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Re: [ga] Message from the Chair - List Rules
At 11:44 PM 2/6/2000 +0100, Roberto Gaetano wrote:
>The difference of opinion is about where to draw the line.
This is a very frustrating thread to read and a painful topic to discuss.
As well it should be.
Roberto and Harald have done an excellent job of trying to design a
mechanism that balances painful tradeoffs. There are a number of
quite-separate issues to consider.
What follows is longer and more pedantic than I would like, but I believe
this topic needs a comprehensive review:
Except in terms of establishing a history of problems with certain
posters, discussion of the pros or cons about previous list operation needs
to be entirely separated from the current/new policy and operation. To
that end, I'll not discuss the past here. The rest of the history might be
worthy of extensive discussion, but separately from the question of the
current policy and its implementation.
Internet development has been done with open, unfiltered mailing
lists. If a recipient did not like a pattern of participation, they were
free to filter notes. This scheme is quite appealing to anyone believing
in individual responsibility and loathing institutional intervention. It
also worked just fine... until recently.
The Net is much larger, now, and the "dynamic variance" of
participant behavior is vastly wider. We regularly get people whose
problematic behavior cannot be trained away. We regularly get people who
clearly suffer serious psychological disturbances of various sorts. For
some lists, these people provide a stream of input that has the same effect
as mounting an explicit denial of service attack.
The problem is exacerbated by a lack of consistent or helpful
response to the disruptive posters. Shunning is the only recourse that has
any chance of being effective, and for some not even that will
work. However many participants suffer from too-good a heart and a hope
that the unfortunate souls can be salvaged. Hence they respond to
them. Responding encourages the disrupters and responding takes additional
mailing list bandwidth. So the dynamic variance does not just add
participants who are unable to be constructive participants, it adds more
people who are unable to learn how to deal with the disrupters.
The result is a general exodus of interested participants who are
not willing to deal with the extremely low percentage of meaningful content
and frequently high bandwidth consumption. This dramatically distorts the
makeup of the participation list.
Having everyone receive all mail -- the 'do nothing' alternative
-- causes the deprivation of service attack to succeed, pure and simple. A
point that is often missed is that all that noise does result in many
people leaving the list, because the signal to noise ratio is so poor.
Individual filtering by recipients is an emotionally appealing
mechanism, because it leaves the choice to fix the problem up to each
participant. Alas, it is a solution that does not scale up with the
Internet. It has two problems that have become major in the current
environment: One is that it continues to permit list pollution and
distraction. The second is that it isn't effective when those "triggering"
the distractions get responses. (Person A is a nut case, so you filter
them. Person B is often constructive but does not choose to filter Person
B, so you now start receiving messages fro Person B that respond to Person
A.) So some participants try to have serious discussion and others just
add noise, with no real control mechanisms over the ratio.
List-based filtering moves the problem upstream. If it is done
properly -- yes, a big if -- the signal to noise ratio should get (much)
better. Having a parallel, unfiltered distribution list which is part of
the archive makes sure that a) those feeling the need to read the noise
can, and b) the public record is complete.
Having the filtered list as secondary, with those wishing
filtering required to take special action, means that the noise-makers
predominate. The burden to fix this is placed on each individual
participant, which is almost the same as asking them to do the filtering;
and we have already seen that that does not work.
So for any meaningful effect, the default must be the filtered
list, with those wishing unfiltered being the ones required to take special
Defining the filtering process, posting notices about it, etc. can
and should be done in an open and documented manner. Having a
pseudo-judicial appeal process should not be done, since it eliminates the
benefit of the filtering. That is it delays implementation of the filter.
The only way the filtering can work is by choosing a person to be
keeper of the filters. They need to be accountable for their choices, but
after the fact, not before.
Freedom of Speech
The offended cry that filtering violates freedom of speech ignores
the fact that that freedom is not absolute. Certainly not in the U.S. Even
better is the apparent lack of awareness that "freedom of speech" has
extremely varied interpretations around the world, as does "democracy".
Consequently, absolutist, non-negotiable positions on this topic
suggest that the holder of the position is more interested in an abstract
concept than in having the working group progress.
Making progress requires making compromise and looking for a
reasonable balance among competing and difficult goals, constraints and
Dave Crocker <email@example.com>
Brandenburg Consulting <www.brandenburg.com>
Tel: +1.408.246.8253, Fax: +1.408.273.6464
675 Spruce Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94086 USA
Gong Xi Fa Cai / Selamat Tahun Baru Cina
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