Mailing list moderation

Mailing list moderation efforts hiked

To deal with an atmosphere that some felt was dragging the English Wikipedia's mailing list down to the level of Usenet, the list administrators have stepped up the level of moderation being applied over the past week.

Reacting to longstanding complaints that disruptive behavior was detracting from the ability to hold serious discussions, the administrators of the wikiEN-l mailing list have become more active in exercising their control over postings to the list. Rather than ban people from the list outright, however, they have focused on placing problematic posters on moderation, meaning that their messages get screened by the administrators before being forwarded to the list.

The approach manifested itself after two new participants on the list (one calling himself "Henry Kissinger") posted a number of messages in succession. As nearly all of the messages were unnecessary, irrelevant, or otherwise violated general principles of "netiquette", Jayjg called this a "breaching experiment" and asked for them to be blocked from the list. On Tuesday, list administrator Mark Ryan announced "in the interests of transparency" that he had placed these two contributors on moderation "because their messages to the mailing list appear to be gibberish."

This practice was soon extended on Thursday to Nathan J. Yoder, who joined the list for the first time to complain about a block imposed for violating his temporary injunction against personal attacks. Another list administrator, David Gerard, promptly placed Yoder on moderation for continued personal attacks. This led Yoder to claim bias as Gerard was one of the arbitrators participating in the decision, to which Gerard replied that list readers "are largely sick of fifty-message threads of querulous ranting, so they're not being encouraged." Gerard commented generally, "we'll be trying harder to stop the rubbish at a sensible point", and suggested that moderating all new accounts would be considered as an option.

At this point an unknown user styling himself "A Nony Mouse", who had previously joined the list to object to the treatment of some users back in May, returned to the discussion. Joining a thread in which Yoder had raised charges of "abuse of admin power", he made a couple of posts targeting Ambi and David Gerard in particular with some rather crude language. He promptly returned, posting from a different email address, to say that the administrators "booted me off the list for speaking truth to power." However, Mark Ryan clarified that "A Nony Mouse" had simply been placed on moderation for his "extreme lack of civility" and tried to get a commitment from him to "be constructive and civil." Meanwhile, Gerard indicated that new subscribers to the mailing list would now start moderated by default.

A dilemma for the administrators is that wikiEN-l is also one of the places to which blocked users are directed, so that they still have an avenue to communicate about the reasons for the block. In response to previous complaints, the possibility of creating a separate list dedicated only to complaints from blocked users has been mentioned. It was suggested that this would focus the attention of the most disruptive people elsewhere. However, others recalled that wikiEN-l itself was created in part to divert such traffic from wikipedia-l, and pointed out that most people will have no interest in participating on a list purely about problem behavior.

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