Moderation is not Leadership

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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This is essentially what RFC 114 defines, in just less ambiguous terms.

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No, it hasn’t. Just because everything is not a burning tirefire does not mean everything is fine. There are lots of problems which get ignored or only fought in the hidden and don’t have a long term scalable solution. If we start to tackle those problems when it is to late hit will cost much more than if we started early on.

There are many places where we have a bus factor of 1 and sometimes it even feels like 0.5. If the project should be a long term success there should be a plan if that person is prevented (is that the proper English word?). People are over worked and stressed and finding a consensus on to many things ends in endless tiring discussions with seemingly no outcome.

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Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’m still baffled that every discussion of moderation or community norms seems to devolve into some far-out conversation about the Anglo-European culture wars, as if expecting people to meet some minimum standard of politeness or sensitivity on the NixOS forums is somehow related to the impending collapse of ‘Western civilization’.

Seems like this talk gets extremely disconnected from the concrete situation and interests of the community really, really fast. It’s unreal.

Idk if that’s because talking about things abstractly also lets the stakes seem higher, since it can give everything a grandiose scope, or if it’s a way of retreating from the concrete issues which are more personal and directly involve current and prospective community members. But it’s bizarre and it doesn’t seem helpful.

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@pxc, I agree, which is why I haven’t responded here in a while and why I have decided to move my remaining comments on this into a blog post that I will release whenever I’m satisified I’ve addressed all my thoughts on the issue. It’s also why I moved my original rant from this discourse, as I acknowledge that it is somewhat off topic.

To put it bluntly. I was angry. For anyone that has been angry before, I could imagine you understand that I do not necessarily agree with all the statements I made while I was angry, or with how I made those statements. However, the point of all this wasn’t to try and make grandiose claims about society, it was to address concrete problems that have already manifest themselves here in this community. And while I don’t fully agree that what’s happening in wider society is completely unrelated here, for the sake of simplicity, I won’t go there.

Perhaps my biggest miscalculation was thinking these issues were obvious to everyone. Therefore, I will at least take a brief moment here to try and clarify why this is even such an issue for me in the first place.

To start, a technical internet community is just about the one place where, whatever your identity might be, it really doesn’t matter. If you’ve got the competance then I really don’t care who you are and what you do or do not represent, your contributions are welcome regardless. I also personally spent a lot of time on the outside of these tech communities because for a long time I wasn’t competant enough to participate. I never saw that as a problem, just as a reality. It just helped encourage me to get more competant.

But I digress, what concerns me is, I’ve seen other individuals in this community that have apparently gotten so radicalized in their thinking, that they have expressed exactly the opposite, i.e. that identity does matter, and that we should even go so far as to reject valid contributions from individuals with the wrong affiliation (and this statement went completely unchallenged when it was made, no less).

Considering that, it seems particularly disingenuous when individuals bring their identities into a conversation themselves and proceed to assume (without evidence in all the cases I witnessed) that their identity is somehow what’s at issue, even when the other party emphatically states otherwise. No, what’s at issue here is that those “minimum standards”, as you mentioned, are only being upheld on one side of the argument. A certain amount of uneven treatment is endemic to any system of moderation, but when it becomes a clear and decisive trend in a single direction it’s a whole other issue.

My RFC is, itself, further evidence of this. We really shouldn’t have factionalism in this community. There are a whole host of problems that it can cause (and is already causing) which apparently cannot be discussed because that very conversation will be derailed immediately by individuals claiming their identity is under attack. I don’t really care if my RFC seemed like a personal attack because it wasn’t. That said, I’m not completely unaware of the social climate. I knew it was extremely likely somebody would try and take the conversation there, but I can’t really see any way of avoiding that short of just not having the conversation all together, which I am not okay with considering the issues it continues to cause.

To put it simply, RFC 111 was an attempt to bring some sanity to an otherwise insane situation where standards are being doled unequally depending on your group affiliation. In a case like that, you essentially just create a rush to be with the “in crowd” to gain the advantages thereof, which appear to include complete immunity from moderation at this point. It’s a very unhealthy situation both for our minds as human beings, and for this community. Whoever this “in crowd” happens to be at the time is completely incidental and subject to change, and is therefore, really truly not the intended focus of the RFC.

Now I’m not a professional politician or psycologist, so perhaps I didn’t word it as carefully as I could have, and I knew it would likely be redrafted several times before the end. For example, I probably should have focused more on these factionalist tendencies in general and less on private rooms in particular, since there are valid situations for the latter that don’t necessarily contribute negatively to the former. Really, the main point is that, if we can’t stop factions from forming on the whole, we probably shouldn’t officially saction and endorse any one of them, for the sake of the wider community.

However, the intention seemed clear enough that at least a few people expressed surprise to me in private when it devolved so quickly in the direction it did. I closed it because it wasn’t going in a productive direction. Unless that changes, it will remain closed. However, I think the community is worse off for it unless perhaps we can codify some of these very concerns in RFC 114 instead.

Last I checked, programming was very hard, and constructive criticism is, in my opinion at least, essential to the process. Protecting peoples’ egos and offering that constructive criticism honestly are completely at odds. So which one should be more important? At least having that conversation would go a long way to reduce tensions on all sides.

It was mentioned before in this thread that a tech community should not be a debate club. This is a great point worth repeating. However, the very reason individuals feel compelled to “debate” in the first place is because these conversations and issues are not being addressed in a more structured and productive fashion, such as an RFC.

We should also bear in mind that this isn’t a cooperation where we can expect that mandating morality from on high without any logical discussion as to its effectiveness is gonna fly. People are going to ask questions, so if you really don’t want the debate club to continue ad nauseum then we need to provide clear and definitive answers.

Now I hope that clarifies a few things, but I should hope everyone is as tired as I am of this endless conversation going nowhere so unless we are ready to lift the taboo and actually have the conversation (in which case I will gladly reopen and redraft RFC 111, or add to 114), then I would kindly ask, in the interest of not taking this further off topic, that nobody else respond here.

If you have more to say, I’ll have a comment section on my blog when the time comes that should allow for a more liberal discussion on these topics. I also don’t mind if people wish to DM me, or I could even start an unofficial discussion group on Matrix if it seems warranted.

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