Moderation is not Leadership

While I didn’t really care at the time. I am able to acknowledge the inappropriate placement of this post now that I have a clearer mind. I do not however wish to hide my feelings, as this was the mistake that led to such an outburst in the first place. So for now, if you wish to review the original rant, it is available as a gist. I offer this fully aware that it may be used as an attack vector, but my position is one that openness is essential, and therefore, the risk necessary.

With that said, I intend to redress some of these issues more succinctly here. I do not have fully time to do so at this moment, so I will just say this until then. From my perspective, there are some very difficult problems which seem to have no simple solutions sweeping various aspects of societies in some prominent western cultures.

From my own reading, at least, something very similar has happened at a few points already through history. Due to their pervasive and emotional context, these issues have now made their way, somewhat inevitably, into the Nix community. While the pedulum of history may be somewhat inevitable. I would at least like to find some sort of workable solution to these problems that is at least better than the current de facto us vs them situation it has seemed to cause elsewhere, and indeed is seeming to begin to be causing here and now.

I wish to do this for at least two reasons. I believe not speaking ones mind leads to resentment, and eventually radicalism which is the root cause of where the original post was headed. In the same hand, the person whom you wish to address, never getting the chance to here and address your honest criticisms, now also runs a greater risk of developing a radical attitude toward you, their own perceptions now left utterly unchecked by any seriously well thought oposition. This is essentially what I see developing here and now.

At least in America, political groups have always strongly disagreed, but I vaguely remember a time, before the internet, when it was still possible not to consider the other party not as an enemy per se, only as an opponent in a competitive sense at best, an idiot at worst. Due to the lack of productive dialogue though, as differences increase and widespread use of the fast comment style of internet posting grew. This has become more difficult as people respond more heatedly, and more drastically than they once seemed to.

We could just accept this as an inevitability in the Nix community, and allow a slow drift toward different factions popping up one by one as an inevitable cycle in human affairs, or we can at least attempt at a dailogue and work toward healing on both sides.

For me personally, at least, if we, as a community, choose not to try, then I no longer wish to be a party here, as I am afraid I cannot allow myself to remain silent on my views and opinions any longer for the sake of others, at the cost of my own personal health and energy. Especially since I consider my apparent adversaries as not really very far from me politically, in the broader sense.

To be continued…

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Victims are real and they deserve consideration, but they do not deserve special privilege. Nobody does. That’s kinda the hard part of a free society.

What is the difference to you between special privilege and consideration and are you sure they don’t deserve one or the other? Let me give an example, I very much support Women in STEM. I’ve heard a lot of men be mad about the fact that there are these programs that are only available to women and not men, and at times I have felt sympathetic to that. But then I had to realize how selfish that position is. I have never felt scared to enter a STEM profession, I have never had to worried about creepy comments from people around me. I can’t imagine what that must be like and I know there are worse problems that I might not even know about. So I support and encourage programs where Women can have a chance to learn surrounded by people who only mean them well and want to support them.

I think there are times in our discussions where I have seen you have a view point that was selfish and came from a lack of empathy, I get it I’ve been there. Certain groups in the community have been given power, that is right, but you already had that power and didn’t realize it, they never had this power in the first place. And in many ways they still are lacking power. It isn’t “special privilege” to empower groups with a privilege they should have always had, that we already had.

The problem with some of your logic is that your combining disagreement and harm. Someone intentionally hurting another because of their identity is not a disagreement, it is an attack. I think its ok for a community to “silence”(temp bans aren’t even fully silencing) people who are harmful. I think of it more as avoiding people who are harmful. People who have a lack of empathy towards others can be harmful. People who can’t recognize their privilege and pretend others don’t lack privileges can be harmful. I believe in free speech to the point that we are simply having disagreements not hurting others.

For some more context, here is a matrix room with a fair bit of discussion about similar topics: https://matrix.to/#/#nixos-rfc-111:matrix.org

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I feel like this is a lot of words that are ultimately failing to address a very fundamental point behind healthy moderation: this is a community, not a debate club.

The primary consideration for moderation of a community is not and should never be “giving everybody a chance to speak their mind”. That’s a debate club thing. The primary consideration should, instead, be: “does this create a safe and welcoming community, or does it prevent it?”

One particularly common thing (in technical circles) that prevents a safe community from forming, is the debate club attitude: everything should be debatable at all times, and everybody should be ready to have a debate and defend themselves at all times. This is a sentiment that I have also seen expressed in your posts, even if not stated explicitly.

I do not believe that this is a desirable sentiment in the NixOS community, nor is it a productive one; contrary to popular claim, such a debate club environment does not make for effective collaboration. It merely serves to exclude those from the community who are already disadvantaged in society, and who do not have the energy left to constantly have to defend themselves over trivial technical matters or even their personal identity.

Maintaining a healthy community will necessarily involve excluding some people, and the conversation around moderation should be about who to exclude. I would say that “those who see every conversation as an opportunity for debate rather than empathy” is a good start, personally.

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Had I been in a calmer state, this would have been one of the exact underlying points I mean to address by my recent actions. I don’t exactly agree with the stated conclusion though, I believe, and if fact stil remember a time when people of different views were at least able to manage some level of working collaboration.

This community should not be a debate club. However, in order to achieve that, to my mind at least, one must acknowledge that by allowing official communication channels for disparate groups, groups which typically have a common political affiliation of one slant or another, then you are actually begging, and in fact, making the debate club style community inevitable unless a decision is clearly defined.

There are certain ideals which are simply incompatible. If we wish to keep an environment neutral, where debates do not need to occur simply to function, then we must avoid official political affiliations in the community at all costs, and moderate their occurrence in public forums (allowing for any level of private affiliation desired by disparate members). Alternatively, the community could take it’s own definitive political stance, and deal with the consequences of only allowing contribution from there, which seems to be something aproximating the current status quo.

Not making this clear however causes confusion for people who may, at first, assume they are operating in a politically neutral environment, but find rather abruptly and at a critical moment that they are not, leading to an inevitable rant/debate or at best inappropriate questions (in the sense that is outside the given affiliations acceptable boundaries).

Either choice is acceptable to me. I don’t care about any particular technology enough to try and change it’s community, or to try and mold myself to it for the sake of maintaining relationships. But for the sake of avoiding these reactions up front, a clear stance is needed, and also made clear up front to newcomers.

If you can’t at leat acknowledge that, or perhaps show me how it is mistaken in some way, then I’m afraid complaining is ultimately pointless. Organizations such as companies can and do make affiliations clearly and openly, I believe at least, for this exact reason.

Also, I’m more than happy to respond to anything you have to offer, but it’ll have to wait a bit as I am really now out of time.

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This is just the “keep politics out of software” argument with a new coat of paint. There’s no such thing as a “politically neutral environment”. Speaking frankly, I think you are mistaking your own privilege of not needing to care about politics, for a universal absence of them. Many marginalized people do not have that benefit.

I don’t think there’s any value in exploring this line of reasoning further. Literal entire articles have been written already about how politically-neutral environments do not exist, and I see no point in relitigating it here.

As for making it clear what the acceptable views and ‘politics’ are within this community, I’d say that that is precisely what RFC 0098 already does.

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Entire articles can be wrong, which is the point I am trying to reach here, that admittedly may be too much of a stretch. We could reconsider the way this has been thought before, and attempt to craft a better working solution. Such a task necessarily requires effort, and for the sake of promiting inclusive political groups (excluding violently radical ones) I believe and important and admirable goal, given that it leads to a better end result. (different viewpoints have different strengths, which can and have in past cultures, to some extent, worked to strengthed each others weaknesses).

I do agree however that politically neutral environments don’t exist, just that it is possible to keep politics, by choice and policy, out of a particular environment. This whole, I can’t listen to you because of our difference in priviledge can and will lead to very dark destructive places, not just here, but in a wider culture, and for that reason I find it a duty to make an earnest attempt. Especially since if you knew me, you may be surprised to find my priviledge is nothing like what you may expect. But seriously, I am betraying other obligations atm. I apoligize.

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It is not. And as long as you cannot understand this, and continue arguing from only your own personal perspective without considering the different circumstances that other people might find themselves in, there is no value to me in continuing this discussion.

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Not absolutely sure, but just enough to have a functional workspace yes. It still happens every day in less radicalized places. The only real problem I see here is one of personal choice, it is not that it is impossible per se, it is that you are choosing personally to disengage.

I’d also like you to reconsider what makes you think you understand my level of priviledge as compared to your own, to a perfect degree to make such absolute judgements. This is an example, in my view, of the unchecked idealogy running rampant for a few years now.

Your stance can, and does, have holes, just as mine. If you do not wish to consider them however, then I agree. There is no point. It may be like saying that a particlar bug cannot be fixed because you simply refuse to drill into it. If you want a worse product in the end then sure, you can take that stance.

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The following is intended as a direct response to nrdxp, though everyone is welcome to read it.

I am going to say as little as I can manage, because I worry that anything I say will only fan the flames. There are significant pieces of what you say that I agree with, and even the parts I disagree with are important and deserve a response. In a better world, one where it was possible to move past the perception of group affiliation as destiny, I would give you that response.

To whatever extent anyone listens to me, I call on people to proceed with empathy and to try to de-escalate conflict rather than accelerate it.

I hope this can be received in the spirit I intend, but I know the most likely outcome is that you’ll see it as posturing. I don’t have the power to change that; there is nothing I could say or do, short of betraying my ideals, that would convey that I’m sincere in wishing you well. Nonetheless, I do wish you well.

Good luck. <3

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I’ve been trying to avoid responding to this, including stepping away from a computer for several hours, but I need to write this for my own peace of mind.

Nix has a fair few cultural issues that have been slowly coming to a head for a long time now. Starting with small aggressions from people who felt empowered to do so, that culminated in bigger issues of people getting hurt due to lack of empathy and understanding from others.

Trying to equate the issues we have here to the US centrist view of center left vs far right wing does not help us to move forward as a community. A community can only succeed as long as people treat each other with mutual respect and have empathy to each other, as does all healthy communication. This does not however mean “we tolerate every opinion that is said here”, when those opinions are fundamentally opposed to having respect and empathy towards people, or when those opinions can hurt people.

You’re certainly not the only person who sometimes lacks empathy but, by talking over or ranting rather than listening to people who get hurt by the actions of others, you make the space less safe for those who will most feel the effects of them.

As an example of this, take your own stated view on women in tech:

It was not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand, but to women who read this, it can raise a lot of trauma caused by this industry. As an example, I’ve been a working software engineer for over a decade, and have worked on and built technologies that are relied on by millions, and helped influence things that affect billions. From developer tools through to large scale infrastructure software. Whenever I start at a new employer, the first 6 months to a year are spent proving that I am competent and able to do my job because of opinions like that. There is a second full time job that exists in the background, convincing people on other teams that my opinion or knowledge is valuable, and that costs everyone both time and money.

It’s also not a healthy point of debate, because it hurts those who are already disadvantaged (don’t bother arguing this point, it’s well proven and you can find statistics yourself on how women are both underpaid, regularly harassed, and leave the industry early because of it). It costs you nothing to treat others as equals and with respect. If this became a lengthy discussion topic that was not de-escalated and calmed down, it would signal to people who are here, or potential new contributors that they aren’t welcome here. A lot of the debate over the last few months has definitely signaled that to me, which is why instead of supporting the project or increasing my contributions, I’ve been increasingly tempted to move away from nix.

Moderation doesn’t mean that people can’t talk or discuss things, but it means that when they are doing harm and ignore people who tell them that they are doing so or continually de-rail otherwise healthy conversation, and do not respond to attempts at de-escalation that they can be excluded to allow progress and prevent further harm.

This helps build a community where people can come and collaborate, safely, and together, without worry of ad hominem attacks on their character when they are otherwise irrelevant. It also means that when there’s a repeated pattern of such behavior, with no efforts to correct it, the people entrusted with keeping the community safe can protect those who are getting hurt.


TL;DR moderation is a tool for maintaining a healthy community and protecting existing and new contributors. It serves everyone in a community for the long term.

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I really feel like I’m missing some context, can someone plug me in?

But in the past few days:

  • Sandro was given a warning, with intent to ban
  • @blaggacao was banned

Seems like things are coming apart.

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I am new here. I’m glad to see moderation being used - even though I have no idea of the background and context. It helps and matters and reassures me that there will be some boundaries and supportive community standards.

Moderation comes in many forms, and sometimes it’s just about allowing time to de-escalate from things posted in haste and anger, just as the OP here seems to have realised and altered their post in this case.

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After doing some sleuthing, and talking to @nrdxp and @blaggacao. I tried to create a summary of the events, so others can be aware of what’s going on, and come to their own conclusions.

This shortened so that it’s not incredibly long, obviously I maybe missing details which may be important for certain individuals/groups.

This wasn’t intended to be a name-and-shame post. I was lost on context, and just wanted other people to have some context as well.

I’m not trying to say that I agree or disagree with any of the positions during this… “discussion”. Just that it’s concerning behavior to see.

Yes, this commentary is largely representative of @nrdxp and @blaggacao’s point-of-view, however, @blaggacao is currently banned; so I’m not sure who else will speak for him. I don’t agree with all of @blaggacao’s actions, some of which were inflammatory, but I think his message of hypocracy got lost with the obtuse delivery. Now he’s banned.

adjective: ad hominem
(of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

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I started using Nix because I thought it was an interesting and exciting technology; and the ability to leverage Nix will just increase over time as the NixOS ecosystem grows and matures.

This is still why I continue to be a part of the community: the technology and expertise.

Hacking and using nixpkgs is still exciting to me; even after years of use. I still learn new things, and nixpkgs is essentially an enormous body of expert knowledge.

What’s not fun are discussions like RFC 98, in which it seems that an agenda is trying to be institutionalized with language like “Model and enforce social norms”. This is concerning to me as that the “Community Team” will be law-maker, judge, jury, and executioner within the community. The language of the RFC is already vague enough to allow any interpretation of what is acceptable behavior. I would comment on RFC itself, but it’s been locked.

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As a first step to trying to get the community to harmonize around a shared set of values, I created RFC 114: Code of Conduct modeled after the rust-lang CoC.

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I sometimes get that vibe, too.

and it would be naive to assume that this will not be exploited at some point in the near or far future.

Also in my opinion that RFC completely misses that a big part of the community is not a native English speaker and come from very different cultural backgrounds.

Very much appreciated.

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But, do we even need to “harmonize” around some values?
It seems to me the project has been doing fine and for a long time without any of these (besides technical, of course: everyone wants reproducibility and declarative config :wink:).

People have different cultures, opinions, politics, beliefs systems, and almost surely going to disagree when you start to bring some of these up. This has been clearly proven by RFC 98.

If we really need this (rules for the moderators, I think?), it will have to be some very basic common-sense stuff, that you literally find no opposition, like: “don’t personally attack or insult people”.

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It seems like this is usually the case with almost anything, until it stops scaling? Do we even need issue templates or backport guidelines or an RFC process?

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