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Re: [all candidates] discussions in -devel

Serafeim Zanikolas <sez@debian.org> writes:

> In the words of Lars [*]:
>     We're not very good at dealing with situations where a few individuals
>     are dominating the discussion by being loud, insistent, and unwilling to budge
>     or to give any credence to opposing views. I don't know what to do about that,
>     but we clearly need social and possibly technical tools for this.
> According to Lars, behind the scenes diplomacy is not sustainable. It seems to
> me that the only way to solve this issue effectively is to make trolling
> harder (requiring more effort) than ending it.

My impression so far, is that trolling isn't all that common. Ignorance
and unwillingness to compromise are much more common (combine it with
all parties showing signs of these, and the high amount of traffic, and
things will blow up very quickly). The problem is, whatever technical
solution we come up with that makes trolling and other misbehaviors
harder, will make normal discussions harder too, and that is not
something I'd like.

> Our usual approach of darwinism (whereby a single hacker's solution gets
> gradually adopted) does not work here because any attempted solution (social,
> technical or both) requires some kind of upfront policy change (and, for
> technical measures, some kind of infra change).
> How do you propose that we go about dealing with this issue, keeping in mind
> that it's imposs^Wchallenging to get to consensus about non-technical and
> potentially controversial policy (moderation) changes?

Unlike Lars, I believe in behind the scenes diplomacy, but perhaps that
would need a bit more coordination: a handful of people attempting it
uncoordinated may have undesirable results. At other times, it is simply
impossible to stop a thread from blowing up, no matter how many people
you throw at the task. At these times, it would help if we had a way to
close down threads for a short amount of time (ie, anything that shares
the same subject, or references any message within the thread would be
held for moderation, or simply dropped). A reasonable rule of thumb
seems to be: "If it is more than 8 levels deep, or the thread has more
than two dozen mails within the first 48 hours, it will be going

But that's just an idea, and not a terribly good one, either.

I much prefer one of Lars' suggestion: "Real-life meetings between
participants. Debconf, sprints, FOSDEM, other such
conferences. Unfortunately, this is expensive, and we can't reach

Granted, that may not always be an option, but in many cases, I believe
it would work remarkably well. When a thread escalates and goes terribly
wrong, we can approach the involved parties behind the scenes, and
propose a real life meeting to resolve the issue. It's better for them,
better for us, and it needs preparation, so their energy will go into
gathering their thoughts instead of echoing the same things over and
over again to different people in the same thread.

Not everyone needs to be present at these meetings - perhaps there will
be times when the worst offenders won't even be there. But that's no
problem either, as if we get everyone else there, there will be noone to
feed the troll, either.

In short, I support real-life meetings to resolve these kinds of issues
that we usually see escalating, I'd prefer this over (moderation) policy
changes or technical workarounds. But if it comes to that, we should not
be afraid of working around social shortcomings with technical
roadblocks, either - at least temporarily.


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