A Conversation for Old Announcements: January - September 2011

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Canada Elections Act

Post 41


Hi cl zoomer,

I believe that we have to abide by local UK law and European law, even though the information here is available around the world as this is a UK based service.

So I don't think we do have a responsibility to regulate for the Canadian election, or to moderate to cover non-UK law.

This is a problem of the net, people can use servers in non-compliant areas of the world to host things like child porn sites, and the law doesn't cover them, they can't be closed down, unless there is a local law preventing them from being there.

It's a good question though, I'll try and find out more, out of interest. smiley - smiley

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 42


sorry mina, but you should jump on the right people for the right reasons.

I was commenting on incompetent moderation, in light of what appeared to be a systemic fault. jim's comment made it clear that in those small number of cases it was not the system at fault, and thus the only remaining source of the incompetence must be the individual moderators involved in those specific decisions.

That is considerably different to what you are accusing me of saying, which is that all moderators are incompetent.

Given that such bad decisions happen (and I've seen you in threads where it has happened, so you know the sort of cases I mean) I am trying to see if there is any room for manouver to correct the process so that fewer of them happen.

AS for the statistics as to how may decisions are overturned, they are likely to be wrong, so I wouldn't set too much store by them.

while they are correct in what they describe, there are a number of cases where they will not be applicable.

for example if a bad over-moderation decision is made in a fast moving thread, the information in the post has usually been leaked out into that thread by the time the original poster receives the email, and thus it will be pointless appealing it unless the overall count of moderation decisons against you is relevent.

similarly, people other than the author of the post don't see the email, and thus don't often know why a post has been hidden.

in those cases, it usually looks like a bad moderation decision, especially if the content of the posting has largely been resurected in the next few posts.

However only the author is allowed to complain about over-moderation, so over-moderation will be persistantly under-reported.

Admittedly in the case of under-moderation we have the right to yikes a posting, but again that can have problems if it is being yikesed because of a pattern of inappropriate postings, rather than something being wrong with that specific post, so under-moderation will also be persistantly under-reported.

the fact that an identical posting can be allowed or removed, depending on which moderator you end up with also doesn't help.

Inconsistant and blatantly bad decisions bring the whole system into even more disrepute than it needs to be, and constructive questioning to improve the system does not deserve such half-cocked responses from people like you who know better, especially considerin you know me well enough on here to know that my phrasing can sometimes make criticisms seem worse than they actually are, and why.

anyone who has been here for more than a few months knows that some moderators are worse than others. I am just looking to see if there are ways to correct the aberant behaviour of those few who seems to be less good value for money than the rest.

and by the way, if I was setting out to insult the moderators as a whole, nobody would be left in any doubt about it. I am not, I am only after the bad apples in the barrel.

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 43

Demon Drawer

You think all this was bad. As 5 Scottish contituencies were not counting on Sunday night those of us at the counts on Sunday night were sworn to the official secret act not to disclose the results. Imagine my shock when in Monday's paper I saw the results from the 67 constiuencies that had counted.

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 44


I hate to side with the Eds but ...smiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - spaceGo Minasmiley - spacesmiley - winkeye

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 45

Smij - Formerly Jimster

I'm just sitting back more than a little bemused by this. I'd be curious to know where the incopetence exists when we made it quite clear that for the duration of the election no political discussions could be hosted on h2g2. If someone chose to post political content during that time, I know where I'd consider the incompetence to be.

Not rocket science, is it?

smiley - erm

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 46

Peet (the Pedantic Punctuation Policeman, Muse of Lateral Programming Ideas, Eggcups-Spurtle-and-Spoonswinner, BBC Cheese Namer & Zaphodista)

I'm just confused that xyroth and HappyDude are both talking to Mina, who hasn't actually posted on this thread... smiley - erm

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 47

Marjin, After a long time of procrastination back lurking

See at least post 40, maybe moresmiley - biggrin

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 48

Peet (the Pedantic Punctuation Policeman, Muse of Lateral Programming Ideas, Eggcups-Spurtle-and-Spoonswinner, BBC Cheese Namer & Zaphodista)

Oops smiley - blush

I used the "in reply to" link to go back a page, and it took me in halfway up. I didn't notice. smiley - sorrysmiley - blush

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 49


Now that xyroth and Happy Dude have stopped taking pot shots at any italic that came into view, can I make a reasonable suggestion? If the multiple election situation occurs again set up different threads for each one. Any post that impinges upon both can be easily spotted and removed. Is this practical, or has it been done already and found to be confusing? BTW kudos to the long suffering staffers for keeping their cool in the face of rants and unfair criticism. smiley - bubbly

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 50


dealing with the simple point first, I suspect the suggestion of one page per election when we have multiple elections would bring in as many probles as it solves.

in particular, a lot of comments will of necessity be similar across the different elections, due to somewhat similar issues at all levels.

however it is worth a try.

as to the trickier answer about "taking potshots", happy asked some specific questions which seemed to get satisfactory answers, so once the questions were understood, there was no problem.

One of those answers gave clues to the long standing problem of some very dubious moderation decisions, which seemed to imply that there was a fault with the system which was responsible.

jimster answered it in a satisfactory way, which pointed out that the system was capable of doing what was necessary. As some moderators were not using it that way, I pointed out it must be their fault rather than the software, which mina over-reacted to, so I just corrected that over-reaction.

I am sure that jimster is well aware of the long standing problem of poor moderation decisions, as they come up regularly.

I have not seen any rants in this thread, so there was nothing for them to keep their cool about, and the criticism of the poor moderation decisions is fairly calm and only crops up when some relevent bit of technological info leaks out that might be relevent to the ongoing problem.

Ever since the bbc bought h2g2, and implimented post-moderation, there have been regular instances of poor judgement on moderations decisions, and every now and then something gets found out which eventually leads to a minor change in the process which improves the quality of moderation a little.

it is much better than it used to be, and the hope is that by continuing to examine how the get it wrong, we can provide sufficient feedback on why they get it wrong to make sure that they make that particular mistake less often, furthur improving the quality of moderation.

I have said it in a number of threads, and will happily repeat it here.

the staff, generally, do a wonderfull job within the constraints laid on them by the bbc, but those constraints are often created by lawyers who have little or no experience of the internet (at least from the quality of their advice it would seem so).

sometimes we can help in minor ways in getting rid of those silly constraints and replacing them with better ones.

but we can only do that by bringing such bad interpretations to light, pointing out bugs in the software, and otherwise querying what look to be dodgy decisions or practices.

Once the staff are aware of problems, and fully understand them, jimster and his fellow technical guys do a wonderfull job (mostly) of fixing such technical problems, and mina, peta and ashley usually do a fairly good job of solving the political ones.

but unless we tell them where it is broken, in enough detail to fully identify the problem, they don't have enough to work with to be able to fix it.

As someone with both technical and social engineering experience, I am often one of the first to pick up on such problems, and due to certain problems of my own, I am not always as tactfull as is required in highlighting such problems.

Hopefully, over time, I am more help than trouble.

So once again, well done to the italics for their sucesses so far, which are numerous, and I will endevour to keep highlighting faults in the system where hints indicate their location, and hopefully the system will keep getting better.

I have been here since before the site was bought by the bbc, long enough before to spot that most of the remaining usability faults caused by the move are caused either by the moderations system, or by the complexity of the bbc internet connections.

It is almost back to being as usable as it was before the great disappearing act, with a few minor ongoing annoyances, so keep up the good work.

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 51


Hi xyroth,

Just correcting a few facts here:

"Once the staff are aware of problems, and fully understand them, jimster and his fellow technical guys do a wonderfull job (mostly) of fixing such technical problems, and mina, peta and ashley usually do a fairly good job of solving the political ones."

Jimster isn't a technical guy. He works on the editorial team of h2g2 along with Paul and Natalie. Ashley left the h2g2 team several months ago, he was an Assistant Producer on the Editorial team, he had nothing to do with the political side or moderation.

Jim Lynn *is* one of the technical guys, he works on the central DNA system, along with Dan Dixon, Simon Booth and five other coders. Mina, Peta and Andrew work on Central DNA system (and on h2 messageboards) and deal with moderation and political issues. The central team members, mentioned above, also work with the Editors and Producers of *all* DNA sites, who all have different needs, which as an exclusively h2g2 member, you're completely unaware.

"but unless we tell them where it is broken, in enough detail to fully identify the problem, they don't have enough to work with to be able to fix it."

Actually I'd say it was the other way round xyroth. I'm not trying to be unkind, but you can't see the editorial tools or moderation system software. You're not aware of the issues behind the scenes, or the way the moderation system works from the backend. Since we actually use the software and the system daily we have have a complete understanding of the moderation system and a full overview of the moderation process, which from the user end, you're completely unexposed to.

As you know, we're constantly updating the system. We fortunately have a very experienced technical team, community team and Producers, as well as two full-time useability designers feeding into the project. We run user testing sessions with moderators, users, new members, site Producers and so on. We use the sites and the systems ourselves, and many of us have also been here since before the move to the BBC.

"but unless we tell them where it is broken, in enough detail to fully identify the problem, they don't have enough to work with to be able to fix it."

We do appreciate input from community members, but please don't assume that you understand a complex system fully without even seeing it. You're seeing the issue entirely from an h2g2 point of view, which is interesting, but totally inaccurate. We now have many communities, and we have to support the varied needs of all of them, not just h2g2.

Thanks for saying we're doing a good job though. smiley - ok We do appreciate input, but please don't get too carried away, we know far more than you think we know. smiley - winkeye

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 52


Hi summerbayexile,

Your suggestion is a good one! We couldn't do this this time out, because we have to post-moderate *all* election conversations across the BBC. That is a moderator reads all postings within 30 minutes.

In order to do this on h2g2 (and the other DNA communities) we'd have had to switch the entire site into post-moderation. The Editors couldn't take on the task of reading all postings themselves, because the site is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and much as they love the site, they're not *that* dedicated. smiley - winkeye

smiley - ok

smiley - bubbly

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 53

E G Mel

smiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - space"I pointed out it must be their fault rather than the software"
I think the term you used was 'incompetant', understandably telling someone that they don't know how to do their job is taken badly, which leads me onto my next point...

smiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - space"As someone with both technical and social engineering experience..."
The latter would indicate that you should be good at dealing with social situations and people, in that post you proved that this was not always the case.

smiley - spacesmiley - spacesmiley - space"Ever since the bbc bought h2g2, and implimented post-moderation..."
Correct me if I'm wrong but the Yikes button has always been there hasn't it? It's just now the rules are a little stricter and the site being much bigger requires more moderators.

You probably do have many good things to add to h2g2, and you probably are a great asset to the site, however think of how much easier it would be to do things if you didn't get peoples' backs up by posting hasty comments. I applaude you for the way you dealt with the fall out of your innaproppriate posting, but I urge you in future to make your life easier by fully realising the messages contained in the posts you write.

Another thing I note is that you seem to think h2g2 was better before it joined the BBC, and I will agree that moderation issues were probably smoother because the rules were less strict, however I'm not sure the content was always suitable for the younger researchers. Now that we are with the BBC there is more funding, more researchers and many advances have been made. Let's move forward with the BBC rather than trying to move it backward to what it was before Rupert.

smiley - 2cents

Mel smiley - hsif

P.S I also echo a lot of what Peta has just written, spot on smiley - ok

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 54


"Correct me if I'm wrong but the Yikes button has always been there hasn't it?"

your wrong, the "Yikes" button is pure BBC, in pre BBC days we would just alert the Ed's via a post to one of their pages if something wildly unsuitable was posted smiley - whistle

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 55

Smij - Formerly Jimster

>> the staff, generally, do a wonderfull job within the constraints laid on them by the bbc, but those constraints are often created by lawyers who have little or no experience of the internet (at least from the quality of their advice it would seem so). <<

As Peta mentioned, Ashley hasn't had anything to do with the site since he moved off the team last September, and that I'm a different person to Jim Lynn. In terms of the day-to-day running of the site, by 'the staff', you're really talking about myself and Natalie, plus Paully for the time being. So smiley - cheers.

I do feel that sometimes these discussions take on the flavour of someone who listens to can drive a car but assumes they can do their own MOT, despite never having seen under the bonnet.

We're actually quite well looked after here: we have trained political advisers who understand the minutiae of political law and explained clearly and concisely the need for Election Guidelines to protect our communities from being targeted by pressure groups and political groups; we have lawyers who are experienced in how law applies to online broadcasting and can recount precedents of circumstances that have resulted in unpleasant legal cases; we have a moderation team who are here to protect the BBC's interests (and by extension ensure that we can continue to do what we do without undue interference), which is why they always have to err on the side of caution. In other words, the only way a Moderator could be incompetent is to allow postings that break the law. It's not their job to preserve whatever notion of 'freedom of speech' you subscribe to. However, as site producers, we are always open to discussion to some extent (so long as people are civil and courteous - if someone's rude to us they're not exactly doing themselves any favours). We have often overturned moderation decisions because we understand the context better than the Mods do; while they can indeed read threads, even that won't always reveal the motivations behind posts, and indeed, as Mina noted, the Mods wouldn't be able to get through their legally-obliged quotas if they did so, which is why sometimes they refer decisions to us).

As I mentioned earlier, we announced with plenty of notice that we were unable to host political content during the elections. Having taken on-board previous discussions, this year we were able to convince our own Powers That Be of the validity of using the Hub for light political discussion that would enable us to monitor events better. I'm not sure how many posts were removed from the Hub at this time, but I understand that if any it was a very small amount.

The only h2g2 posts that were removed were ones that were straying into political discussion, and in some cases we moved threads rather than removing them, just to ensure that everyone subscribed to the discussion could carry on without having their posts removed.

Considering that we're a much smaller team than we once were, and that this election period actually added a lot more work to our daily routines, I'd suggest that we were pretty lenient here, and in fact the only posts we removed were ones where the poster had clearly just disregarded the Election Guidelines and posted anyway.


9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 56

E G Mel

I am really enjoying some of the natters we had on the elections page, though most of them are dying out now.

smiley - cheers for all the hard work

Mel smiley - hsif

Canada Elections Act

Post 57

clzoomer- a bit woobly

Thank you Peta for stating what I should have realised was obvious. And thank you for looking into it further. And thank you all (TPTB) for doing an excellent job that is seldom appreciated. Consider this some appreciation.

smiley - smiley

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 58


fisrt, an apology to both jimster and jim lynn for confusing them in the reference to the tech guys. it was completely accidental, and I do try and get all the names right when I can.

I will try not to make that particular mistake again.

I was not really aware of the gam of musical staff going on recently, as due to poor health I have mainly been trying to keep up with the backlog rather than being a more active participant.

I knew that jim was one of the tech guys, and the main visible interface between them and the public, an I have only admiration for his abilities and those of the rest of the technical team, especially given some of the problems imposed upon them by some of the tools they are compelled to use. they do a great job.

I will pick peta up on claiming I am an exclusively h2g2 member, as I do use the hub and the main bbc site a lot as well. I also tried the message boards during the iraq moderation fiasco, so I think I am familiar with some of the differences between sites.

"you can't see the editorial tools or moderation system software", true, but as a user, I don't need to. Either they are adequet to do the job properly, or they are not, and when they get it wrong, it needs mentioning. if the problem turns out to be technical I have every confidence in the ability (if not the time) of jim and his crew to fix it.

It is true I have not got a complete understanding of the behind the scenes issues and the moderation process, but I have seen enough examples of good processes wich produce totally rubish (but technically correct) results to be no believer in the value of process alone in achieving quality.

I am also pleased to hear about the addition of the usability designers to the team, it can only help improve the site and the software in the long run.

While I do have my visible presence on h2g2 and the hub, I do sometimes lurk on some of the other sites, so I can see which bits are better on one site than on another, and have continuous experience of hypertext systems management dating back as far as the early eighties, and thus have probably encountered a few problems which you have not. I also have a very broad level of understanding of a lot of different types of software and of common issues across the different types, so again, the fact that I am mainly seen on h2g2 and the hub is less relevent that you suppose.

and I do think that generally you all do a good job of helping support the needs of the various different communities.

I do understand that you know more than is visible to me as a user, but do give me credit for knowing some things that you don't as well.

considering the fact that I have managed similar systems to the web, h2g2 and wikipedia type systems, I do have a broad understanding of the technical and social requirements of handling such systems, and considering the fact that some of these systems have been evolving since 1984, there are also issues which you just are not old enough as a site to have encountered yet.

Considering I also help with the programming of these systems, I do understand not only what is gong on under the bonnet, but have had to do not only a complete mot, but also total rebuilds from the ground up, changing data formats in the process.

I don't have a problem with the way you hosted the political discussion this time round, and it is infinitely preferable to the comparitavely crippled message board approach which was completely unusable last time round.

Jimster has actually highlighted exactly what I mean about the lawyers in his response.

they treat the whole thing like it is part of bbc1, or radio 4, and completely ignore how everyone elses lawyers view the internet.

if h2g2 was a broadcaster, like bbc1, then their advise would be completely appropriate. however there is a good arguament that it is not even a publisher, and is actually more like an isp, but the consistantly refuse to interface with the lawyers that are used for beeb.net, even thought they are both parts of the bbc.

there are similar problems with their understanding of technical issues, which were made blatantly obvious during the handling of the lekz incidents, and the points made about this were never fully resolved (as far as I am aware).

while I understand that they must err on the side of caution, they could at least talk to the other similar sections of the bbc to see if they are unnecessarily making a rod for their own back.

Specifically, by claiming h2g2 and the other dna site as broadcasters, when they are nearer isp's, they are putting themselves in a position to be in the wrong both ways as regards the legal position for moderation.

I don't know of any other site on the internet which both hosts user content, and claims the problems of a broadcaster, so I find some of their assumptions to be questionable, which must have a bearing on the quality of their advice.

As to freedom of speech, I advocate freedom with responsibility, but that really isn't the issue. the web runs on conventions established over twenty or thirty years (in some cases), and flying in the face of them unnecessarily affects the usability of the site.

the best example of that had to be when you have the really naff restrictions on commercial advertising, which were then badly enforced, so that if someone queried about something, we had a range of responses, and you had a range of resonses to that.

sometimes we could post a link to the goodle search, and it would be moderated, sometimes it wouln't be. sometimes even linking to the google website and telling them what to search for would be hidden, and sometimes we had to go as far as saying "google for ....".

the actual result was that although the information to google for something got through, it left the management of the site, and the implimentation of the policies appearing very shoddy indeed, even when it was being done well.

that issue has been largely aboloshed, but there are still others left over from being bought by the bbc which do impact on the usability of the site, and when the truth has come out about it from various italics over time it has turned out to be a combination of fear, and internal politics at the bbc which has had some effect on the lack of a resolution.

it is evident from past discussion of these sorts of issues, that there are some people who are ignorant of the realities of the internet who nevertheless insist on having input into policies for the day to day operation of the sites.

This is less of a problem than it used to be, but it does still happen.

I really don't long for the "good old days" when h2g2 was slowly going bust, but when you threw out the bathwater, you also threw out some good stuff which you are gradually having to reintroduce anyway.

My problem generally isn't with the rules you apply to the sites, it is with the inconsistant application of those rules within the induvidual sites, often (but not always) followed by a complete denial of this when it is raised.

as I say though, generally you are doing superb job, but there is still room for improvement in any system.

9 June 2004: UK Election Discussions - Update

Post 59


Hi xyroth

I was refering more to the needs of the other DNA sites, than the wider BBC and messageboards, because it's more directly related to h2g2.

You, and anyone else who is interested in other DNA community activity can see a full list of DNA communities here:


If anyone isn't sure who's who on the h2g2 team nowadays the h2g2 team page is at:


smiley - ok all, and xyroth sorry to hear you haven't been too well recently, I hope you get well soon. smiley - cheerup

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