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Moderations, Bans, and the State of the Motte - Let's have a Discussion

This a post that started in response to the question posed by @Amadan in regards to what should be done about Hylnka, and my thoughts in regards to the parent post about the state of the Motte.

The state of the Motte

So I'm a relative newcomer to the space and only lurked on /r/themotte occasionally, so I don't have a strong opinion on Hlynka one way or the other. I don't like him, I don't hate him, because I don't really know him.

But if you believe banning Hlynka is a net negative, that goes to reason that maybe there are some aspects of the rules that need consideration taken into account. I'm going to give my naive take since I haven't seen anyone else really answer the question recently regarding what should be done.

Perhaps there is an optimal ratio of good posts to bad posts that get some leeway. Or put another way, you get a pass for every "x" amount of good posts. Let's start with an extreme example. If someone makes 100 AAQC contributions to 1 ban-worthy post, I personally would rather want them to be allowed to keep posting even if they make 50 ban-worthy posts. I think to a certain extent, the mods already do this by gut feeling, which is why they have been lenient with Hylnka for so long. But because the rules don't allow for this, they don't have a good enough justification to allow for it. In the end, they became a slave to the rules. That being said in my opinion, the rules are actually really lenient and flexible, and I have seen the mods be plenty lenient. A place like Reddit nowadays will just perma ban you, most bans here are for a day or a week.

The more often you post, the more likely it is that one of your posts will be inflammatory or say something that people don't like and report you for. It's not ideal for people to just post and then not respond to people's responses, otherwise it's not that different from posting an article from an outside source. The controversial ideas are the most exciting. It's why the culture war stuff is the most popular. But controversial ideas are the ones that generate the most heat. The person proposing or defending the controversial idea will have many, many people piling on them. It's not easy being on the defending on, even if you deserve it.

Conversations on forums and the internet are weird. Human beings don't engage in conversation like this in the real world. Expecting people to be civil 100% of the time is an unrealistic expectation, especially in a place where your ideas are constantly attacked and challenged. People argue politics with their own family all the time, and these discussions can get heated, but at the end of the day, they still get together to eat at the same table. If someone garners enough goodwill in the community and makes good contributions, does it not stand to reason that they should be given more leeway? Even in our courts, where no man is above the law, the punishment is often adjusted based on the circumstances of the crime. At the same time, a forum means you can take the time to formulate your thoughts before hitting "post". I've seen some posts where people say they wrote this long post, it somehow got deleted, and then they realized how angry/inappropriate/inflammatory they were being and thus were able to write something of higher quality instead.

Are man made for rules, or rules made for man? Do the rules today really serve both sides of the ideas proposed by this place? To optimize for light, and to minimize heat? The common sentiment I see is that currently the enforcing of the rules minimizes heat, but doesn't optimize for light.

How do the people who wanted Hylnka banned feel now that he's gone from space? Do they feel the motte better now or worse for it? Do you genuinely want to see all these long-time posters banned? Why? Is it because you think they are bad for the community? Why do you think that? Are you using the rules for a personal vendetta, or are you genuinely trying to help make the Motte a place where people with opposing viewpoints can come together to discuss ideas to seek the truth? If all the people with opposing viewpoints are banned, how can you achieve that?

You aren't obligated to respond to someone. If they attack you in the comments just block them so you don't have to read it. Should the average user really be concerned with how others might interpret someone's statement? If the concern is how other potential newcomers may feel about the community, is that a valid concern today? When @Armin asked about the state of the Motte, most people agreed it's stagnant or decaying. The newcomers are not really coming.

Where are the people with counterpoints?

For the time I have spent here, I don't think I got any serious challenge from someone across the political aisle from me. I have gotten a few people challenging my ideas which I am immensely grateful for since they helped find the flaws in my thinking, but if I look back on them those don't tackle my core set of beliefs and were over relatively minor things. The one person who I did challenge @guesswho never responded to my response to his ideas almost 4 months ago and he's been gone for a month now. In other words, I have yet to be challenged on my core fundamental beliefs. To be honest, part of me is scared to even have that debate. It's uncomfortable. I'm fairly certain I will take it personally. Maybe the rules make more sense in that kind of environment. But my feeling, and based on reading what a lot of other people have posted, is that environment is long gone. The rules were built for different populations.

Every once in a while you get people from the opposite side of the political aisle, call everyone here nazis/far-right in an inflammatory manner and they get banned. I think their general sentiment is correct, though - this place is currently filled with moderates and people on the right political, and very few on the left. When I make a low-effort comment that would align with the red-tribe, I get tons of upvotes. When I see someone from the opposite side make a high-effort comment, it gets many downvotes. Now upvotes and downvotes don't mean much regarding the truth or quality of the post, but they do reveal the general user sentiment response to it.

Every community is composed of several groups - the mods, the prolific posters, people who post occasionally, people who mostly just upvote/downvote, and the lurkers. Forget about the lurkers, their opinions don't matter. In my opinion, smaller communities like the Motte can exist mainly due to the relationship between the mods and the prolific posters. I don't mean to sound rude but the prolific posters are abnormal. Most users post only occasionally. Most of us only respond to top-level posts and rarely make any ourselves. But the prolific posters have an insane output rate. Many of them have an insane high-quality output rate. Because their output is so high, they tend to be able to dictate the general flow of ideas. In other words, they're the ones that form the core of the community. They're the ones that make most of the AAQC posts. They're the ones whose ideas people will recall and remember the most.

As many others have said, each time a prolific user is banned, you lose a small piece of the community. To maintain or grow a community, you need more such people to come in to fill in the gap. But these people, because they're so abnormal, are rare to come by. For the people who have been here a very, very long time, has the void been filled? As much as the vision and the rules help shape a place, it's ultimately the people that form a community.

Solutions - What should we do?

Having said all that, I do agree with the mod's vision that the rules are what have helped make the Motte into this unique space on the internet. I don't believe in making big sweeping changes to existing communities because once you make those big changes it's no longer the same community. I think people have mentioned how other offshoots from the culture war communities from the SSC days have failed to survive to the degree the Motte has. That indicates to me the rule does have value in them.

My proposal

Here's my modest proposal: Once a month (or longer, maybe twice a year) users on the forum are allowed to propose unbanning someone. Maybe limit who can make these proposals so not just anyone can propose and abuse the system. Then the community can vote to allow someone back in. If a certain threshold is met (for example 60%), then the user is unbanned. If for example, 90% of the community would rather want someone to keep posting even if they make the occasional inflammatory comment, should they deserve to be permanently banned? After all, they said were mean words, they didn't kill anyone, they didn't incite violence, they didn't harass people.

This is an extremely minor change that I think could be implemented. Maybe it's a dumb idea and won't result in anything. Maybe it'll make things worse. The person likely won't come back. But maybe it could be the start of stopping the motte from stagnating.

Of course, like I said, I'm naive in this. I don't really know the history, or the people who have come and gone. I can read and read about but I will never truly understand it. Some of you guys have been around this space for over a decade. Maybe all this has already been discussed and thought about and tried by people multiple times. But this community is still new and exciting stuff to me, and I wish I could get to experience even a little bit of that magic of the past. If I think this place is better than many other places online now, just how much better was the Motte in the past for people to lament the state it is in today?

Criticizing is easy. Pointing out problems is easy. Complaining is easy. Coming up with solutions is hard. Coming up with good solutions is almost impossible. I'm sure the mods have thought about this plenty, and people on the forum too, but I don't really see the full discussions. There's got to be at least 1 person in this place that would have a good idea.

Solutions from other people

Some other ideas I've seen other people propose:

  • Just don't ban long-time high-quality posters. They get a free pass for being here so long and continuing to contribute to the community.
  • Have a separate, no modding no rules thread.
  • Stop (or minimize) tone policing. If there is an argument, in line with the tone policing, then that gets a free pass.
My dumb solutions

To help generate more discussion, I'm just going to throw whatever comes to my head here in this list, whether they are good or bad or feasible or not:

  • If you get banned for inflammatory comments but have made good contributions before, you are limited to just posting top-level comments for a period of time, but you are not allowed to respond. If you break the rules to try to continue a previous conversation you get banned.
  • If a conversation gets inflammatory it gets pushed into a black-box so nobody else can see it, or it auto collapses and you have to opt in to see it
  • Allow users that would have been banned to keep communicating, but users must opt-in into an "I want to see everything" option and they no longer have the rights to request moderation once opted in. All conversations starting from these banned users and subsequent child posts get hidden unless you opt in.
  • If you are banned, you must steelman your opposition point of view to an acceptable level to the person you were being antagonist against in order to get unbanned ahead of the ban timer
  • Every 1 AAQC counters 1 bannable offense
  • A converse to the community unban option - a decision of whether or not to ban of a prolific high-value contributor gets pushed to the community.

Let's have a discussion.

What do you, fellow Mottizens, think? I see a lot of complaining and only a few people have provided some ideas for a solution. This discussion about the moderation and state of this site has been popping up across multiple threads every week. How about the community actually get together and discuss the merits of actual proposed solutions, as well as provide their own solutions, instead of having fights with the mods every time someone gets moderated? Worst case scenario, at least all the discussion is now centralized for a place to reference for the future.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

This isn't about moderation, but I still see the bug where replying to a comment at some level of nesting causes the reply to hang indefinitely without refreshing the comment, even though the comment has been saved.

I just want to say that I think the site is good, and that the moderators are doing a good job.

I wish people would post more top-level comments. I'm trying to be the change, but I also feel like I tend to argue too much so it would be better if others did.

But I'm not sure positive change is possible. We're here because we found Scott's blog. That was an amazing selection mechanism that might never happen again. Even the current readers of Scott's blog aren't the same as the ones from before the incident.

So our best bet is retention.

I wish people would post more top-level comments. I'm trying to be the change, but I also feel like I tend to argue too much so it would be better if others did.

A lot of people do not want to try to summarize the post, but just drop a link with a blockquote. This has to do with the barelink repository debate a while back.

I got here through Scott's articles Radicalizing The Romanceless and Untitled. Quick question: would anybody here in the present year appreciate people from that path? Or would they shun them as stinky incels?

Those are banger essays, I don't see a reason why I would shun someone who discovers the site via them.

How welcome are manospherian talking points here now, compared to trad or egalitarian ones?

Probably a lot of pushback from reli-trads, but interesting pushback. Most of the ones I can think of are at least familiar with ye old manosphere, and at least have reasons why they don't agree.

Real talk, I think the only thing that is straight up unpopular around here is anything which resembles progressive/social justice views. And even those are welcome, just unpopular. I don't think anyone will really care about manosphere stuff.

If that were the only path from which people found the site, then it would be very bad due to selection effects.

If it was one of many paths, then I think it's no problem.

The main problem is just the source of new blood since leaving reddit. I've dropped a couple links to vault on twitter as a bread crumb and can't really know if we've caught anymore. Improving the vault, updating it with more links might help. I think more or less the moderators do an excellent job and I have very little criticism, I could give or take the hlynka ban.

@ HlynkaCG would sometimes drop in with snarky replies to my posts and it was annoying not being able to return fire in kind. Rhetoric is a part of arguing. Being limited to dialectic is like fighting with one hand behind one's back. His time had long come to face the consequences of his incessant rule-skirting. He had gotten so many exceptions.

One suggestion is to form a tribunal of sorts of 5 or so top Motte users. This group would convene every month to award or remove strikes assigned to users based on conduct for the preceding month. The voters would anonymous and contain comments or feedback about what rules were broken and how to improve. If someone accumulates 5 or so strikes they are banned. Anyone can view how many strikes they have. For example, if someone has 4/5 strikes that would be an indication of a need to improve.

Fringe suggestion:

Each week, make a random user a “read-only mod.” They don’t get to hand down decisions, but they get to see what goes into the report queue.

The idea is that you’d get a look at the rest of the iceberg. For every dramatic top-level rage post, there’s a dozen uncontroversial bans. Thrice as many warnings. And God knows how many that we judge tolerable, marginal, or otherwise unworthy of a modhat.

By the time someone earns a thousand-character Supreme Court opinion, we’ve seen them in the queue quite a bit. We get a decent idea of how often they trigger a fight. And, perhaps more importantly, whether they have shown any respect for the rules, or if they view previous actions as a tax to get back to their usual.

I can’t actually endorse this idea. It’s too much work and security risk for the value. But I suppose there’s a more mild version, where the mod notes are public? Then when someone gets banned you can go “wow, he had a lot of warnings!”

I just don't think moderation is the issue here. The mods as far as I can tell are generally doing a reasonable job. From my perspective the biggest problem with the state of the Motte is, well, the user base. It's this:

Every once in a while you get people from the opposite side of the political aisle, call everyone here nazis/far-right in an inflammatory manner and they get banned. I think their general sentiment is correct, though - this place is currently filled with moderates and people on the right political, and very few on the left. When I make a low-effort comment that would align with the red-tribe, I get tons of upvotes. When I see someone from the opposite side make a high-effort comment, it gets many downvotes. Now upvotes and downvotes don't mean much regarding the truth or quality of the post, but they do reveal the general user sentiment response to it.

The Motte has a culture. It even has, unfortunately, a groupthink. I don't think it's really possible to have a community of humans without one. But it means that the Motte has positions that it favours as a group, and positions that it disfavours as a group, and this is very obvious if you look at the distributions of likes. People here, just like people on Reddit, are reflexively upvoting things they agree with and downvoting things they disagree with, regardless of intellectual rigour, and the same in terms of verbal responses. Trash that aligns with the majority consensus is favoured; gems that don't are disfavoured.

I'm sure anybody who's gone against that consensus has experienced this - you yourself describe an experience that I've had as well, where low-effort posts that agree with a majority view are heavily rewarded, whereas high-effort posts that I'm quite proud of are probably found under 'sort by controversial' or even 'most downvoted'.

Now it's easy to round that complaint to "people don't agree with me", so we have to be careful with comments like that. My actual preference, for here and for every web forum, is to just eliminate upvotes and downvotes entirely. I think they usually have negative consequences on a forum's culture - in particular, they enable that kind of mindless upvoting-stuff-I-agree-with behaviour, and by providing rapid feedback on how something is received, they make every post more of a spectacle. I find them the equivalent of the studio audience at a presidential debate, cheering for stuff they like and booing stuff they don't, all the while getting in the way of a reasonable discussion or debate between the people at the top.

However, changing that can't actually change the overall landscape, which is the way it is because the user base slants a certain way.

I don't think 'Red Tribe' is the right word here. Going by Scott's original formulation, I would be very surprised if there is more than a handful of Red Tribe people here. Red Tribe is not a synonym for 'conservative' or 'right-wing'. My read is that most of the Motte are Blue Tribe, understanding that to be to do more with education and manners, but also broadly speaking on the right. Even there I want to qualify a bit, because 'the right' is quite diverse, and while we have our share of tech-y-libertarians and people-with-weird-theories-about-race, I'm not sure we have much of that pick-up-truck-driving football-watching beer-drinking evangelical-church-attending gun-owning crowd that Scott called the Red Tribe.

The Motte has very few 'normal' leftists, but it also has very few 'normal' rightists. I always find it a bit weird and refreshing to have a chat with what I think of as 'normal' rightists. I don't want it to sound like I think those people are all lower-class idiots either - they're not. But I chat with people along those lines about politics and suffice to say it does not sound anything like the Motte, even when it is very educated.

Can the Motte change, and attract a more ideologically diverse user-base, and also make its atmosphere more attractive to people with different and challenging perspectives? I don't know. I suspect probably not. Most online communities can't change that easily.

But there's also a case that maybe it shouldn't change like that. Right now this is a place for a particular kind of weirdo, and there aren't a whole lot of spaces out there for people like this. You could accuse me, perhaps not without reason, of being one of the greys from this comic. It's true, I don't love the culture of the Motte and I'd like it to be different.

But then, in other contexts, I've been the pink one, and I know what it's like to be besieged by demanding greys. So maybe I should just forebear, and let the Motte be the Motte, even if that sometimes makes me want to hit things.

What if we create diversity quotas for Quality Contributions? Almost all of the political ones that end up actually making the list are right-leaing, or at least anti-woke. If we (slightly) lower the standards for left-leaning or rare opinions so that they get signal boosted, and in particular the highest quality of them get seen by more eyes, that might incentivize people who hold those opinions to put effort into it and feel more appreciated.

Online communities are capricious things, and so are voting patterns. I recall many times on reddit providing good, correct answers to questions and being downvoted and stupid/silly stuff gets up-voted. no rhyme or reason sometimes.

I'm sure anybody who's gone against that consensus has experienced this - you yourself describe an experience that I've had as well, where low-effort posts that agree with a majority view are heavily rewarded, whereas high-effort posts that I'm quite proud of are probably found under 'sort by controversial' or even 'most downvoted.

Some time ago someone asked me if I think votes should be public, and the more I think about it the more I like the idea.

I always have to roll my eyes at Downdoot Complainers. My first question to them always is: why do you care? Personally I remove the sign of each votr before adding them up into a single metric called "engagement".

But fine, no one likes a dogpile I guess. So second question is: what do you want me to do about it? I can vote the other way, and that might add up to an entire fart in a hurricane, so then what?

OTOH if people see high-profile users vote against the grain, maybe that will take the sting out of the flood of downdoots? Maybe it will even make people reconsider their boo-outgroup / yay-ingroup votes?

Then again, it might backfire. The voting record from the BLM era could probably be mined for salt for generations to come.

My actual preference, for here and for every web forum, is to just eliminate upvotes and downvotes entirely.

Occasionally I write an effortpost that gets few or no replies, but still gets a significant number of upvotes. I like having a signal that my post was appreciated, even if no one had anything to actually say in response. It's no fun just screaming into the void.

I think the actual solution is for people to just stop taking downvotes personally. As you point out, all a downvote means in most cases is "I disagree". That's fine! People can disagree! That can be a valuable and useful signal, to know where you stand with regards to the consensus community opinion.

Can the Motte change, and attract a more ideologically diverse user-base, and also make its atmosphere more attractive to people with different and challenging perspectives?

I don't know what concrete steps could be taken to do that at this point, except maybe relaxing moderation somewhat against users who have clearly unpopular opinions. But even then, probably not.

For me, a lot of the 'red tribe' vibes come from the openly religious postings and occasionally really in depth wholly religious debates on the finer points of the eucharist. The tales of having religious "awakenings" and the benefits of Mormonism, the just so stories, and the backronyming of reason and logical arguments to fit fantastical superstitious beliefs, the 3 page apologetics diatribes and the constant C. S. Lewis quotes. It boggles my rational mind that people that otherwise seem like coherent thinkers and smart capable motte posters have this glaring blindspot and aren't afraid to wear it as a badge of honor. Atheism is so boring and passe after all. Trad Cath living is the New Hotness.

While most Mormons and (white, church attending) Catholics are broadly red tribe, the stereotypical(and typical) red triber is neither- he’s an evangelical Christian who knows which church he ought to attend more often, believes the Bible to be true in perhaps a more literal manner than physical realities, and is basically orthopraxic and (by American standards)socially conservative in his Christianity, not very concerned with theological details.

Eh, I'd argue that's not necessarily Red Tribe? To take a specific example - I think that, say, Patrick Deneen is from the Blue Tribe. He's a tradcath social conservative with loopy politics, but in terms of culture, background, education, and most importantly manner, he's Blue Tribe. He's not like, say, Jerry Falwell, who was I think clearly Red Tribe.

(One commenter on the original SSC post tried to define people like this as the 'Violet Tribe', giving people like Ross Douthat and Leah Libresco as examples. I think I would shrug and just say that Ross Douthat is Blue Tribe. He's a conservative Catholic Blue Triber.)

Being religious by itself doesn't make you Red Tribe. Heck, liking C. S. Lewis doesn't - as far as I can tell he's very popular among Christians of both colour tribes. So I'm wary of taking those things as definitive.

Good points. There are many religious blue tribers, not many here though. Being openly religious or making it a large part of your identity is a very good marker for figuring out if someone is 'red tribe' but again that all depends on how we identify red tribe. Do we judge them by what they say they believe, or by how they say it? Semantics and what the definition of is is, I suppose.

I suppose I count myself as one of the 'religious Blue Tribers' here; or as a Violet Triber, in that terminology. I was raised in a church, embraced faith as an adult, studied theology, and now I work full-time as a religious professional; and even in terms of private devotion, I spend a lot of time in prayer and meditation. I also tend to embrace more 'conservative' or 'traditional' social values as a result. But at the same time, I'm an upper-middle-class university-educated white-collar worker in a heavily verbal field. My native language, so to speak, is Blue Tribe. I speak fluent environmentalist, multiculturalist, and therapeutic. Even though I've come to embrace an ethos at odds with my native culture, so to speak, it still is my native culture and I automatically know how to move in it. If I went to a barbeque with a bunch of gun-owning ESPN-watching blue-collar workers, I would be extremely uncomfortable and would feel out of place, whereas if I go to a wine tasting with the archbishop, I automatically know how to fit in.

It's an awkward place to be in, and even though I've deliberately made more of an effort to understand and be sympathetic to the Red Tribe, even siding with them against traditional Blue Tribe authorities, I'll never be one of them.

I think that even if you are more erudite and sophisticated than your fellow red tribers, you still fall into that catagory if you're conservative and religious. You agree on the big stuff. You just have nothing in common beyond that. That personally would make me question some things.

Maybe you like the structure, meditative nature, history, traditions, and pomp of the church, but I still can't reconcile smart people actually believing in magic. I always personally feel that learned church muckety mucks such as any archbishop don't really go in for all of that and it is just a way of life that affords them respect, some amount of power, and for thousands of years one of the best lives that you could have. Vatican city has had the most whores per square mile in the world since its inception.

I think that relies on a value judgement about what 'the big stuff' is. The issues that actually divide people in terms of social class are not necessarily the most important issues in an objective sense. On one level, it's hard to think of an issue bigger than the existence of God, or the truth of a given religion - whether Christianity or Islam or somesuch is true or false would affect pretty much everything. Yet I think tribe or class sometimes hinges on much smaller things than that, like the clothes you wear, the accent you speak with, or the kinds of parties you go to. That's why, to stick with Christianity, an Episcopalian bishop from New Hampshire and a charismatic evangelical from rural Georgia are very much not the same tribe, despite ostensibly being of the same religion.

We are bogging down in semantics about what constitutes a 'tribe'. I think on a fundamental level of how you feel the world operates (by divine plan) you're in the same group as those rural baptists. If you also agree with their stances on wedge issues and are socially conservative then you're absolutely in their wheelhouse. It is like a family, you may not like your relatives, but they are still your relatives, not mine.

I'd categorise 'relatives' differently, I think? My relatives are not the people I agree with. My relatives are something closer or more intuitive than that. I'd say it's more about where I instinctively feel at home, or what feels natural to me, and that means that things like language or custom count for more than agreement on any specific issue.

That said, you are correct that this is a semantic dispute. We would presumably both agree that in terms of custom or background, I fit with other well-educated middle-class suburban people in knowledge careers, even though in terms of ideas or substantive metaphysical beliefs, I probably fit in better with other groups.

I think custom is a better way to define the boundaries of 'tribe', and closer to the way Scott defined it in his original essay, but you can make words mean anything you like, so that's up to you, I guess.

(For what it's worth, I'm not downvoting you - I don't downvote conversations that I'm enjoying, and I don't downvote just because of disagreement. I only downvote if I believe the Motte would be better off if that post didn't exist, and you've certainly not hit that point for me.)

More comments

Arguably we've all very little to go on regarding judging one another in any substantive way beyond votes on posts, as what people say they believe--and even how they say it--regularly have little to do with their actual IRL behavior. Of course there will always be those who will judge based on simple metrics (Jew, Muslim, whether the person seems to be a "Hajnal-type," whatever.)

Unrelated but as I type this I am reminded of the tattoo discussion a while back, as across from me sits a dude in a black suit with a button down white oxford, no tie, wearing black ankle socks and rubber Nike slide sandals, with visible full arm sleeves and leg tats. Young, probably mid 20s, definitely on his way home (it's 630 am) from town. Low level yakuza for sure No wristwatch, leather tote bag, shitty Bluetooth earbuds, watching inane tiktok shit on his iphone. Looks like his nose was probably broken once. Plucks his eyebrows. Snarly cupid bow mouth. Definitely a young yak.

I love the morning train.

What's it like living in an episode of Giri-Haji?

Mostly I do the sudden, arty dance numbers like in that one episode. No one follows along yet but I'm confident they will eventually.

Hlynka has been hanging out in this space and its predecessors getting banned and unbanned for the better part of a decade now. The discussion around "maybe just a 3 month or one year ban would correct the problem" misses the point - there is no question of changing the way he interacts here, there is just the mods' decision about whether the good outweighs the bad or not, given the way he will inevitably interact. I don't have a strong opinion on whether they got it right or wrong, but any criticism of their decision should be focused on that question, not hypothetical approaches to get him to clean up his act.

The uhhh 'old internet' didn't have up/down votes on forums. This kept things illegible. Once you have voting the trend toward monoculture is usually unstoppable.

Funny, my immediate reaction was to upvote you in agreement. Looks like the new internet trained me well.

If you’re implying that we should get rid of the votes, then I agree.

Personally, I think the focus on moderation is a cargo cult. It's how I felt when some people were saying that good moderation was "the secret sauce" that made the subreddit a success, and how I feel now when people are attributing stagnation to it as well.

I think a better approach is to focus on content generation. Stop commenting on happenings, and start geeking out. It's a thankless task, but I think if enough people did it, it would do more for the sustainability of this place than anything you could do with moderation.

God. That would be so nice.

I’ve said before that I think the motte is populated by two circles: culture warriors and policy wonks. The CW side has value—it’s particularly good at our stated goal of “testing arguments.” But I know which circle I enjoy more.

Policy wonks? I hate policy wonks. I meant stuff like Dr. Manhattan's Battle of Midway posts, Dase's AI posts, or whoever-it-was's post about heatpumps.

That’s what I’m talking about. Old school /u/Mcjunker posts in particular.

Policy wonks is probably the wrong phrase.

For the time I have spent here, I don't think I got any serious challenge from someone across the political aisle from me.

This has been discussed extensively before. There's only so much that can be done about it unfortunately.

There's currently some very spirited disagreement going on in the thread about Trump's conviction! Sometimes, all it takes is the right issue.

Anyway, on the subject of moderation: imo permabans should be reserved for literal bot/spam accounts and other obvious bad actors. I think there's very little reason to ever permaban a genuine good faith poster.

For Hlynka-type cases, where the person is clearly contributing constructively but they also persist in violating the rules on decorum, I think that bans should cap out in the 6-12 month range. This would make it clear that breaking the rules has consequences while also preventing situations where the mods are forced to permanently exile valued community members. There would also be no accusations of favoritism, because this is where bans would cap out for basically every good faith poster, regardless of number of AAQCs.

As @naraburns has said, we used to cap our bans at a year and day.

What happened in practice is that when someone's year+day was up, they either never returned, or came back and behaved exactly the same as before.

Funny anecdote. The Something Awful forums have a ban duration of 100k hours, a little under 11.5 years, that was sometimes used in place of perma bans for whatever reason. Over a decade ago a member received this ban for posting ads for his business in sub-forums where this type of post is not allowed. There was an escalation of ban lengths as he continued the behavior, culminating in the 100k hour ban. The exact day the ban expired he spammed the forum with links to his business, 11.5 years later.

That is some impressive dedication.

Did they ban him again?

Sure did.

Well, on a personal level I simply don't think that's much of a problem. If someone wants to be in a constant revolving door of one year bans that's fine by me - particularly if it helps decrease the likelihood that we end up permabanning a valued community member.

If you think that sort of system would place an undue burden on the mod team then I respect that, although I don't think a cap of one year on bans would actually add that many more posts to the mod queue, given the small number of users who would likely find themselves in that sort of situation.

Hlynka didn't just violate rules on decorum (like, say, TrannyPorno did). He repeatedly dodged some arguments while claiming he didn't (e.g. McNamara morons) I asked him to give examples of people that he considers intelligent and of personality unattractive to him, he didn't

It's spelled Hlynka.

Thanks, fixed.

I have no horse in this race, but: as a small case study, the Effective Altruism forum has been impoverished over the last few years by not being lenient with valuable contributors when they had a bad day.

In a few cases, I later learnt that some longstanding user had a mental health breakdown/psychotic break/bipolar something or other. To some extent this is an arbitrary category, and you can interpret going outside normality through the lens of mental health, or through the lens of "this person chose to behave inappropriately". Still, my sense is that leniency would have been a better move when people go off the rails.

In particular, the best move seems to me a combination of:

  • In the short term, when a valued member is behaving uncharacteristically badly, stop them from posting
  • Followup a week or a few weeks later to see how the person is doing

Two factors here are:

  • There is going to be some overlap in that people with propensity for some mental health disorders might be more creative, better able to see things from weird angles, better able to make conceptual connections.
  • In a longstanding online community, people grow to care about others. If a friend goes of the rails, there is the question of how to stop them from causing harm to others, but there is also the question of how to help them be ok, and the second one can just dominate sometimes.

We do give leniency to people having a bad day. At most we give someone a temp ban - I don't know where anyone gets the idea that we're casually expelling people right and left. Permabans generally happen only with obvious trolls or with posters who've been bad for a long time and been repeatedly warned.

Beware that if you are arguing with someone, deciding that they have a mental health problem is a magnet for motivated reasoning.

So what you're saying is that if a large enough percentage of Motte users (say, like, 54%) liked your previous contributions, then you get to bend some of the more ticky-tacky procedural rules without extreme sanction.

If so, I agree!

The situation does seem a bit familiar...

But, seriously, the mods are generally doing a good job. People on this forum should probably whine less about the moderation.

I'm not saying we can't have this discussion, but I will say it was had before:

As of this time @HlynkaCG has been permabanned. I'm posting this message at the top of the thread, because its not really for Hlynka, its for the community to know. There were a few different posts I could have chosen in the modqueue, and many of them were too buried to be visible. The mod team has given him repeated warnings and bans. And I personally reached out to him last ban to warn him that a permaban was likely coming if this behavior continued.

I mostly do not feel this is a good thing, but it is a necessary thing. Hlynka had quite a few quality contributions, and I don't think I was alone in appreciating his often unique (for themotte) perspective. But he repeatedly did it in a way that just wasn't acceptable for the rules around here.

I would like people to have a few takeaways:

  1. No one on this forum is infinitely excused of bad behavior. Having quality contributions and providing a unique viewpoint might get you some additional leeway, but our patience isn't unlimited.
  2. The mods do read and participate here. We know when someone is starting to abuse that leeway. We know when there is frustration about it.
  3. We do try to be deliberate and slow about things. It can feel real shitty when a cabal of people meet in secret to discuss your punishment and they decide permanent banishment is the solution. For longtime users that have put in the time and effort to be a part of the community here we don't lightly jump to permanent bans as a solution.

Please keep any discussion civil.

I had many other posts that I liked in that discussion, and I feel I'd just be reiterating their points again. So I'll just post those below:

On the topic of rehabilitation:

I'm not entirely opposed to something like a rehabilitation program for rule breakers. In my experience the rule-breakers themselves are often very much not ok with such a system. I believe anyone that is capable of living in modern society and not constantly getting involved in violence and being thrown in prison is capable of filtering themselves. So most forum users are capable of filtering themselves, but they are not willing to filter themselves. So adding an external filter that is not under their control is not something they want, its just seen as an imposition.

requiring a two page essay on rule-following as a costly signal of contrition and to promote salience of infraction

I've wanted to do things like this in the past. But its not a good idea. We got a lot of complaints that we were just being petty tyrants abusing our power, and that we just wanted people to "bend the knee" and "respect my authoritaay!" And those complaints seem generally correct to me. Some of the libertarian types (myself included) have an allergic reaction to such requirements, and may swing much harder towards "fuck you and your impositions".

I'd rather just treat people like adults, rather than misbehaving kids. If you can't or aren't willing to control your behavior here then we should just part ways. I don't want to try and parent you. I don't want you ass kissing or crawling on your belly to be allowed back in. I just want you to act within the rules we have set out while you are here. That is my only requirement. And because it is the only requirement it becomes a much stronger one. There is no getting around it by willing to be a sycophant.

Having said all that nothing is forever set in stone. Hlynka could come back in a year. But it would have to be an active decision by the mod team. Not a passive one. And if it were to happen, I'd like to see the most reluctant members of the mod team and community convinced.

On the problem of maintaining "politeness" on the internet:

I'm well aware of the contradiction, I wrote this 5 days ago [emphasis added]:

This is a discussion forum for people with sometimes drastically different views. It feels like a fragile thing somedays. We are asking people to talk politely with one another when they may disagree with each other's entire existence. Most of the internet is filled with people pointing out that politeness in those circumstances is absurd. And thus most of the internet has descended into a bit of a hell hole that I cannot personally tolerate for any topic much less the topics where people might actually have a reason to hate each other.

Hlynka wasn't interested in maintaining decorum when it was an obvious papering over disrespectful or violent thoughts. I admired how long he was able to act on that disinterest without getting permabanned.

Personally, the masquerade is getting boring for me too. But out of respect for mod wishes, I'll try to fade out rather than flame out if it becomes too annoying to bother with.

I'm not really sympathetic to people that can't maintain the masquerade. Because I maintain it quite easily. I'm an anarcho-capitalist, and just about everyone on here is a statist of some sort. I believe most of those views are morally repugnant, and any statist view is an active advocation of violence against me. I also don't consider myself some paragon of self control. I think most people have the self control muscle and exercise it all the time. If you can drive in traffic and not run someone off the road when they do something dangerous to you then you also have that self control muscle. My 5 year old kid has the self control muscle. My 3 year old, does not. So its a skill you can learn and start using as young as 4 years old.

Also according to psychology there are bunch of psychopaths just walking around among us, following the rules, and not murdering people for shits and giggles. We don't threaten to purge all the psychopaths as uncaring monsters walking among us. And the psychopaths mostly don't act like the uncaring monsters that they are, except in specific high level managerial positions where we have designated their behavior "ok".

People complaining that it is hard not to say things in an online forum where they don't need to even participate is a bit mind-boggling to me. I truly do not understand how such a person navigates their day to day life. Perhaps they have an extreme set of blinders? Perhaps they are lying, and its actually very easy to follow the rules around here, they just don't want to? Perhaps they are in a special set of circumstances where people coddle them like I do for my three year old in order to avoid public tantrums?

Opinions on Hylynka and some behind the scenes details on the moderation decision:


Maybe you don't like hylnka, but a lot of people did. The whole pitch on moving everybody here was that we could avoid the overbearing influence of reddit admins, but now we just guys. Hylnka was a dick, and banned me at least once on themotte...but as I have pointed out before: you guys (specifically you, cjet) over way overtending this garden.

No, I like Hlynka. If there is such a thing as "internet friends" I would consider him one. I was the most reluctant among the mods to ban him, and have stuck up for his behavior quite often in the back-channels. The fact that I am the one to ban him is more similar to a "George shoots Lennie" situation. Not comparing Hlynka to Lennie, but the social dynamic of the situation where the most ardent defender of the accused who gave them as many chances as possible has to be the one to carry out the execution.

And yes you have us. This was always the agreement. If you want the reddit admins and some other set of moderators, you know where reddit is. We have gotten significantly more lenient since moving off of reddit, because there is more of a worry of eroding our user base and having no replacement source. If you want no moderation there are places on the internet like that. This isn't such a place, never has been, and never will be given that zorba will probably just shut it down if it came to that.

Most of the discussion here just sounds like (and I suspect heavily is) chatbots talking back and forth to one another. Many have pointed out that a version of a captcha for chatbots is if they are willing to say naughty words or not. What you're basically doing with this ban is saying "you have to sound like a chatbot in order to post here". I think this is a bad idea.

People are allowed to say "naughty words" here. They aren't allowed to put words in other's mouths. Accuse people of beliefs they don't hold with little or no evidence/discussion. And throw out broad sweeping insults to others.

You can say cunt, but you can't call another user one without breaking our rules. If you are not a fan of "politeness" as one of the rules of discussion, I'd again suggest that most of the rest of the internet is still out there.

Here's a suggestion for how to improve themotte and course correct it: give us something like "showdead" on hacker news. Give me the option in my userprofile to have a non mod curated experience where I can see naughty posts and interact with them. People who want the more curated experience can untick this "show naughty" option, and never have to see it. I don’t think you will do this since it takes the power of being a mod away (although keeps the practical purpose), but it would be appreciated.

No. Zorba has been asked about this multiple times before. He has a post somewhere about trash in a river as a comparison. The general point is that our users actually do most of the filtering for us, and mods are here as a backup to make sure there is a clear bright line.

Well, now I feel silly for missing this entire discussion that was already had. Thanks for taking the effort to organize the key points.

In regards to specifically hylnka, whose legendary status is one of the only posters who I think requires special merit, I wish to formally put forward “a motte-ist proposal”;

Hylnka should be unbanned if he provides real, incontrovertible evidence that he has successfully completed “The Hock.”.

I’m not kidding. It’s the ultimate combination of absurd trial by ordeal married with impossibly niche internet humor. It would be the greatest internet happening in a very long time.

Now I'm curious about what happened to Hock guy. He should be either done or dead by now right?

You think it's a coincidence that this is when that "man vs. bear" meme popped up?

No-one stopped to ask the real question. What if it is a man that is wearing a bear as he had to kill and skin it to survive the Hock.

I recall someone saying that @SkookumTree wound up not going on the Hock. I do hope that is the case, as it seemed like he would surely die in the attempt and I would hate for that to happen.

Yeah, apparently his Reddit account is still active. He went on some big mountain climbing trip instead, which is less funny but clearly more sensible.

Good for him. Actually doing it might straighten him out a lot.

Yeah, although The Hock was comically extreme, he wasn’t wrong about the core idea about physical struggle being important to male character development and having a strong effect on how attractive a man is.

I think he was wrong about that, and that was a significant part of his problem. Remember, his entire hypothesis was "women aren't going to find me attractive unless I engage in a life or death struggle". Which is false on its face - most men haven't engaged in a life or death struggle (and a lot haven't engaged in any sort of physical struggle at all). Yet they attract women just fine. I'm very skeptical that women would even be able to tell if he did complete the Hock (short of him turning into "that guy" who can't stop talking about it), but it certainly wasn't required.

I think hlynka needed to cut out his behavior but that a long term- 3 month or so- ban would be a better solution for AAQC writers, at least to begin with.

As for your proposal- why don’t the month’s AAQC authors get to agree on a permabanned user to unban? I suspect we wouldn’t get many; probably just hlynka.

As long as there's a null option, which I hope would be called "Barabbas".

Very broadly, what you suggest is how we already do things. Long-term good posters get more slack (but not infinite slack). I do not think anyone should be immune to the rules, no matter how many AAQCs they write.

I'm hoping amongst all the people that have an issue with how the moderation is done at least one of them has a good idea on how to improve the place. I gave my idea for a solution and then threw in 6 more (admittedly not well thought out), so they should be able to as well. Thanks for the response.