More dissent at Groklaw.
November 10, 2007
Just a heads-up on a slow week-end.
Re: More dissent at Groklaw.
November 11, 2007
It's amazing how people continue to get upset over a simple moderation mechanism
that was put into Geeklog by its developers. The "hide moderated comment from everyone
but poster" approach was introduced way back in April 2004.
"3) The ability for selected moderators to hide comments from public
view. This is dependant on a new permission. These moderators
are not allowed to delete comments. It basically creates two levels
of moderators. Deleting is only allowed by the higher group of
In addition to this, the comments will be kept visible to the user
who posted the comment either based on the IP (anon users) or
the user id (logged in users). To prevent users from reposting the
same comment after they notice it is hidden."
Notice what this says. The moderation mechanism was created for use by a secondary level of moderators who would not have the ability to delete comments, only mark them as hidden. Only the highest level of moderator, probably PJ herself or a site administrator, could make a final decision about comment deletion. In the meantime, it was considered a site efficiency-enhancing feature by the Geeklog developer to allow the poster to continue seeing the moderated comment. Personally, I fail to see any evil motives in this reasoning.
Claims by some that this approach is somehow dishonest or unethical seem rather hollow to me. With the number of posters to Groklaw, and PJ's intentions to keep it a moderated comment site, it is obvious that people other than PJ must at times act as moderators. PJ recently confirmed in a post that many of these helper moderators work by flagging questionable posts (thereby hiding them from everyone but the poster) for later review by someone (PJ) for final disposition.
"I haven't been online for hours. I've been working on
the transcript of the 341 meeting. But it's no secret
that we have a system whereby other moderators
can flag a comment for me to decide on one way or
another when I next have a minute. I want that
system so I can overrule if someone has gone into
a questionable area."
In his complaint post, Weeble makes this argument:
"If there were objections to my posts, they should have either been deleted completely or I should have been notified why they were deemed objectionable."
Both of these proposed policies would be unworkable on a site such as Groklaw. It's already been pointed out that 2nd tier moderators do not have the power to delete comments, nor do I think PJ wants to give them such power. I personally have experienced cases where my comments were somewhat overzealously moderated, but then later restored upon further review. Immediate deletion would make such reconsiderations impossible. As for the second option, the prospect of implementing a policy requiring moderators to communicate with all posters of moderated comments explaining the reasons for moderation appear totally infeasible for a non-commercial site with the traffic of Groklaw.
If some people are still unaware of the moderation mechanism in place on Groklaw, they should be informed. Others who encourage these periodic outbursts of unnecessary recriminations over non-issues should be ashamed. I personally don't have much sympathy for those few who continue to fan flames of resentment with spasms of feigned outrage.
Re: More dissent at Groklaw.
November 11, 2007
It's always so much easier when arguing a point to set up a strawman of the opposing
position and rip it to shreds. Then you just attribute the refuted views and arguments
to all those who don't agree with you.
The history of Geeklog is interesting but whether PJ created the feature, lobbied for the feature or merely exploited it is irrelevant to the morality of its use. Try the same argument with guns or nuclear weapons. In any case there's this suggestive bit:
"I'm finished some additions to Geeklog that are may be useful for
a larger installation of Geeklog. Some of these additions are running
already on Groklaw and some are scheduled to be added to Groklaw
in the nearby future."
Weeble's proposed solutions are hardly exhaustive, so refuting them doesn't prove your case, and, in refuting them, you in effect beg the question by assuming that the only possible form of secondary moderation is sandboxing. The purpose of sandboxing is just what the documentation says - to trick the poster into believing the message is visible and not reposting.
The implied message is - "Let's just see how long it takes let this fool to realize that nobody can see his pearls of wisdom." When you send that message to a member who has contributed thousands of messages over 4 years without any problem, you get a very pissed off member.
There are two better solutions to that would be trivial to implement (if they're not already possible).
One is to hide the comment from all but the moderators. It still wouldn't be deleted, so secondary moderation could work exactly as it does now.
The other would be to sandbox the comment but have the software append a standard message. There would be very few of these and they would be standard,so the software would insert whichever of them the moderator chose. Trolling, bad language, defamation/personal abuse, posting of links to undesirable sites, spamming and arguing over deletion would about cover it. Since it is just a flagging, the messages should read something like "Your message has been flagged for possible deletion for XXXXXXX. If on further review this action was mistaken, it will be restored. Attempts to argue this point will be flagged as a matter of policy." Note that there has indeed been communication with the poster, but it is not particularly burdensome.
The sandboxing feature is used, because that's the way PJ wants to handle it. She's obsessed with trolls and astroturfers and having an additional weapon that might work against them is apparently more important than the hurt feelings of a few longtime contributors. The long list of former members who fell afoul of her proves this, if proof were needed..
The flames of outrage at PJ burn quite feebly. On the other hand the flames of outrage at personal attacks by her defenders cast a warm and cheerful glow on this cold winters night
Re: More dissent at Groklaw.
November 11, 2007
<<It's always so much easier when arguing a point to set up a strawman of the
opposing position and rip it to shreds. Then you just attribute the refuted views
and arguments to all those who don't agree with you.>>
Like you are attempting to do here? You're accusing me of arguing a strawman position in order to make it easier for your own following arguments to be taken more seriously, even though the claim is specious and without foundation.
"A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position."
My reply was specifically directed at the complaint stated by poster Weeble on GL. He seemed to base much of his complaint on the belief that better methods of handling moderation were available, specifically mentioning two. I did not misrepresent his opinions, nor take them out of context. I simply pointed out that one of the foundations of his argument were simply unrealistic. That in no way qualifies as a strawman argument, but it helps cast your argument in a better light to first attack my approach rather than the content of my posts. In that way you choose to start off by misrepresenting to others one basis of the disagreement, to my detriment and to your advantage. Now tell me who is employing strawman tactics?
So let's get away from playing the semantic games and get down to some meat of the issues before us.
<<The history of Geeklog is interesting but whether PJ created the feature, lobbied for the feature or merely exploited it is irrelevant to the morality of its use.>>
It's an easy appeal to emotion to argue that "morality" issues trump all others, even a less passionate review of facts and a careful consideration of the practical realities of life. Little facts such as PJ not being a programmer, system admin, or technical expert in any software field. She is a user of the Geeklog software, which means she uses the functionality that exists. The moderation mechanisms were implemented by the Geeklog developers, who are not directly affiliated with Groklaw. Are you claiming that simply using the provided mechanism on any blog is per se immoral, or only that using such a mechanism specifically on Groklaw is immoral? If you say its always immoral, then we will have to agree to disagree, because I personally think it is a reasonable approach (although not entirely successful) to moderation. If you want to limit your moral judgement strictly to Groklaw, and perhaps other sites like it (for some definition of like), then you should clarify the criteria which makes Groklaw unique in this regard because I don't see it.
<<Weeble's proposed solutions are hardly exhaustive, so refuting them doesn't prove your case, and, in refuting them, you in effect beg the question by assuming that the only possible form of secondary moderation is sandboxing.>>
I never claimed that my arguments proved anything. As you may be aware, I'm rather dubious about any claims of "proof" which turn out to be nothing more than further arguments. I posted my thoughts to refute the arguments I was given, not to attempt to refute the whole universe of possible counter-arguments. Holding that against me seems rather unreasonable, especially since people arguing against me constantly complain about the length of my responses as it is. My initial post wasn't intended to be the final word, just as I don't consider your response to be all encompassing either. Now that you've provided some other alternatives to the moderation question, we can consider those.
"One is to hide the comment from all but the moderators. It still wouldn't be deleted, so secondary moderation could work exactly as it does now."
This approach ignores the problem that the current moderation system attempts to mediate. Some posters who see that their comments have been moderated respond in ways that are either at odds with the goals set by the site owner, or at the least invoke more work by moderators to handle such responses. While this may seem unfair to people who may have never been the subject of such moderation actions in the past, I think it is more reasonable to view it as an appropriate measure to handle the much higher incidence of moderated content where the poster was well aware of the nature of the post. In addition, hiding posts immediately increases the likelihood of an immediate reaction from the poster, even if it later turns out the moderation could have been reversed at a later time after further review. I've had several posts on Groklaw fall into that category, where the comment was immediately sandboxed but later released. Your approach fails to reduce some negative effects of moderation lashback, and removes opportunities to delay adverse reactions when such responses may be mooted by later review.
"The other would be to sandbox the comment but have the software append a standard message. There would be very few of these and they would be standard,so the software would insert whichever of them the moderator chose."
I sounds to me that you would introduce an effective method for board spammers to fill the comment section with such messages, becoming a noticeable annoyance. Your statement that there would be "very few of these" is not supported by any evidence. In opposition, you have to consider the high traffic rate of Groklaw making it both a ripe target and opportunity for spammers and people who oppose Groklaw's mission to do their work, as well as PJ's statements implying that the number of moderated posts is not insignificant. What you are implying is that there are really at least two distinct classes of moderated content, the stuff that truly deserves to be moderated and the stuff that deserves to be treated more respectfully. In a perfect world, that might be true. In the real world, Geeklog doesn't appear to have the tools, and I don't think Groklaw has the manpower, to implement the kindler and gentler filtering you propose while still keeping the deliberately mischievous from disrupting normal operations.
<<The sandboxing feature is used, because that's the way PJ wants to handle it. She's obsessed with trolls and astroturfers and having an additional weapon that might work against them is apparently more important than the hurt feelings of a few longtime contributors.>>
That has been obvious for a rather long time. Other than engendering adverse feelings towards PJ, how does that influence the discussion about moderation and what constitutes acceptable and practical policies?
<<The flames of outrage at PJ burn quite feebly. On the other hand the flames of outrage at personal attacks by her defenders cast a warm and cheerful glow on this cold winters night.>>
Well, I would say the first part is mostly true. Most people don't care about this lingering BGE resentment against PJ. I suspect a few of the old guard persist more out of habit now rather than any real passion about the issue. That there are a few who still feel strongly about their perceived wrongs is evident here by the occasional spontaneous recurrence of anti-PJ posts, such as the thread you yourself participated in here, where I don't recall there being a single dissenting post :
That sure sounded like some lingering resentment to me. The second part is belied by the lack of response I mentioned above, as well as any actual reactions versus perceived reactions such sentiments have generated. There have been no "attacks" against BGEs here for a long time. Claiming not only that such attacks exist, but that they show a form of expressed outrage sufficient to provide any warmth whatsoever reminds me of the type of paranoia PJ is often accused of.
Deception in Groklaw's moderation practices (Re: More dissent at Groklaw.)
November 11, 2007
In the parent message (#49141 [ http://investorvillage.com/smbd.asp?pt=msg&mb=1911&mn=49141
]), Bystander1313 writes: "The moderation mechanisms were implemented by
the Geeklog developers, who are not directly affiliated with Groklaw."
I think you misread Niels Leenheer's 2004-04-09 email [ http://eight.pairlist.net/pipermail/geeklog-devel/2004-April/001063.html ] to the geeklog-devel list. Leenheer is writing to the Geeklog developers, to let them know about some of the modifications he has made for Groklaw and to offer to send them a patch "if you are interested in any of these additions". When he says "we are using 1.3.8", the "we" is Groklaw. His role is more explicitly laid out in his earlier email to Tony Bibbs that Bibbs included in his 2004-03-12 email to geeklog-devel [ http://eight.pairlist.net/pipermail/geeklog-devel/2004-March/001032.html ]:
"Once we've properly tested everything and everything is stable, I'm willing to look at how we can give these changes back to Geeklog. As simple patch between the current version of Geeklog and Groklaw will be difficult, because we are using 1.3.8-1sr4 and it also includes a lot of Groklaw specific modifications. If you are interested in these modifications, please let me know and we'll work something out."
Bystander1313 continues: "Your [Codswallet's] approach [i.e., the suggestion
that Groklaw should refrain from deception] fails to reduce some negative effects"
I certainly agree that perpetrating deception can have benefits. Theft and murder can also be very effective ways to achieve many goals. However, this doesn't answer people's ethical objections about those actions.
Further up this thread, in message #49115 [ http://investorvillage.com/smbd.asp?pt=msg&mb=1911&mn=49115 ], you wrote: "If some people are still unaware of the moderation mechanism in place on Groklaw, they should be informed."
Yes, and so informing people is what I have attempted to do by the publication of the page at http://scofacts.org/groklaw.html:
"I'm pointing all this out (1) so that people will know not to assume that groklaw is actually propagating their posts unless they've checked on this from other locations and (2) so that people can see some of the deleted posts and have some data to form an impression of what the criteria for deletion are in practice."
However, this informing of people about the mechanism, which you advocate, is
exactly what Jones and Peter Roozemaal (Mathfox) deliberately refused to do in the
September 2004 email exchange I posted on that webpage. Despite knowing that "some
people are still unaware of the moderation mechanism", Jones and Roozemaal have
continued to refuse to inform people about it for the more than three years since
then, which is why even a long-time and prolific contributor like Weeble was caught
unaware this week. All the while, Jones has claimed on the "Comments Guidelines"
page [ http://groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2004030120301285 ] that "The
Groklaw goal" is "devotion to the truth".
Even if Jones no longer has any programmers available to make changes for her, she could at any time discontinue the deception by simply adding a disclosure on the appropriate page. As I wrote years ago in Yahoo SCOX message #284139 [ http://finance.messages.yahoo.com/bbs?action=m&sid=1600684464&board=1600684464&tid=cald&mid=284139 ] (link to Mike Green's non-mangled version at badpenguins.com [ http://badpenguins.com/yarchive/yaview/html/scox/2004/10/05/188921.html ]) on 2005-07-23:
"Alternatively, it's trivial to simply add some text to the 'Comments Guidelines' page, or the 'Important Stuff' bullet points on the 'Post a Comment' page, stating that 'During the moderation process, a comment may be invisible to other users, but remain visible to you so that you know that the comment was received'."
The next day you wrote in a descendant of that post (message #284174 [ http://finance.messages.yahoo.com/bbs?action=m&sid=1600684464&board=1600684464&tid=cald&mid=284174
]): "If you would care to publish the contents of all your correspondences with
PJ on your site so that everyone could view the history of this conflict in its
entire context, I'm sure that would help clear up some of the confusion I have on
There had been no emails between Jones and me for more than a month prior to the six in September 2004 [ http://scofacts.org/groklaw.html ], nor were there any for several months afterward, and none of the prior or subsequent emails said anything about moderation or visibility of groklaw comments. Thus, I don't think they are necessary to understanding the September emails. Nevertheless, if you want to read all one hundred emails that I ever sent or received from Jones, then you can start with the ninety-eight of them from 2004 that are here:
(That's in Unix mailbox format, with messages separated by "\n\nFrom ". You can read it as plain text, but navigation will be easier if you use a mail reader.)
I made that file publicly available on 2004-10-05. As I wrote that day in Yahoo SCOX message #188921 [ http://finance.messages.yahoo.com/bbs?action=m&sid=1600684464&board=1600684464&tid=cald&mid=188921 ] (Green's version [ http://badpenguins.com/yarchive/yaview/html/scox/2004/10/05/188921.html ]):
"PJ continued [in Groklaw comment #216746, which responded to Tim Rushing's now-deleted groklaw comment #216610]:
> ... I don't feel the need to explain every last reason for
> the decisions I make. For one thing, sometimes it would
> embarrass other people if I told their bad behavior to the
> world. They may do things like that with nasty web sites
> telling half the story or less, and such, but I won't
> behave in such a smarmy way. ...
I don't know whether or not scofacts.org is one of the 'nasty web sites' she's
talking about, but, in any case, I've thrown onto scofacts the whole 98-message
Petrofsky/Jones email record so that all my embarrassing bad behavior will be revealed
to the world and its secrecy needn't be an impediment to anything:
(I know some people think that making that email available was a violation of Jones's privacy, but please note that: (1) I posted it in response to Jones's statement that the reason she was withholding the whole story was the protection of her detractors, not herself; and (2) her forty-one emails to me do not contain any revelations of any personal information that one would normally call "private". The topic of all of the emails is merely SCO, the law, and Groklaw.)
In the three years since I posted that file, there were no more emails from Jones to me and two more from me to her: one on 2005-05-13 directly addressed to her and one on 2007-02-26 addressed to Darl McBride with Jones on the list of courtesy copy recipients (by the way, that single unanswered email to McBride was my sole communication with anyone at SCO about SCO's purported efforts to find and serve process on Jones). For the contents of those two emails, see: this 2005-05-14 comment [ http://www.ip-wars.net/comments/2005/5/8/1338/44847/154 ] at ip-wars.net; and the bottom of usenet message <email@example.com> [ http://firstname.lastname@example.org ] on 2007-04-04, and its follow-up, message <email@example.com> [ http://firstname.lastname@example.org ], on 2007-06-15.)
Re: Deception in Groklaw's moderation practices (Re: More dissent at Groklaw.)
November 12, 2007
"I certainly agree that perpetrating deception can have benefits. Theft and murder can also be very effective ways to achieve many goals. However, this doesn't answer people's ethical objections about those actions."
Oops. There was supposed to be a footnote at the end of that second sentence:
"I certainly agree that perpetrating deception can have benefits. Theft and murder can also be very effective ways to achieve many goals1. However, this doesn't answer people's ethical objections about those actions."
1. Disclaimer: Al Petrofsky is a highly-trained professional thief and assassin.
Viewers are advised not to try these techniques at home.
Source: Investor Village SCOX [ http://www.investorvillage.com/smbd.asp?mb=1911 ]