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More Non-US Editors Needed?

by footpad (Abbot)
on Jun 13, 2002 at 20:07 UTC ( [id://174323] : monkdiscuss . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

This morning's Chatterbox contained an discussion that I thought worth bringing to the larger community. Specifically, there is apparently some concern about the geographic makeup of the Janitorial staff. I'm told that "The bulk of the senior members (editors/power users/gods) are based in the US and that a bunch of senior monks (non-editors etc) think there is an issue. Specifically, there are no Editors available when many 'Euro-monks' are online."

(Note: The quote is adapted from multiple private /msg's sent to me from one of our European members. I believe I've retained the spirit, though not the direct wording of those comments.)

Now, I'm going to specifically limit the discussion to Editors only since a) I only a member of Editors and cannot speak to the goals or missions of the other groups and b) the other groups are closer to root than Editors and therefore membership requires a far higher level of trust than the Editors group.1

With this in mind, here are the questions I'd like to discuss:

  • Is there really a problem?

  • Is it necessary to have an Editor available at all times?

  • Are we (as a community) comfortable with a with a four to six hour response time?3

  • Is there, perhaps, some other way to more widely document the editorial process and how the average monk can use it to best advantage?

In general, I don't feel there's a real problem. Consider:

  • Slightly more than 20% of the current editors are located internationally (See Appendix I below) and many of the U.S-based one have been known to appear at very strange times in their diurnal cycles.

  • In the last eighteen months I've been hanging about, I can only think of four incidents that required an immediate response.2 Given the amount of "strangeness" and clean-up we've seeing during that time, it seems like the percentage of "real risk" to "actual problems" is very low.

  • While I have no evidence to support this, it seems that there's at best a four to six hour time frame between the appearance of an Editor. Given this, it seems there's only a limited amount of time for true disasters to have effect. Since this site is a technical information site hosted by a reputable organization, I can't imagine that it would be entirely necessary to have an Editor standing by 24x7.

  • The current convention of sending private /msg's to one or more editors seems to work well. I know I've tried to respond promptly when I get such messages and I believe that the others take their duties as seriously.

  • It may be sufficient to expand the existing documentation to include more information about how to handle problems requiring clean-up. For example, I would be more than willing to add to existing nodes (possibly reordering the list of Editors to reflect the ones on most often), modifying FAQ's and so forth.

  • In my experience, it's best to keep support teams as small and as reasonable autonomous as possible. We've already run through some growing pains with the number of Friars and other high level monks and I would hope we can avoid those with the support teams as well.

If there is a problem that I'm not aware of, then please, describe it and we'll see what we can do.

Also, I'm not against adding more editors, regardless of location. Given the amount of "strangeness" that appears, Anyone willing to fix HTML code, change node titles (including in replies), scan for accidental typographic errors, and perform other clean-up tasks is (imho) welcome to participate.

However, it's important to note that the Janitors also have a responsibility to make reasonable and fair changes. The power to change a node can be very easily abused (and is one reason why we do not allow certain root nodes to be modified). In short, the fearless leader needs to be able to trust that all editors (and members of other groups) will not abuse their positions. This is, after all, his site.

That's really the whole idea of this post in general. If there's a problem, let's discuss it as a community and see if we can resolve it using existing tools. After all, that's generally how we've operated in the past and it might keep some of us from being distracted from other projects we're working for the Monastery. As I said earlier, I can see a case for adding one or two people (hopefully from different time zones), but I do believe it's a little more complicated than simply asking for volunteers. Given that, I'd rather try to optimize existing capabilities rather than add new ones.



Appendix 1 - Summary of Editor Locations:

 US (or US Assumed)18-1/2
 The Netherlands1-1/2

In reviewing this information, please note the following:

  1. "US Assumed" was based on either prior knowledge or the monk's specified time zone/GMT offset
  2. The "1/2" counts refers to a monk currently in the U.S. for educational purposes, but who also lists The Netherlands in their location.
  3. All data collected is generally based on the information provided on the monks home node or from a site linked to that node.

(Interestingly, while there are an expected number of Californian editors, I note that there are also three located in the Seattle region. I would hope, however, that this wouldn't be interpreted as a risk due to the nearness of a certain software vendor of ill repute.</joke>)


1 - The two groups I excluded are more administrative in nature than Editors. Since I know I would be unwilling to grant anyone else administrative access to my servers and databases unless I knew them extremely well and could personally vouch for their integrity, I presume that vroom and the other trusted members of the site feel similarly.

2 - Here are the events:

  • A troll harassed (in a criminal fashion, according to U.S. laws) certain members of our order.
  • Someone posted a node containing private data (real names, addresses, etc.)
  • Someone posted source for DeCSS, something currently extra-legal in certain jurisdictions.
  • An inquiry was made into the personal reasons for the one monk's handle was chosen.

3 - I say four to six hours because I believe that's the average window between visits, however I do not have data to back that up. If someone has data to demonstrate that the window of vulnerability is larger, I'd love to see it posted.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(tye)Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by tye (Sage) on Jun 14, 2002 at 06:21 UTC

    Just a quick note. I've already started some of the changes that would allow anyone to, for example, do /msg editors Please ... and the message would end up in a "shared inbox" that only editors could use. The "Editors' Nodelet" would show you how many messages there are (ones you haven't seen, archived ones, and the rest). Editors could do things in the shared inbox just like in their own inbox (reply to, archive, and delete messages).

    I'd also like to allow modification of messages (which also forces them to be archived, perhaps also marked as "modified" in some way), which probably means everyone will be allowed to modify their archived messages. This will allow editors to "claim" an item that they are about to handle. I think this will stream-line a lot of things that are done rather cumbersomely ATM. This won't replace Nodes to Consider, of course. It might replace Editor Requests to some extent. We'll see how it works and adjust as needed.

    This would also work for /msg gods I can see any user's password if I....

    More details will be available when things are closer to working.

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
(improvement: knowing who's an editor in other users) Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by crazyinsomniac (Prior) on Jun 14, 2002 at 01:31 UTC

      BTW, for those who can't read the pmdev wiki, there's a rough patch to do this. (More exactly, [E] will show for Editors, and [G] for Gods.)

      Tye or another God will get to it soon, I'm sure.

      Just a little update from your friendly submitter of timely but terribly poorly written patches.

      We are using here a powerful strategy of synthesis: wishful thinking. -- The Wizard Book

Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by Dog and Pony (Priest) on Jun 14, 2002 at 12:19 UTC
    As one of the people that participated in this discussion yesterday, I thought I'd stick my neck out and try to post an answer. Someone has to do it, I guess. :)

    Speaking as one Euro-monk that is popping in here now and then during my working hours and more, I do see a need for more editors in my timezone. However, I might be fooled, or not sufficiently informed. Feel free to set things straight.

    As I said yesterday when the question "how often do you see a call for editors when noone is about" came up in the CB, I'd say that is on average one to three times per week. It isn't like someone has posted lots of pr0n links or anything that often, but something that would be good if it was fixed quite soon. It may even be so simple as something frontpaged really needing a <readmore> tag. Waiting 4-6 hours for that seems unnecessary, and if it wasn't an issue, then the readmore tag wouldn't be needed at all?

    What I mean by that, is when someone is requesting something they feel is urgent in the CB, and we can't see no editor about, and apparently none of the is at least reading the CB. It may involve cases where someone has posted something that breaks a page, or posted something accidently etc.

    Of course, the editors may well be there, but if so they are not fixing the problem, and they don't let anyone know "I'm here" either which could calm some people down.

    Last example I know was when SOPW broke badly two or three days ago, so noone could post. There was quite some upset people then, that wanted to ask questions. I am still not sure if it actually was a post that broke it, maybe it was something in the engine. It is hard to tell for really sure unless you can examine the posts more closely, but I think this might have been something else.

    Point is, if it was a post that broke it, no editor was around. At least not that any of us saw, and more importantly, no editor, even if they was there, and took a look, bother to say so. I think an editor would have, so I conclude that there was noone about. Then again, this is only guesswork.

    Situations like these are not that rare. Maybe they can wait for 4-6 hours, but for the people who want to use the site the upcoming 4-6 hours, it might be a big deal. It sure sounds like it is a big deal to them in the CB. And that should probably be listened to.

    I can't help but get the feeling that this is maybe a territorial issue. Not from the US-monks side, really, but rather from already editors. I am not sure this is altogether a good thing. Although, someone against called this a "political" issue yesterday in the CB, as if it was some kind of US against Europe issue. Which I don't think it is, or should be. I would be just as satisfied with people from anywhere, just as long as they are around at the times needed. Do we need it 24/7? Maybe not. I can't see why it would hurt, though?

    However, what I do understand is this: It must be really tough to find people you can trust with this kind of business, that has both the skills needed and are trustworthy to not go on an editing havoc. So if that is the case, just say so: "We can't find anyone suitable". I'd understand that.

    I don't think that the editorial staff is swamped though, as asked above. I don't think they are doing a bad job, rather the opposite. I think they are fixing all things that needs fixing... eventually. In my time zone, that may well be after more than a working day. I have also noted that during US hours, this kinds of requests are extremely rare, probably because those cases gets fixed almost before anyone has the time to complain. Or maybe it is that US posters makes less mistakes, I am not sure. ;-) Either way, I can understand why the US people hasn't seen this.

    To sum it up, this question arises time and again, time and again during Euro hours, and while it may not be a big problem, people seems to have the feeling it is. All I would ask is that the people in charge, or the editors themselves (the latter, preferably, I think) just took some time to think about this. Some people (including me) feels it would be great to cover the time zones a bit better. I hope we deserve a discussion about it at least. :)

    You have moved into a dark place.
    It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
      About the SOPW problem: I was on at the time, and as far as I could see, it wasn't the post. I didn't announce anything at the time because the conversation in chatterbox had already shifted to the view that it wasn't the node.

      I'm a bit suprised there's such a slow response time for European times like you report. My usual morning routine is to take care of outstanding nodes (except tutorials) and then check every couple of hours from that point on.

      I will be gone next month, however, so there will be a lot less editing from me until August.

Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by grinder (Bishop) on Jun 14, 2002 at 13:22 UTC
    I have noticed in the past couple of months that around 06:00-07:00 UTC, there are rarely more than 15 monks in Other Users. Given that a certain number of those people might have left a Chatterbox client running and are not actually present, I'd hazard that the number of active people is less than 10. The easiest way to verify this would be to get tye or ar0n to do some access_log munging to look for the trough.

    Another hint that activity is low is that "all is quiet" in the CB. This means that if anyone posted a node requiring urgent editing, the wait might be fairly lengthy.

    Taking a quik squint at the editors group, I see that Adam, chipmunk, Masem, neshura and tilly and were last here a number of weeks ago. And that's not counting Nate who was here 7 days ago but is not otherwise a regular participant.

    I'd tend to say that most of the editing is performed by the usual bunch of suspects. Maybe a couple of additions would be a good thing, just in case they're not around.

    print@_{sort keys %_},$/if%_=split//,'= & *a?b:e\f/h^h!j+n,o@o;r$s-t%t#u'
      Of the 4 'usual suspects', two are from europe: bunch and of </tounge in cheek>
Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by demerphq (Chancellor) on Jun 14, 2002 at 14:48 UTC
    Hello Footpad,

    Ive thought long and hard about how to reply to this node. Frankly I feel that the way that you portray what happened yesterday in the CB is not the way it felt to me (or frankly a number of other monks with whom I discussed the matter in /msg).

    Is there a problem?

    Well, it all depends on the definition of the term "problem".

    • Will PM fall over or that type of thing due to there not being an editor on hand during the morning hours GMT? No.
    • Are there regular requests for editorial intervention during the morning hours GMT that go unanswered? Yes.
    So the question "Is there a problem" depends on your perspective. And this was the root of the dispute that occurred on the CB. A number of monks were saying "There have been many occasions where editors havent been around when it was felt that one was needed." But you came in, frankly in a quite patronizing manner, pooh-poohing us all. Your attitude was "This hasn't affected me thus it can't be a problem." This was despite several monks making the same point.

    You then attempted to imply that somehow this was politically motivated (apparently because I said "maybe we should could keep a log, I bet the US editors/monks would be suprised.") which was where I bowed out of the conversation. I dont know what you were thinking (and nor did the several other monks that /msg'd me with things like "What planet is he on") but whatever it was it was wrong, and the smell of the whole thing was both patronizing and insulting.

    Is it necessary to have an Editor available at all times?

    Actually I would say generally yes. Think of a lifeguard. Most times a lifeguard sits on his (reverse this for female lifeguards :-) chair flirting with girls. His most frequent issue is to dispense bandages to people who have slipped and skinned their knees. Of course this type of stuff could be treated a couple of hours later so most likely it wouldnt matter if the lifeguard only showed up later on. But if the pool only provided a lifeguard when it was really busy then one day someone would drown when the lifeguard wasnt there. Which is why public pools normally provide a lifeguard for all of the hours they are open.

    Now granted here at the monastery we dont generally deal with such extreme issues. The most serious are newbies making a mistake and posting real and sensitive data samples in their posts, that and trolls in the CB. But nevertheless these are serious enough issues that there should be IMO only a small probablility that the site is unmonitored by an editor for any reasonable amount of time (at least the probability should be closely related to the size of the comunity likely to be online at a given time, and considering that there are a lot of euromonks....). And by the latter I mean in computer terms, so 15 minutes is probably the right amount of time. Now of course if this site was low volume, if it was only getting a few tens of hits a day such coverage would be both unneccessary and unfeasable. But the fact is that the site is high volume. During the day (GMT) there are usually 10-40 people online. Usually amongst them are monks who are both senior and have been active members for at least a year. Thus there are several if not many monks who could fill this role admirably.

    Is there, perhaps, some other way to more widely document the editorial process and how the average monk can use it to best advantage?

    No. While such measures may improve peoples understanding of the situation, and probably the associated frustration that it cant be helped, but they dont resolve the fact that someone with the correct permissions needs to be on hand to perform the task.

    In general, I don't feel there's a real problem.

    This was patently obvious from your responses in the CB to the various monks who think there is.

    Slightly more than 20% of the current editors are located internationally

    Perhaps. But consider, Corion is often not around in the mornings. Kudra often shows up around mid morning. Davorg doesnt seem to be around much at all these days, nor does neophyte. ar0n is on his way to holland, so that will address matters a bit, but still.(BTW, this is not a criticism of the editors in question I am well aware and understanding of the fact that they are volunteers.)

    The current convention of sending private /msg's to one or more editors seems to work well.

    During the times you are online Im sure it does. What about when you're not?

    Also, I'm not against adding more editors, regardless of location.

    That certainly wasnt the way it seemed yesterday. In fact quite the contrary. And again, I am not the only one who thought that.

    let's discuss it as a community

    Im glad that we are doing so. However lets keep in mind that the community you see and the community that I see can be pretty different. (Actually I have long thought there must be many faces to the monastery. There are active saints who I have _never_ seen online) If only because of the times that we are online. And lets also keep in mind that just becuase you dont see that there is a "problem" that the community it affects may well feel that there is a "problem". Taking other peoples experiences and feelings seriously (which IMO yesterday you did not) is part of being in a community.

    Yves / DeMerphq
    Writing a good benchmark isnt as easy as it might look.

Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by greenFox (Vicar) on Jun 14, 2002 at 04:09 UTC

    What, no Aussies!!! In fact no-one from the Southern Hemisphere at all... is the Monastery beset by hemispherical prejudice? <grin>

    More seriously though whilst I am not be around so much as some other Monks I have never encountered a problem and (taking the chance to offer some praise) always thought the Editors did a pretty good job.

    my $chainsaw = 'Perl';

Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by mojotoad (Monsignor) on Jun 14, 2002 at 06:05 UTC
    Thank you for the node, it's always interesting to get some sort of peek behind the curtains.

    As to the general are non-editors to respond in any sort of informed manner? (other than, perhaps, non-US monks who have run into an availability wall of some sort).

    As to the larger premise, only Editors can tell us what their burden is like, whether it's scant or all-consuming. If they are swamped then they should recruite on the CB or somesuch.


Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by talexb (Chancellor) on Jun 15, 2002 at 16:53 UTC
    Is there any interest in temporarily offering editor status to a sufficiently advanced user who is not (yet) an editor?

    This could be offered to a user in the event that there are no editors about, in the unlikely event that a post needs fixing. I'm thinking this wouldn't apply to modifying the code that runs the site or anything like that .. just removing offensive/copyrighted material or personal information.

    The user could accept (if they're going to be on for a while) or decline (if they don't have time).

    --t. alex

    "Mud, mud, glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood!" --Michael Flanders and Donald Swann

Re: More Non-US Editors Needed?
by BUU (Prior) on Jun 14, 2002 at 01:59 UTC
    A thought on possibly helping the "janitors", maybe you could have a larger group of people who can submit 'recomended changes' of a node, then the editor could just approve it. Thus the editors would still be a small group, but would (probably) greatly increase their efficiency..
      This is such a good idea that in fact it is already implemented. The node Nodes To Consider (also referred to as NtC) does just that. It is accessible to all monks of level 6 or higher.

      print@_{sort keys %_},$/if%_=split//,'= & *a?b:e\f/h^h!j+n,o@o;r$s-t%t#u'