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Feedback please

Written By: - Date published: 11:48 am, April 28th, 2018 - 46 comments
Categories: The Standard - Tags:

There is some back end discussion on moderation. We’d like feedback on aspects of it.

From time to time, people have asked who or how moderation decisions are regulated or managed. The short answer is that they aren’t.

A proposal to address that was first drawn up some three years ago. That proposal was supported. And then it was forgotten, and never actioned

Briefly, the idea is that site wide bans over a given length of time will be automatically subject to a quick and simple “review” process that all authors, editors and admin can easily and quickly contribute to. As at present, any author can ban any commentator from their post – or all of their posts of they want to – and that decision remains entirely up to them.

The original suggestion set a two day upper limit on site wide bans that continue to be the sole responsibility of an individual moderator. Those short duration bans will not be subjected to any automatic review

Any site wide ban of over two days duration will not carry a moderators name and, if altered (ie – reduced), notification will be given at the bottom of a  following day’s Open Mike.

To illustrate. On Monday a ten week, site wide ban is handed down. As has been happening for the past two years or so, that’s recorded on the dedicated “Moderation Notes” thread in the back end. What’s new is it being automatically subject to review.

If that ban is lessened, then that will be notified at the bottom of Open Mike on Tuesday or Wednesday or (at the latest) Thursday.

Changes will be made to the Policy to accommodate  changes in how things are done.

The system isn’t perfect, but hopefully it will calm down a lot of the angst that can get thrown up in the comments section following some moderator decisions. And reduce stress levels all round. It should also bring a semblance of consistency to ban lengths.

Authors, editors and admin have access to the more detailed discussion elsewhere, so this post is more or less entirely yours to comment on.




46 comments on “Feedback please”

  1. Jenny 1

    Plus 1

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Is this as a result of the banning of Psycho Milt? I hope so, because that was the biggest bit of shooting in the foot ass fuckery I’ve seen in a while.

    • adam 2.1

      I’d couple the Colonial Viper ban in with that one.

      Mind you, Psycho Milt calling Colonial Viper a fascist was uncalled for, and quite shitty, yes a year was to long a ban. However, the ganging up on Colonial Viper, before conversations could develop with him, did actually piss me off as well. It got very, very silly, very, very quickly.

      [lprent: See the comment below at 2.1.2. I don’t like fools lying about what others ‘really’ said in an act of fiction, and especially about people who are banned and who cannot defend themselves. 2 week ban for being a fool trying to rewrite history.

      If you want to comment on an event – then at least link to it so that others can make up their own mind and not have bigoted doofus ‘interpret’ it in their own words rather than those in the comment.

      See – so easy to reinterpret when there is no way to respond… How do you like it? ]

      • Sanctuary 2.1.1

        Is that what it was over? FFS, yes they both deserved a clip over the ears but honestly, the over-reaction…

      • lprent 2.1.2

        From psycho milt..

        Commenter Adam has posted a lie about me under the “Feedback Please” post:  https://thestandard.org.nz/feedback-please/#comment-1479263.  For obvious reasons I can’t correct him myself so am turning to you as I don’t want the lie to stand unchallenged for anyone who reads the post.

        Adam wrote “Psycho Milt calling Colonial Viper a fascist was uncalled for,” which is not only untrue but carries the implication I was banned for it.  I didn’t call Colonial Viper a fascist and wasn’t banned for that.  The comment in question is here:  href=”https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-21-03-2018/#comment-1464040″, and quotes a couple of lines from Colonial Viper that I believe reflect authoritarian nationalist views.  That isn’t “calling him a fascist,” unless “fascist” is so broad a term as to be meaningless.

        I’d appreciate it if someone could at least put a [citation needed] on Adam’s comment.

        I’d agree that this is complete and deliberate act of misrepresentation.

    • Anne 2.2

      I agree re-Psycho Milt. Not sure he will return because of it. Another former commenter and author I miss is Te Reo Putake. Yes, he had a temper and his style of writing was misunderstood by some, but he was insightful and had a great sense of humour. We’ve lost him which is a shame.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    BTW, the idea of 48 hour cool downs is a good one, for both moderators and poster.

  4. Ed 4

    Are we allowed to comment on moderation on this thread without being banned?

    • lprent 4.1

      I suspect you can see the answer further up. It is like everything else. Express your opinions as being your opinions, and be very careful that you can backup your ‘facts’ because otherwise someone will call you on them.

      This isn’t a bad general rule for anything to do with vibrant society.

  5. Olwyn 5

    I feel I must respond to this proposition, since I am someone who has quibbled over the issuing of long bans. And I want to make a suggestion. Firstly, that the period for which an individual moderators ban holds be lengthened to a week, or however long it would take for the moderators to determine the length of time for an extended ban. Ban notices would then go something like “Banned for the next two days,” “Banned for the next week,” or “Banned for the next week, with further ban pending.”

    If the further ban is upheld by the group, its duration could be announced at the bottom of Open Mike, and a “no further ban” notice issued if it is not. Bans from particular individual’s posts could also come up under the “further ban” category. E.g: “General ban ended, but banned from (e.g.) Bill’s posts until further notice.”

    Going about it this way would make longer bans the business of the group rather than the individual moderator, so would not publicly undermine the individual moderator’s authority. And banning certain individuals from certain authors’ posts under the broader “punishment” umbrella is less likely to generate personal hostility between people who hold incompatible views than bans that arise out of heated exchanges.

  6. xanthe 6

    If the period of the ban is going to be open to review (if i understand correctly) then i suggest that the period not be announced untill after the review altho the moderator will set a period for that review

    Ie “xanthe has a sitewide ban of greater then 2 days”

    Later… “xanthe your sitewide ban has ben set at 3 years”

    This would avoid moderators being publically set agaisnt each other.

    thats my feedback… oh and yes i am broadly in favour of moderator decisions being peer reviewed.

  7. Marcus Morris 7

    Sorry, this question is not totally related to the topic but there is a connection. Can someone explain why, on this particular blog, which I enjoy and open on most days, I cannot simply express support (or otherwise) for a comment by “liking” or “not liking”. Cheers.

    • lprent 7.1

      Three reasons. I’ve looked at it several times

      1. Because I had a look at how it was being used in other sites effectively as a bully tool. Specifically at kiwiblog where it is used by the ‘in’ group to hide comments by the ‘out’ group without any personal responsibility for giving the argument for the down-ticks being evident.

      I haven’t found a place on the net with a set of rules that actually doesn’t veer towards that kind of behaviour. I personally think that it isn’t useful for robust debate.

      It always tends to wind up as some kind of group moderation without any personal responsibility for justifying the action of ticking. And it is instead you have moderators and other commenters insisting that you justify your behaviour.

      2. I suspect that personal cost of having ‘free’ ticks (the most common usage) gives a disproportionate weighting to those are obsessed with a site, or those who have more time on their hands, or who simply don’t have much to contribute to the discussion.

      3. And more operational reason. The CPU cost of doing the ticks is colossal in a dynamic site. Just think what is required. Each tick costs virtually the same as the cost of making a comment in terms of the server load. If there is a link to whoever ticked a comment, then it is exactly the same server cost because that involves a pile of validation – the same level as required to leave a comment. I can’t see any way that leaving a comment without significant content is worth that load on my servers.

      I have had several thoughts about ways to achieve a better result, but most of them required that we instituted real logins so we could ration the ticks that anyone could use in a given period.

      Part of the reason why this site doesn’t have real verified logins is to make it an easy place to access and to allow robust debate.

      Why should we impose a potential security risk on those providing that debating content to satisfy the ones who don’t want to participate in any meaningful way?

      • Marcus Morris 7.1.1

        Thank you for that very full explanation and I appreciate your reasoning. Cheers.

    • Frankie and Benjie 7.2

      I can’t directly answer your question but many just use the “reply” with a “+1” etc.
      I think that a system for “liking” or “not liking” may just encourage right wing trolls to descend on mass and try to give the appearance that ideas they considered a threat are not liked and “like” troll attack lines. I like to read reasoned arguments and comments on some Stuff “articles” can be even more depressing when they get lots of “likes”. Kiwi blog use it to make it harder to see alt points of view.

  8. McFlock 8

    I would also prefer that moderator warnings are in bold on the warned commenter’s comment, to distinguish it from simply becoming a loud argument between commenters. There have been one or two instances where it seemed to me the moderator issued warnings (if that) as a commenter in the midst of a regular argument, which doesn’t quite have the gravitas of the firm announcement appearing upon your own comment.

  9. Andre 9

    That proposal looks like a big improvement to me.

    weka’s habit of putting a regular comment that appears in the replies tab after a moderation note also looks to me like a helpful thing. It may have stopped some commenters from digging their holes deeper.

  10. red-blooded 10

    I think the idea of a review process is a good one. Two days seems a reasonable length for a non-reviewed ban. I do have some suggestions, though:
    1) If the same commenter is banned regularly by the same moderator (maybe after the 3rd ban?) then any further bans should be automatically reviewed by at least one other moderator.
    2) Limited bans (eg banned from commenting on a particular moderator’s pieces) could be considered. I don’t know if you do this already – if so, it’s not something I’ve noticed. I don’t think a moderator should be able to do this unless it’s reviewed, though.
    3) I support the idea of warnings and bans being in bold text. I also wonder if it’s possible to use a different background colour when issuing a warning (orange?) or ban (red?). It may not be – just a suggestion.
    4) I echo xanthe’s comment re length of bans not being specified until the length has been specified.
    5) If that suggestion isn’t taken up, I think it’s reasonable to email the commenter the outcome of the moderation. Something simple – “Your one week ban has been endorsed by moderators” or “Your ban has been reduced to three days”, with a standard request not to reply to this email.
    6) I think you need to give yourselves some leeway – maybe rather than all moderators being involved in considering a particular ban, you need to agree a minimum number (like a quorum).

    In general, a very positive development.

    • lprent 10.1

      3) I support the idea of warnings and bans being in bold text. I also wonder if it’s possible to use a different background colour when issuing a warning (orange?) or ban (red?). It may not be – just a suggestion.

      Arggh please no. I have enough issues with various kinds of colour blindness in my normal coding work.

      That is why they have been in character styles.

      5) If that suggestion isn’t taken up, I think it’s reasonable to email the commenter the outcome of the moderation. Something simple – “Your one week ban has been endorsed by moderators” or “Your ban has been reduced to three days”, with a standard request not to reply to this email.

      We don’t have ‘real’ email addresses for many commenters. With the exception of the few who have actual logins and comments attached to them. You can enter anything in the ’email’ address because it is really a shared secret between the site and the commenter

      To make that happen we’d have to make everyone:-

      a. Have a verified login

      b. Have a regular check that the email addresses are still valid – and removing access to those who don’t respond.

      c. Have a potential civil and criminal liability issue that relates to our privacy policy. The way that we operate it is that each user decided what they want to be available at the sites database.

  11. AsleepWhileWalking 11

    I think I’ve been banned in the past. Unfortunately I only figured it out after trying to post a day or so later so don’t know why (and not prepared to waste hours trying to find post).

    Other forums email or PM automatically if the B-hammer hits. Is this an option here?

  12. JohnSelway 12

    It concerns me that some mods clearly have agendas that aren’t really representative of what I would consider The Standard to be about.

    So often the front page is literally a RT puff piece. with little in the way of rebuttal apart from the comments where people have been ridiculed for daring to suggest RT/Russian Propaganda probably isn’t the best source to quote from.

    Every day there is something new from Bill about how the west lies and Russia is grand (Really, Russia? WHere homosexuality is forbidden and journalists are murdered). Any questions are usually meet with “Yeah but America!” which answers nothing.

    On the positive side I think Draco is a mod (forgive me if I am wrong) but you can straight up insult the guy during a touchy topic and he never bans ad instead uses reason (not to say it is always logical or correct reason). Me and him have had epic clashes but without having any bans or threats

    • One Two 12.1

      aren’t really representative of what I would consider The Standard to be about

      What is representative of The Standard, in your considerd opion, John?

  13. One Two 13

    Abuse of commentators either in moderating or in general, by those handles who it is known are moderators for TS…should be reigned in…

    That said, all who comment are responsible for the tone and well being of this site…

    Past short while has been quite civilized all round…self regulating to a degree…

    • lprent 13.1

      Personally as a moderator, I tend to be reflective of whatever the behaviour that teh commenter that I am moderating has been doing. If i have time I try to accentuate the trait that I am moderating on and reflect it back to them – usually in the order of about 10 fold.

      You should know … … … … … … … … … …

      • One Two 13.1.1

        usually in the order of about 10 fold

        Nothing to be pleased/proud about having such a trait, Lprent…

        As the site admin, author, moderator and commentator…you’re in a position to influence this site positively and/or negatively more than most anyone else here…

        Perhaps reflect on how your vulgar abuse of commentators, including females, drags the site down…

        Perhaps you don’t care…perhaps you should…

      • alwyn 13.1.2

        That is certainly a most ssssssibilant final sentence, if I may ssssssay sssssso.

  14. Chris T 14

    I was here about 3 weeks and got banned for 4 months for having the audacity to criticise Metirias actions.

    Obviously I’ll never do it again as she seems to be unquestionable and it would be a year next time, but far out. A bit of perspective

    • lprent 14.1

      Not completely accurate. It was 3 months not 4. And you have misrepresented what the ban was for. Perhaps you should read it again.

      Reactions to Metiria – the political and the personal

      It wasn’t the criticism of Metiria that got you the ban, it was adopting a supercilious tone about ‘choice’. I don’t like fools that arbitrarily apply standards to others that they are unwilling apply to themselves.It tends to lead to the kinds of stupid flame wars that I detest reading. So I tend to stomp on it when I see someone heading down that path as a preemptive measure. It helps identify people who can learn..

      I took great deal of pleasure in applying the exact same kind of arbitrary judgment that you used about Meteria’s ‘choice’ to ‘steal’ and applying it to you.

      In my case it was a similarly completely arbitrary criteria for the theft. That you were stealing my bandwidth – which is true. And having mad that arbitrary judgement convicting and sentencing you on it.

      I am sorry that you appear to have been too stupid to understand the lesson about arbitrary judgement viewed from different angles, and that you choose instead to blame someone wholly innocent for your ban for pig ignorance.

      You really do appear to be rather thick.

      • Chris T 14.1.1

        That’s all good

        Just don’t pretend to give warnings and a few days bans

        • lprent

          I have never pretended to do anything apart from making damn sure that if I take the effort to make a moderation, I try to make it pretty obvious why I am doing it – and as memorable as possible about what behaviour I’m dealing with. It reduces my workload over time.

          You have to understand that I operate as a programmer dealing with bugs in the system. Those could be code glitches, hardware glitches, behavioral glitches, liability glitches, or even just controlling the finances that keep the site operational. They are all the same to me.

          I work very long hours at my job and other projects, have the joys of making sure that site keeps running, deal with the varied attacks on the site and the endless discussions that go on at the backend. So at present I don’t have time to write many posts, time to read too many comments, or even time to chase authors to write starter pieces. Some of these things have been slowly devolving on to other people over time.

          I deal with all issues as efficiently as possible in terms of my own time, and try to keep shifting the systems so that problems don’t keep repeating. And I have been doing that on this site for more than a decade through generations of servers, authors and moderators, so I’m reasonably adept at doing it.

          I’m not that certain that the approach in this post is particularly valid myself. However if it works then it may reduce the time I have to spend on certain kinds of time wasting. Some of the previous initiatives by others have worked over time, so I’m always willing to provide room for others to work.

          But I simply don’t have much time to get involved in long discussions. FFS I’m writing this from a hotel in Singapore, a city-state where I’m working on delivering a massive contract over the next 5 weeks.

          If this initiative works, then I get more time to work on other things. But if it doesn’t work in terms that I evaluate on then I will continue to allocate my time according to need.

          I suspect that is what everyone on the site rather expects of me. But my primary concern is to continue to provide a space for robust debate with the least effort from me.

      • Chris T 14.1.2


        I hold no one responsible for my 3 month ban apart from myself.

        • McFlock

          lol nice recovery.

          FWIW the trick in my experience seems to be to escalate slowly rather than jumping straight into ‘choose between a hobby and plucking a job from a tree’, and keeping your head down when one or two mods get a bit pissed off with the general behaviour level or just plain ban-happy.

  15. Ovid 15

    Could ignore commenter functionality be implemented? I like to think I’m a commenter in good standing around here, but my participation has declined here because I see shitposting so often.

    • Sacha 15.1

      I’ve expressed my frustrations. Would love to see that function here.

    • lprent 15.2

      That I could do. In fact I implemented it once.

      It has quite a lot of consequences. Because the pages are cached and to provide individual pages for each viewer is terrible for the server loads. I tested that (urrgh). At peak times when there are 10k plus page views per hour that would require considerably more CPU or the server crashing.

      If I did it in a server optional way, then it’d be in your cookies and client side javascript. You’d get the full pages loaded to your system and a slow javascript run on the client side matching on the handle. Which would mean that duplicate handles would get munged as well. For instance we’ve had quite a lot of Chris handles over the years. There are no unique ID’s at the client side otherwise – except maybe the id that does the gravator.

      Further more the most efficient way to do it would be to collapse the whole of the thread (easy). The other way would be to collapse the text of the comment (harder) by making the text area display hidden.

      As a technique that also has the disadvantage that it is client machine specific. You’d have to manually do it for each user on each machine that you use. In my case that means about 6 machines that I regularly use in a day.

      It could be done across machines with people who are logged in because I can carry that hide list in the database. But that would require adding back in the ability for users to create logins – which is a bit of a nightmare because of the email confirmation and the access point for spam.

      Nothing is simple when you’d looking at this kind of thing and we don’t exactly have a budget for the hours of coding and testing required.

      That being said, I’ll pull this new plugin in and try it out – probably not until next weekend though. It looks like they have implemented it exactly the way I was pointing to in javascript. Looks like it is cookie based – so the criteria about machines applies, and I’ll have to see if it works with the mobile theme we use.

      The plugin only has 10+ installations which probably means limited tests – so don’t hold your breath.

  16. James 16

    My only bit of feedback regarding moderation is that something is done to stop the personal abuse some put out on a regular basis.

    It makes the site a lot less friendly not only for the person being abused but I assume for new readers.

    A 2 day auto ban for personal abuse would probably put a stop to it very quickly.

    Edit – talking about abuse from comments not moderation.

    • Grey Area 16.1

      Funnily enough James in this instance I agree with you (probably a first) and I was going to post something similar.

      I find many comments on here to be nasty and insulting and constituting personal abuse, as you say. It should not not be acceptable on a site that I hope seeks to encourage healthy, vigorous debate.

      I assume we are all big girls and boys with some resilience, and on occasions we can get carried away (or want to), but it really drags this site down when people just put the boot in (or try to score cheap points) as their default position.

      So I also would like to see a quick, automatic ban for personal attacks or abuse.

      That said you may want to have a look a few of your own posts as you are very quick to get a bit snippy on occasions in my opinion.

  17. Craig H 17

    Longer bans being agreed by mods as a group is good.

    Less abusive comments would also be nice, although one person’s abusive might be another person’s forthright.

    Fewer trolls would also be great, but might be difficult to implement.

  18. Ad 18

    I think: ban all swearing.

    Otherwise: defend your comments with facts not nutjob videos.

    Lyn I think anonymous controls are good. Feels more like a charter.

  19. Incognito 19

    I think it would be good to have a more even-hand and consistent approach to ban lengths. However, this seems to mostly address the end result post-ban and not so much what happens, in terms of moderation, in the lead up to the ban (i.e. pre-ban), at least not visible to the general TS community because the ‘review’ of the ban happens at the back end of TS.

    Personally, I am not a fan of lengthy bans because I believe that they are a blunt inefficient tool to use as deterrent (for the culprit or also as a warning to others?) or to ‘induce’ self-correcting or self-moderating behaviour; to me, it comes across as mostly punitive and could well create more work for moderators over the long term because of recidivist behaviour. Obviously, there are many ways of looking at it and it also depends on what site of the fence you’re sitting on.

    Instead of an outright site-wide lengthy ban commenters that stray of the reserve could be curbed to a limited number of posts per day (e.g. in OM and DR only) and upon ‘good behaviour’ this number will increase till the ban is lifted. My thinking is that if you’re allowed only 5 daily comments, for argument’s sake, then you’ll be thinking harder about you’d use them; it becomes a precious resource that needs to be self-managed more carefully. [I’ve previously stated that I view commenting here as a privilege more than a right or entitlement] By background: I often need to write stuff with a set word- or character-limit (not Twitter!) and then you make every word or comma count 😉

    I enjoy quality debate but in robust debate the lines between acceptable criticism & disagreement and personal attack are too easily blurred and crossed by some; I confess I find this very hard myself at times too … My ‘saviour’ is that I have very limited time (unfortunately) to really get stuck into robust debate, which relates back to time being a precious resource.

    • cleangreen 19.1

      Good discussion Lynn,

      I have long been a contributor to three blog sites and TS has been one of those.
      I find the main frustration has been around seeing a ‘concerted’ effort of (several others) I refrain from mentioning attacking a single blogger on occasions.

      This appears to be more of a ‘witch hunt’ rather than anything else.

      Perhaps when a coderator sees this may be helpful in placing a simple note on the (several others) to refrain from conducting a “character assassination” and rather instead offer same constructive comments instead.

      “treat the patient first” perhaps?

  20. RedLogix 20

    First up my apologies for not responding sooner; a combination of work and remoteness from the internet has prevented a more timely response.

    First of all a sincere and belated apology to Psycho Milt for the one year ban. It was of course totally OTT, exactly as was I still believe the same ban issued on CV. There was some discussion in the backend at the time, but in the end I realised it was not my problem to resolve.

    I accept PM’s explanation that he did not intend for his “authoritarian nationalist” crack to imply “nazi”, but I’m certain that a number of others, including CV, did read that meaning into it. CV’s response that this was “delusional” was snarky, but I read it as unremarkable. Certainly no worse than thousands of other comments and interactions that have passed un-moderated in the past. And while CV was certainly a provocative participant, a one year ban for this exchange was utterly wrong. Period. I had two choices; engage in a futile argument against it in public, or escalate it. I take full responsibility for my action and any consequences that have flowed from it. And I accept that others will see it in various shades depending on their view point.

    Re-litigating the details serves only a minor purpose now. The point is the one year bans were both wrong and of course they should have been rescinded promptly (I’ve no idea if the same courtesy has been subsequently extended to CV or not, but I’d imagine that would be fair.) Other concerns in the back-end also subsequently arose, but again they’re of little consequence at this time.

    What is worth saying is that I totally support lprent’s resolution towards developing a more consistent, even-handed moderation regime that is less prone to being misappropriated.

    And as I’m back on a plane again tomorrow I’ll not be around to respond, but best wishes to you all and my deepest regards to all those who contribute here in sincerity and with a open heart.

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