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[META] Something Shiny and Two Things Boring

I've got a new feature almost ready to go. I'm pretty stoked about this one because I've been wanting it for quite literally years, but it was never possible on Reddit.

Hey, guess what? We're not on Reddit!

But before I continue, I want to temper expectations. This is a prototype of a first revision of an experimental feature. It is not going to look impressive; it is not going to be impressive. There's a lot of work left to do.

The feature is currently live on our perpetually-running dev site. Log in, click any thread, and go look below the Comment Preview. You'll see a quokka in a suit asking you for help. (His name is Quincy.) Click the cute li'l guy and you'll be asked to rate three comments. Do so, and click Submit. Thank you! Your reward is another picture of Quincy and a sense of satisfaction.

So, uh . . . . what?

Okay, lemme explain.

This is the first part of a feature that I'm calling Volunteering. Once in a while, the site is going to prompt you to help out, and if you volunteer, it'll give you a few minutes of work to do. Right now this is going to be "read some comments and say if they're good or not". Later this might include stuff like "compare two comments and tell me if one of them is better", or "read a comment, then try to come up with a catchy headline for it".

These are intentionally small, and they're entirely optional. You can ignore it altogether if you like.

I'm hoping these can end up being the backbone of a new improved moderation system.

Isn't this just voting, but fancy?

You'd think so! But there are critical differences.

First, you do not choose the things to judge. The system chooses the things it wants you to judge. You are not presented with thousands of comments and asked to vote on the ones you think are important, no, you are given (at the moment) three specific comments and information is requested of you.

This means that I don't need to worry about disproportionate votecount on popular comments. Nor do I need to worry about any kind of vote-brigading, or people deciding to downvote everything that a user has posted. The system gets only the feedback it asks for. This is a pull system; the system pulls information from the userbase in exactly the quantities it wants instead of the userbase shoving possibly-unwanted information at the scoring systems.

Second, you can be only as influential as the system lets you. On the dev site you can volunteer as often as you want for testing purposes, but on the live site, you're going to - for now - be limited to once every 20 hours. I'll probably change this a lot, but nevertheless, if the system decides you've contributed enough, it'll thank you kindly and then cut you off. Do you want to spend all day volunteering in order to influence the community deeply? Too bad! Not allowed.

But this goes deeper than it sounds. Part of having the system prompt you is that not all prompts will be the system attempting to get actionable info from you. Some of the prompts will be the system trying to compare your choices against a reference, and the system will then use this comparison to figure out how much to trust your decisions.

That reference, of course, is the mods.

I've previously referred to this as the Megaphone system or the Amplifier system. One of our devs called it a "force multiplier". I think this gets across the core of what I'm aiming for. The goal here is not majority-rules, it's not fully decentralized moderation. It's finding people who generally agree with the mods and then quietly harnessing them to handle the easy moderation cases.

(We have a lot of easy moderation cases.)

There's another important point here. The mods are only human and we make mistakes. My hope is that we can get enough volunteer help to provide significantly more individual decisions than the mods can, and my hope is that the combined efforts of several people who don't quite agree with the mods in all cases is still going to be more reliable than any single mod. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if there's people out there who are better at judging posts than our mods are! It's just hard to find you; some of you may not even comment, and you're pretty undiscoverable right now, but you will certainly get a chance to volunteer!

Also, this will hopefully improve turnaround time a lot. I'm tired of filtered comments taking hours to get approved! I'm tired of really bad comments sticking around for half a day! There are many people constantly commenting and voting, and if I can get a few minutes of help from people now and then, we can handle those rapidly instead of having to wait for a mod to be around.

Wow! You get all of this, with absolutely no downsides or concerns!

Well, hold on.

The big concern here is that virtually nobody has ever done this before. The closest model I have is Slashdot's metamoderation system. Besides that, I'm flying blind.

I also have to make sure this isn't exploitable. The worst-case scenario is people being able to use this to let specific bad comments through. I really want to avoid that, and I've got ideas on how to avoid it, but it's going to take work on my part to sort out the details.

And there's probably issues that I'm not even thinking of. Again: flying blind. If you think of issues, bring 'em up; if you see issues, definitely bring 'em up.

Oh man! So, all this stuff is going to be running real soon, right?

Nope.

First I need some data to work off. Full disclosure: all the current system does is collect data, then ignore it.

But it is collecting data, and as soon as I've got some data, I'll be working on the next segment.

This is the first step towards having a platform that's actually better-moderated than the current brand of highly-centralized sites. I don't know if it'll work, but I think it will.

Please go test it out on the dev site, report issues, and when it shows up here (probably in a few days) click the button roughly daily and spend a few minutes on it. Your time will not be wasted.


Blocking

Right now this site's block feature works much the same as Reddit's. But I want to change that, because it sucks.

My current proposal is:

  • If you block someone, you will no longer see their comments, receive PMs from them, or be notified if they reply to your comments.

  • This does not stop them from seeing your comments, nor does it stop them from replying to your comments.

  • If they attempt to reply to your comment, it will include the note "This user has blocked you. You are still welcome to reply, but your replies will be held to a stricter standard of civility."

  • This note is accurate and we will do so.

That's the entire proposed feature. Feedback welcome!


User Flair and Usernames

We're going to start cracking down a bit on hyperpartisan or antagonistic user flair. Basically, if we'd hit you with a warning for putting it in a comment, we'll hit you with a warning for putting it in your flair. If anyone has a really good reason for us to not do this, now's the time to mention it!

Same goes for usernames. On this site, you can actually change your display username, and we're just leaving that in place. So we'll tell you to change your name if we have to. Extra for usernames: don't use a misleading or easily-confused username, okay? If it looks like you're masquerading as an existing well-known user, just stop it.

I'm currently assuming that both of these fall under our existing ruleset and don't need new rules applied. If you disagree strongly, let me know.


The Usual Stuff

Give feedback! Tell me how you're doing? Do you have questions? Do you have comments? This is the place for them!

Are you a coder and want to help out? We have a lot of work to do - come join the dev discord.

48
Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

If there's somewhere better I should be commenting things like this let me know, but I think the + and - composition of the vote counts were not showing up in the child comments of the parent comments to which I was replying when I had added a comment but not yet refreshed the page.

Probably worth verifying before trying to fix.

I will admit I'm actually not sure what you mean here. Sorry. Can you rephrase?

I meant that if I try to do the following process, it doesn't work, so far as I can tell:

  1. Go to a thread that's been around for long enough for vote counts to appear.

  2. Reply to a comment that already has child comments with vote counts showing.

  3. Don't reload the page or anything.

  4. Hover over the vote count of a child comment of the one I replied to to see the values of + vs - votes. (this doesn't happen).

I can still see the vote counts of the other comments, just not ones that are descendants of the ones that I replied to since I last loaded the page.

Sorry about not saying that more clearly, that was a little obscure.

i'm having a hard time reproducing this bug but i also may just be misunderstanding what you mean here so just necroing here to try to see and if i can get a better description

in order to reproduce this bug, where should i create the comment given this example thread

A (+1 | -0)

B (+1 | -0)

C (+1 | -0)

D (+1 | -0)

and what steps should I take after I've made the comment?

Hah, probably just isn't decorating that mouseover properly.

I'll put that in the bug list, thanks!

If I run across more bugs, where is the proper place to put them?

If you feel up to writing a developer-friendly bug description and either have or don't mind getting a Github account, put it straight on the Git page.

If you want to talk to developers and either have or don't mind getting a Discord account, come hang out in the dev discord (and if you know Python we can always use help :V).

Otherwise, honestly, here is fine, I don't mind getting bug reports!

Ooh is this meta general now?

I want to set up a recurring meta post of some kind but I'm not sure what that looks like.

So, kinda, yeah.

Monthly Motte Meta-post? Write up some site news and updates, pose a specific question or two, and have an opening for general comments?

Monthly may be too quick, but I'd hate to give up the alliteration.

The problem ends up being time; writing a good meta post turns out to be a surprisingly large slice of the time I have available :/ Which is why I don't do it as often as I wish I did.

I think, in order to do as much stuff as I wish I did, I'd need to be two or three people.

Hey mods. My discussion with @Amadan seems to have ended without a resolution. Could I get some clarification on how our rules permit insulting public officials when it isn't explicitly necessary to make your point? It seems to contradict several of them:

Be Kind… To a lesser but non-zero extent, this also applies to third parties. You shouldn't just go and attack people that you think are bad, you should be kind to them, even if you think they're mean, even if you think they're bad.

Or

Be no more antagonistic than is absolutely necessary for your argument.

Or

To have a discussion on some point of disagreement it is necessary that both parties be willing to say what they believe and why, not merely that they disagree with the other party. Sarcasm and mockery make it very easy to express that you disagree with someone without explaining why, or what contrary claim you actually endorse, and you can't grow a discussion from those grounds.

Or

Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

"Trump is a venal, fascist clown" seem like really clear cases of prioritizing heat over light, vilifying your outgroup, arguing to win, and treating the thread as territory to be won. Just completely counterproductive and the anthesis to the goals of this place.

If you decide you're going to allow them, could you explain how my interpretation of these rules is wrong and/or rewrite the rules to be more clear?

I wrote up a reply in respond to the original thread before I saw that, but here, pastin' it in:


Alright, I went looking for a post I had in mind, possibly written by Scott, and totally couldn't find it. Sorry. You're getting a crappy cliff-notes version of it.

The cliff-notes version is that you shouldn't always need to prefix things with "I think". That it is, sometimes, pretty obvious that you're referring to an opinion. If I say "anchovies are tasty" then I am probably not suggesting that anchovies are objectively tasty; it's a phrase that maps to "I think anchovies are tasty".

This is, to some extent, how I think about statements like "Kamala is an air-head".

At the same time, I don't think we want to go full force on that. The bigger your claim is, the more wide-reaching, the more antagonistic, the more it's aimed at a person in the community, the more I want people to couch things carefully. In this case it's a single target who isn't in the community. Is that good? No, not really, I wish they'd stop. But it's maybe not lethal to the community we're trying to build.

I don't really know how to phrase this in the rules, and I'll admit that a perfectly strict reading of the rules probably wouldn't allow that. We've always allowed a bit of flex, and part of me has always been unsatisfied by this just because it makes moderation a lot more subjective. But the alternative is, I think, worse, and the flex will continue until I figure out a way to formalize it.

tl;dr:

The rule technically doesn't allow it, practically we kinda allow it as one of many ways that people can flex the rules a little if they've built up cred, I'm not totally happy with this, I'm not convinced there's a better alternative, it is definitely not true that "insulting public figures is tolerated, full stop" because I don't want people to just start flaming public figures; the rules, as always, cannot be fully complete because humans are kinda dicks.


(if anyone can find the post i'm thinking of, it would be appreciated, I'm not having any luck)

I don't think the "opinion/fact" axis is the right way to think about this.

The problem with "Kamala is an air-head" isn't that people might mistake it for a fact and get misinformed. It's that the goal is to be insulting (i.e. waging culture war, demonstrably showing you couldn't care less about Kamala Harris supporters, etc.).

I take your argument as roughly

Right now the rules have false negatives, but if we change them to fix those false negatives, we'll end up having false positives

And true/false positive debates are ultimately quantitative and we can't even express the tradeoffs we believe in, let alone actually argue whether we're on one side or another (i.e. what does "every 1% increase in censorship" even mean?).

That said, I think there's a pretty clear alternative which is the Victorian Sufi Buddha Lite policy: if you're going to say something mean about somebody, it should be necessary and true.

This has always been my preferred philosophy for moderation, and it's also puzzled me why it's never been part of TheMotte moderation (given our ancestry). After these discussions I'm guessing the moderators here agree it's too restrictive for discussion.

I take you argument as roughly

Right now the rules have false negatives, but if we change them to fix those false negatives, we'll end up having false positives

Yeah, that's a reasonable paraphrase.

And true/false positive debates are ultimately quantitative and we can't even express the tradeoffs we believe in, let alone actually argue whether we're on one side or another (i.e. what does "every 1% increase in censorship" even mean?).

Oh yeah, you are absolutely right there. I don't have even remotely the tools I need to formalize any of this, I'm workin' in the dark.

That said, I think there's a pretty clear alternative which is the Victorian Sufi Buddha Lite policy: if you're going to say something mean about somebody, it should be necessary and true.

This has always been my preferred philosophy for moderation, and it's also puzzled me why it's never been part of TheMotte moderation (given our ancestry). After these discussions I'm guessing the moderators here agree it's too restrictive for discussion.

If anything, the problem isn't that it's too restrictive, it's that it's too lax. How do you judge "necessary"? If the poster judges it, then the site turns into a flamewar because everyone thinks it's absolutely necessary to flame their opponents. If the mods judge it, then we're right back to Maximally Subjective Moderation, and I admit we're close to that anyway but we at least try to avoid that when possible.

I feel like Amadan answered most of your questions in that thread. But I'll re-answer with my own thoughts.

Something like "Trump is a venal, fascist clown" as an isolated comment is bad because it is low effort. If it is buried in an otherwise effortful comment, it seems fine to me to ignore.

Something like "Trump is a venal, fascist clown, and the people that support him are idiots" is bad because it is boo outgroup and antagonistic. Even if it is buried in an otherwise decent comment it might get some mod action.

In general, I interpret the rules against insults to apply to people that might be on this forum. The more likely it is that the person is using this forum, the worse it is from a rules standpoint. Insulting a specific user being a clearcut case of 'that is bad'. And insulting a public figure with zero chance of using the forum being something I don't care about at all.

Also as election season slowly starts to ramp up, I do not think the moderators should be in a position where we need to defend politicians from insults. People need to be able to have a civil discussion with the other people on this forum, that is the most important thing.

Something like this is generally ok, but not a great start to a discussion:

user_A: "Trump is a fascist clown"

user_B: "I think he is playing 4d chess and is a genius"

user_A: "He made mistakes X, Y, and Z, how is that 4d chess?"

user_B: "Well [longer discussion about those items]"

Something like this is not ok:

user_A: "Trump is a fascist clown"

user_B: "I think he is playing 4d chess and is a genius"

user_A: "You think that because you are an idiot and a racist"

user_B: "get out of here with your woke bullshit!"

feel like Amadan answered most of your questions in that thread

Frankly I disagree. There was no argument at all for why "Kamala Harris is an airhead" offers anything positive at all to the community, nor for how it doesn't break the rules. Just "we're not gonna do it", "it's not part of The Norms", etc.

The purpose of enforcing "don't call Kamala Harris an airhead" isn't to protect Kamala Harris' feelings, is to prevent people who do support her from seeing red and manning the battle-stations or, alternatively, from doing so until it's blatantly clear how lopsided this place is against her and they all decide to leave.

The argument of "but it can trigger good discussion" proves way too much (it justifies nearly anything), and is particularly unpersuasive when you can trigger the exact same discussion with far less heat by saying (e.g.) "I disagree with Trump's political goals, and his decisions have repeatedly backfired". "Trump is a facist clown" is clearly intended to fire a shot in Culture War (do you disagree?) and should be modded as such.

Somebody (not sure if ZorbaTHut, TracingWoordgrains, Scott, or someone else) once wrote a great post on how "free speech" is decidedly not the same thing as maximizing good discussion, and insulting Trump or Harris seems like a pretty clear case of prioritizing free speech for it's own sake. I'm really skeptical there are people that (1) we want hear from and (2) who couldn't maintain elementary civility standards if they actually cared to.

Are you responding to things I wrote, or to things Amadan wrote? I can't tell.

There are things that are bad but also not worth moderating. Insulting politicians falls into this category. I never said it was good for triggering discussion, I didn't say it was good at all. I specifically said it was bad.

There are two failure modes of moderation. One failure mode is not moderating enough and the place descends into a hell hole. The other failure mode is moderating too much, and the place goes silent (or turns into an echo-chamber of moderator-approved content).

Protecting politicians from insults feels like it would tend towards too much moderation.

As a practical matter, there are multiple problems with this proposal:

  1. I'm not even convinced we'd gain more Kamala Harris supporters in the discussion. After all, we'd be enforcing the rule accross the political spectrum. So there would be 'no insulting Trump' rules as well.

  2. Politicians insult each other all the time. There is a problem in the news where repeating someone else's slanderous remarks isn't slander. We would have the same problem here. Users that wanted to insult a politician, would just have to share some story of their favored politician insulting their unfavored politician. To stop that we'd have to get into content moderation, which has always been a line we have tried to avoid crossing.

  3. Insults vs opinions are a thin line. "I hate Trump" vs "I hate how Trump looks like a fascist clown and has ruined the image of the presidency" vs "Trump is a fascist clown". All these statements are sort of expressing a similar thing. And I imagine that anyone that is seeing red from one statement would probably be seeing red from all the statements, even if the 2nd statement should be allowable under our rules. So we'd have to go through a moderation crack down just to get people to be slightly more careful with their language ... and in the end we'd gain zero additional users. Because if someone can't stand another person not liking the same politicians as them, then they probably won't fit in here in the first place, and a slightly more careful phrasing of that dislike isn't going to appease them.

The first paragraph is an explanation of why I disagree with your claim that Amadan answered my questions. Everything else is a response to the rest of what you wrote.

There are things that are bad but also not worth moderating. Insulting politicians falls into this category. I never said it was good for triggering discussion, I didn't say it was good at all. I specifically said it was bad.

I didn't say you loved the first comment, but you're defending it by appealing to the discussion that follows it, which I think is fairly summarized as "it can trigger good discussion".

There are two failure modes of moderation. One failure mode is not moderating enough and the place descends into a hell hole. The other failure mode is moderating too much, and the place goes silent (or turns into an echo-chamber of moderator-approved content).

You and @ZorbaTHut are both going to the "true positives / false positives" argument. I can't say I can complain, since that does ultimately seem like the disagreement. It also makes further discussion seem mostly moot -- any false/true positive discussion is ultimately quantitative and it's unlikely any of us can come up with meaningful data.

I can only say that "don't say mean things" was the default civility norms while I was growing up, it's second nature to me, it's what I expect from my friends, it's what my elementary school teachers expected of me, and I struggle to put myself in the shoes of somebody who would rather be silent than have to talk about politics without insulting their enemies. I think people do it because they can get away with it. If you think we risk losing valuable discussion then I guess further discussion isn't likely to be fruitful.

I'm not even convinced we'd gain more Kamala Harris supporters in the discussion. After all, we'd be enforcing the rule accross the political spectrum. So there would be 'no insulting Trump' rules as well.

I sort of agree. There are lots of forces that drive out Kamala Harris supporters, and drive-by insults are basically the lowest hanging fruit that doesn't endanger good discussion. Probably more significant are anti-woke dogpiles, but barring absolutely crazy ideas it's much harder to moderate that. But low hanging fruit is still low hanging fruit, it's a continuum not a binary, etc.

Politicians insult each other all the time. There is a problem in the news where repeating someone else's slanderous remarks isn't slander. We would have the same problem here.

I would literally prefer "[Trump says Kamala Harris is an airhead](https://foo.bar) " over the current state. I'm not trying to solve all civility problems here. I think this is one particular problem with an easy solution, and the more inconvenient it is to wage drive-by culture war the better.

Insults vs opinions are a thin line. "I hate Trump" vs "I hate how Trump looks like a fascist clown and has ruined the image of the presidency" vs "Trump is a fascist clown". All these statements are sort of expressing a similar thing...

The mods (i.e. the three that have discussed it publicly) seem pretty united on the stance that "it's just my opinion" is a sensible defense.

For me, this is just "one man's modus ponens" and I'll easily bite the bullet: if you're insulting somebody, it's relevant to your point or you're booing outgroup. That's true if it's a factual claim and it's true if it's your opinion.

There are lots of forces that drive out Kamala Harris supporters, and drive-by insults are basically the lowest hanging fruit that doesn't endanger good discussion.

I think some of those fruit might as well be on the Moon. The biggest thing "driving out" Harris supporters compared to Trump supporters is simply that Reddit/Facebook (and a ton of smaller-but-still-massive forums like SpaceBattles) allow the former and not the latter while we allow both, and so the Harris supporters have less reason to bother coming here in the first place. Allow any form of witchcraft that the mainstream doesn't and you'll be disproportionately showered in that kind of witch. Hell, I personally am an example; I don't think I'd have come here if I hadn't been forced off SpaceBattles for SJ-heresy (I left before actually getting permabanned, but it was obvious I was headed in that direction).

You could theoretically avoid a large anisotropy in this regard by allowing all the witches (since if you allow e.g. stalkers you will get showered in both pro-SJ stalkers and anti-SJ stalkers, and if you do this on enough distinct points then the signal on any one point will be mitigated by the noise from the others). But "good discussion" would indeed be totally abdicated by such a move.

I've lost track of whatever specific post we are talking about. I'm probably going to say something that might make you think "why the heck didn't you moderate the post I'm talking about!" And the answer is pretty straightforward: I think I'm one of the strictest mods on the payroll right now, and also one of the least active. Former honor for strictest used to go to Hylynka. Anytime there is a mod discussion of 'should we do something about this' I usually say yes. Anytime there is a mod discussion of 'should we perma-ban this user' I usually ask why we haven't done so already. Having said that I still support the other mods and the decisions they make. They are more lenient, but I find it is often a few degrees of each other. We agree on who needs a perma-ban, I just arrive at that conclusion a temp-ban sooner than them. We agree on the posts that need moderation, we just disagree on what level of punishment/warning to hand out.

I didn't say you loved the first comment, but you're defending it by appealing to the discussion that follows it, which I think is fairly summarized as "it can trigger good discussion".

I don't feel like that summarization fits. I'm fully willing to moderate low effort top level comments, even when they spawn good discussion. If I saw a low effort "kamala is an airhead" top level comment, with no other substance, it absolutely would be a ban from me. And it would be a ban much faster than a low effort comment that just said something like "kamala is a bad presidential candidate".

We want to encourage good discussion and discourage bad discussion. And specifically we want to make good discussion visible, and bad discussion either less visible, or at least shown to be punished if it is highly visible. There is of course a huge middle ground of mediocre discussion. I think me and the rest of the mods generally don't want to get in the way of mediocre discussion.

Visible bad discussion is something I try and moderate. "Kamalla is an airhead" within a few posts of a top level comment, and nothing else in the comment would have gotten some amount of mod sanction from me. If it is buried within a discussion like 5 or 6 levels down, or buried within a comment that has other useful things to contribute I'm gonna leave it alone. Cuz at that point I've mentally catalogued that downstream thread or that whole comment as "mediocre" discussion, and I'm not gonna get in the way.

It also makes further discussion seem mostly moot -- any false/true positive discussion is ultimately quantitative and it's unlikely any of us can come up with meaningful data.

Zorba does have some data based on the reporting functionallity, and the mod helper thing.

I can only say that "don't say mean things" was the default civility norms while I was growing up, it's second nature to me, it's what I expect from my friends, it's what my elementary school teachers expected of me, and I struggle to put myself in the shoes of somebody who would rather be silent than have to talk about politics without insulting their enemies. I think people do it because they can get away with it. If you think we risk losing valuable discussion then I guess further discussion isn't likely to be fruitful.

Politics confused me for a long time growing up. Don't say mean things seemed to be the "real life" civil behavior. But then those same adults trying to teach me that lesson would make mean comments about George Bush being an idiot, or John Kerry being a coward. And it was only a few years later when I realized that same vitriol could be turned on me if I spoke up as a libertarian. I guess I grew up in a very different environment than you. Politics has always been contentious in my mind, and aside from some early interactions when I didn't understand the game its never really felt personal. To me its looked like two sports teams yelling at each other and hurling insults. I think a lot of people like me sort of expect that norm, and they get confused when someone is upset about the ra-ra-ing. I guess its a cultural difference.

The mods (i.e. the three that have discussed it publicly) seem pretty united on the stance that "it's just my opinion" is a sensible defense. For me, this is just "one man's modus ponens" and I'll easily bite the bullet: if you're insulting somebody, it's relevant to your point or you're booing outgroup. That's true if it's a factual claim and it's true if it's your opinion.

There are some opinions we don't allow. But we usually want to have good justifiable reasons for banning the expression of an opinion. My distinction about personal insults in the previous post applies here. If your opinion of another poster is that they are an asshole, then keep that to yourself. However, we definitely don't want to ban opinions on policy. That is a road that all the other social media platforms have gone down, and we think it easily strays into the mistake of "too much moderation". Opinions on politicians are pretty close to opinions on policy.

Its understandable to have your stance. IDK I feel like I've modded things like this before within the past 5ish years of being a moderator. And those mod decisions are often highly controversial with other users. It triggers a lot of their fears of "oh no they are going to start moderating more of our opinions", and we work hard to not break that trust.

Maybe we should bring back the BLR.

As an example - I think themotte might find some articles from this blog very interesting, for instance (title 42, maybe mifepristone ii/iii). I'm not sure they fit a full toplevel post though, and don't have multiple paragraphs of interesting commentary on any of them, as IANAL.

Just because I don't have anything interesting to say doesn't mean other mottizens don't! A good link can be the start of an extended conversation about something related, just like a subthread that goes off on a tangent.

The big problem we had with the BLR is that people used it heavily to post attacks-on-the-outgroup, and often they didn't get interesting commentary, it just turned into "look how bad these people are". I'm not convinced any of that has changed.

I do think it would be nice if we had a way of making this work but I haven't come up with one I'm happy with.

I entirely agree, and said "BLR bad" a lot in the past.

Wouldn't just 'aggressively moderate, delete boo outgroup posts, or ones that even lean towards that, in a single click without spending time worrying about fairness' be enough? It's not very nice to the people who post "boo outgroup" stuff, especially since the poster (who, of course, isn't me or anyone on my side, we never do that) thinks it's a good post. But if that's a blocker, it seems dumb to let 'seeming unfair' or 'people are mad because their stuff gets deleted' get in the way of something useful.

Traditionally the issue has come down to mod bandwidth; we simply aren't able to get to stuff reliably that quickly, and if it stays up for long, well, that's a problem. I guess we could set it up to filter everything in the BLR, so that it isn't displayed until it's approved - this wasn't practically possible on Reddit but we could totally do it here - but I don't want to put that much more weight on the mods' shoulders.

It's possible that once I get the volunteer system working (which I'm literally doing right now!) we'll be able to have much more rapid turnaround and that will solve the problems.

One thing I find mildly irritating about the janny thing is that the prompt only shows up on thread/comment views. If it wants me to janny, I don't know it until I click into a thread I was interested in reading. Now it wants me to go off and rate posts, and when I'm done, it sends me back to the front page, and I have to go to the thread that I actually wanted to read again. Not a huge deal, but it could be solved by having a prompt show up on the site front page too.

I've actually wanted to do that - part of my end plan for this is to provide some kind of a meter on how much the system wants your contribution, and let people contribute multiple times a day if there's stuff for them to do (with "stuff for them to do" heavily tempered by not letting any one person get too much of the work.) And at that point, yeah, I'd also put something on the front page.

Work in progress, but for what it's worth, I agree :)

I've just been asked to janny a comment that was in fact a mod explaining their moderation of another user. I was suitably entertained that the system reached enlightenment and asked "Who moderators the moderators?" so concisely, but it probably shouldn't do that.

I am intentionally leaving this in :)

The answer to "who moderates the moderators" is "I do", but another answer is "the moderators do", and a large part of "the moderators do" will be "the users asked to help with moderation do". If a moderator's causing serious problems, I want to know about that; we are not immune from moderation and I have in fact banned a moderator before.

(Not often, thankfully.)

In that case, it should definitely include as default context the comment to which the moderator is responding - it's necessary to meta-moderate the moderator.

I've wanted to set something up like this, but it's surprisingly hard to do - this codebase is a mess. (Although it's better than it was before!)

Right now the official answer on how to do that is to open the "context" link on a post of your choice, although I recommend open-in-new-window.

I was asked to janny a comment where all of the ancestor comments in the context were “filtered”. The comment was particularly hard for me to understand without context. Maybe let the jannies see the context of what they’re being asked to review?

For anyone who's reading this, I'm about to push a big change; if you run into weird problems, especially revolving around submitting posts, let me know.

For anyone who's reading this, I'm about to push a big change

Is it that uncensored search engine with results as good as 2010 Google I suggested? Fantastic.

That's next week!

(it is not next week)

Given the nature of the forum, could we change the follow feature to notify us whenever another user makes a top level comment? (Or, if we’re really obsessed, every comment? ;) )

added a issue for it on github. not sure, should it go on all comments or just top levels? (i'd probably advocate for no dials)

also worth knowing is that there are potential bad implications here as this could more easily lead to vote rings.

I’d like maybe the option of posts, top level comments or every comment. Personally I want top level comments only in CW

It appears that the warrant canary on the Contact Us page still states it's for 2022. Although I suppose it's possible we've been contacted by the relevant authorities.

I honestly just haven't had time to update it, although I will note there's some legal question as to whether those canaries are meaningful.

Yeah I heard they can just legally require you to keep the canary up: https://www.cnet.com/news/privacy/warrant-canary-what-you-need-to-know-about-this-online-privacy-warning-sign/

I'm guessing judges' opinions of legal canaries are only a little above their opinion of sovereign citizens.

It probably really comes down to your willingness to get involved in court cases. If the gubmint comes to you with a warrant, and they also say "don't remove the legal canary" then are you willing to get in legal hotwater to disobey that (potentially unlawful) order? Personally my answer is hell no, but that's one reason why I'd never be a good person to run a site like this. Maybe @ymeskhout would have legally relevant advice?

I think in general the only safe things we can do is make our opinions on legal stuff crystal clear before any legal issues pop up. As powerful as the government is, they are still constrained by physics. So we can't be stopped from saying anything before they talk to us.

Yeah, and I will admit that while it would rankle me quite a bit, I ain't fighting the federal government on this one; this is a hobby that I care about a lot but it isn't my life work.

In any case, canary is updated, whatever good that does :D

Might someone introduce a kind of pre-publication censorship feature? I'd appreciate the opportunity to submit a post to a mod for pre-approval rather than to risk getting permanently nuked from orbit.

That's a neat idea, yeah. I could see adding that to the Janitor system. Long way out, but I've added it to the system :)

if you want you can submit a post as a draft. anyone with the direct link will be able to see it so you could maybe ask the mops using modmail with a link to your post

I hope this is the appropriate place for meta discussion unrelated to the crowd-sourced moderation system.

Now that we're no longer on Reddit, can we increase the character limit? I assume there are no technical limitations, given that it's a silly, arbitrary number like 10,000 characters instead of something sensible like 65,536.

The longest multi-comment I've seen was three comments long, so 30k should be enough, but maybe make it higher just in case? 50k? 100k? It's not like it can be abused.

Amusingly there actually were technical limitations, the database table had a character limit and other copies of that same limit were spread throughout the codebase. We actually did fix this recently and now you are right, the character limit is just a code-enforced limitation, but I gotta figure out how this is going to practically work; I'm not interested in dealing with trolls posting ten megabytes of 𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫𒐫 spam.

I think maybe some kind of tier thing, where the more reputable a user is, the higher-tier they can post in a single comment, and they can post one tier higher than they're "allowed" but it's filtered? I dunno. Work to be done on that, issue filed :)

A modhat comment showed up in my janny queue. Could the UI preserve the modhat? If I didn't check the context I would tick "deserves a warning", but mods are allowed to say people are being obnoxious.

Came here to bring up this exact problem. I've had modhat (or rather, admin-hat) comments show up multiple times already. Presumably people angry they got told off and using the report button as a super-downvote. I think it would be best if they were just excluded entirely.

@ZorbaTHut

(sorry this took a while to get to, was at a professional convention)

Interesting, I'm actually surprised it doesn't preserve the modhat.

Hrm. I don't want to exclude them entirely because the number of times I've had to ban a mod has been non-zero. Very low . . . but non-zero. @ulyssesword is correct here, I think; the cost is low, and the chance of getting useful info out is low, but when useful info happens holy shit I really want to know about it.

I think "get the modhat back on, but otherwise leave them in the system" is probably the right solution here. Bug filed, for now.

I've seen a half-dozen or so, all from @Amadan. Was half-wondering if this was to test my alignment with the mods, but your explanation probably fits better.

@Tarnstellung is correct - people very often angrily report mod comments that were directed at them, or at a post they agreed with.

I don't know how Zorba feels about excluding them from the queue entirely, since it is possible a mod could actually cross the line and need a talking to (we usually do that amongst ourselves, but it happens). But @popocatepetl is right that the context of being a mod comment is relevant.

I've jannied plenty of mod comments, including plenty of yours, Amadan. At some point in the future, it's possible there will be a bad mod, but today it feels like a waste of my time to mod the people holding the Motte together. Maybe the solution is ignoring reports by users who abuse the reporting mechanism? (As measured by those reported comments subsequently being jannied as good comments)

but today it feels like a waste of my time to mod the people holding the Motte together.

I think it's a good precedent/safeguard even if it isn't useful at the object level. It'll catch the first (ever!) instances of bad modding instead of having to be deployed in the wake of an incident that took longer to detect. "Wasting" a few percent of the janitor duties is a pretty low cost, all things considered.

If I view comments by some user (https://www.themotte.org/@ZorbaTHut/comments) or recent ones (https://www.themotte.org/comments), since yesterday name of every thread in which the comment is made, is duplicated, first in regular, then in bold. For example:

Culture War Roundup for the week of March 13, 2023 Culture War Roundup for the week of March 13, 2023

ZorbaTHut 12hr ago

....

Hah, yep, part of the refactor fallout. Will get that fixed too :)

Thank you for feedback.

Should now be fixed!

Thank you, it also appears so on my end.

The vote pos/neg breakdown view is broken.

The breakdown shows up as;

Total -> (+Total | -Total)

Instead of;

Total -> (+Upvotes | -Downvotes)


Also keep this thread pinned.

Oops, fallout from a refactor. Will get that solved soon.

I'd rather cut down a bit on the pinned-thread spam; four is too many! (three is probably also too many but it's better)

Edit: Fixed!

https://www.themotte.org/post/383/wellness-wednesday-for-february-22-2023/68713?context=8#context

First of all, I hope this poster has read https://www.themotte.org/post/195/what-to-do-when-you-get

Second of all, I'd like to express my disappointment in nearly every response I've seen them receive. The fact that their question, which appears to have been made in total good faith, is still getting dogpiled and drive by downvotes is vicariously embarrassing. This isn't a culture war issue. It's a person in the life advice thread asking for life advice on interpersonal relationships as it pertains to their trans friends concerns over a tendentious CW item. prof xi o isn't even stating a position, only that they have trans friends and like Harry Potter (apparently this justifies an accusation of trolling, to the tune of a 45 [edit: 30, my back of the skull hangover sums aren't great] updoot difference. An uncharitable read might see some of the responses from prof xi o as sealioning. Cool. Take your uncharitable reading and keep it under wraps). If I was feeling extreme, I might posit being told you shouldn't be friends with my outgroup is not a valuable remark.

If I want to dunk on wingcucks I can go to arr drama. If I want to dunk on globohomo I can go to /pol/. If I want to dunk on chuds I'll join Hasan's discord. If I want to dunk on MAGAts I'll head over to /r/news. If I want to dunk on libtards I'll join the Mug Club. This is it, as far as I know, for frank and civil discussion between people, whose only commonality on themotte are their shared, seemingly intractable differences. This is unbelievably important to me, because there exists a reality where I am wrong. There is a chance that you too are wrong. Having a place where I can be presented with the absolute best argument against my pet philosophy (and those of others) is valuable, and it's valuable because it can if nothing else, diminish the evil I do as I navigate a confusing and confused world.

Overt forum-wide bias of any particular flavor or stripe, in my opinion, is the most pressing threat to the long term health of this site. Please don't fuck it up for everyone.

P.S. I will be appropriately embarrassed if the OP turns out to be another d*rwin, until that point try leaving the internet at the door and treating everyone as if they are, in fact, sincere.

First of all, I hope this poster has read https://www.themotte.org/post/195/what-to-do-when-you-get

Ah, cool, thanks for that-- I hadn't read it. There is some good advice in there.

Second of all, I'd like to express my disappointment in nearly every response I've seen them receive. The fact that their question, which appears to have been made in total good faith, is still getting dogpiled and drive by downvotes is vicariously embarrassing. This isn't a culture war issue.

Hearing this feels really good, and I can see how you feel that way. The replies were arguably kind of harsh. I am fine with the response I got, although in my ideal timeline the responses would have given me more intellectual ammunition, terms/ideas to google, and examples/stories of how to disagree with your friends.

Before posting I did, for a brief moment, wonder if I should post in the culture war thread instead of wellness wednesday but went ahead because it was clearly framed as a personal issue, and I was basically genuine.

One possible reading of my initial post (and some of the replies) is that I was trying to steel-man my friend's position (without knowing exactly what it was because I had avoided the subject), but in all honesty my views and position on the matter initially weren't all that well-defined beyond some misgivings, and I've refined my position a lot since then.

An uncharitable read might see some of the responses from prof xi o as sealioning.

Hadn't heard of this, I can see how it might fit some of my replies.

apparently this justifies an accusation of trolling, to the tune of a 45 [edit: 30, my back of the skull hangover sums aren't great] updoot difference

I did eventually notice the downvotes (maybe they don't show up on mobile or something? for some reason in some views I didn't see them) and my initial thought was, "that's odd, I should ignore that and consider it a sign of engagement with the content, I shouldn't let it discourage me from posting." I was more excited that I got some high-effort responses.

I also noticed that downvotes don't show up on people's profiles (comments do), and I think comments are a better signal of quality engagement (probably)

One problem with the downvotes is that it's not totally clear what they're about, here's my predictions about what they mean:

  1. 30% Your position is stupid, I'm not going to argue, just downvote, go do some research

  2. 30% I don't like trans people bossing around the internet

  3. 20% This should have been in the culture war thread

  4. 20% this is clearly a troll

P.S. I will be appropriately embarrassed if the OP turns out to be another d*rwin, until that point try leaving the internet at the door and treating everyone as if they are, in fact, sincere.

If my goal as a poster is to drive engagement with my post that aligns pretty well with the goals of a troll, is there an important distinction? I guess I also am interested in learning rather than just driving engagement/outrage, so that might be detectable.

I want to hear the d*rwin story

I did eventually notice the downvotes (maybe they don't show up on mobile or something? for some reason in some views I didn't see them)

Scores for individual posts are hidden for the first 24 hours to encourage users to engage with the actual content of the OP/reply, rather than the numerical value of community sentiment. This also has the lovely side effect of curtailing the more odious forms of karma obsession, such as "E: wow, didn't expect this to blow up!" or "haha the kids are mad, tell ur mom to send more pizza rolls to the basement".

One problem with the downvotes is that it's not totally clear what they're about

A problem you and I share.

30% Your position is stupid, I'm not going to argue, just downvote, go do some research

Far and away the most reasonable excuse for the reaction you received, there's an unspoken assumption here that one needs a fairly comprehensive understanding of the differing views and narratives of sundry CW topics. I don't have a particular opinion on this norm as I can understand both positions WRT how well informed a poster should be when saying something here (pro: you are wasting peoples time by prompting them to explain something that could've been googled. con: you can't expect everyone to stay abreast at all times of the goings on in every genre of the CW in order to contribute to the discussion).

I want to hear the d*rwin story

I am confident you wouldn't once you did, it's boring forum drama and the poster in question either sublimated his rhetoric to the point he blends in with the background or just didn't bother following this forum to its current iteration.

Scores for individual posts are hidden for the first 24 hours

Except for this one and your other reply in this thread, which was made two hours ago but apparently edited 21 hours ago (?). Paging @ZorbaTHut

Edit: nevermind, the times on these posts are what's shifting about, I grabbed a screenshot from my phone showing these as sub-1 hour. Weird.

I understand the concern, but I also basically agree with all object-level responses given in the thread, and seeing as multiple people have even offered reasonable life advice for the specific problem, which @prof_xi_o seemed to take at face value and appreciate, I don't agree it illustrates some major failure mode of the community.

(For the purpose of this post I shall ignore the question of his sincerity and treat this as a test of our virtues).

Ultimately there's no helping that the issue raised and its implied default solution (to wit, scrubbing mentions of that new game and JKR off the public net) are massive triggers for this sub's culture, which is biased in favor of free speech absolutism by construction and self-selection, even more so than it is biased in favor of right-wing sensibilities and disdain for weaponization of victimhood claims.

Perhaps we need to learn to not engage so... earnestly. You can notice my absence there; I've estimated that the expected marginal value of my input is below the cost of adding to the apparent dogpile, distressing OP and probably diminishing his willingness to read the already provided object-level advice charitably. Others have decided otherwise. Maybe we need to codify this heuristic into a rule (haven't we already?).

But leaving this coordination problem aside, I believe that the response was overall admirable. Some share of snark, to say nothing of downvotes, is extremely hard to avoid when irreconcilable philosophies meet; the measure of the community is whether there is still the will to engage on proposed terms, helpfully and within the bounds of polite discourse. A plurality of posts can be unreservedly described as expressing this will. This cannot be said of the average or even a high-brow community that engages in dunking on an ideological outsider.

You can notice my absence there; I've estimated that the expected marginal value of my input is below the cost of adding to the apparent dogpile, distressing OP and probably diminishing his willingness to read the already provided object-level advice charitably.

I don't blame you for not jumping on the dogpile, but it would be a shame if your views on the matter differ substantially from the other posters (or if you have ideas that haven't been expressed already). Please don't let your estimation of my feelings keep you from being critical in this case, though I can understand how a bias towards caution is warranted.

I also basically agree with all object-level responses given in the thread

Same. I don't disagree that these trans friends hold an irrational, low information and censorious cluster of beliefs, but this is something I believe to be comorbid with the Human Condition™. I too hold a number of irrational or otherwise low information beliefs on a great many topics, and I suspect everyone else here does as well. The idea that one should take the advice to cut ties as a result of ignorant opinions with those in their immediate circle, as delivered by a stranger on the internet (regardless of context or object level content) seems preeminently dim to me, let alone reasonable. I'll confess to some difficulty now squaring your circle: how can someone of your background and obvious familiarity with the history of a culture that rewards filial impiety1 be comfortable endorsing a practice that is at least superficially similar in type? Or is this something you've already considered, and feel that these two are sufficiently (or completely) disparate subjects?2 Please keep in mind I do not mean that there's never a reason to cut someone completely out of your life, or that you even need a good reason for it, only that the idea of someone (who is unfamiliar with your life beyond whatever broad strokes you provide) telling you to do it for political reasons is just wild.

Perhaps we need to learn to not engage so... earnestly.

In essence, that is my point. Being met with a circling of the wagons doesn't assist in the exploration of ideas, even if the point of exploring said ideas is to eviscerate them more effectively.

Maybe we need to codify this heuristic into a rule (haven't we already?).

I also thought that there was something along those lines already enshrined, but the closest thing to such a stricture would be the rules pertaining to consensus and inclusion. Nothing said in any of the immediate replies rises, in my opinion, to the level of requiring moderator action. That said I believe that the letter of the law may rhyme with the spirit, but that they do in fact mean different things. You don't need to say "as everyone knows" when everyone coincidentally seems to know and profess the same thing. No use getting worked up over consensus building when the consensus is obviously already built.

the measure of the community is whether there is still the will to engage on proposed terms, helpfully and within the bounds of polite discourse.

I agree, and I may have gotten carried away with doomsaying; themotte is not even close to declining to the point I would stop visiting, let alone lose its value on the broader 'net. I don't believe this is a problem as it stands, but I do believe this specific ailment I have described will raise its ugly head in the fullness of time. I lack the experience, knowledge and understanding needed for maintaining an online community, and have little to offer as far as adjustments go. I only believe it's necessary to avert this particular future if this place is going to hold any value down the line, and I can at least point out what I see as the first sprout poking up from the soil.

You can notice my absence there

An amusing downside to posting prolifically is that one's absence does in fact become notable, if only for a given genre of topic.

1Apologies for the source, but the internet is inexhaustible and SEO has crippled my ability to confidently scrape for a more reputable source of my illustration in a reasonable timeframe.

2I am genuinely curious, I am not accusing you of any sort of hypocrisy or double standard. I don't even recall if it's a topic you've explored publicly here, if you have done so I'm always ready to read or reread your write ups.

I'll confess to some difficulty now squaring your circle: how can someone of your background and obvious familiarity with the history of a culture that rewards filial impiety1 be comfortable endorsing a practice that is at least superficially similar in type?

Well, this cuts both ways: don't you think Pavlik's surviving relatives were justified in cutting ties with him? Regarding your footnote, I endorse this expose. I mention Pavlik here and that's probably it.

But seriously, what I endorse are technological solutions along these lines. At least 4 of the first-tier replies suggest some form of this client-side filtering. If OP's friends insist that they find it unsatisfactory, this means they're not really feeling threatened by stimuli per se, and this is intrinsically a question of exerting political power at OP's behalf, which puts their friendship into question, and makes the discussion of severing the relationship – such as there is – relevant. I won't reiterate the rest of the discussion on blackmail, whether friends make friends scrub Harry Potter off the web and such here.

Personally I violate Western best practices egregiously and comically, and avoid dropping friends regardless of political differences, psychopathy, psychiatric conditions and material conflicts of interest. It tends to work out in the long run; my loyalty is, eventually, appreciated. But I have lost friends which deemed it fit to not reciprocate this principle; and I think that's for the better. For my better, that is.

Thank you for clarifying, I knew Pavlik was a bad example of what I was attempting to gesture towards but my collection of annotations and bookmarks is a mess right now, and I didn't want to dig through my disorganized references for a better one. Thank you for putting in the effort on my behalf. I understand that Pavlik isn't quite what I intended to describe, but it's something along these lines; authoritarian regimes (it need not be the USSR; North Korea also works and is a more contemporary example), extremist/terrorist organizations and cults as a necessary function of their position in society at large must encourage the individual to atomize, to cut away as much of the social safety net as thoroughly as possible.

I feel no discomfort over the idea someone might terminate a relationship of their own accord (up to and including, sometimes especially, family), but I do find it disturbing to see others advocate that path. It sets off just about every alarm I have in my head and makes me question the moral fibre of those recommending it. Your ideology of choice doesn't have a couch to crash on, it doesn't have that one recipe that it makes every time you visit, it won't provide comfort in your grieving, in short it can provide exactly zero aid or succor to you the human being. A person is fundamentally feeble in a universe that is very, very strong, and it's only inside of a circle of close friends and family that one can move forward, let alone make their mark on the world (there are few loners remembered by history, almost never in a positive light. They also tend to be exceptional human beings for whom a case could be made that they had no peers, at least not locally available to them. I think they can safely be considered an exception that proves the rule). The annulment of any relationship should be taken seriously, even if said relationship is trivial, and telling someone that that is their best course of action borders, IMO, on evil. In the interest of civility and because I know that my gut is imputing motives on others, I'm perfectly happy to settle for calling it inappropriate.

along the lines of this one

Wholeheartedly agree for this specific reply, it's the only one that I felt managed to answer the actual question as posed by the OP without being sandwiched between a few paragraphs of moralizing. I tried to avoid mention of specific posts and posters because I didn't and don't think that hectoring them would do any good and probably would do a modicum of bad, but that was the post I had in mind when I wrote

nearly every response I've seen them receive.
(added emphasis)

Personally I violate Western best practices egregiously and comically, and avoid dropping friends regardless of political differences, psychopathy, psychiatric conditions and material conflicts of interest. It tends to work out in the long run;

Loyalty, in my opinion, is among the greatest virtues a human can hold, and I personally feel it acts as something like the metaphysical cousin to a sacrament the more irrational and unconditional it becomes. I believe that a person's relationship with his friends and family regardless of who they are should be treated as unimpeachable. The person in question may be in fact quite impeachable, as a matter of law or what have you, but the actual relationship itself should be held as sacrosanct. We, as a species, are way too messed up in the head to be able to either afford or justify easy dismissal of one another. Glass houses, and such.

Zero is more than some people's family provides.

Loyalty, in my opinion, is among the greatest virtues a human can hold, and I personally feel it acts as something like the metaphysical cousin to a sacrament the more irrational and unconditional it becomes. I believe that a person's relationship with his friends and family regardless of who they are should be treated as unimpeachable. The person in question may be in fact quite impeachable, as a matter of law or what have you, but the actual relationship itself should be held as sacrosanct. We, as a species, are way too messed up in the head to be able to either afford or justify easy dismissal of one another. Glass houses, and such.

I do worry a little bit about outing my friend(s) to this community, as in some sense I used our shared experience as fodder for internet clout. Hopefully I can make it up to them by having a great conversation about J.K. Rowling/Harry Potter.

Edit: plurality

I honestly don't think this is a situation where frank and civil discussion is possible. Imagine a parallel post along the lines of "Some of my really good friends are wildly upset about the fact that people exist who don't follow their religion. I still like Jewish comedians. What should I do?" If it's not trolling, it's a genuinely amazing display of innocence.

Sorry for adding to the wall of text, but I just realized you were one of the respondents there (I realized I was getting pretty bummed by the way some posters I really respect had written their replies and I try to avoid hanging feelings on a person online). I want to be clear, I have no specific issue with most of what's being said in that thread. Again, my big problem is primarily with the pile on. His question was fairly innocuous and considering some of the other material posted here made very, very few assumptions. The one mistake was being blue-coded.

Also to your credit and undermining my point, you did in fact seriously engage and provided a thoughtful and reasoned response when asked.

I'm personally a fan of the Wellness Wednesday thread as one of the best random internet stranger advice sources. It escapes the rage-bait/circlejerk flair that the r/*advice subreddits almost universally share.

This isn't a culture war issue.

"Queer interest groups call for social censorship of topics based on witchhunt of the week" sounds like a plausible lede to any CW thread effortpost. Sure, there's a personal spin, where the interest groups are instead his friends, but that's about as CW a topic as you can get without going into "my friends are being beat up by $OTHER_RACE every other week, any (Wellness Wednesday) advice on arming myself for the coming race war?".

That said, not a single comment actually bites and turns it full fledged CW shit-flinging fest, he evens gets a concrete solution with uBlock rules.

As for the downvotes, I'll be charitable and attribute them to a natural response to an obvious troll post. The writing style gives it away

How can I support my trans friends while also being okay with people enjoying the new Harry Potter game?

How should I feel about streamers who choose to play the new Harry Potter game on stream? In some sense they have disregarded my friends' feelings and excluded them from their community!

The level of detail - trans friends (who I love dearly) - coupled with the admittedly amusing false dichotomies is a dead giveaway. There was no need to go into that level of detail to get meaningful advice - "my friends are getting offended because content-creators have different views than them, what should I do" would have sufficed and would have nonetheless garnered, I reckon, substantially the same response.

Arguing that Jesus was gay at $IVY_LEAGUE might not be trolling, but walking into a Texas church and asking the pastor whether there's any evidence to support that claim sure is.

It escapes the rage-bait/circlejerk flair that the r/*advice subreddits almost universally share.

Really? Because what I saw was 8/9 top level replies using varying degrees of effort and wordcount to say essentially the same thing; "your friends are unreasonable, possibly deranged, your continued existence as a mentally stable sophont is in jeopardy if you leave these people in your life". Social circles are vitally important and are precarious things at best, and telling a stranger to rip up a part of theirs (who knows how sizeable that part is, immaterial to my point), especially over a CW topic, is not good advice, by any measure. The problem for me however isn't that this advice was dispensed (I think it's a real position that a reasonable person can have, I'm not accusing anyone of misrepresenting their own beliefs), the problem is it's the only goddamn advice he got, sans the one person who read his post and provided an answer to the actual question within.

Additionally, I believe that you can in fact discuss CW adjacent topics like "how do I navigate a situation where my friends feel strongly about !issue and I really don't, here are my uninformed and nascent opinions, wat do" without the obviously negative reaction he received. He very technically invited this when he said

Any response is much appreciated.

Still not an excuse for the smug dogpile, not in a place allegedly dedicated to good faith discussion.

I suspect if the political valence had been flipped he would've received at least a more neutral/positive response e.g. "My friends are strongly pro-life and think that Roe being overturned is a landmark victory for innocent life, I kind of feel like it's not murder but this isn't an issue I care much about and I'd rather not alienate my friends if that isn't necessary, wat do." "Wow wow sounds like ur friends might have something to teach u, try asking them for profound opinions" (I view the pro-position on both abortion and trans issues to be largely unreasonable along very similar dimensions and to somewhat similar degrees, but I think a differently coded question of the same genre would have prompted a VERY different response, not like my exaggerated example but along those lines).

Is this a troll?

The level of detail - trans friends (who I love dearly) - coupled with the admittedly amusing false dichotomies is a dead giveaway. There was no need to go into that level of detail to get meaningful advice - "my friends are getting offended because content-creators have different views than them, what should I do" would have sufficed and would have nonetheless garnered, I reckon, substantially the same response.

Maybe this is uncharitable of me, maybe I didn't make my point clearly the first two times. Regardless,

Maybe he's a troll. Maybe he intends to stir shit up, JAQ off, dissemble then flame out. Cool. Wait for that to happen. I'd like to see this place manage discourse a little bit better than mentally installing a script that turns [Blue Tribe shibboleth] into [!downvote] regardless of how ridiculous I or you or anybody else might find the woke catechism.

I've lurked this place for years in its various forms, and yes, there are fewer and fewer high quality leftwing/liberal contributors every year (are libbies too thin-skinned for rational discussion? I think so! Does public pontification on the topic of Blue tribe irrationality and pussification drive away left-wing posters? Yes! That's why I will always keep my mouth shut for topics I can't write an evenhanded take on). That's why I feel it's incumbent upon all users of this site to point out the burgeoning Red tribe bias that is contributing to the evaporative cooling here. Is it a problem at the moment? I don't think so, could be wrong. Is this going to be a problem in a year? Probably, and it'll compound over time. This place is neat, I've made my case upthread already for why I think that is. If I come here same time next year and this place is where the 125 IQ groypers and Anime PFPs™ hang out, well, miss me with that shit. I know plenty of smart rightwingers in my personal life, I don't want to go online and read the shitpost version of something I already agree with.

I'll dial back my tone a few notches so we don't talk past each other. I think you've started this thread out of genuine concern for the culture of this place, which is a good common starting point.

I suspect if the political valence had been flipped he would've received at least a more neutral/positive response

Maybe..? I really feel like the trollbait tone attracted more disparaging replies. Picture

I have some Young Earth Creationist friends (who I love dearly) and they are offended by some of the Ice Age movies. When they see Ice Age content (including streams and clips of the new Ice Age 2: The Meltdown game), it can be offensive and threatening for them.

Downvotes are the online equivalent of an eye-roll or a sneer. You're not (at least, necessarily) dignifying the thought with a fully-formed response or counter-argument, but you're shaking your head as your counterpart speaks. Now prof_xi has strolled into the temple and yelled Sibboleth, and though the Gileadites did sneer, they did not slay him.

The Culture War Thread aimed to be a place where people with all sorts of different views could come together to talk to and learn from one another.

[...]

But once you remove [spam, bots, racial slurs, low-effort trolls, and abuse], you’re left with people honestly and civilly arguing for their opinions. And that’s the scariest thing of all.

The one foundational principle of this place, the shibboleth of Mottizens, is the belief that if it can be said respectfully and civilly, it can be said here. This is a bastion of (moderated) free speech. The Motte left reddit (amongst other reasons) because of increasing admin attention, notably around transgender CW conversations. The Motte has survived the Pharaoh chasing them across the Red Sea (r/ssc -> /r/TheMotte) , and wandering the desert for 40 years (r/TheMotte under a fickle and vindictive YWVH/spez), before finding its Promised Land here. An entire Exodus just to keep worshipping at the altar of freedom of expression.

prof_xi wandered amongst the Israelites to ask how people felt about them Moabite thots and gods. He waltzed into a mosque to ask help for his friends who are putting together a Mohammed sculpture visible from space.

I believe that my trans friends should be able to browse the internet without seeing content they deem hateful/disturbing

This is about as antithetical to the spirit of this place as you can get. And as far as a response to the desecration of local idols go, that thread managed to remain essentially constructive and, in my opinion, exceedingly charitable.

What's on display here isn't Red tribe bias lynching a befuddled Blue tribe newcomer, rather overly polite entertainment of a pretty conspicuous troll.

I don't disagree with anything you've written here, sans the reiteration of this guy's troll status. Maybe my trolldar is out of whack but IME even concern trolls don't seriously respond the way he seemed to. Perfectly willing to accept that I'm wrong in this instance, but I still think it's uncharitable to levy that accusation based only off of that thread. That said I still can't help but feel like my takeaway here hasn't been taken away. I can only assume this is due to a lack of precision or unintentional obfuscation on my part, or maybe the point was made, received, and summarily discarded (that's fine, if I've been spazzing out here please let me know, seriously. If that's the case then I sincerely apologize for wasting the reader's attention and server runtime). It was wrong of me to even mention score (I personally loathe that there's even a scoring system here in the first place, but people seem to like it so I'll accept that I'm in the minority and won't be a pest about it), it distracts from what I'm trying to describe.

What bothered me was that after the second or third reply, his post kept attracting rejoinders for days (I know, I know, it's an internet forum and responding to a day or two day old post isn't necroing, but I didn't think it was worth remarking upon until I saw another dunk close to three days after the OP) with an almost identical theme to the rest. What I don't mean is, that if someone already said what you think then you should shut up and not say anything at all. What I do mean is, that after receiving a few replies making it clear in detail that this framing is inappropriate for this place, the dead horse kept attracting blows. It would be more healthy for the site, in my opinion, simply to not try (deliberately or not) to drum others out for such a faux pas. Yes, I think the average person (and especially a Blue1) receiving this degree of reaction one or two times will most likely never come here again. The point I have struggled to convey is: that someone saying something objectionable should be objected to, but just because you disagree with a post doesn't mean you need to say it, especially when you can just scroll down and see your opinion already well represented. It just makes you feel good, and them bad.

To use some verbiage I hate but still find useful, I think the way this community treats the Blues is toxic. Is it justified? I'm willing to concede that point, but I didn't come here to turn the tables on my outgroup, I came here for discussion featuring light as opposed to heat. I hope it isn't necessary to say that it's bad when the Blues do it, and it's bad when the Reds do it. I think themotte has already started down the path of becoming a social media-tier echochamber, just in photo negative. I hold this place and its users to a significantly higher standard than I do twitter or reddit, and it's not because everyone here is smarter than them but rather everyone is trying to be better than them.

Thank you for taking the time to write a serious reply.

1I am perhaps being uncharitable when I say that lefty potential-posters are more easily offended than the righties. For clarity's sake, I do not advocate a two-tier moderation system for the opposing ends of the political spectrum as a solution for this.

Yeah, I think we disagree on the premise (whether it's trolling or not), which then colors our view of the rest of the incident. -- Sidenote: @ZorbaTHut, any chance for troll prediction markets with a karma reward system? Or actually more generally, karma system based around correctly predicting/adjudicating moderation results (i.e., extended comment judgement requires you to slide a probability bar for each of the outcomes).

I personally hate the type of feeling based analysis that pervades forums (it feels overwhemingly X-tribe, so much more than before, halycon days, blah blah blah). I think polling (modulo polling bias) and other analytics can give much better insight into dynamic and culture progressions than any rudimentary glance over a few threads. Since this is the "Something Shiny" thread, maybe optional polling built in to themotte.org? Recurring, get a sense of trends over time. With a system like that, you can conclusively* answer questions like are Blue Tribe folk actually leaving in droves? Maybe they're actually becoming Grey/Purple/Red as they spend time here. Maybe there never were that many, and they got busy with other things in life. Maybe they're actually more common, just more moderate in tone and therefore stand out less. These datasets are now all a SQL query away. I hope the custodians use it wisely.

Sidenote: @ZorbaTHut, any chance for troll prediction markets with a karma reward system? Or actually more generally, karma system based around correctly predicting/adjudicating moderation results (i.e., extended comment judgement requires you to slide a probability bar for each of the outcomes).

I'm entertained by the idea but I do not have even remotely enough time to work on this. If someone else wants to do so, go for it.

That said, note that we have no way of objectively telling whether someone was a troll.

I think polling (modulo polling bias) and other analytics can give much better insight into dynamic and culture progressions than any rudimentary glance over a few threads. Since this is the "Something Shiny" thread, maybe optional polling built in to themotte.org? Recurring, get a sense of trends over time. With a system like that, you can conclusively* answer questions like are Blue Tribe folk actually leaving in droves?

We actually had a polling system originally but it was horribly broken and we just took it out :V Probably wouldn't be hard to put together a new one though. I'm a bit skeptical of data validity, but especially when combined with the Volunteer system we can probably get some actual signal out of it.

Yeah, the question of whether or not the post in question was made in good faith to begin with seems to be the main source of contention here, and what I'm seeing as poor behavior is being read as good and deserved judgement. I'm on board with any idea that pushes an accusation of trolling towards something less immediate and personal, since trolling is both a legitimate problem in any online community (with an exception for those dedicated to the art form itself) and also an easily weaponized memeplex that regularly confuses actual disagreement with malice.

I also agree WRT the "vibe check", it's hardly rigorous and easily motivated by bias and shouldn't be trusted, at least in a vacuum. That's fine! My operating assumption on topics and people I do not have extensive personal experience with, is that I am almost certainly wrong about every aspect of my mental model to some degree (I'm not enough of a schizo yet to believe I've stumbled upon the Grand Narrative of Universe, just enough to have my own pet theory on it).

My assertion that themotte has pushed and is pushing towards higher Red tribe participation is purely anecdotal, based mostly off of how many individual left-leaning posters I can recall from the old SSC and theMotte subreddits, to how many have made it to the off-site, as compared to the more prominent right-leaning posters. Obviously this is selecting for more than just temperature or political bias, and probably should have been lampshaded with the usual epistemic-uncertainty caveats (I'll admit to some difficulties on that front. I don't want to misrepresent my position, I also don't want to write a small essay each time I reply to someone. Balancing precision and concision is hard and I'm awkward with both). Besides, as you point out, there are plenty of good reasons to stop participating here besides feeling unwelcome.

Your polling idea sounds interesting at the very least, and is on-brand for themotte.

In the interest of not talking past each other, I would like to stress that my hopes for frank and civil discussion are for here, not the rule of discourse for some random guy with trans buddies. Everyone is free to dab on the outgroup as much as they like but he shouldn't be berated for having trans friends, not here of all places.

He asked for help navigating a difficult social scenario. He received approximately one genuine response to his question. The rest who deigned to engage did so so they could point at him and say that the people he actually knows and engages with are unreasonable actors and must be educated on facts of the matter, if that doesn't work then they should be excluded from his life. Sure, this is an answer to his question; it is addressed to him/references something written in the OP/is a coherent English sentence. Telling a person to cut someone out of their lives is a big big deal; if someone I didn't know told me to do so myself (for any reason. I do mean any reason), I would dismiss them out of hand and update to devalue their opinions somewhat on everything. If it were done to acclaim from everyone else around I would update to assume that I was in very much the wrong place. People who are interested in your long term wellbeing tend to not give advice that's quite so crazy.

Maybe he's a troll. Maybe he intends to stir shit up, JAQ off, dissemble then flame out. Cool. Wait for that to happen. I'd like to see this place manage discourse a little bit better than mentally installing a script that turns [Blue Tribe shibboleth] into [!downvote] regardless of how ridiculous I or you or anybody else might find the woke catechism. Maybe I've misunderstood the point of this place and I'm going to look very silly in front of everyone, if so you have my apologies in advance.

Second of all, I'd like to express my disappointment in nearly every response I've seen them receive. The fact that their question, which appears to have been made in total good faith, is still getting dogpiled and drive by downvotes is vicariously embarrassing. This isn't a culture war issue. It's a person in the life advice thread asking for life advice on interpersonal relationships as it pertains to their trans friends concerns over a tendent

If you hover over the score, it still got 6 upvotes. All it means is the opinion is unpopular with the majority of people, but nonetheless five additional people still thought it was worthwhile to vote up. It's like politics. Most candidates get few votes compared to the front-runners, but they carve a niche/audience anyway, like Ron Paul and others. Similarly, a TV show or band can still be a success if it has a small and loyal audience.

I thought after writing this that I should've been clear that I didn't mean absolute difference between only positive scores. What I was attempting to highlight was the presence of unjustified negative reactions to what is a pretty banal question. Besides, saying something unpopular should in fact be incentivized, it's (partly) the purpose of a good faith discussion. Heat-forward, inflammatory, noisy shitposts should be disincentivized.

I suspect somewhere around 16 people read his question and made it to the part where he said "my trans friends" for the first time, then decided they hated what they were reading and hit the appropriate button. I happen to believe that is an ugly and stupid way of engaging with someone who is earnestly looking for an answer.

(Edit: the score has also shifted somewhat to the positive since I wrote this post, I believe my point stands)

What classifier architectures are you looking at? And in the supervised case, how are you planning to establish ground truth (correct label is comment deserves a ban)?

What classifier architectures are you looking at?

I hacked something up that seems to work OK. I need something that can function on very low amounts of data without access to high-end hardware, and this seems to be vaguely doing the job. I'm sure this can be improved, it's a first revision.

And in the supervised case, how are you planning to establish ground truth (correct label is comment deserves a ban)?

Comparing against actual past mod decisions, as well as mod decisions via the volunteer system, basically. It's not ideal because it's noisy, but it's not like we have a non-noisy source of data; that's the problem, fundamentally :)

LLMs tend to do fairly well at this type of small dataset classification problem, has there been any investigation into GPT-3's API for this?

There's a built-in sentiment analyzer, and it's fairly straightforward once you've munged your dataset to get a rudimentary (or not!) classifier, outputting logprobs.

Some documentation is available here, if you're curious.

This does not stop them from seeing your comments, nor does it stop them from replying to your comments.

The second one defeats the point of blocking someone. When you block someone it means you don't that person to engage with you anymore.

If we rephrase that to "you don't want to have interactions with that person anymore", then this doesn't defeat the point, it still accomplishes that. It's a subtle difference, I acknowledge, and this isn't a strict Pareto improvement. But the alternative had some pretty nasty consequences that this version avoids.

What exactly does the following feature do? Anything besides just adding them to a list?

Whenever a user whom you follow makes a new post (not a comment), you receive a notification.

Do the "deserves a warning" and "deserves a ban" (and "actually a quality contribution") options on janitor duty generate reports for the mods? I was asked to review a bad comment earlier, and I think that would streamline it a bit.

On a similar note, since bans vary pretty greatly in severity here, should there be some way to distinguish between a comment deserving a short ban and a long ban? A one-day ban is more similar to a warning than to a long ban, I think.

Maybe.

A large part of the distinction between a large ban and a short ban comes from how often they've been banned. But not all of it.

I do want to avoid having too many checkboxes, though - honestly I think we may already have too many.

Balancing act :/

If you were going for a shorter list, I'd omit "good," "bad," and collapse "deserves a warning/ban" into one option and have a mod consider the appropriate response. The current list might be superior if you're looking at calibration of the user input, though.

Quality contribution speaks for itself. For egregiously bad comments, I'll usually tag them "deserves a warning," since I'm hoping that will flag mod attention, which will escalate to a ban if reasonable under the circumstances. If my opinion is good/bad/neutral, I'll usually tag "neutral" because that correctly signals my view of "no mod action needed" and my subjective opinion of the comment isn't really important past that point.

At the moment, no; in fact, the janitor-duty messages are chosen from reports.

The current next-step is to rig things up so the mods get Warning/Ban May Be Justified confidence feedback from the janitor system. This has not happened because I'm going through Fun Employment Adventures (tm) but it's in process :)

Is there really no random stuff in there? Even aside from the obvious quality contribution reports, 70+% of the posts are totally unobjectionable

There is absolutely no random stuff in there. Every single comment you see has been reported at least once.

This is a large part of the mod workload, and is why I'm trying to solve that :V

But this goes deeper than it sounds. Part of having the system prompt you is that not all prompts will be the system attempting to get actionable info from you. Some of the prompts will be the system trying to compare your choices against a reference, and the system will then use this comparison to figure out how much to trust your decisions.

I thought for sure that this meant some of the comments in the volunteer set were not chosen due to a user-initiated report, but were system-chosen, and I've been confidently wrong about that assumption. Mea culpa.

I agree with @Bernd, though--that means the report button is being massively overused. I assign "neutral" a lot.

So there's a gap between "as originally planned", "as implemented", and "as currently planned" :)

The original plan is that it would in fact use some well-established comments as references now and then. The current implementation was me saying "eh, you know what, this doesn't matter, I'm just not going to worry about it for now, let's just base it off reports".

The current plan is that maybe I just don't need to worry about introducing reference comments because I'm honestly getting tons of good calibration data off reported comments.

But once this gets hooked up to making actual decisions, that might not work anymore. It might be that I then have to introduce comments that have already been decided on in some way. This is still up-in-the-air.

Your assumption was right about my original plans and may be right later on as well, it's just not right at the moment because I wanted to get something working. This is a completely reasonable assumption to make.

Would it be possible in the profile view to add a feature where I could sort comments by most children/responses rather than by upvotes?

Sometimes there are prolific comments that don't actually get very many votes, I'd like to be able to find them more easily.

Should now be done! It's under "comments", it should probably be renamed, but I'm not doing that right now.

Actually, that'd be really easy now, we're caching that info. Request filed, this is the kind of thing we could get to soon :)

Not sure if there is an easy way to prevent this but I just got served two comments to review that were responses to my own comments. I'd probably wish to abstain from judgement of such comments.

That's a good catch, yeah - it should probably exclude any comment that's a reply to you, and maybe two replies deeper than that as well.

This will not be changed for a while but it'll get changed eventually :)

Honestly. This is a great innovation.

I see it's hiding usernames now. That's good! but..

  • It's not hiding user flair

  • IMO, it's important to always check the context, and that reveals the username anyway

It's not hiding user flair

Should be fixed soon :)

IMO, it's important to always check the context, and that reveals the username anyway

True. I'm not sure there's a perfect fix for this. We made this change just to reduce the first-impression impact, but I don't think we can entirely solve this issue.

I'm feeling evil today, so here's a fun idea: disincentivize downvoting for disagreement. How?

  • Automatically add heavily downvoted comments to the volunjanny queue

  • Anyone downvoting a comment that doesn't get an average negative score at the volunjanny gets a tempban

But won't that cause people to negatively score comments at the volunjanny? If so:

  • Mods are the final arbiters. Anyone negatively scoring a comment that is ruled neutral or above by the mods gets banned even longer than the downvoters.

I ain't gonna ban people for downvoting incorrectly :V

I am thinking of eventually typing the vote system to the same sort of scoring system that the volunteer stuff already does. I don't quite know how this is going to work yet, but I do like the idea of scoring people who are historically accurate voters higher than people who aren't.

(Though there's problems here due to people being able to cherrypick their votes.)

If voting power is going to be weighted by voting the way the mods want, why not just make it so only the mods can vote? It's the same thing with fewer steps.

Because we don't have the ridiculous amount of time required to vote on everything, and even if we did, there's an accuracy cap imposed by being individual people.

I actually used to call this the Megaphone Project, in that the goal is to amplify the mods' approximate desires beyond the reach of the mods' actual abilities. The ideal goal is to rate every post in the way that a committee of people-with-the-rough-intentions-and-understanding-of-the-mods would agree upon after discussion. But using far far fewer resources than that.

I do want to note that there's a lot of value in wisdom of crowds. I suspect that, when it's built, this system can be more accurate than even a hypothetical where I personally go through and rate every comment. I fuck up sometimes, I'm just human, while a committee of three people is going to fuck up less often than that; if that committee is picked by "people who generally agree with the mods" then it's entirely possible that committee will do a better job than any individual mod could.

Not sure if there's anything you can do about this, but I will confess to a niggling doubt when I do the mod-duty thing: I don't know whether I'm being weighted positively, zero, or negatively, and in the latter two cases I'm wasting my time and/or being manipulated.

So, first, I'm not gonna do the negative-weight thing, it clamps at zero.

I'm not sure how I want to handle it from there. I don't want to waste people's time; at the same time I don't want to give people a strong hint as to whether they're being positively weighted. The nice thing about not telling anyone at all is that it makes it much harder for malicious users to exploit the system.

Suggestions welcome.

I don't want to waste people's time; at the same time I don't want to give people a strong hint as to whether they're being positively weighted. The nice thing about not telling anyone at all is that it makes it much harder for malicious users to exploit the system.

How about making the system blind unless the user spends a substantial amount of time (say, two weeks) with a weight of 0, at which point you graciously let them know they're screaming into a void? Otherwise the capybara gives everyone a pat on the back every once in a while, whether their weight is 0.01 or $MAXVAL.

This makes it hard to game because it's mostly a black box, but gives people assurance that what they're doing matters and doesn't waste their time. A malicious actor probably won't spend a month getting an account into good standing to do janny duty and waiting for Pass/Fail feedback before trying again, especially with no fine-grained data on what they did wrong last time.

Yeah, there's a reason I said "not sure if there's anything you can do about this".

My current understanding is that, right now, you are helping Zorba accumulate the data he needs to determine whether this meta-moderation stuff has any hope of working at all.

After I click on the squirrel and rate some comments, it would be nice to be plopped back from whence I came, typically the current CW thread. A clickable link might be better than autonavigating.