Drive carefully out there!

(Personal)

2006-12-24 08:28
Comments

Yesterday, I saw a traffic accident. I stopped for a light. Around when the light turned, a car in the left turn lane going the other way finally made her turn.

When she was halfway through the intersection, a largeish truck smashed into her car. I think he was doing 30-35 when he hit the intersection, although he did hit his brakes at the last instant. The truck smashed into the side of the car pretty much perfectly broadsiding it.

There was a passenger in that car. I have no idea whether or not she lived; I saw blood, but she was still moving some. The ambulance was there within a couple of minutes.

Anyway, here’s the thing:

If you get hospitalized, you will not get to keep looking for that elusive Wii or Tickle Me Elmo or whatever it is that you haven’t got yet.

Your kids would rather have you for Christmas than a toy. Even a very good toy.

Drive more carefully.

A person I know on a bulletin board wrote about being on duty on Thanksgiving once:

Nikitona talks about being a cop.

I was called to the scene of an accident involving a family of four. The father (driver) appeared to be in the worst shape, his neck was broken. The mother had been holding a pumpkin pie which was spattered on the dashboard. The little girl in the back had extensive face and head injuries. The little boy in the back had crushed legs. All were unconscious, unmoving, silent. I don’t know if all survived. I suspect the father was already dead, although the Paramedics did what they could to revive him.

Later that evening, I pulled over a car that was speeding and driving erratically. He would drift over the center line and then overcorrect. It turned out he was drifting because he was turning around to yell at his kids in the back seat. He was speeding and driving in anger, probably because they were running late. When I approached the car, you could feel the tension. This, too, was a family of four. This time the little girl in the back was holding the pie.

Read it. It’s worth seeing.

And then drive more carefully. It’s not just that you have to not drive badly; you have to remember that a lot of other people are driving especially badly.

Peter Seebach

Comments

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Frys still going...

(GeekStuff, Spam)

2006-12-15 17:04
Comments

Just for reference, the Frys spam run to old addresses is still going; I just got my fourth. So far, I have gotten no response from them, despite sending all the requested emails, jumping through hoops, and so on… And yes, I’m still getting mail from them.

Their hold music is horrible sappy love songs, and I’ve been on hold a good ten minutes so far.

Boy, are they not winning my affection.

Oh, wait. They improved: They hung up on me after 15 minutes on hold. No explanation, no “our system is too busy”. Just hung up.

Peter Seebach

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ChristianForums: Defining marriage, part 1

(Religion)

2006-12-11 12:01
Comments [9]

This one’s long enough to need to be a series.

There was recently a big fluff at CF over the “definition of marriage”. I’m going to start with a bit of an old-history overview. This applies to various things at the site, such as a user’s profile (where they can indicate whether or not they are married) or whether a given thing constitutes “extramarital” sex in a debate.

ChristianForums has often made use of a definition of the word marriage. In 2003, around the time of the great crash, a spectacularly stupid rule was put in place, that prohibited “promoting sin”. The language of the rule said that it was prohibited to “promote anything that may be considered sin according to the Bible” (a quote from memory, not an exact quote, but definitely not my own words). This convoluted wording was followed up by a specific list. As you might guess, everything on the list was sexual in nature, except abortion — and abortion, as understood by these people, is all about sexuality. Despite the in-theory sweeping nature of the rule, it was never once cited by staff in reference to usury or murder. It was not used in reference to torture, either. No, just sex. Lots and lots of sex.

The rule tried to capture the general sense of pseudo-Puritan sexual morality by banning all “promotion” of “extramarital sex”, and had a parenthetical stating that by “marriage” they mean “a marriage between a man and a woman”. This rule was used against gays, and it was used against unmarried straights.

During this (but unfortunately lost during the Great Crash, I believe) there was a discussion of how this rule determined marital status. I posed a specific example; imagine a couple who meet on a mission trip in a hypothetical country that does not recognize Christian marriages. They have a church ceremony but the government doesn’t recognize it. Are they “married”? Erwin’s official answer, and the site has never changed it, was “no, they are not.” That couple could not “promote” their sinful lifestyle by admitting that they have sex.

Now, some of you might be wondering why a Christian site would be more concerned with the dictates of a government that doesn’t recognize the Christian church than with the dictates of an actual Christian church. I sort of wonder too. I think it’s an inability to understand differing circumstances; in their own country, they’d assume that anyone without a civil marriage license was in some way invalid, so obviously, that must be true elsewhere. I have no idea. It’s sort of weirdly historical; the early Church considered marriage essentially a secular thing and mostly ignored it.

The “promoting sin” rule was unenforceable and ill-defined; no one could ever reach agreement on what constituted “promoting sin. The rule gradually migrated, and eventually this became a rule stating that discussions of those topics could occur only in specific forums. However, the marriage thing itself remained always a modifier of that particular rule. In the entire history of CF, up until late 2006, it was never, ever, enforced as a rule about user profiles. There is no evidence that anyone on staff ever thought that it was applied in this way, and there is not a single instance on the record of a staff member making any statements about who could or couldn’t identify as married.

In early 2006, the rules were massively revised. This definition was dropped. Some staff have claimed that this was an oversight, but the person who drafted the rules said it was intentional; it was not a useful thing to have, and it served no useful purpose.

In late 2006, we got the Marriage Icon Saga. More to come on that, but it’s large and will take a great deal of research.

Peter Seebach

Comments [9]

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Allied Telesyn followup

(Personal, Spam)

2006-12-09 11:38
Comments

This is just a followup to my article about the Allied Telesyn junk fax class action.

1. It got written about. If that link doesn’t work, here’s another link to the article at the Rocky Mountain News

2. I did finally find the thing that really bugged me in their claims of long ago; this comes from Allied Telesyn’s counsel.

In one prior letter I stated: “we expect an extremely high claim rate because the original fax list was “scrubbed”, i.e. personal contact was made with every individual on the list and the contact information was carefully verified. Therefore, if the notices are sent to the same fax numbers as the original scrubbed list, a high response rate of close to 100% is to be expected.” In my discussions with Rob, the only reason that I ever suggested fax notice was because the original list was a list of phone and fax numbers.

The problem is, the claim that personal contact was made is totally false. They never contacted me.

In the end, that was a major factor in my evaluation of them. I don’t know whether it’s the attorney or the company that originated this false claim, but someone in there said something because it was convenient, not because it was true. Or, perhaps, it was the list broker; they bought the list, so perhaps they just believed that someone selling them a list of numbers they couldn’t legally used would magically be telling the truth.

This came up in the context of their discussion of how they didn’t have addresses; eventually, claim notices were sent based on reverse lookups, rather than by fax, because faxing claim notices for a junk fax suit adds insult to injury. I don’t think they ever did say where they purchased the list.

Peter Seebach

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Allied Telesyn done!

(Personal, Spam)

2006-12-01 19:22
Comments

So, way back when, I mentioned my junk fax suit against Allied Telesyn. The eventual settlement, signed in August 2005, was confidential until the settlement checks were mailed. They’ve been mailed.

The short answer is, Allied Telesyn sent junk faxes to about 6,000 businesses. Early on, they were claiming they had called all of these businesses to gain permission, and so on. However, my business is just me at my house; there’s no one who could have given them permission, so we know that statement was false. Later, it came out that for many people all they knew was a fax number. Through a lot of reverse lookups and such they came up with a reasonably large list of people to contact with claim notices.

The final settlement was for $250 per claim. BTW, to clarify: That $250 is a check for $250.00. Not a “coupon” good on future services which the company can use as cheap advertising. The settlement order mentions just short of $160,000 for the class members who filed claims, and a $16.5k distribution to a law fund. As class representative, I got $5k. The law firms that represented me split up $300k, and of course, Allied Telesyn presumably paid their own attorneys for representation over the several years this case ran.

That’s a lot for a single fax, although it’s not the most I’ve ever gotten per fax in a settlement. On the other hand, it’s by far the most it’s ever cost someone to fax me.

Cue the whiners saying one should unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from what? Allied Telesyn had their own list; not a list anyone else used. I only got one fax from them. Nothing to unsubscribe from, but with millions of businesses in the US, I couldn’t afford to get one fax per business in any event.

This is, I think, about how the TCPA is intended to work; it is very expensive to send unsolicited faxes, because Congress outlawed them. This is not a law intended to “discourage” an action; it is an outright prohibition, and the penalties are, if anything, demonstrably too small — it is very hard to get enough money on junk fax suits to justify the cost of participating. One reason I was willing to accept the fairly low $250/class member settlement (by law, they would be entitled to at least $500 in individual suits) is the huge hassle of having to bring your own case. $250 you actually get for filling out a single claim form is better than $500 you can’t afford to spend $1,000 to go get.

The settlement took way longer than anticipated, largely because of a series of humorous mishaps. Response to the initial round of claim forms was tiny. The second claim form went out with a typo, claiming people had only 30 days to file (they actually had 60). So a third went out, and then Stuff Happened. Law stuff, court stuff, whatever it was.

But the claim checks have been mailed, so the agreement saying I can’t publicize the settlement or talk about it is now over. I did get one gripe about my previous entry, from March of 2005. Apparently, the mere fact that the article in question was written five full months before the settlement agreement was signed was a little too subtle for the folks over at Telesyn to pick up. They didn’t make a big deal out of it, but they probably would have done better just to not mention it at all.

So, there you have it. Yes, you can sue people under the TCPA. Given that this took three years to resolve (I started it in May of 2003 or so), I don’t think most people could “make a living at it” or whatever.

And no, I don’t feel that it’s unfair to businesses. I think that it provides businesses with a crucial defense against the effective loss of their fax machines.

Peter Seebach

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Spammed by Frys

(GeekStuff, Spam)

2006-11-25 18:41
Comments [2]

So, Frys Electronics seems to have bought the ancient “Cyberian Outpost” web store.

Including the spam list.

In April 2000, six and a half years ago, I ordered a part from them. So far as I can tell, from my records, it was backordered and never even got delivered. (At least, I show a return two months later.)

Today, I got spam from them. Now, you might argue that somehow it’s not spam for a company I haven’t done business with in over six years to send mail to an address that specifically asked not to receive mailings. They disagree:

Received: from CYBHQSPAM02 (cybhqspam02.web.frsj.outpost.com [10.249.6.150] (may be forged))
        by mail105.outpost.com (8.13.7/8.13.7) with SMTP id kAPNGoNA024755
        for <SEEBS+OUTPOST@NOSPAM.PLETHORA.NET>; Sat, 25 Nov 2006 18:17:14 -050

Yes, that’s right, the machine sending this junk is named “CYBHQSPAM02”. It’s the second of a batch of spam sources. The 10.x address may seem “forged”, but in fact, it’s just an address on their internal network; this machine delivered the spam run to one of their real outgoing servers.

So, yeah, it’s spam.

To add insult to injury, here’s the entire text of the spam:

Thanksgiving Sale!

See, someone particularly offensively stupid decided that, rather than sending only a pure-HTML message, there should be some kind of plain-text version of the message. Since my mail client doesn’t do HTML by default (cuts down on… you guessed it, spam), that means I just see the plain text. Rather than enclosing the actual text, or some portion thereof, or even a pointer to their site, or something like that, they just included the text “Thanksgiving Sale!”. No explanation, no contact information.

The HTML version has opt-out instructions, of course, as most spam does; they contradict the instructions given on the company’s website.

Pathetic. But hey, at least now I will never again complain that there’s no Frys near my house. Spamming idiots.

Peter Seebach

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Comments [2]

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Wii!

(GeekStuff)

2006-11-20 01:19
Comments [5]

I have had one of those experiences which is really interesting to have. Once.

I stood in line to get a toy that was in short supply. That’s the Nintendo Wii. You’ve probably seen news stories about how incredible the demand for the Playstation 3 is. Actually, there’s no way to know; while there are certainly people bidding huge amounts (many thousands of dollars) on eBay, there aren’t nearly as many actual confirmed sales… And most of the people waiting in long lines were just waiting to get systems so they could sell them. The amazing same-day sellout in Japan was 80,000 units. In the US, the total was closer to 400,000.

By contrast, the Wii shipped huge numbers. The Wal*Mart where one guy stood in line from Tuesday evening until Friday had two PS3 units; they had 20 Wiis. Both sold out. The Target I waited at had 39 Wiis; they sold out. In fact, the very orderly line was 39 people long over an hour before the store opened. Other stores had people camped out too.

The experience itself was interesting. People waiting in line for a video game system are, it turns out, mostly gamer geeks. There were a number of people there with blankets, food, and other amenities, and a few chairs. (One chair had about 1/16” of frost on it at the end of the night; people tended to stand around to keep warm.) We brought extra hot coffee for the other folks. It was fun.

The system itself is just about exactly what I expected; it’s not nearly as “powerful” as the PS3 or the Xbox 360, but then, who cares? It’s fun. While the Wii’s graphics are noticeably less detailed, they are not noticably less vibrant, and good graphical design goes a long way. Attacking the Wii’s raw horsepower is like criticizing anime for not being photorealistic; that’s not the point.

The innovative controls work, and they work fairly well. I have one game where I tend to have trouble with the controls if I’m too close to the TV; unfortunately, the place I normally play video games is a bit cramped. Moving to another location in the house made the controls flawless.

There’s a lot of similarity in the Wii/PS3 battle to the competition between the Nintendo DS and the PSP. The PSP is way more powerful, and plays movies in a proprietary format, but is doing nothing else that you couldn’t do two years ago. It’s faster, but not different. The DS has an innovative control system that makes some games possible that simply couldn’t be played on previous systems… And so does the Wii.

The price difference is shocking. A Wii with three extra controllers and a game or some such costs about as much as a PS3 with nothing. People have complained that the cost of Wii controllers ($60 for a complete Remote + nunchuck combo) is atrocious… But I noticed that Sony’s wireless PS3 controllers are $50, and the cable to charge them is $15.

The Wii uses standard SD cards to store save game data and downloaded console games. That’s a feature, although you don’t need one right away; it comes with plenty of internal memory. It also comes with wifi network support, and yes, it works fine on a WEP network which doesn’t broadcast its SSID. (If you don’t know what that means, find someone who does to secure your network a little.)

I think Nintendo has a winner here. Rather than creating artificial scarcity to generate buzz, Nintendo is trying very hard to guarantee that anyone who wants one of their boxes gets one. I loved this quote:

“Somebody told me there were nearly 3,000 people in line,” said Nintendo of America head Reginald Fils-Aime at the New York launch. “Well, let me tell you, we’ve got 4,000 units in the store.”

I think the real victims here are the developers of the PS3 launch titles. They’ve spent an immense amount of money developing games which are being sold to an incredibly small audience. The “attach rate” for the PS3 — the rate at which customers who buy a PS3 buy games — is under 1, meaning that many customers aren’t even buying one game, and there just aren’t that many customers out there. Sony’s sluggish manufacturing and distribution means that, by the time there’s more systems, the launch titles will be competing with a lot of titles whose developers had additional months to work on polishing their work.

Anyway, now I’ve done it; I’ve waited outside in a Minnesota November for a couple of hours, watching things freeze, waiting for a shiny toy. I think it says a lot about Nintendo’s accomplishment here that the system everyone has been saying was technically unimpressive turns out to be the one that was worth it.

Peter Seebach

Comments [5]

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ChristianForums: Bradfordgate

(Religion)

2006-11-16 04:16
Comments [7]

Ahh, Bradfordgate. The high point was when one of the ChristianForums staff confessed to killing and eating another (then-former) staffer.

You doubt this? So you well might; the thread in question was deleted by some of the other staff.

Let’s roll the clock back. Bradford was one of the most active posters at ChristianForums, and a veritable dynamo of moderation. Not everyone always agreed with his decisions, but a lot of moderation is just a matter of having the time and typing speed to do the work, and no one had any complaints about the time he put in. I do have one nice and clear example of Bradford handing out a totally bogus warning — but I also have nice documentation that he was ordered to give that warning by a senior staff member. (Using proxies to hand out warnings helps staff pretend they’re not stalking someone.)

Anyway, one day, Bradford went rather suddenly from a well-respected and active staff member to a banned ex-user. This might be some cause for comment, but luckily, CF staff were able to assure everyone that he was simply too busy to participate for a while, and had requested that his account be banned so he wouldn’t be tempted. We were firmly assured of this.

There’s just one problem. It wasn’t true. You may be expecting that I will go on to assert that the staff were lying in their public posts. I won’t. To the best of my knowledge, the staff making that assertion in public genuinely believed it. Why? Because it was what they were told.

The real story is allegations that Bradford was a sexual predator. I have heard about three sides of the story, and I currently think that he was not. I think he may have flirted a bit with people, and he certainly dated at least one, but I don’t think there’s a sufficient basis to support the allegation. But, as with another similar case, apparently no one really asked him. He was removed and banned. Was he, maybe, asked about the allegations? Well. No.

Of course, not all the allegations were even discussed openly at the top levels; some of these things were PMs from one person to another making various claims. Bradford was alleged to have had sex with people that, so far as anyone can tell, he’s never even met. There was “evidence”. For instance, one time, he met another user in an airport while travelling. The assertion was made that he changed around a business trip to meet someone. Because, obviously, there is no other way to run into someone in O’Hare International.

Of course, the official story was put out that he was just too busy. I think most of the staff repeating this to the regular members genuinely believed it. Not everyone did, though, and hilarity ensued when a user asked the site’s AI ‘bot staffer (“ChrisBot”) where Bradford was; the bot claimed to have eaten Bradford. (Barbeque, no less.) The thread was, alas, deleted by staff.

Anyway, here’s what happened next: A while later, Bradford tried to get back on staff, and succeeded. A number of staff spoke in his defense, including one of the people who was originally claimed to be a source for the evidence that he was a dangerous sexual predator. He was brought back on staff, after a number of staff who had not been told exactly what the story was said they’d trust the staff who did know to decide.

When the story came out there was a lot of staff drama, and Bradford left again — this time, Erwin just fired him. This time, the conviction thread (from Zion — remember the oddly blasphemous forum names?) was moved out into the general staff room so they could all read it. Not that Bradford was given a chance to defend himself.

To the best of my knowledge, to this day, none of those people have gotten around to asking him his side of the story, and I don’t think he was ever told exactly what the accusations were, except through the usual array of leaks and rumors. Yes, there are leaks even at the very highest levels of the forums; in the defense of whoever leaked that, I can see believing that a man who’s been accused of having sex with people and being a sexual predator might legitimately be seen as having some right to know what’s been said about him.

The big difference between this case and the other case that immediately comes to mind where someone was kicked off CF staff over allegations of improper sexual behavior is that, rather than telling all staff of the allegations, as though they were proven fact, senior staff covered them up and lied about what happened. I think this may actually be better, but I’m not sure.

Peter Seebach

Comments [7]

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ChristianForums: Confidentiality

(Religion)

2006-11-16 01:04
Comments [4]

There’s a lot of talk about confidentiality and secrecy, not to mention privacy.

These are three closely related concepts. All three are involved, somewhat, in any discussion of the stuff that gets kept secret about ChristianForums.

Staff often defend the policy of absolute confidentiality of staff forums on the grounds of the privacy of individual members. If Bob gets a warning, it’s private, and other people don’t have a right to know that Bob got a warning. Okay, fair enough. If staff check Bob’s IP to find out whether he’s a reincarnation of previously banned user Robert, well, his IP address could be used by a stalker to track him down. Private, right?

Now, that’s privacy. There’s also confidentiality, which is the way in which people feel safe discussing some things only when promised that they will not be publically taken to account, or reported to anyone. Confidentiality has a long history in Christian thought; for instance, the seal of the confessional, which many governments recognize simply because they got sick of locking priests away for refusing to violate it. Most CF staff discussions look at leaks of top-secret information in terms of confidentiality. To leak something from staff violates confidentiality. (There’s some interesting cases; for instance, if I am on staff, may I post material that I wrote myself for staff forums?)

Finally, there’s secrecy. Secrecy is the general case of keeping information restricted. It doesn’t necessarily imply any kind of reason or justification. There may not be one. CF staff stuff is full of secrets, kept not only from non-staff, but also from junior staff, or from senior staff, or from non-Catholics, or from non-Protestants.

A lot of concern has been raised because flesh99 recently reposted an entire thread of staff discussion. That’s seen by many as a breach of confidentiality. Of course, technically, he’s not the one who broke confidentiality; the original leak (well, leaks) did. Some people complain about betrayal, and no small number of people have told me that this hurts innocents.

I’m trying to understand that, but it ain’t happening yet.

What innocents? How are they hurt?

Let’s take these questions separately. What innocents? Given that the people on staff whose abuses and lies are made visible when things like this get exposed are still “getting away with it”, in that they still have their staff powers, and they have not been required to admit that certain claims were false, it seems to me that, at a bare minimum, everyone there is at least complicit in wrongdoing. About the only people who could claim otherwise would be the ones who have resigned in disgust.

Staff often assert that there is no way for us outsiders to know that nothing has been done. True. Much hand-wringing could be happening.

Until the public lies are followed up by public retractions and public apologies, whatever’s been done has amounted to a whole lot of nothing. The users who were lied to have not yet been told the truth.

Now, how are they hurt? Several staff members have asserted repeatedly that staff should not be saying anything that would embarass them. Duh. According to most Christian beliefs, every last bit of this will come out in the end. There will be no anonymity, there will be no secrets. These actions will be on the record in a fairly absolute sense. So, what of it?

If the secret records being revealed were the IP addresses or real names of individuals, they might have a claim to being “hurt”. So far, in fact, many staff have specifically affirmed that they are okay with being quoted. Others have said they aren’t, citing to “confidentiality”. Only, that’s a mechanism; it’s not a reason. The confidentiality agreement is not a moral goal in and of itself; it’s a means to a moral goal. Most people would admit that there exist at least theoretical circumstances where they would break a previously-given promise based on new information making it clear to them that the promise would be deeply harmful.

In fact, something I find quite interesting is the degree of overlap between people that I know have leaked stuff — and in some cases, directly lied about having done so — and people that are now complaining vehemently that someone else has leaked. There are some people that I don’t think have ever leaked. In some cases, I think their reasons for doing so are basically sound. In others, I think it’s more a powerful social norm, which is actually contrary to sound doctrine on the matter:

The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Chapter 18, Verses 15-17

   Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

The problem here is that people view the confidentiality agreement as trumping this. We are not just talking about random watercooler chatter; we are talking about clear and compelling evidence of consistent patterns of malfeasance on the part of some fairly senior staff over a period of years. Many people have talked to these people individually; many have come to them with witnesses. Nothing has changed.

So now what? Now we tell the truth, and if that means an agreement is broken, that was a definite flaw in the agreement; a Christian site’s policies should not be mandating behavior contrary to Scripture.

What’s interesting is that CF has long had firm and entrenched hostility to groups that require any kind of confidentiality. For a month or two, CF had a policy that no one who was a freemason could be on staff, and many CF staffers have said that no freemason could ever be a real Christian. Why? Because there’s third-party rumors that say that masons are very occult, and because they are required to keep their practices secret.

Obviously, it is problematic for the staff of a Christian site to join any group which demands of its members a prior commitment to keep everything they learn during their tenure secret, even after they leave, and never to disclose it even if they learn of practices they consider gravely immoral. Inexplicably, many CF staff feel that precisely such a commitment not only can, but must, be expected of fellow staff, and that failure to keep to such a commitment, even after discovering systematic and premeditated abuse, is a horrible thing.

Interesting to note how many of the most vocal opponents of such disclosures are precisely some of the people whose actions look worst when disclosed.

Peter Seebach

Comments [4]

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ChristianForums: Socks and the appearance of evil

(Religion)

2006-11-14 23:02
Comments [3]

One of the quirks of CF is that, for as long as I can find records of, official policy has always been that moderators are strongly encouraged to have a separate account, not identified as theirs, which they use to debate.

The idea is this: If a moderator debates with you, then you know that moderator’s views, and might think the moderator is biased if that moderator ever deletes a post contrary to those views.

Since the Bible encourages people to abstain from the appearance of evil, obviously, the solution is to have moderators make all their substantive posts using an anonymous sock puppet account which is not identified with them openly, so no one can say what their biases are.

This works as well as you’d expect; moderators still moderate with biases, but it can be hard to guess which ones. Because moderators are very strongly encouraged to present themselves as impartial, they cannot admit their biases enough to take any steps to counter them. Furthermore, the sock accounts create an even bigger problem, in that they can break rules and nothing happens to the moderator. In some cases, the sock account becomes known to other staff, and begins to enjoy the privileged position moderators have, where their posts are not really subject to the rules. In other ways, it may go unknown, in which case, if the heat builds up, the moderator just stops using it and starts a new one.

In short, in their hurry to abstain from the appearance of evil, the staff have forgotten to find any way to prevent its substance.

In its essence, this policy is founded on dishonesty. The purpose of the rule is to cause people to falsely believe that the person with whom they are debating is not a moderator. Some staff claim that it makes no difference; if it makes no difference, what’s the point? The point is to mislead users into thinking the staff are impartial when they aren’t.

There’s an underlying tendency for many people to be unwilling to admit that they do have biases. On other forums, staff are often encouraged to participate actively. Their biases become known to the community, but so do their efforts to take those biases into account and compensate for them. Furthermore, with the information on the table, users don’t have false expectations or beliefs.

This policy has been there forever, and while it is not strictly required, the pressure on staff to participate is often strong.

With a standing policy that staff should deceive users, it’s hardly surprising that there are problems.

Peter Seebach

Comments [3]

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