A Conversation for The H2G2 Telephone Sanitizers

Gives me pause...

Post 1

Jimi X

This line really give me cause to pause: 'Provides ... a guarantee to the Community that punitive measures given out by the Italics are done so in a fair, objective and consistent manner.'

I really dislike this statement and its implications. If the Community has *really* lost faith in the paid staff, we've got bigger problems than a system of peer mediators can solve.

If I ever feel that I've lost faith in the paid staff, I'll be leaving the site straight away.

I've been here for two years now. I like this site a lot. But if it ever ceases to be fun, why should I stay?

I don't necessarily think that an arbitration scheme is a bad thing, but isn't it something that (in theory) the ACEs are already tasked with undertaking?

Has there really been so much conflict between Researchers that there is a need for this type of scheme?

You've obviously put a lot of work into this and care deeply about the Community and I think you should be commended for that.

Perhaps I've been blind to a lot of stuff that's been going on lately and haven't seen the signs of trouble which caused you to create this. I just don't know.

I hope this stream-of-consciousness babbling makes sense...

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Post 2

Tube - the being being back for the time being

Yes, the babbling makes sense. smiley - smiley

ATM the Scheme features a "Modular Approach". Sounds fancy and means that the different kinds of disputes transferable to Mediation/Arbitration can be added or taken out without causing the scheme to fall.

IMO, the statement refers to the ones who feel that the Italics have not been handling things too well (my own opinion can be found at various threads off the soapbox). And also refers to the Module which provides for an Arbitral review of Suspension and Bans by a tribunal of 13 (? pending, ATM) Arbiters. We, the editors of the proposal, are aware that this Module might be skipped by TPTB, but we think it sensible to propose it anyway. (Personally, I do think that the module *will* be skipped, seeing Peta's answers, which I can understand.)

Necessity of the Scheme: Well, as a whole H2G2 is pottering along nicely smiley - smiley but there are some strong words and stuff flying low at the Soapbox for example. And we appreciate that there will be more friction once there are more reserchers. You can't just get a huge thing like this running in a coupla days so it's also planning for the future.

ACEs: Of course everybody is welcome to solve a dispute. smiley - winkeye


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Post 3

Martin Harper

I've lost a lot of my faith in the italics (not all, but a fair chunk), and I'm still here. The reason being that my faith in the italics is not a deal-breaker - it's still fun, I'm still learning cool stuff, having nice conversations, polishing my writing skills, all the things which attracted me here in the first place. I didn't come here because I thought Mark was a good bloke, and neither did anyone else, whatever claims of essentialness may be made.

Yes, the ACEs are somewhat charged with resolving disputes. Unfortunately they don't, in general, appear to do a terribly good job of it. That's not a criticism - most of the ACEs didn't sign up because they wanted to try and resolve flame wars! I would hope that the ACEs who are better at that side of the job would consider becoming Arbiters, in the same way that some of the sub-eds who were better at deciding whether an entry is edited guide material became Scouts.

That clear anything up?

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Post 4

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Jimi: Imagine, for a moment, that you are brand new to this site, and are unfamiliar with its unwritten rules, social norms and boundaries, etc. Then, imagine you've found yourself some difficulty with a particular researcher. You react the way most people react online, in unmoderated forums, which is to insult them with every ounce of skill with the English language you possess.

As a result, seven different ACEs post in seven different forums on your homespace, carrying seven different, and sometimes contradictory, messages. Some of them are very infantilising and preachy. Each one of them waves their badge around and says "I speak for the entire community."

This is problem resolution by the Aces. It's not necessarily their fault (although the very negative ones really should know better), but it is a systemic problem. Peta notifies the Aces, and they charge to the fray. Clearly, we can do better.

Some of us *do* believe we can, and ought to, do better. This proposal is our constructive approach to a demonstrated problem.

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Post 5


Actually *I* posted to the ACE forum about a problem of a flame war erupting on the itelligence thread. When I did it I did not blame anyone or even mention sides I just said it was a bit ugly and maybe some of us might help calm such future things down. In fact it was a proposal much like the one in this article. I did not anitcipate what happened afterwards. If I had I would have kept my mouth shut smiley - sadface
I've never seen Peta notify the ACEs of any such thing - usually an ACE posts up a problem if they see one. The individual ACEs made their own minds up on the facts and sides they wished to take there.

Just a little fact correction there. smiley - smiley

Aside from that. I came to this article with quite a lot of scepticism in my mind. Having read it I now applaud this article smiley - ok
I'm still not convinced it will work as hoped - after all there will always be people that will not listen to arbiters any more than they'll listen to italics but it's certainly worth a go. I wish the scheme luck and will be very interested to see if it is implemented and/or how well it works

One problem that I see is in Arbiters voting for new Arbiters. In my experience as both a Scout and ACE it is only a minority of both who actually actively contribute to those private forums and as such you might get a difficulty getting out a majority to vote. Particularly as this may well be a volunteer scheme who are very rarely called into action - after how many really serious disputes happen here? Not too many I think. How about requiring a quorum of the volunteers needed to make a vote binding and needing a majority only out of them.

That's it for now.


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Post 6

Jimi X

I guess I've always found it easier to simply walk away when an online dispute becomes too heated. And if the person continues to follow me around and bother me, *then* I might consider opening the can of whoop-ass.

As for the ACEs, I agree that some don't do their jobs properly and contribute to problems instead of mitigating them.

But as was the case in the 'Intelligence' thread, a reasoned comment aimed at resolving the problem didn't have any impact on the heated parties. (check my post #62 in that now infamous thread) One day later, PlayboyReporter quit - if only temporarily. smiley - winkeye

The ACEs job description reads:
'They are always available to provide a polite and friendly helping hand. They greet newbies and help them get to grips with the sometimes overwhelming h2g2 experience. They try to calm down heated discussions with a few well-chosen words. '

It's that third part that I think causes most of the trouble. Some discussions are impossible to calm down with a few well-chosen words.

Having an arbitration scheme will deal with problems *after* they have occurred (though hopefully before they escalate out of control). I think we really need 'firefighters' to jump in to stop things early on if at all possible - even *before* the need for an arbitration.

Perhaps the ACEs (and the itallics) need to reconsider that third part of the job description - if only because the ACEs aren't *trained* to know what to say if things are getting heated and sometimes inflame the situation with their 'few well-chosen words'.

I guess I'm feeling that only the itallics should attempt to defuse situations because they're the only ones with the authority to do so. ACEs are merely volunteer helpers and maybe not suited for that role - and honestly I can't envision a situation where *any* volunteer group should be in that position.

I believe the ACEs have the best interests of the community at heart and I'm not really trying to put them down as a group. But perhaps they're being asked to do a bit too much when it comes to conflict-resolution techniques?

But after reading this posting, I realize this might not be workable if there are elements of the community who do not trust the itallics to make an impartial judgement.

Without trust in the itallics, I don't know how the arbitration scheme would work since at least part of the arbitration scheme deals with cases in which the itallics aren't trusted to be fair.

I don't think I'm against an aribtration scheme as it's presented here with the exception of the bit about 'second-guessing' (and I realize that's a poor word choice, but I can't lay my finger on what I really mean to say there) the decisions of the paid staff.

I agree that some of the ACEs aren't suited to resolving conflicts at the moment - they've really not been given any direction as to how to go about this. If the arbitration scheme should evolve as an off-shoot of the ACEs like the Scouts evolved from the Subeditors, I don't reckon that'd be a bad thing - provided they're taught *how* to resolve disputes with a few well-chosen words.

If you've made it this far, congratulations! smiley - cheers

I've convinced myself that I'm not opposed to this notion as long as the decisions of the itallics are kept outside of the scope of the arbitration scheme.

- X

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Post 7


Umm Jimi you are an ACE aren't you? smiley - erm

Must say I agree with pretty much all of that.

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Post 8

Jimi X

smiley - laugh

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am an ACE. smiley - winkeye

I didn't want to introduce that fact because it might bias my comments. But since the smiley - cat is out of the bag...

Speaking as an ACE, I can say Jimi X feels exactly the way he responded above...

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Post 9

Martin Harper

The problems with relying on italics are:

A) authority doesn't always help - criticism can seem a lot worse than it is. The same problem Scouts face in PR, in fact.
B) The Italics are supposed to be busy making h2g2 a better place, not being firefighters.
C) They aren't omniscient - by the time the Italics have found something, it may be too late, though the ACEs (and other groups) help, I'm sure.
D) Similarly, they are only around during UK office hours
E) When Italics criticise someone, however mildly, it invariably acts as a green light for much harsher criticism from others. I think this is fairly well documented, and a sad fact of the current h2g2 environment.
F) The italics have a thousand and one other responsibilities, so it can be tricky to know whether a comment is:
i) fire fighting
ii) Official Warning
iii) personal opinion
iv) other
G) Often such issues start in a discussion in which the italics are already actively involved. It's difficult, if not impossible, to put out your own fires.
H) I'm not convinced that the italics are particularly well-trained at dealing with these things either. Not really what they joined h2g2 for, is it?

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Post 10

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

I was once an Ace, so I know what the situation is. Peta may not necessarily have highlighted that particular episode, but she has done so in the past. I'm not trying to point any fingers here, though... regardless of who does the actual notifying in the Ace forum, the result is the same. The problem is with the system.

Ace contributions to settling such major flare-ups tend to exacerbate them. This is because there are so many who jump in (seven out of however many is a small proportion of the Aces, but it's a lot of involvement for one problem). Many of them are not good at conflict resolution, and make matters worse, because:

A) Conflict resolution skills are not a job requirement, but:

B) Enthusiasm for the site and its community *is*, which leads to overzealous protection of the community and the mistreatment of someone who is perceived as a threat to its harmony, and:

C) Many of the Aces are very young, and too inexperienced with personal conflict to effect useful strategies that soothe ruffled feathers.

Young, enthusiastic people are perfect for the Aces' primary roles of greeting newcomers and showing them around the site. They are bad for conflict resolution. Let the Aces do what Aces do best, and we'll let the community choose people who they feel are better equipped to deal with the things they don't do well.

And as for that line in Jimi's original post, regarding the line that makes him uncomfortable: Unfortunately, I feel that that line is an absolute requirement. The editors have not shown themselves to be immune to overzealous protectionism. It's understandable, after all... they see this as *their* community, *their* Guide, and *their* responsibility.

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Post 11

7rob7: Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

Hi guys -

Colonel Sellers has, once again, made an excellent point. The Italics are, by the very nature of the job, vulnerable to charges of bias, heavy-handedness, and caprice. Having a guarantee in place does not automatically condemn all their decisions as suspicious per se; rather, it allows for anyone who *does* question those decisions to have a means of addressing hir concerns.

Contrariwise, if a researcher has absolute trust in the Italics at all times, they would need never seek out a means of redress. And I would want some of whatever it is they would have been smoking.

One of the distinctions we have been careful to make in the Arbiter Scheme is that, unlike the ACEs, an Arbiter only enters a dispute when specifically invited -- sorta like Dracula not being able to come into the bedroom until you ask him to. In the future (should their intercessorial function remain after adoption of the Arbiter Scheme), ACEs may very well soothe ruffled tempers long before there would be any need for mediation.

And the main goal of the Arbiter plan is to finish any remaining soothing long before there would be any need to involve the Italics. A win-win-win situation.

Thanks, all. Later.


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Post 12

7rob7: Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

Have just finished the 2 a.m. feeding, er -- updating of said proposal. Check it out when you get a minute. Thanks.


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Post 13

a girl called Ben

Just to reiterate the point that the only purpose of the Arbiters is to mediate/arbitrate/stay up late. (Though Arbiters can be Aces, Scouts, or whatever too of course).

The main part of the job description is the ability to use well chosen words to defuse situations.

I have never read the infamous intelligence thread, though I did read a lot of LeKZs posts. My guess is that that one may have been irresolvable. No-one now will know.

Personally I think Arbiters should also be at liberty to try to defuse on-thread too. I do at the moment, and I would hate to have that freedom taken away. (My main technique is to say "aaarrrgghh, flame war" and hide behind the sofa - but I do have others as well).


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Post 14

Mikey the Humming Mouse - A3938628 Learn More About the Edited Guide!

agcB said, "Personally I think Arbiters should also be at liberty to try to defuse on-thread too. I do at the moment, and I would hate to have that freedom taken away."

I don't know that anyone's saying that people who are Arbiters can't try to defuse on-thread, unasked for. I think the idea is that they shouldn't be doing while "wearing the Arbiter hat".

Otherwise, there would really be rather few differences between this and the ACEs.

If Arbiters are showing up on a thread where *they* perceive a flame war and start telling people, in essence, "Hey, I'm an Official Arbiter, and I say you should calm down!" they are imposing *their* needs on the situation. To me, the whole point of the Arbiter concept is for the Arbiter to find a solution that best meets the needs of the parties, not what best meets the Arbiter's needs. If people haven't asked for help resolving things, it may very well be because they like them the way they are.

Now, this doesn't mean that your average Joe (or Ben, for that matter), can't butt their head in and say "Hey, quiet down in here. Stop throwing the flaming torches." The parties involved would be unlikely to feel like their behavior was being unduly influence. If, however, the person who said that was wearing an official arbiter hat (something like a "cat in the hat" hat, I think?), people might feel like they're a) being ordered around, or b) like they're being pressured into doing something, or c) like they'll get in trouble if they don't obey Officer Arbiter.

Having the Arbiters only involved when requested takes the "policing" aspect out.

Just my 2 cents!
smiley - aliensmile

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Post 15

7rob7: Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

What Mikey said...

(Man, somebody remind me next time not to stay here 'till 3:30 a.m. the night before my first CAD (computer-assited drafting) class. Woof...)

To paraphrase Ben:


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Post 16

a girl called Ben

I think Mikey and I are probably in complete agreement here. What I am envisaging is what happens at the moment in a thread I am already posting in. If I think it is getting snarly, I may try to defuse the situation. (I may not, depends on how I feel, who is posting, what is being said to whom, whether I have had breakfast, stuff like that). I don't go looking for flamewars to put out.

*** Da Da! ****
Captain Intercessor is Here!
Cease your flaming now!
*** Da Da! ****

- Not!

Hell, I am finding it tough to find the time for 'normal' hootooing, let alone real life and stuff like that.

a fire-extinguisher called Ben

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Post 17

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Ben; I think we've all had that concern in our minds from the beginning, or else there wouldn't be such support for a code of conduct for the arbiters (resolves to check in a moment to see if we've made any progress on this, and, if not, urge the developers to wrap up the minor adjustment phase of the procedural discussion so we can begin to tackle this). After all, what does it solve if we create a bunch of arbiterholes?

So, it's important that arbiters, when they see a flame war and attempt to intercede as any other community member would, behave themselves is a manner that is an example to the community. They must *not* attempt to order people around, but be reasonable and calm. That's why they have to be elected... the community must be convinced that they can behave in this manner.

There is a protection built into the system, too... an arbiter who finds a flame war and involves hirself does not have to be the one involved should it escalate, as they have probably already lost their impartiality by that point.

Non-arbiters would still be encouraged to recognize flame wars and try to settle them themselves. After all, problem resolution should be done at the absolutely lowest level possible. If community involvement has been tried and fails, then arbiter mediation is a sensible escalation. Then it can go to arbitration, before it reaches the level of Italic involvement. The current escalation procedure is community-Ace-Italic.

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Post 18

Tube - the being being back for the time being

Wake-up call: A694118
(Thanks Rob! smiley - ok)

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