Alas, a Moderation Policy

NOTE: This post is now outdated. Click here to read the current policy.

(MRA, anti-feminist and right-wing guests, after reading this page read this post as well, please!)

I have a goal for the comments on “Alas.” A bunch of goals, actually.

  1. I’d like the discussions here to be respectful. By that, I mean not merely refraining from swearing at each other all the time, but actual respect for other posters, which means treating everyone you deal with as if they were as wonderful and important a person as you yourself are.
  2. I’d like “Alas” to not become a space where there’s nothing to be found but feminist-bashing and responses to the feminist-bashing. That doesn’t mean that posters here must agree with feminism or feminists; nor does it mean that feminists are exempt from having to respect others. It does mean that posters who in my judgement are dripping with contempt for feminists and feminism will be shown the door – even if they’re being polite on the surface. (And yes, this does create a bit of a double-standard. I can live with that.)
  3. I’d like the right-wing, anti-feminist and non-feminist critics who post on “Alas” to be treated with respect, rather than being bullied or shouted down.
  4. I’d like it if posters who choose to debate, attacked arguments, rather than attacking other posters. In general, following the principles of argumentation described here is a good idea.
  5. I’d like posters here to use good formatting (remember to put in paragraph breaks every now and then!) and clean, readable prose.
  6. I’d like it if the discussions on “Alas” were not as stupid as the discussions I’ve seen on many other internet forums.
  7. (Added April 7th 2006). I don’t want the discussions on “Alas” dominated by anti-feminists or MRAs. Although I like have a small number of well-written opposing views on “Alas” for spice, it’s my intention that most of the discussions here be dominated by feminist and lefty views. For that reason, brand-new MRA and anti-feminist posters might not be approved to post even if as individuals they are perfectly reasonable and polite.

    In other words, when I decide whether or not to let a new poster through, I decide that based not only on the quality of the individual poster but also on a desire to maintain a certain balance to the comments on “Alas” as a whole.

    Please note that beginning today, nearly all of my (Ampersand’s) posts will be cross-posted on the blog “Creative Destruction”. The comments at “Creative Destruction” are open to anyone who remains civil. So right-wing, anti-feminist, and MRA folks may be better off posting comments over there.

Those are my goals for comments on “Alas.” Posters whose presence, in my opinion, push discussions on “Alas” further away from these goals may be banned at any time. Posters who in my opinion help move “Alas” closer to those goals will be given slack.

Please note that these are not “rules,” so please don’t attempt to play “rules-lawyer.” People aren’t banned based on breaking rules; they’re banned based on my perception that they’re moving “Alas” discussions away from what I’d like “Alas” discussions to be.

* * *

IMPORTANT: If you might be described as an anti-feminist, a right-winger, or a men’s rights activist, then please read this link before posting.

* * *

So that’s it – that’s the “Alas” moderation policy. I don’t claim to have consistently followed it in the past, but I’ll be trying to follow them from now on.

Here’s a few additional notes:

On moderation: I will sometimes try to moderate by asking posters to cool down. However, due to limits on my time and energy, moderation is only done in a “random spot-check” fashion. This system will of course lead to unjust outcomes, in which I criticize post A but fail to criticize post B which was ever so much more offensive. Such is life.

A note to right-wing, men’s rights activist (MRA), and anti-feminist guests: Please understand that although I encourage debate, “Alas” is not intended to be a forum for relentless feminist-bashing. As well as avoiding obvious personal attacks and insults, anti-feminists who want to post on “Alas” would be well advised to avoid snide side comments like “I know that everyone here thinks it’s okay for men to be attacked,” and other such faux-polite comments that actually indicate contempt.

Is my moderation patriarchal? Some feminists may criticize me for moderating feminists (and, specifically, female feminists) at all. I am male, with male privilege; who am I to tell women what they can say and how they can say it? Isn’t that an expression of male privilege?

It’s a point that I’ve thought hard about (and which has made me very hesitant to ban even the rudest female feminist posters). But in the end, I’m not persuaded that setting goals for civility on one small blog, is the same as limiting women’s speech generally. Any woman (or man, for that matter) who doesn’t like my approach to discussion can easily find dozens of other feminist blogs and forums.

If your post is put into moderation: Probably you shouldn’t take it personally. The anti-spam program uses a big list of words that automatically get a comment put into the “needs approval” pile. (The words or bits of words that trigger auto-moderation can be totally unexpected and hard to predict. For a while, every time someone wrote a comment using the word “socialist” it was automatically put into moderation, because the word “cialist” was on the list!)

Anyhow, once a comment is in moderation, it stays there until I approve it. And if I happen to be busy or asleep, that can unfortunately take a while . Sorry about that – but it really IS necessary. Blame the free market for creating spam.

* * *

That’s it! None of this is written in stone, however, so if you have critiques or suggestions please feel free to pipe up.

This entry posted in Site and Admin Stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 

356 Responses to Alas, a Moderation Policy

  1. 301
    Mandolin says:

    “I moderate and put up posts, too.”

    Your moderation style seems different, to me. You’ll bluntly say things like asking whether you should ban someone, or I think I remember you telling some of the more obnoxiously “color-blind” commenters flat out that they were doing racist things.

    I shouldn’t have stated my question about the civility model the way I did. I apologize. What do you think of it?

  2. 302
    Rachel S. says:

    Jake,
    When I have three women, who contact me within less than a week and say they don’t feel comfortable commenting at Alas, then there is a problem.

    If you read thread the Duke thread and the Nappy Headed thread, you can see the crux of the problem. That’s where Michael got banned, and I just saw that Asshat Chris’s post this morning on the Duke thread.

    This weekend on Alas was the worst I have ever seen it; in terms of women being attacked. It was also racialized with women of color pheeno and Ann taking the brunt of the asshattery.

    The problem is that people like Robert, Brandon Berg (my nemesis), Michael, Chris, Formerly Larry, and others take over then nobody else wants to even comment. Then you have fence riders like RonF, Sailorman, and a few others, who are moderates, but often miss the subtlties of the racism and sexism.

    Oops, running late. I’ll be back later.

  3. 303
    Rachel S. says:

    To me Bean’s point in #337 is a huge part of the problem.

  4. 304
    Ampersand says:

    I’m still reading, and I’m at work right now, so I can’t take the time to post. (Not that I really have much to say, unfortunately; I take what folks have been writing seriously, but that doesn’t mean I have anything productive to add.)

    But I wanted to let folks know that I’d be especially eager to see any suggested solutions, if anyone has any. (If you don’t have any suggested solutions, however, that doesn’t make it invalid to post here about the problems you see).

    Also, do people think that perhaps I should make a new thread for this discussion to continue in?

  5. 305
    Charles says:

    I really think that what this blog needs to function better is a better technology.

    [SIDE NOTE: I'm using progressive in this post to mean feminists and anti-racists. I realize that (unfortunately) not all progressives are feminist or anti-racist, but I couldn't think of a better term for the combination of these two alignments, and I didn't want to have to type "feminists and anti-racists" over and over. I apologize to bean in particular, who I know takes offense at the conflation of feminists and progressives]

    To function properly, this blog needs a large population of progressive participants who don’t find the discussion here to be an unpleasant experience. To the extent that jerks like Chris and Michael (and the less jerky usual crew of anti-progressives, non-progressives, and supposed-progressives-but-you-wouldn’t-notice-it) make this an unpleasant site for progressives to participate in, then fewer progressives participate, and the site slides to being even more unpleasant and less interesting.

    The usual methods of enforcing a tolerable experience on a political blog is to allow the allied participants to abuse trolls and hostile participants, but this creates several things that Amp wants to avoid in this site:
    1) it creates lots of little hostile exchanges, which Amp hates
    2) it drives off coherent allied vs. hostile discussion

    The problem is that abusing the trolls and hostiles serves several important functions:
    1) it signals to everyone participating in the site that certain beliefs and positions are beyond the pale and don’t deserve the legitimacy given by respectful debate
    2) it allows participants to signal to the moderator that someone needs to be banned

    So by rejecting troll abuse as a group moderation method, we are left with individual moderation by Amp, Rachel and Maia. While Maia doesn’t have as much of a tendency to “act like people will change through reasonable debate, and in that vein [..] give people chances. Probably too many chances” (quoting Rachel from up above), she does have the other problem of solitary moderators- she isn’t always present and moderating (obviously – modding this blog isn’t anyones 24/7 job).

    While emailing Amp or Rachel to let them know that there is a troll that needs to be dealt with is the nominal solution to allow everyone to participate in modding the site, it isn’t an effective solution for a ton of reasons.

    I think the ideal solution would be for the site to run on community software rather than blog software, in which progressive users would be granted troll rating privileges, allowing commenters to be banned by popular will, and possibly allowing a previous step in which commenters would be forced into auto-moderation (where all of their posts would need to be approved by one of the primary moderators). I think that this would produce a hugely more functional and enjoyable site for progressives, while maintaining Amp and Rachel’s desired goal of having discussions with non- and anti-progressives that don’t degenerate into flame war or snipping. I think that giving progressive users a way of controlling the range of acceptable discourse other than flame-age would be a huge help (particularly since flame-age is currently only barely tolerated as a method of controlling the discourse).

    Whether this is viable from a “does amp feel like learning a whole new software package and dealing with the shit that would come from making this sort of giant change and settling into a new routine for moderator and participants alike?” I don’t know.

  6. 306
    Charles says:

    I do agree that the male and white privileges of intellectualizing the experiences of being oppressed as a woman or as a person of color does come into play here, but I’m not sure it is the core of the problem, and I do think it is a problem that would be addressed by giving people (many of them women or people of color) other than the top level mods (Rachel and Amp) some greater degree of say in the decisions of what is tolerated.

  7. 307
    Paul1552 says:

    Rachel said:

    This weekend on Alas was the worst I have ever seen it; in terms of women being attacked. It was also racialized with women of color pheeno and Ann taking the brunt of the asshattery.

    I completely agree that the comments made to pheeno* were beyond the pale; however, unless the offender had read her posts on other topics (e.g. the Cherokee Freedmen controversy), he may not have known that she’s a person of color. As far as I can remember, she didn’t mention her racial or ethnic background in this thread (nor was there any reason for her to do so unless she wanted to).

    In any case, the offender was soon banned from the site. And unless Amp were to institute a policy of reviewing every post before it gets published, I’m not sure that there’s much else he can do to guarantee that no inappropriate posts are published here.

    *I didn’t read the comments made by or to Ann, so I can’t comment on them.

  8. 308
    Joe says:

    I really like Charles suggestion. To make it slightly more complicated a -10 though 10 scale could be combined with user accounts. Negative ratings would be reserved for things that rude and insulting and obviously cruel. Zero’s could be used for comments that while civil aren’t feminist/anti-racist in nature. That might save Robert/Brandon from being troll rated for being republican/libertarian. people who sign up for accounts would be able to give scores beyond 5.

    Combine that with auto-moderation and good faith desire to use the scale as it’s intended and it could work.

  9. 309
    Mandolin says:

    Charles,

    I think what you said is really smart.

    I wanted to pick up on this:

    “2) it allows participants to signal to the moderator that someone needs to be banned”

    It’s also possible to call people out on their behavior without being abusive — but I am generally hesitant to do this, because I don’t want to be a “rules lawyer” or to come off as trying to direct Amp or another moderator.

    I assume that the moderator has seen the thread, or will see the thread at their earliest convenience, and that if they haven’t ruled it inappropriate, then they must have ruled it appropriate. I tend not to think it’s my place to directly question that, in most individual instances.

    I also don’t email because I don’t know what behavior each moderator considers bannable. Obviously Chris and Michael were awful. But an ideal situation (for me) would catch them before they became untenable (which I actually think may have happened in Michael’s case. He was generally horrid, but he didn’t have a chance to spout the equivalent of Chris’s comment to pheeno).

    Consequently, it’s hard to know when it would be appropriate to notify Amp or another moderator by email. Perhaps I don’t know because I’m not paying enough attention, though I’ve tried to. Maybe a stated open-door email policy would ameliorate my sense (and possibly others’ sense) that it isn’t our place to point out problems.

  10. 310
    Carnadosa says:

    Are there women defenders of the model? (sorry if I’m missing someone who’s already spoken)

    *raises hand*

    I’ve learned tons here that I’m not positive I would have if the policy were changed. I guess it depends on the goals though. Feminism is a lens through which to view things, that doesn’t mean that a different lens is necessarily wrong. (and it tends to force people to be more articulate in their defense of the feminist lens…)

    But I have a feeling the difference of opinion I’m thinking about is not what you mean when you say that people are not comfortable posting here.

    The “Nappy Headed Ho” post comments is one of the few posts I’ve followed that made me wonder about moderation. I stopped reading it before it completely exploded though. I just assumed the moderation was a time issue.

    Do you have a post about the difference in emotional investment that people have actually experienced X or Y have to the person that hasn’t? And a warning to respect that data point? Just because it’s not completely empirical doesn’t make it any less valid or valuable. Hit someone out of line with it before you ban them if you want to reach the most people? (if that’s one of your goals?) Because from what I read in the above mentioned post, that seemed to be the major problem. (Though I stopped reading it before it exploded so…)

  11. 311
    Mandolin says:

    “Negative ratings would be reserved for things that rude and insulting and obviously cruel. Zero’s could be used for comments that while civil aren’t feminist/anti-racist in nature. That might save Robert/Brandon from being troll rated for being republican/libertarian. people who sign up for accounts would be able to give scores beyond 5.”

    Although part of the issue is that things can be “civil” without being rude and insulting or obviously cruel.

    For instance, when I first started reading this site, one of my greatest frustrations was that TangoMan could use it to air his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to whites because of genetics. However politely this is phrased, it is a noxious belief. I imagine it must be intrinsically toxic to people of color. I would imagine that it drove people of color away. I would rate this a -10 sooner than give a negative rating to someone who called me a “venom-dripping cunt” or whatever insult is more overtly uncivil.

    Amp, you asked if this should be its own thread — I don’t mind scrolling down, but I’m on a fast computer. If it was its own thread, do you think it might get more readers…?

  12. 312
    Jake Squid says:

    However politely this is phrased, it is a noxious belief.

    I believe that this sentence is key. It is also the point that I was trying to make, just not 1/10th as well. With a single mod – or even 5 mods – and the amount of comments that sometimes roll through here, it is easy to miss if the mod isn’t especially interested in the thread.

    I very much like the Charles’ idea as it allows trolls, etc. to be handled without distracting from a thread.

    I think that another major turning point happened during the revelation of the sale of the domain. A lot of folks who kept the trolls and regressives down stopped commenting then. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly noticed a change in the balance of comments since then, and not to the better. What that means to me is that maintaining a safe enough environment for feminists (knowledgeable feminists, in particular) is incredibly important for this site to be able to meet what I thought were Amp’s goals. While Amp did make changes a while back at the request of many feminists, I think that the whole issue of the sale has dealt a huge blow to the efficacy of Alas.

    Rachel,

    I have not read the comments to very many of your posts lately for just the reasons that you mention. Since I haven’t been able to read them, I have no doubt that I’ve missed a great deal of the worst (a single scan of a Michael comment turned me off to that whole deal).

    What happened on the Duke thread was unspeakably horrible. I found that I couldn’t write a word after reading that. At the same time, I am less surprised that it happened on that thread than I would have been if it had happened on nearly any other rape thread on this blog. The comments started out badly and never really recovered. I’m not sure that I can even begin to identify what could have been done to correct things – I’m just fairly certain that I was no help.

    Oh, and I also forgot to add the bit about male privilege and the ability to separate these issues into purely the intellectual realm and out of the emotional realm, because they are issues that, by and large, will never affect them directly (let alone have already affected them).

    bean, I agree completely with this. As I’ve discussed with you, I see this dynamic in action whenever privileged folks comment on an issue of privilege/oppression. Since this is a space that encourages interaction between the privileged and oppressed, I think that this will be an ongoing problem. I wish that I knew of an effective way to bring this up when that privilege becomes an issue, but I’ve never seen the privileged say, “Wow, you may be right – let me think about it.” The privileged, whether it is male privilege or white privilege or heterosexual privilege or you name it) always get offended and off we go once again. Has anybody seen a good way to handle this?

  13. 313
    Mandolin says:

    “I think that another major turning point happened during the revelation of the sale of the domain. A lot of folks who kept the trolls and regressives down stopped commenting then. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly noticed a change in the balance of comments since then, and not to the better. What that means to me is that maintaining a safe enough environment for feminists (knowledgeable feminists, in particular) is incredibly important for this site to be able to meet what I thought were Amp’s goals. While Amp did make changes a while back at the request of many feminists, I think that the whole issue of the sale has dealt a huge blow to the efficacy of Alas.

    I have perceived this, too.

  14. 314
    Charles says:

    So does anyone know enough about the programs for setting up a community with group moderation to be able to guess how hard it would be? I know I don’t.

  15. 315
    Brandon Berg says:

    Rachel:

    The problem is that people like…Brandon Berg (my nemesis)….

    Gosh! I’m flattered, I really am, and I our time together is really special to me, but I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment at this point in my life. Can’t I just be a gadfly, or maybe an occasional thorn in your side?

  16. 316
    Q Grrl says:

    What that means to me is that maintaining a safe enough environment for feminists (knowledgeable feminists, in particular) is incredibly important for this site to be able to meet what I thought were Amp’s goals.

    I want to quibble slightly with this quote. It’s not that a “safe” space is needed. We aren’t children, we aren’t delicate in our beliefs, and we aren’t threatened. What we are is intelligent, resourceful, and competent. If some feminists feel disrespected by Amp’s choices, it isn’t because of safety issues. It’s because of a lack of respect.

    Amp couldn’t address that lack of respect adequately, so he took the word “feminist” (or was it “feminism”?) out of his blog’s title.

    Which really says a lot. No one fleed from Alas! Women left. Specifically, intelligent, brave, competent women. The women that created Alas! for what it was. The women who posted controversial, well-thought-out feminist critiques. The women who were willing to say what the vast majority of the population doesn’t want to say or acknowledge. Alas! didn’t gain its popularity and monetary worth through the words of racists, misogynists, or MRA’s. It gained those things through the women’s words that put meat on the backbone Amp provided.

    So, in a nutshell, it doesn’t really matter where we go with the moderation policy in the future. If you can’t attract anything but the bottom feeders, the input, while civil, will be crap.

  17. 317
    Jake Squid says:

    I want to quibble slightly with this quote. It’s not that a “safe” space is needed.

    I’ll concede your point. I was using a word that I had remembered people using last year.

  18. 318
    Q Grrl says:

    Oh, please don’t take that as a personal criticism. I think it just provided the spring board for my opinions around this.

  19. 319
    Jake Squid says:

    Oh, please don’t take that as a personal criticism.

    I take absolutely everything as a personal criticism :)

    I agree with most of what you said in comment #351, but I do think that the moderation policy is relevant. Yeah, you can’t have something good if you’re only attracting bottom-feeders, but the moderation policy is part of what attracts or repels.

    The loss of the women (and their words) who left over the sale is huge. I can only assume that the vast majority of them will never be back, but does that mean that there is no way to cut down on the sorts of trolls and misogynists commenting here nowadays?

    Do you see anything that can be done at this point to improve Alas? Or do you see hope for improvement as a lost cause?

  20. 320
    Q Grrl says:

    I think that for moderation to work, folks need to see that political “disagreement” and “differing” opinions are not that. If what we were seeing is disagreement and differing opinions, then we wouldn’t be caught in the endless hamster wheel of defending feminism. It’s 2007, there is no legitimate need to defend feminism. There just isn’t.

    Amp likes to see what he views as dissenting opinions (which I think is fine), but what happens if that specific dissent requires a complete disbelief in the legitimacy, the bedrock, of feminism? That isn’t dissent, that isn’t a difference of opinions.

    We argue between liberals, progressives, and conservatives; but we, for the most part, all agree on the bedrock of democracy. Or hell, even anarchy, as framed by democracy. Everyone understands the basis from which we critique libertarian, progressive, or freeper politics.

    What if everytime we discussed our opinions about basic politics, some asshat was always around asking us to defend the premise of democracy? What if every time we wanted to advance opinions about the war, or taxes, or church and State, we had to go back to square one and explain the electoral college?

  21. 321
    Sailorman says:

    We all know Craigslist, right? They have a “flag” system that could possibly be implemented here. It certainly works fairly well on craigslist.

    I imagine perhaps three flags:
    Flag THIS POST
    Flag this person’s posts on THIS THREAD (e.g. ban from thread)
    Flag ALL this person’s posts on Alas (e.g. ban from alas)

    A “basic version” of the system would allow anyone to flag anything, a la craigslist. You’d run the risk of MRAs flagging feminists, but they are the minority here so it probably wouldn’t do much. You could always set up a list of “never ban” individuals.

    An “intermediate version” would restrict flagging ability to a carefully selected group of folks. Others wouldn’t even see the flags at all. Chosen by Amp and/or all three mods, I assume–it seems to tricky to change the list for every post. (and no, I’m not assuming i’d be in that group)

    An “advanced version” would let everyone flag, but assign different weights to their flags. this prevents the risk of a lot of posters feeling like their opinions don’t count at all (creating bad feeling and moving away from the spirit of Alas) while simultaneously avoiding the risks of the basic version, which is that their opinions count too much.

    What would happen when posts got flagged?

    -If a post got flagged enough it could be deleted pending mod aproval.
    -it 2 (or 3, or 4) posts by the same individual got flagged in the same thread she could automatically be banned from the thread pending mod approval.
    -If a given number of posts got flagged perhaps the individual could automatically be banned from Alas entirely.

    I actually think basic or advanced are better than intermediate. It’s one thing to have three moderators; they do a great job. But if you have a large group of posters who have the ability to flag their opponents’ posts it seems a bit Twisty.

    I can envision the system quite well but don’t know how to write the code. I wonder if it’s possible to poach it somewhere? And isn’t Bitch|Lab a web designer? If someone knows her, maybe she has something.

  22. 322
    Robert says:

    I like the flagging idea.

  23. 323
    Brandon Berg says:

    It’s 2007, there is no legitimate need to defend feminism. There just isn’t.

    It seems to me that you’re equivocating here. There’s no legitimate need to defend classical feminism, which is about equal treatment under the law. But that’s really not what the loyal opposition is disputing. No one, except maybe the occasional troll, is saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to own property or work outside the home, or that you should legally be treated differently from men in any other way (except being able to enter into legally sanctioned marriage with another woman, but you’ll have to take that up with Robert and/or Ron).

    What’s in dispute are the more radical propositions of modern feminism, many of which cannot be implemented without unequal treatment under the law. These aren’t settled issues, and they’re things with which reasonable, decent, and informed people can and often do disagree.

  24. 324
    Q Grrl says:

    Give me citations Branden Berg or fuck off.

  25. 325
    Sailorman says:

    # Q Grrl Writes:
    April 17th, 2007 at 7:51 am

    I think that for moderation to work, folks need to see that political “disagreement” and “differing” opinions are not that. If what we were seeing is disagreement and differing opinions, then we wouldn’t be caught in the endless hamster wheel of defending feminism. It’s 2007, there is no legitimate need to defend feminism. There just isn’t.

    Amp likes to see what he views as dissenting opinions (which I think is fine), but what happens if that specific dissent requires a complete disbelief in the legitimacy, the bedrock, of feminism? That isn’t dissent, that isn’t a difference of opinions.

    We argue between liberals, progressives, and conservatives; but we, for the most part, all agree on the bedrock of democracy. Or hell, even anarchy, as framed by democracy. Everyone understands the basis from which we critique libertarian, progressive, or freeper politics.

    What if everytime we discussed our opinions about basic politics, some asshat was always around asking us to defend the premise of democracy? What if every time we wanted to advance opinions about the war, or taxes, or church and State, we had to go back to square one and explain the electoral college?

    But one person’s “bedrock” is another’s “fully debatable topic.” Defining what is bedrock and what is movable soil is pretty much equivalent to defining whether the blog is Feminist Critics, Alas, or Twisty.

    I am not trying to sidetrack this thread into what “is” or “is not” feminism, progressive, etc. I’m merely noting that I think asking for things to be set in stone is not so easy.

    because (choosing an example from your post) we DO attack democracy, ya? After all, we live in a representative country, where our government’s actions are putatively the result of majority vote (second or third hand through reps), and where the majority can putatively achieve many of their own goals.

    Our country contains more female than male voters. Our country contains more poor voters than rich voters. Our country contains more poorly educated voters than voters with graduate degrees. And those majority populations are not getting served well. So obviously that system has some…. issues. To say the least.

    And that’s only one topic. The subject you referred to when you wrote “whether the feminists (read: women)” has been, if i remember correctly, the subject of a few hundred posts all on its own. Is it bedrock that ‘feminist’ \= ‘male’? Yes, on Twisty’s blog (I think). No, on Feminist Critics. Unknown, on Alas.

    Q Grrrl, I like your idea . I think there a lot of benefits from defining things in the category of “______ may not be questioned on this blog.” (confusion is a bad thing.)

    But the problem is the implementation: when you say “the worth of feminism may not be questioned” then someone’s ALWAYS going to say “well, what do you mean by ‘feminism’ and ‘worth?’” and, well, you know what happens next.

    I have seen some truly outstanding examples of those limits. But they tend to exist on fairly limited-subject blogs where such limits are easier to write and moderate. It’s hard on Alas because it’s such a broad (and interesting) set of posters.

  26. 326
    Q Grrl says:

    What do you mean by representative country? What is a majority?

  27. 327
    Mandolin says:

    The science fiction site Speculations has a rating system similar to what Charles suggested. I don’t know anything about implementing it.

    Sailorman,

    We question the bedrock of democracy out of protest, perhaps, but not ignorance. In her comparison, Qgrrl didn’t say we had to keep re-explaining why democracy is the best system in the world; she said we had to keep telling people what the electoral college is.

    As to:

    “The subject you referred to when you wrote “whether the feminists (read: women)” has been, if i remember correctly, the subject of a few hundred posts all on its own. Is it bedrock that ‘feminist’ ”

    Unless I have misread, Qgrrl was being flippant there, I think, not technical.

    Jake,

    “The loss of the women (and their words) who left over the sale is huge. I can only assume that the vast majority of them will never be back… ”

    Do you think there’s any way to build up a new audience of feminist women?

  28. 328
    Q Grrl says:

    Sailorman: it *is* bedrock that feminism was built by women, sustained by women, and expanded by women. The number of men who are feminists is statistically negligible.

    I leave it up to you to change that status.

  29. 329
    Jake Squid says:

    Do you think there’s any way to build up a new audience of feminist women?

    Since I don’t really hang out with that crowd, I can’t answer definitively. A lot of the knowledgeable, articulate feminists left in the hoo-ha over the sale of the domain. If, and I suspect that they are, those women are prominent members of the feminist blogging/commenting community, it will be difficult. The reasons that they left are valid and have not changed. Those people were vocal and widely traveled (in the blogosphere) about why they left. If the majority of knowledgeable, articulate feminists are as strongly anti-pron as those who left, it will be difficult since we are talking about a much smaller subset of that community. If, however, the majority of feminists don’t feel as strongly about the current ownership of this domain it is possible.

    But, even if most feminists don’t have a problem w/ the domain ownership, it surely won’t happen when the Stevens and Chrises and Michaels are prominent in the comments. (Which is what I meant when I wrote that the moderation policy is part of what attracts or repels)

  30. 330
    Sailorman says:

    Q: No disagreement. And I’m working on it.

  31. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The Moderation Policy

  32. 331
    Daran says:

    Charles:

    I think the ideal solution would be for the site to run on community software rather than blog software, in which progressive users would be granted troll rating privileges, allowing commenters to be banned by popular will, and possibly allowing a previous step in which commenters would be forced into auto-moderation (where all of their posts would need to be approved by one of the primary moderators)…

    Scoop allows this, more or less. I considered Scoop for Feminist Critics, but I can’t run it on my host, and don’t wish to change to a different one.

    The technical reason I can’t run it, is that it requires mod-perl to be installed on the server. My host, like most other shared hosts, won’t do this for security reasons. However Amptoons is supposed to be on a dedicated server, so perhaps Amp could prevail over the owner to install it.

    It’s also apparently a pig to install.

  33. 332
    Rachel S. says:

    Yeah, I’ve seen that problem on craig too. NYC Craig is a den of racism, anti-Semetism, and sexism. They put up horrible things about Blacks, Asians, and Jews, and they stay up. But if you put anything about whites, (such as “Why are most serial killer white men?”) they flag it in a heart beat.

    I could see white supremacist and misogynists getting on to the site and flaggin people like crazy to get back at the feminists, anti-racists, etc.

  34. 333
    Daran says:

    It’s also apparently a pig to install.

    Scoop, that is, not mod_perl.

  35. 334
    crys t says:

    I’d like to second what Bean & Rachel have said. I remember during the Ms Boards Wars that a small minority of bullies used the “report post” function to get anyone who stood up to them banned.

    Secondly, I’d like to say that no matter how many times we’ve banged heads, no matter how many things he’s done/said that have made me fume, I still have affectionate feelings towards Amp. Odd, because we’ve never met, but I honestly get the feeling that he’s a sincere guy. That’s why it’s hard for me to understand why things that are so obvious to most of the women here seemingly pass him by.

    What I don’t get (honestly) is why anti-feminists feel the need to be here in the first place. I mean, what is it inside a person that makes them get pleasure out of continually getting in the faces of people they KNOW disagree vehemently with them? Yeah, I know, “progressives” do it too, eg all those forays to boards like Dawn Eden’s just to fuck with her. And I don’t think that serves any constructive purpose, either.

    Anyway, I believe the idea that the Roberts, Darans, Brandons, et al. are somehow here to engage in dialogue is ridiculous. As far as I’ve ever seen, they’re here to anger, frustrate, demoralise, and, ultimately, silence. What purpose does it serve to allow here (for years, in some cases–get your heads round that one: some people are so obsessed with hating feminists that they will spend YEARS of their lives desperately trying to screw with us–why that doesn’t set off serious alarm bells in Amp’s head I don’t know) people who have amply demonstrated that they have no intention of doing anything than contrdicting any feminist/progressive opinion?

    How does that serve to help educate or change minds? It doesn’t: the anti-feminists stay anti-feminist–they just get an additional warm and fuzzy feeling from knowing that they’ve got a forum to slap those bitches back into their rightful place on a regular basis, and the feminists get frustrated and give up.

    I do have one suggestion, however it’s for the rest us, not necessary for Amp, Rachel and Maia: I know it’s next to impossible, but please, just stop responding to the long-term sexists, racists and other bringers of negativity that have set up house here. Yeah, I also recognise that “just ignore them and they’ll stop” is not the best advice to give in real-life bullying situations, and I don’t advocate it for the serious and/or threatening trolls, but for the sort of low-level yet constant annoyance that a lot of these guys give us here, I think it might be effective. After all, how much fun would it be to compose your “civil, polite” anti-woman messages and then get nothing at all back for it? Hell, it might even goad these guys into getting outright nasty and being banned.

    I know, that puts the onus on us to do all the hard work when we’re not the ones doing anything wrong, but shit, wouldn’t you for once love to have a discussion about any issue surrounding abortion where most of the energy of the thread wasn’t diverted in debating “where life/personhood/etc. begins”? Or how about a discussion of racism where time wasn’t wasted explaining that there’s more to the concept than individual actions? In fact, wouldn’t you like to have any sort of debate on any progressive topic where the starting point was further along than introductory level?

  36. 335
    Jake Squid says:

    … wouldn’t you for once love to have a discussion about any issue surrounding abortion where most of the energy of the thread wasn’t diverted in debating “where life/personhood/etc. begins”? Or how about a discussion of racism where time wasn’t wasted explaining that there’s more to the concept than individual actions? In fact, wouldn’t you like to have any sort of debate on any progressive topic where the starting point was further along than introductory level?

    What bean says is only part of why that won’t happen here. The fact is, Amp likes debates about where life/personhood/ensoulment begins. This is also one of the few places where explaining that there is more to racism than individual actions actually happens. In short, Alas is sort of a remedial education site for progressive issues. I think that it always has been, even if it wasn’t originally intended that way.

    This isn’t a new complaint, I’ve seen this brought up a number of times over the years. Yes, it is tedious to go over that basic info repeatedly, but I honestly think that it serves a useful purpose.

  37. 336
    Brandon Berg says:

    Rachel:
    There’s an allegation of racism I can agree with! Usenet’s full of that trash, too. It’s not all from whites, though (On CL, that is. On Usenet, it does seem to be). I do see quite a bit of anti-white stuff (mostly from Asians) still up on the NYC CL from a day ago, so it doesn’t all get flagged.

  38. 337
    Mandolin says:

    “This isn’t a new complaint, I’ve seen this brought up a number of times over the years. Yes, it is tedious to go over that basic info repeatedly, but I honestly think that it serves a useful purpose. ”

    But there’s a difference between educating people who might actually budge, and educating people who …

    well, frankly, I don’t know why Daran, BrandonBerg, et. al are here. Robert’s a childhood friend of Amp’s, right? So that makes sense. But Daran and BB? I don’t know if I’d characterize their motives as strongly as chryst did, but it sure doesn’t seem like they’re here to be persuaded by us anymore than we’re here to be persuaded by them.

  39. 338
    Robert says:

    Robert’s a childhood friend of Amp’s, right?

    ChildISH friend. Actually Amp and I were friends in college and that general timeframe.

    Although I don’t hang around here because Amp is my buddy. I hang around here because I find it useful to engage with relatively smart people who hold very different ideas than I do.

  40. 339
    Mandolin says:

    “relatively smart people”

    Tongue-in-cheek, I assume?

  41. 340
    Lu says:

    I find it useful to engage with… smart people who hold very different ideas than I do.

    I don’t honestly know how feminist I am, or how feminist I look to the feminists here, so I don’t know if I’m a good example or not. (I’ve been told off at least once for being too concerned with ensoulment issues.) But I came here because I was looking for info on the then-current Terri Schiavo case, and Amp had a very smart and articulate post about her absence of functional cerebral cortex.

    I stayed partly for the reason Robert gave above, but more for my original reason: to learn something from people better informed than I on a given subject. Like everyone else, my knowledge varies all over the place: on some subjects you’d have to be much better informed, on others you’d just have to know the terms, to teach me.

    Likewise, I disagree with just about everyone here about something, but that just makes life more interesting — except, as I said before, I do regret the departure of so many feminists.

  42. 341
    Susan says:

    What Lu said.

    I came here for the same reasons, I stay for the same reasons, and I also disagree with just about everyone here about something. (And who can say that they agree with anyone about everything?)

    And I regret the exodus of feminists.

  43. 342
    Theriomorph says:

    Pausing in catching up on this thread to say, re: JakeSquid’s comment and the larger question of archiving:

    The new-ish site Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog is an ever-increasing compendium of FAQs and 101-level discussion, including I asked some feminists a question and instead of answering, they sent me here – why?

    It’s a great resource, and could serve the same purpose as archived discussions (or support them), particularly if it became a habit of regular Alas posters, moderators, and commenters to refer people to it rather than engaging in off-thread argument or education.

  44. 343
    Myca says:

    I don’t know why Daran, BrandonBerg, et. al are here. Robert’s a childhood friend of Amp’s, right? So that makes sense. But Daran and BB? I don’t know if I’d characterize their motives as strongly as chryst did, but it sure doesn’t seem like they’re here to be persuaded by us anymore than we’re here to be persuaded by them.

    I might well be wrong in my perception, but I’ve been posting here for about 5 years (originally under the name JRC), and it seem to me that we’ve seen some shift in Robert’s positions over the years. He’s still to the right of just about everyone here on just about every issue, but (and like I said, my perception might be off) but it seems he’s not as far to the right, and that he’s embraced fairly feminist positions on a few issues.

    —Myca

  45. 344
    Myca says:

    This blog has only been in existence for about (just over) 4 1/2 years. I remember when Amp started it, because it was just around the time I moved in with him.

    Yeah, I was just estimating (and misremembering), but doing a search on my old username, I’m not finding any posts from pre-2003

  46. 345
    Jake Squid says:

    But there’s a difference between educating people who might actually budge, and educating people who …

    It has certainly educated me. I don’t know if the rest of you find value in that, but I certainly do.

    I never intended to imply that this blog had functioned to convert the regressives that we see comment here. Perhaps it has tipped folks who never comment – we don’t know. More importantly, it has educated folks, like me, who were feminist or pro-feminist or feminist leaning, but much less knowledgeable than the crowd that commented here.

    For example, my position on pron has evolved remarkably due, primarily, to comment threads at Alas. There is no doubt that I changed my position with respect to prostitution (legalize or something else?) because of several comment threads here.

    If you find value in educating allies and potential allies, if you find value in changing the opinions and views of the aforementioned comparatively ignorant feminists & feminist allies, then I think that Alas has been a valuable resource.

  47. 346
    Tom Nolan says:

    Bean

    This blog has only been in existence for about (just over) 4 1/2 years. I remember when Amp started it, because it was just around the time I moved in with him

    That’s odd, because the archives go back five years at least. Are they a carry-over from another blog?

  48. 347
    Theriomorph says:

    (JakeSquid’s comment way back in 323, by the way.)

    Re: Q Grrl in 351: Agreed. “Safe space” not only doesn’t exist, but attempts to create it, in my experience, effect only silence or couched communication so mealy-mouthed and jargon-laden that silence is preferable.

    That said, as one of the women who posted this weekend about feeling uncomfortable commenting at Alas, what is far more alienating to me than predictable trolls saying vicious things is theoretical allies attacking each other in highly personalized, vicious ways.

    And that’s harder to address, because it’s not just about saying ‘eeevile bigot, go away’ – it’s about creating civil discourse and holding everyone accountable to it. Civilly.

    I’m not sure how I feel about flags and community moderated comments – as others have said, I’ve seen this fail more than succeed in the hands of mobs. And given that some of the worst attacks I’ve seen here come from aforementioned theoretical allies, I have my doubts about it being effective.

    My .02.

    By the way, re: feminist exodus – I’m one, and I read and appreciate Alas primarily because I’m interested in seeing what’s going on in ally discourse.

    Being a believer that women changing their behavior is irrelevant to ending sexism, violence against women by men, etc., I’m damned invested in what men have to say about misogyny.

  49. 348
    Ampersand says:

    I’ve posted an explanation of the dating issues on the other thread.

    I’d appreciate it if people could start moving the discussion over to that other thread. Thanks.

  50. 349
    V. Wren says:

    Hi.

    I’m new to the discussion at hand and, despite my obvious ignorance, would like to join all of you.

    I am an ardent, but not strident, feminist with certain convictions concerning sex, gender, power systems, and semantic networks–the rules by which society maintains itself on a daily basis.

    I am also here to learn through the dialectical process you have established for this blog site.

  51. 350
    RadFemHedonist says:

    I don’t think people should be forced to use their real names, I actually tend to use a different name on many blogs and forums I post in (currently I’ve probably made up at least 10, maybe 15, generally related to animation, feminism, atheism, or hedonism), though I am planning to use RadFemHedonist for everything soon, if people flame me for my moniker, they weren’t worth talking to in the first place. Using one’s real name does not guarantee civil discourse, it’s more likely to scare off loads of non-flaming articulate non-jackass posters who do not want to risk harrassment.

  52. 351
    LarryFromExile says:

    Anyhow, once a comment is in moderation, it stays there until I approve it. And if I happen to be busy or asleep, that can unfortunately take a while . Sorry about that – but it really IS necessary. Blame the free market for creating spam.

    And do you or other mods single certain people out and let their posts languish in moderation for many hours (or days) while letting others through in a timely manner? Would you describe such a stealth mod policy as honest and fair?

  53. 352
    Mandolin says:

    Hi Larry,

    A moderator is trying to contact you. Perhaps he has the wrong email address.

    In a nutshell: At some point in the long distant past, before Myca and I became moderators, you ended up on our banned list. That’s why every comment you make ends up in moderation.

    I noticed your name on the banned list and pointed it out. We, the moderators, are trying to determine how that happened and whether you should still be banned. Sometimes the wheels of communication take a bit of time to grind. Picture a conversation in slow motion, and then slow it down about 20x. There’s nothing malicious about leaving you in moderation; it seems to me that it’s been a game of hot-I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-this-right-now potato.

    The good thing about this conversation is that if we unban you, then your comments will stop going into moderation automatically, and you will no longer be chained to our schedules, stresses, and whims. The bad thing is that you’ve had like 4 comments in mod for an annoyingly long period of time.

    Also, this isn’t what’s happening to you, but in case it’s useful for anyone to know:

    I don’t know the figures, but it seems to me that I end up doing a lot of the dealing with the moderation queue. That’s fine, as I’m at my computer enough to usually be able to keep it pretty clear. Unfortunately, it means that when I encounter a comment that I find problematic, but I don’t want to make the call as to whether or not it should go through, I’ll often defer it — and sometimes it seems to take a few days before one of the other moderators has a chance to cast their wiser gaze upon it.

  54. 353
    LarryFromExile says:

    OK, thanks for the explanation. I don’t recall ever being banned, but anything is possible. As for the email address, I normally don’t put it on blog entries so that I don’t get people spamming me, but a good email address is in the mod notification messages.

  55. 354
    Mandolin says:

    Hey Larry,

    We never really managed to figure out when you got banned or why, so let’s just call it a clean slate. You’re unbanned — your comments should turn up immediately from now on (except when the filter gets happy, which happens to me sometimes too). :-D

  56. 355
    sanabituranima says:

    Using one’s real name does not guarantee civil discourse, it’s more likely to scare off loads of non-flaming articulate non-jackass posters who do not want to risk harrassment.

    Also, how is it possible to tell whether it’s a real name? Anyone can make up a plausible-sounding name and non-one can prove it is (or isn’t) their real one.