logic applies if you use inherited blocklists. New threads can certainly be started; if you’ve decided to block the Anonymous Monk, then you simply don’t see those posts.

‘People could simply register accounts for single use (anon1234, anonABCD...), post in a 'AM locked' thread and never use them again!”
Sure, but this is a significantly higher cost than logging out and posting as AM. If blocklists were implemented (my preference), then one could simply add any new user they found annoying or uninformative as blocked. The “create a new user” over and over again becomes a higher cost when a “target” can with one operation make them invisible.

I’d suggest that the thread render simply stop if a reply is seen by someone on the current user’s blocklist; effectively, the thread ends right before the blocked user posts.

“…proposal misses/ignores a major point made by those who want sub-identication of Anonymonks because they can't figure out who's saying what in a thread populated by comments from more than one AM.”
I saw the proposal of differentiated AM’s in a thread go by, and I like it; I think it’s a good idea, and I’d like to see it. However, it still doesn’t address the fact that one of the AM’s in the thread may be being abusive, uncivil, mean, and nasty, and that the person on the receiving end of this has no effective response other than no longer participating in the thread.

“…people have to learn to judge posts by content!
I am solidly in agreement with you on this, but perhaps not in the way you think.

Content is the real core of the issue, and the structure of Perlmonks is why per-user blocking matters. We depend on people seeing things to downvote the bad and up vote the good. When there are many nodes posted, one doesn’t necessarily have enough votes to see and vote down all of the uncivil and impolite nodes - and if one does, there’s a potential of ending up in “dog vote” territory, where a well-meant action ends up punishing the person trying to do right.

Consideration is by policy not to be used for incivility and impolite posts; I’d definitely like to see that changed, but it is a cultural assumption that these posts must be permitted or we’re “censoring” people. Setting aside the fact that Perlmonks is a private organization and not a government and may therefore decide to allow or disallow anything it pleases, I personally believe that anyone being an ass deserves to be thrown out, not just ignored. There’s only so many times you can have to read “you’re stupid” or “you’re a bad person” before you want to just leave and never come back - but as things stand, there are no cultural limits to such posts.

This sets it up so that are limited resources to handle negativity and incivility, which leads people away from doing so. This reinforces a situation of “well, I won’t downvote that because I have to not downvote very much, and I can't consider this because that's not accepted.” This leads to an implicit cultural more that says, “I can’t do anything about someone else’s bad time, because it will end up hurting me if I do.”

The blocklist allows the person receiving the uncivil and nasty posts to judge the content of the posts and say, “you know, if this is how you want to interact with me, I don’t want to have to interact with you.” The “no anonymous replies” filters the easiest route to incivility; if you have to log in and post and have nasty associated with your ID (or you have to create a new ID to do it), then there’s a considerably higher cost to being mean. The blocklist moves the choice of what one decides to see to the reader, instead of to the community at large, which has a negative incentive to act.

This proposal isn’t a perfect solution. I didn’t expect it to be; it’s a idea that suddenly struck me yesterday evening. I’m trying to open the discussion to see what we can do other than what we’re doing now, because there is a hole in our combined cultural/software model: it is easy for anyone at all to post uncivil and impolite replies. We’re doing a lot of “that’s not a bug, it’s a feature” and “this doesn’t seem like a bug to me”, which to the person reporting the bug says “we don’t care about what you want” and “your opinion doesn’t matter”. It certainly matters to the person getting nastygrams; let's look at what we could change to help them.

  • Comment on Re: Having our anonymous cake and eating it too

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Re^2: Having our anonymous cake and eating it too (impolite)
by tye (Sage) on Jan 23, 2014 at 22:56 UTC
    Consideration is by policy not to be used for incivility and impolite posts; I’d definitely like to see that changed, but it is a cultural assumption that these posts must be permitted or we’re “censoring” people.

    No, it is just that the same principle applies: The best remedy for bad speech is to counter it with good speech.

    It is also significantly because that, without the discouragement against reaping of relatively minor infractions (such as being "impolite"), the result is rather easy to predict and has already been seen and is not pretty. But first, let me quickly describe the scenario where reaping "impolite" nodes can work rather well.

    If you have a very small and cohesive team of people dedicated to enforcing what they consider to be a sufficiently positive tone, then it can be quite beneficial for that team to suppress contributions that only rise to the level of "significantly impolite". On the internet w/o a physical location shared by the team members, such a team is very often just a single person.

    In such scenarios, it often works even better if new nodes are hidden until they are approved by the team, and not just because it prevents a flood of negative posts being made before the team can react. I think people are less disturbed by "my submission was not approved" than by "my submission was posted and then later deleted".

    PerlMonks, having been on-line for this long, has not had any dedicated, cohesive team survive that long no matter the purpose. There have been a few teams that stayed relatively dedicated for quite a while and were even moderately cohesive, but each failed to stay even close to that for even a fraction of the lifespan of PerlMonks. And handling membership churn is significantly tricky, especially when trying to stay high on the "cohesive" and "dedicated" scales. Heck, even just adequately detecting churn is a big problem.

    The mechanisms that have proved most beneficial to PerlMonks are ones where new members automatically gain additional abilities simply by interacting enough with the site (XP is a measurement of site participation with a bias toward faster rewards for constructive participation).

    So the population of enforcers is going to be some fraction of the full membership. To get sufficient "dedication" the fraction can't be tiny. To counteract the lack of cohesion, you add consensus voting, which means you need an even larger fraction since it takes at least a handful of like-minded senior members (not just one) to cause an action.

    This gets us to something at least roughly like the current "consideration" system.

    Now, if you throw the official target space of nodes up nice and wide by including such minor infractions as "impolite", then you quickly notice problems. Excluding everything that, say, tye finds offensively rude would likely be a net win (and not because tye is an exceptionally good judge of manners). But suppressing everything that any one of the hundreds of senior members finds troubling impolite with the minor catch that they have to get 4 others to agree with them, that quickly leads to tons of things being suppressed just because several people didn't understand them (for example). And that leads to lots of grousing and other reactions to a bunch of specific cases of this or that being suppressed. Pretty soon the site is more about arguing and complaining about what should or shouldn't be suppressed than it is about discussing Perl.

    I much prefer the relatively rare nasty reply and relatively rare flame fest that PerlMonks currently endures to the constant bickering around meta arguments about rampant node suppression.

    The biggest current problem I see with anonymonk is the number of members who feel that they are justified in swiping at somebody just because they posted anonymously. If you can't handle anonymous postings, then you shouldn't respond to them.

    I'm constantly considering ideas for adjusting how anonymous posting works at PerlMonks. Most of the ideas I read about or come up with don't quite reach the bar of being very likely to be a net win, much less being worth the effort to try. I don't think this suggestion reaches that bar, either.

    - tye        

      Pretty soon the site is more about arguing and complaining about what should or shouldn't be suppressed than it is about discussing Perl.
      You mean like this thread, and all the other ones like it? Well said.

        You mean like this thread, and all the other ones like it? Well said.

        Most 99% of posts are to SOPW not monkdiscuss

      I think that perhaps we are talking about different kinds of "bad" speech.

      I dislike bringing this up, but it's a good example - and an example of where "fight bad speech with good speech" didn't happen. In the thread concerning the poll in which I remarked that I felt that certain kinds of people were portrayed in a demeaning way, I got very little "good" speech in response to quite a lot of "bad". There are certain sensitive topics on which this policy just doesn't work. (I do not think it reasonable to say, "well, then don't discuss those here." Pretending that problems within the larger or smaller community don't exist or shouting them down does not make them go away.)

      I understand why you say that consideration shouldn't be used this way. This only underscores the need for something that allows each user to shape his or her experience on the site. "If you can't handle anonymous postings, then you shouldn't respond to them" isn't sufficient.

      Everyone does not experience Perlmonks in the same way, because we are not all the same people. Most people's experience is indeed that the Anonymous Monk is at most mildly irritating, but in certain situations the Anonymous Monk's posts are actively painful, angry, mean, demeaning, or nasty. As I mentioned, the emergent result of how down votes work and how consideration works means that bad behavior is not censured, and will more than likely not be censured. There are too few votes spread across too many nodes. If one did have enough votes to vote on every node, it would take far too much time to do so, and the number of negative votes that might be needed in a particularly bad situation - when they would be needed most - would probably drive one into "dog votes".

      Having had one of these massively negative reactions has colored my experience as to how I feel about Perlmonks. I used to feel as if I had been among friends or comrades who supported me, and was shocked when some of them suddenly turned on me and began insulting me and demeaning me. I felt that my trust hadn't been valued. I've lost that original (many-year) positive feeling. Given how the site currently works, I feel powerless to do anything should this happen again, and discouraged.

      We say that the Anonymous Monk exists because we want to encourage participation. Have we ever measured whether this actually is true or not? Are more threads initiated by the Anonymous Monk, or are they initiated by people who have signed in? That's a concrete data item, and it would be interesting to see that, perhaps over time?

      My particular suggestion is not meant to be the final answer to how to fix the problem. It is meant to open a discussion about what the actual problem is. I believe that it's the problem of not being able to control one's own experience. I'm more interested in hearing what people have to say about the idea or related ideas. I do not claim this is a perfect solution, but so far the suggestions I've seen have mostly been "how do we change the site to make the behavior change?" - and I don't think that's going to work. I think we have to approach the problem from the other end, which is "we can't change behavior via software; what should each user be allowed to control to improve their experience instead?".

      Perhaps exploring the idea of extending the node-pruning done by comment and score thresholds would work? Artificially adjust the score of each node using the user's block list (say -1000 fake votes) so threads containing people they don't want to see are trimmed using the standard page construction code? Again, not a perfect solution - I'm just talking. More interested in whether you think approaching the problem from the other end, so to speak, is a better way to go.

        "we can't change behavior via software; what should each user be allowed to control to improve their experience instead?"

        As a user with an account , you can today, through the power of css, ignore any author you wish ... maybe this should be made more easily available?

        from the memory of Blocking users

        .node-from-NNNNNN { display: none; } /* Newest nodes (and ot +hers?) */ #id-9488 .auth-NNNNNN { display: none; } /* Worst nodes */ #id-397425 .nnt-auth-NNNNNN { display: none; } /* RAT */

        So to ignore all of my legion

        /* ignore posts by Anonymous Monk */ .node-from-961 { display: none; } /* Newest nodes (and other +s?) */ #id-9488 .auth-961 { display: none; } /* Worst nodes */ #id-397425 .nnt-auth-961 { display: none; } /* RAT */

        The real problem is that not only are some people oversensitive, but they also love to police others and instill their over-sensitivity as a norm.

        Shit happens. It may come as a surprise to someone who spent their life on the carefully trimmed grass of a walled suburb with the shit being dealt with by the invisible others, but it does. Learning not to attempt to start a public riot at the sight of a single spray painted wall should be required before leaving the kindergarten.

        P.S.: Dog votes? Been there many times. So what? Lost a few XP. Who cares?

        Enoch was right!
        Enjoy the last years of Rome.

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