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  Proposed addition to user rights, including "user duties"

+ 1 like - 2 dislike

In my view, the current user rights should get a preamble which is about expectations from users. Also, the section on privacy and anonymity should be extended by statements about the privacy of private messages. Finally, I propose a delete-nothing-at-all policy.

The new content could roughly be the following.

The goal of the user rights is to protect users contributing to PO and 
scientific content contributed to PO, to an extent that maximally 
benefits the open and professional discussion of physics, even with 
respect to minority views on a subject. For accountability reasons, all 
content is preserved, nothing ever (not even obvious spam) will be 
deleted, but questionable content is moved to less easily accessible 
corners of the site. A trusted user (currently at 500+ rep) will
have access to all these corners, users with less reputation 
at least to their own contributions (except for obvious spam).

It is important for the success of PO that all users work together for 
making PO a place where those interested in theoretical physics like 
to spend their time on. In particular, all users deserve to be treated 
with respect. The more problematic a contribution is the more polite 
should be the critical replies. 
In particular, accusations should be formulated in the politest way 
possible - read it twice before you contribute one! To ensure high 
quality, users with sufficient reputation have therefore the right to 
edit posts to improve the tone of every contribution as long as the 
factual content is preserved; see the editing guidelines.

Private messages on PO are what the notion says - private, and thus 
(like everywhere else) require the consent of the sender to make them 
or part of them public.

Any case of apparent violation of user rights should be posted on meta 
in a constructive and polite way for further investigation. 
The moderators will undo the damage if possible.

What do you think?

asked Mar 26, 2015 in Discussion by Arnold Neumaier (15,787 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 27, 2015 by dimension10

see my paraphrase of a few items of the universal declaration of human rights

Note that according to this declarations even duties are part of human rights!

2 Answers

+ 2 like - 1 dislike

With one exception, none of this belongs in the user rights. The user rights is a terse statement saying what restrictions there are on moderators. It involves no restrictions on users. The restrictions on users are spelled out in the FAQ.

You propose an additional rule, which ostensibly is that private user messages are not to be published. I don't see how you can enforce this except through trust. Are we supposed to block blabbermouths? You know who they are, just don't say anything you want private to them. That's how the rest of the world enforces this, after all. If you want to get a confidentiality agreement in real life, you need to get someone to sign a document. There can be no room for personal ethics guidelines in the site documents.

The one exception is "For accountability reasons, nothing is deleted..." The +500 users can't see deanonymization attacks, nor should they see spam or incomprehensible material, and plagiarism of copyrighted sources needs to be deleted right away. Only administrators need to see the spam and deanonymization material (for investigation), the copy-paste plagiarism must be permanently deleted to avoid legal trouble. In additon, off topic material is moved to chat with a link, and low-level material is simply hidden. If you take these exceptions out of your proposal, you get precisely the content in "protection of text.", which otherwise embodies your sentiment.

I proposed that "nothing on meta is off topic", but this failed. If you are after protecting meta discussion, you might look into reviving that. Meta discussions need to be preserved without alteration, as they are the policy-making history.

answered Mar 27, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]
Most voted comments show all comments

correction: The restrictions on the users are spelt out in the block log.

I agree with all you wrote, but about the preservation of meta content - if the discussion is "how do I insert a centred equation", then the statement "All equations should be deleted from the site and the site should be made popular-level" is certainly off-topic. It's dangerous to make all-encompassing rules like nothing is off-topic.

@dimension10: Except you have been overzealous in interpreting long discussions as off topic if they stray somewhat from the initial question. We have essentially hidden and censored away past discussions to the point where we have to rehash them again now, so they no longer look like an emotionless psychopathic monster ganging up on the site founder with a host of inexplicably brainwashed henchmen. This rehash is expending everyone's energy needlessly.

Perhaps "unanimity for moving off topic on meta is required, excluding only the author". Meaning, anything with a single upvote is non-unanimous?

@RonMaimon That should be alright, although for hiding, not for moving to chat, because moving to chat can easily be reversed.

@dimension10; Can you get Dilaton's opion, write a question, and try to get it passed? (I'm talking to Dilaton, I could ask, I just have no more energy for meta for a long long time)

@RonMaimon I am actually planning two additions to the user rights, I'll include it in that.

@dimension10: Could you please give a link to the block log from the comment where you mention it? 

Also, it is very necessary that the FAQ contains somewhere close to the top a complete description of where one can find which kind of information about the site. At the moment it is an irritating unorganized multiplicity.

+ 0 like - 0 dislike

Rules are only made with considerations of situations of conflict, not for situations of harmony, and your rule regarding private messages is completely obvious in situations of harmony, and becomes impossible to fairly enforce in situations of conflict. It's exactly the type of rule that can be exploited for terrible abuse.

Imagine a conflict situation regarding this proposed rule. What would enforcement would look like? The only case where you could get conflict are situations which are impossible to moderate, because you would need to examine the private messages of the two users. These are private issues of trust between two users, which we cannot legislate. This is an issue of personal ethics, not an issue of site policy. I agree with the personal ethics, by the way, which is why I try to make it clear that I am a blabbermouth to people before they speak to me privately.

An hypothetical example of such a situation; User A posts a paper, and sends a private message to expert User B saying "I know page 37 has a mathematical error in it, but please bear with me, it will get fixed soon in a later version". No new version 4 months later, user B writes a review pointing out the mistake, which user B would have discovered independently. User A complains about violation of privacy, user B gets kicked out. It's this kind of nonsense you have to consider when rulemaking, not the usual day-to-day business of people working in harmony. That's why the only real stringent tests of rules are situations of real discord.

While it seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen at the time, our terrible discord might have been a blessing in disguise for the rulemaking process, as we now know how the rules work in situations of conflict, and they aren't so bad. On balance, they produced fairness to everybody (more or less), and cooperation of all (with enough time). With your rules, they would have gotten me blocked, and VK banned.

answered Mar 27, 2015 by Ron Maimon (7,720 points) [ revision history ]
edited Mar 27, 2015 by Ron Maimon
Most voted comments show all comments

Currently, my proposal just says 

The moderators will undo the damage if possible.

This leaves all common sense options open.

@ArnoldNeumaier If "undo the damage" just means erasing all traces of the attack, I agree with that - but if it includes, say "preventive measures" (euphemism for any punishment), I completely disagree.

I don't know whether the downvote a few minutes ago for my post http://www.physicsoverflow.org/28382 came from you but it shows that bringing something up on meta is already a very effective way of saying tut-tut.

The reason this post popped up was that a few minutes before the downvote I had downtoned my attack on dimension10 there (which I should have done much earlier but because of all the other things I never came around to adjusting the text). I noticed too late that this gives the old stuff that should be buried new attention that is inappropriate now, and I apologize for that, @RonMaimon. @dimension10, could you please restore the old position in the queue if this is possible? How should I correct the same problem in a few other places without creating unwanted attention?

@ArnoldNeumaier It's not possible to restore the original position in the queue without bumping all posts that were above it. I did that once, but I think it's a bad idea. The downvote is not mine.

@ArnoldNeumaier: Users can only violate other users rights in extreme circumstances which warrant a block--- hacking the site, deanonymization, spamming their questions repeatedly with off-topic nonsense, etc. Users have no power to do anything to a user, realistically. This problem is a fantasy, a ridiculous and dangerous fantasy.

All of these except disallowing private messages and removing moderatorship does not require policy, and disallowing private messages can't be done to both parties symmetrically. If you don't know who is at fault, you never punish anybody.

This is a non-issue, caused by a false moral equivalence. You imagine that me inappropriately publishing an email once, inadvertantly violating an expection of privacy, a post which I removed quickly when told it was inappropriate, an incident which I promised never to repeat, a post at -2 which had no impact on the discussions, with problems of abuse of power. There is no policy that can ever deal with this. A person's default assumption about privacy of things you say to them is simply something that varies from person to person, and you need to always verify that you're on the same page. Every grown person knows this, including you. I wish you would stop with this, it is disingenous. Not everything that makes people feel bad can or should be addressed with policy.

Most recent comments show all comments

Ron, only you are talking about being blocked or kicking out. I talked about rights and duties, not about sanctions, but it seems that I should also talk about the latter. My proposed sanctions will look very different from what you fear. I need some time to make a good draft.

@dimension10: It depends on the issue how damage can be undone. It may mean one or several of 

  •  (ultimately) erasing the traces, as far as can be done,
  •  a moderator asking offenders to apologize (pointing out the violated issue in the rights and duties); if they think no apology is needed, asking both parties to settle the issue politely in private.
  •  recording (in the thread where the complaint was brought up) how the matter was settled (e.g., ''I received an apology that settled the issue'', ''we talked about it and it is now fine'') if it was.
  •  In severe and recurring instances, temporarily and symbolically depriving the guilty party - or, if this cannot be determined without violating the user rights, both parties - of either the violated right or the means of repeating the violation, or both (e.g., by removing the access to private messages, moderation powers, etc.).
  • In case of a penalty, the precise measure should be decided by the moderators using common sense and their sense of humor, if possible - as in family quarrels, and should be as low as possible without being completely ineffective, and there should be an upper limit that shall never be exceeded. 

In any case, users must be held accountable in exactly the same way moderators are held accountable for violations of other user's rights, no more, no less. Note that in real life, the leaders are often exempt from trials except in extremely severe cases, but my boss advises against this.

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