I think your post needs a little response. Anyone reading this should in advance know that I myself DO NOT agree that your description is accurate though. I think, as far as I am concerned, the moderation team did a reasonably good job so far. And it is a difficult job too. But I think, if intended as a defense of the moderation team in place, you really did the opposite here.
He [meaning Srid] was suspended for not doing what mods asked him to do.
If that were really true, I think the whole team should resign. NixOS is too big to have that kind of arbitrary basis for decision making without any kind of guidelines for what to expect in advance. It creates uncertainty beyond belief. Unless of course NixOS adopts such a model explicitly, like a benevolent dictator governance model. But part of the Code of Conduct movement is to tame the Torvaldses of this world. So it seems a bit of an odd move to make at this point.
But even then, in every case of authority there is a difference between legitimate and illegitimate use of it. Benevolent dictators for life are assumed to be benevolent for a reason. If that distinction isn’t made, nobody needs a Code of Conduct that is supposedly there to clarify the very basis of moderator conduct.
So my point in asking my question obviously was: on which legitimate ground was Srid suspended?
Notice here that in order for authorities to be accountable at all, the debate about what constitutes legitimate grounds for their actions needs to be done by those affected by those actions. Not by the authorities. So once such a debate gets shut down, you kinda know in which world you are living.
So when you ask someone to change behavior from an authoritative position, there still needs to be some reasonable ground for that other than the authoritative position itself. This is the deeper reason for why I said that I intellectually fail to grasp the decision.
the suspension happened after Srid said that he’d only obey the mods if they did something he wanted (i.e., turn the things he was being asked to do into universal rules that they would prosecute against everyone equally).
Taking into account what I just said I would go on like this this: that demand appears to be very reasonable. Any authority that is legitimate can produce an account of the reasons of its decision. Part of this account will be universal rules, part why the particular falls under one of the universal rules. The rules also need to apply equally to all cases, which is obvious from their being universal. In western legal systems it is often required from judges to produce an account of their decision in writing.
And since we are all reasonable people here, and since there is a procedure in place for reasonable people to hold the authorities accountable, asking for the reasons backing up a decision by the authorities is quite reasonable too. Otherwise the procedure would be void. And no accountability could ever be had.
My baseline is this: The giving of reasons cannot be be avoided by the authorities.
I think what Srid was demanding here, according to your own account of the matter, is basically fairness in moderation. No more.
If you think you are willing to put up with authoritarian governance but think that the authorities made the wrong call in suspending Srid after he failed to comply with their requests, I say you don’t understand authoritarian governance.
Well, not if the request was illegitimate. That is my point in a way. And I do understand authoritarian government. My extended point is there is no reason to ever create one if you can avoid it. Or, if you have one, to get rid of it. Unless you are the one calling the shots of course.
And if you think that the authorities should not have asked Srid what they did, at last there is a concrete topic of conversation that I think might be productive. It’s not about what he was suspended for.
You could also say it might be an overreach in the competence granted to them. And in a way Srid himself pointed to this by asking: on the grounds of which rule are you making this request?
The two questions are not independent as you seem to assume. Because if they never had the competence to ask him to do something, then suspending him on the basis of non-compliance with the request is baseless. So the illegitimacy of the request entails logically the illegitimacy of the suspension if the suspension was due to non-compliance and not something else entirely.
I also believe that the reasons for suspension, as for any decision, are always very concrete, even though they include universal rules.
It’s about your politics not agreeing with the mods’ politics on this specific issue
First of all that directly contradicts the assumption that “being respectful of differing viewpoints” should be how we guide our conduct thanks to the newly adopted Code of Conduct. That is a fairly obvious point that Srid himself has made on his blog.
One of Srid’s quite contentious points on his blog is that “the core team has deliberately instituted a woke echo-chamber”. Are you actually agreeing with this? Because you sound like him a little bit. I personally don’t agree with this btw,. But your description is somewhat striking.
I don’t think you make a great case against “‘keeping politics out of tech’ or any such nonsense”. In fact, as I see it, letting general politics enter tech has led to this result. Meaning the suspension of Srid, who is a really technically competent guy, much more so than I am. I don’t think the result is good. Had both sides kept politics out of tech the result would have been better. It would never had created the contentious issue in the first place. And his competence would have been preserved as part of this community.
Because of this, I would call for depoliticization on all sides inside tech communities in order to put technical questions center stage and protect people’s time. That decision is of course a political one with respect to the governance of tech communities. But since you accept the authoritarian implementation of such decisions so nicely, I see no grounds for you to object to it once it is made.
- It is somewhat strange that when trying to elaborate on your authoritarian model of governance you give the example of a technical team leader. Does the moderation team look like being concerned with technical questions to you? It doesn’t to me. None of the issues in the Code of Conduct concerns how I format my nix code, or how to name a PR on GitHub or any technical issue really. Your example appears to be misleading.
If you agree that moderators should exist and do something that makes them different from other members of a community, it therefore follows that you should expect those moderators to occasionally ask people to do things that those people don’t agree with, and that those people should comply or face the consequences.
Ironically, after all of this disagreement, I totally agree with you here. But this isn’t actually authoritarian at all. It is just authority and equally applies to legitimate and illegitimate use of it. Whether it is legitimate however depends on whether there is an account available to judge the adequacy of the decisions taken, and whether the decision is open for revision if found lacking by a sufficient number of people affected by it.
I expect that if people are asked to do certain things that are not technical questions in which the technical leader can be assumed to have superior technical insight, that there is a reason readily available, from the one doing the asking. This reason explains and limits the competence of authorities asking such things. And otherwise I expect that people are not being asked such things.
On all the lengthy disagreement with you that I voiced here, that is the main point it appears. I expect non-technical authority to not transgress the bounds of intelligible legitimacy.
I’m not talking about what ought to be. I’m simply describing what is.
If that is the case, will you join the revolution if there is going to be one? Because what you are describing is basically an account of illegitimate authority.
Just for the record: I don’t think this description actually matches reality. From all that I have seen the moderation team really has a hard role to fulfill because on some topics the opinions move far apart so someone is going to be dissatisfied either way and you cannot please everyone. And these discussions are actually quite hard and emotionally stressful and all of that.
But it is striking that you come up with this kind of explanation once someones asks what are the reasonable grounds for a certain decision. Remember that people sold the Code of Conduct to me in the other discussion by saying: it makes things explicit, implicit power structures are bad, they only serve those who are already in power etc. etc. … well if your reasoning stands, the explicit power structures might do the same, just on a bigger scale. So they are actually worse.
it’s completely absurd to say that the mod team can only ask people to do things based on the empty set of rules the community has agreed on.
But thanks to the moderation team itself, the set of rules is no longer empty. It is written down in the Code of Conduct. Which, people told me, is an exact or at least close-enough account making explicit what has been implicit practice of moderation so far. So it appears very reasonable indeed to take this document and make it the baseline standard of accountability.
don’t think that authoritarian online communities are nearly as bad as authoritarian governments in the real world.
I have a feeling with the recent politicization of society at large, that has changed a bit. Of course in online communities you can always just leave. But if it gets worse, the abuse of authority can do substantially more damage in online communities than “not having your words published”. The overall culture has deteriorated to such a point that the damage, I feel, is potentially much greater now than it was back in, say, 2015 or so.
What I have is an allergy to people criticizing authoritarianism without offering an alternative
I hope my alternative is clear: Use the general rules readily available now (Code of Conduct) to make sure authorities actually are guided by them and can ground their decision in them. And make sure to put pressure on them when decisions go against the rules or a not readily grounded in them.