Poll: how to moderate lasqueti e-mail list

When Peter was moderating the lasqueti e-mail list, he would manually cut-and-paste messages to assemble the daily digest.  In the process, he could edit out irrelevant parts of a message, or check back with the sender if there was some question or issue with their message.

The software that now manages the list traffic alleviates the tedium of assembling the digest by hand.  It also some-what automates the process of moderating messages on the list.   Moderation ensures no spam goes out to the list, and prevents "messy" messages from cluttering up the digest.

Issues I've encountered with messages are typically minor, things like:

  • reply to a digest message that include the old digest text as a "quote"
  • meaningless or missing subject line
  • long-winded "signatures" that are not pertinent to list readers

Many regular contributors to the list do not make these mistakes, and their messages are always approved to go out to the list.  It is possible for me to allow messages from these users to by-pass the moderation queue altogether.  This would mean their messages would get to list readers more promptly (they are not held up in the moderation queue waiting for a person to "approve" them), and it would reduce the amount of traffic requiring the attention of the list moderator (me, at present :-P )  This would NOT, in any way, change the way the list digest works, or the frequency of messages.

But before I make any change to the way the list works, I'd like to ask you, the list subscribers and contributors, what you think - should I grant permission to regular, trusted contributors to by-pass the moderation queue?  Please answer the poll below:

draft-moderation-criteria.pdf151.95 KB


Questions to think about.....

I think before one starts granting permission to by-pass the moderators que, list users need to know what the requirements for that approval are.

The whole concept of being 'approved' raises a number of questions: what happens if someone abuses that privilege to sneak some spam in, or more likely, what happens when someone gets a virus that sends out email to eveyone in their contact list, including the email list? And for those that are on Santa's "nuaghty" list, what do they need to do to get off of it? Is there a dispute resolution process in place? Who decides, and why them? What are their qualifications to make those decisions?

There are a lot of other questions that come up too, but I've just thrown these out there to get peope thinking. I wouldn't want anyone to end up feeling censored because their veiw is contrary to those who moderate the list. I'm not saying that's the way it is, just that it could be percieved that way.

For myself, I've yet to see anything even remotely offensive come through the email list. Sometimes they've gotten a wee bit long winded, but I'd rather someone be able to express their veiw than not, and I always have the option to not read it.


joseph's picture


thanks Scott - you've definitely raise some excellent points, I hope others will comment.
Here's my take:

1) on censorship vs. moderation: The job of a list moderator is to ensure that messages sent to the list are consistent with the list's purpose - un-moderated lists tend to become dominated by spammers and trolls, rendering them useless.
I could see some cases for rejecting a message - inciting hatred; potential slander or liable; obvious spam - but defining objective criteria would be very difficult, I think it will always be a judgement call... so, who's judgement?

2) who decides? This was simple when it was Peter's list - he initiated it, he did all the work, so he was the de-facto moderator. But the list has taken on a life of its own and has become a community asset. Anyone, potentially, could now serve as a list moderator - and I, for one, would be thrilled to have a few interested people share this role - it is mostly automated and just requires a human to make that judgement call. But... what are the criteria for making that call?

3) by what criteria? It might be very useful for a small group of interested people to draft a short description of what constitutes "appropriate" content for the list. As I said, I doubt an comprehensive, objective set of criteria could be developed, but a set of guidelines, that could be updated over time, would be very useful, especially for new moderators, and in the case where an "inappropriate" message is rejected. I'm happy to oversee this process and provide a collaborative workspace for anyone who'd like to work on this.

4) on by-passing moderation: in this survey, I am proposing that some "regular, trusted" contributors to the list be granted a special status to by-pass moderation all together. Again, the questions of "who decides on who gets special status by what criteria" arise - but, in this case, actually, I don't think it's too big an issue, because it is really only a procedural matter - "trusted" status only confers the ability to by-pass moderation.
It could be granted to anyone who demonstrates a reliable ability to post well-formed, "appropriate" messages. And it could be revoked anytime a message is posted that would have benefited from moderation - for whatever reason (i.e., it didn't have a subject line, or had a long, irrelevant "reply quote" at the end).

5) Unintended spam: I think this is perhaps the most important point Scott raises. It has already happened that a list subscriber had their e-mail hacked and a spam / scam message was sent to the list "from" their e-mail address. Because this message passed through the moderation queue, I was able to block it from going out to the list subscribers. If it had not been moderated, it would have gone out to all the subscribers, with all the potentialities that carries.
For this reason, there is a small risk, under the present proposal - it is unlikely to happen very frequently, and needs to be balanced with the benefits of more democratic, free, timely flow of information.

Any thoughts or discussion on these issues is very welcome!

Draft Moderation Guidelines

In thinking about Scott's comments, it occurs to me that developing guidelines around moderation of the list will be easier to do in a neutral environment, when there is no conflict. I've put together some thoughts and attached it to the article above ( http://lasqueti.ca/files/draft-moderation-criteria.pdf ). Comments welcome.

some thoughts...

I really support the concept of an open internet. It is only because of the internet we can see that ALL of us in every country are being worked over by big money which owns 'our' media, 'our' food, 'our' economy. They just don't own the grassroots of human decency...yet. The big boys call our use of the internet a mistake.

Let's try this proposal and see the level of abuse which follows. I'm not very starry-eyed, but I'm game for a try...

my two-cents

I think that if trusted users could post directly to the list without the moderation it may speed up the delivery of time sensitive posts. This week there appeared on the list a request for a ride, the poster wanted feedback before a certain day, and that was the same day that the post appeared. So, if posting directly could shorten the lag, I think it's a good thing. (As long as there is still a way to keep the spammers at bay.)

Why I voted 'no' so far

Well... if you say there has already been an issue with virus or similar affront to our list, that means to me there has already been a trial period and we had a problem that needs remedy. Granted it would be great not to have the unpredictable time lag of moderation, or messy posts, accidental or otherwise. Maybe a little lag is not too high a price for the added comfort of a tidy virus free list. I'll go along with Joseph's so clever subject line: all things in moderation.

agree with Na

I lean towards less censorship rather than more, there's more potential for entertainment value.

moderation is not censorship

I don't think that censorship is the issue. In the years that I did the list I twice told people that I wouldn't include their message until they re-wrote it to make it less accusatory and inflammatory.

To me, the real question - and I have not moderated the list in its current incarnation, though I have seen it, and how it works, as a moderator - is how reliably people put in a relevant subject and remember to delete the previous Lasqueti email that they are replying to.

Timeliness might be a bit of an issue, but most of the time people know that they need a ride at least a few days before they have to go. The notices are posted to the list at 10am each day. Most of us can, most of the time, get our notices submitted early enough to give the moderator time to review it and approve (or reject or delay it).

I don't know whether multiple moderators can work at the same time, but it would take a load off Joseph if there was another, or maybe a few other, moderators who could review the postings and approve those that are acceptable.

I've heard quite a lot of complaint about the block of text between the message number and the message. It gives the date, who it's from, subject, who it's to (email_list@lasqueti every time!), message number and content type. I would find it extremely inconsiderate and frustrating to have to read - page through, really - the entire text of a previous email if someone "forgot" to delete it.

I'm not sure whether suffering this aggravation would be worse than an occasional late posting. It seems to me that it might be worth trying it for a while. Only reason not to that I can think of is that it might be a huge bunch of work for the moderator to decide who is a trusted poster and who isn't (yet). It might be much simpler to just keep monitoring all the emails.

Anything is fine with me. I am staying away from the email list and moderating it because it might be, or at least look like, a conflict of interest for me. Not that anyone would ever criticize me or the Islands Trust, I'm sure, unless they did it very politely! Heard a great Islands Trust slogan from Skarlat recently. She says it's a button, and I want one:
"Islands Trust: We're not happy until you're not happy." Not that I believe that it's true.

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