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Profile Information

Name: David Allen
Gender: Male
Hometown: Washington, DC
Home country: USA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 62,090

Journal Archives

Should Democratic Underground switch to seven-person juries?

This topic has been discussed a number of times in the Ask the Administrators forum, and the DU Admins have discussed it here in the office repeatedly over the last two years. Currently, if a community standards alert is sent, it is evaluated by a jury of six DU members. Should we increase the number of jurors to seven? This would likely have the following effects:
  • There would be no more 3-3 ties. Every alert would result in a majority decision.

  • There would be a modest increase in the number of posts that get hidden. If the number of alerts stays constant, and if we assume that approximately half of the current 3-3 ties end up as hides, then the number of additional hidden posts per day would be less than five. Possibly two or three.

  • There is a chance that the total number of alerts might increase. Some people have stated that the current difficulty in getting posts hidden acts as a disincentive to send alerts. It is conceivable that alerters might have a greater incentive to alert when the chance of getting a post hidden increases, and would therefore send more.

  • Democratic Underground would probably see a modest increase in civility, for two reasons. First, uncivil messages that are posted would be more likely to be removed (and the authors of those posts blocked out of threads). And second, people would be less likely to post uncivil messages in the first place due to the increased likelihood that they could get hidden.

  • There might be a modest increase in "misfires" or perceived misfires, in which juries hide posts based on some sort of misunderstanding. This occurs rarely, and would likely remain rare.
The purpose of this poll is to get a sense of the opinion of the community. The DU Administrators will not be bound by the result.

(Note: This poll has two options -- you can either vote to change to seven-person juries, or you can vote to keep six-person juries. If you came to this thread hoping to discuss the merits of the jury system as a whole, I want to make clear that it is here to stay -- we are not getting rid of it.)

Some advice about the Olympics and possible spoilers

As everyone here is probably aware, the Winter Olympics start this week. And once again NBC is going to be showing many events on tape-delay during primetime. That means that many DU members will probably not see the events when they are actually happening, and will instead see them for the first time during primetime -- hours after they have actually happened. This of course raises the possibility of "spoilers" -- when you learn the outcome of the event before you actually watch it.

With this in mind, here are a few thoughts...

Advice for people posting about the Olympics on DU
  • Thread titles: If you want to post about the Olympics it is common courtesy to refrain from posting spoilers in the subject line of a discussion thread. Posting spoilers in the subject line of a thread is considered rude by many people and may put your thread at risk of being hidden by a Jury.

  • Repeatedly posting spoilers on purpose: During the last Olympics, one person loudly and proudly proclaimed that he was deliberately posting spoilers for every event (for what he believed was a perfectly good reason). Even if you think you have a perfectly good reason for maliciously disrupting DU in this manner, don't do it.
Advice for people reading DU during the Olympics
  • If you feel strongly that you do not want to accidentally encounter Olympics spoilers, you should not be on Democratic Underground or any other social media during the Olympics. That is just a fact.

  • You should assume that any discussion thread about the Olympics will include spoilers even if there is no "spoiler alert" warning in the title.
And on a related note...

There are a number of DUers who have already indicated that they intend to boycott the Olympics this year to protest the horrific treatment of LGBT people in Russia, and the laws passed by the Russian government which serve to legitimize anti-gay hate. If you decide to watch the Olympics, and discuss the Olympics here on Democratic Underground, you should not be surprised if some DU members question the appropriateness of your decision to watch. I fully expect this discussion to occur here on DU, and I hope that members who choose to engage in a discussion on this topic will make an effort to remain respectful.

REMINDER AND UPDATE: Five hidden posts and you can't post

Back in September, we announced some changes to the way the site is run. In that announcement, we promised that we would make the following change, after a 90-day period:

If you have five hidden posts on your account you will be unable to post.
... If you have five hidden posts showing on your Transparency page (a 90-day period), then you will be temporarily unable to post. In order to regain your ability to post, you will need to wait until the oldest post of the five is more than 90 days old and "falls off" of your record. At that point you will only have four posts showing on your Transparency page, and you will regain your ability to post.

Due to a fluke of scheduling, that new policy was supposed to go into effect on December 25, Christmas Day. However, because the DU Administrators do not wish to spend our holiday break fixing the inevitable bugs, we have decided to push back the launch date.

The new launch date is Monday January 6, 2014.

Members whose transparency pages are showing will be restricted in the following ways: 1) they can't post, 2) they can't serve on juries, 3) they can't serve as hosts in forums or groups, and 4) they can't serve on the Malicious Intruder Removal Team. If they are currently assigned as a host or as a MIRT member, they will be removed by the software.

Members whose transparency pages are showing will not be restricted in any other ways. They will be able to send and receive DU Mail. They will be able to recommend threads. They will even be able to send alerts (this is so people can't insult people who are temporarily blocked).

Thank you for being a part of DU. And have a happy holiday season!

The DU Administrators

He was a good dog.

I'm a pretty private person when it comes to my personal life, so I don't often share stuff like this. But I know some of you might be interested in knowing that Romeo, our chihuahua, passed away early this morning. He was about 15 years old, which is a good run for a dog. He had definitely slowed down quite a bit in the last year, and he was on three different medications for his heart -- so this didn't exactly come as a surprise. We'll miss him. He was a good dog.

Here are a few pictures that I found sitting on the DU servers. You may remember seeing some of them.

HealthCare.gov will meet deadline for fixes, White House officials say

Source: Washington Post

Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site’s capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the federal health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it.

As of Friday night, federal officials and contractors had achieved two goals, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss ongoing operations. They had increased the system’s capacity and reduced errors. On the other hand, the site’s pages do not load as fast as they want, officials said, and they are working to ensure that large numbers of consumers can enter the site.

An official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health insurance exchange, said the site’s true capacity is somewhat murky because workers need to see how it performs under “weekday traffic volumes” when demand is at its peak.

Federal employees and information technology contractors were expected to work through the night Friday to try to reach one of the remaining targets: improving how many people per hour are able to register and log on to the site. An earlier attempt to make the fix failed several days ago.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/healthcaregov-will-meet-deadline-for-fixes-white-house-officials-say/2013/11/29/caf6a236-5792-11e3-835d-e7173847c7cc_story.html

Be Very Afraid!

Thought you all might appreciate this Halloween decoration from my neighbor's front door...

Happy Halloween!

We are making some changes to the moderating/jury system. (THIS IS IMPORTANT.)

We are making a number of changes to our software today. If you notice any bugs or problems, please post in this thread to let us know. Thanks.

The TOS checkbox is being removed from the "Alert abuse" function.
Until now, when you clicked the "Alert abuse" link to send an alert, there was a special checkbox that you could click to indicate that you believe a post violates the Terms of Service. Unfortunately, too often the TOS checkbox was used incorrectly -- either members would neglect to click it on posts that actually did violate the Terms of Service, or they would click it on posts that did not remotely violate the Terms of Service. Because of this, the DU administrators long ago stopped giving any credence to Terms of Service alerts, and instead have been reviewing every single alert regardless of whether TOS box was checked.

From now on, the DU administrators will be notified of every alert sent. In addition, the MIR Team will be notified whenever a post is removed under two conditions: 1) If the post is removed on a vote of 6-0, or 2) if the author of the post has fewer than 100 posts. We believe this will give the MIR Team all the information they need in order to keep DU clear of malicious intruders.

We have created a very limited system of software-initiated account reviews.
In our continuing effort to catch and remove malicious intruders, we are instituting a software system that automatically flags accounts for review under certain circumstances. If an account is flagged, then that account will be temporarily unable to post or perform some other site functions -- but the ACCOUNT IS NOT BANNED. If an account is flagged, its profile page will show "Status: Flagged For Review," and the account holder will receive an automated message indicating that they are under review. Please note that the account review function is narrowly aimed to try to catch malicious intruders. We aren't going to disclose exactly when accounts get reviewed, except to say that it is most likely to happen if a member gets too many posts hidden in a relatively brief length of time. (Note that this function replaces the auto-ban function, which has been retired.)

Members who are abusive while performing jury service will lose the privilege of serving on juries.
The administrators are getting increasingly concerned about the small number of members who repeatedly post rude juror comments while serving on juries. The vast majority of jurors are doing the job in good faith, but unfortunately a small number of people are not. Some people seem to be using the juror comments as a "free" opportunity to make extremely abusive comments to people -- that's not ok. If any juror has a history of inappropriate comments, or if any juror makes a single comment that is way over the line, then we are going to exclude that individual from jury service. If we do take away any person's jury privileges, we will do so transparently and make a note of it on that person's profile page. (Look for the words "Eligible to serve on Juries?")

STARTING 90 DAYS FROM TODAY, if you have five hidden posts on your account you will be unable to post.
After nearly 2 years on DU3, it is apparent that the vast majority of people are participating in good faith, and are making the effort to avoid posting inappropriate comments that might get hidden. However, there is a very small contingent of people who do not seem to be trying very hard, are not particularly embarrassed or ashamed that they are getting posts hidden, and continue to engage in disruptive behavior. For these people, we feel it is time to provide an incentive for good behavior. Starting 90 days from today, if you have five hidden posts showing on your Transparency page (a 90-day period), then you will be temporarily unable to post. In order to regain your ability to post, you will need to wait until the oldest post of the five is more than 90 days old and "falls off" of your record. At that point you will only have four posts showing on your Transparency page, and you will regain your ability to post.

If this seems harsh, I would like to share a few stats with you. Over the last 90 days, only one half of one percent of DU members who posted managed to rack up five or more hidden posts. 99.4% of actively posting DUers stayed under the 5-hidden-post threshold (and 86% had no posts hidden).

But no matter how bad your record is right now, please note that NONE OF THE HIDDEN POSTS CURRENTLY SHOWING ON YOUR ACCOUNT will count toward the five hidden posts. That's just math. Over the upcoming 90-day "grace period," all of the hidden posts you got up until now will fall off your record. So, if you change your behavior today and stop getting your posts hidden, you'll be fine. But if you persist in disrupting DU, and persist in getting posts hidden, every single post you get starting from THIS MOMENT will count toward your 5-hidden-post limit.

Please note that creating additional accounts in order to get around -- or preemptively avoid -- any restrictions on your account would be considered a Terms of Service violation. The best way to avoid restrictions on your account would be to avoid getting your posts hidden in the first place. It is not that hard.

And, on a completely unrelated note:

We have upgraded the ad code on our site to improve page load-time.
We use Google AdSense as our primary ad serving solution. Google recently unveiled a new kind of "asynchronous" ad code which (they claim) will not interrupt page loads. With our old ad code, if an advertisement failed to load or loaded slowly, then you would have to wait for the ad to appear before the rest of the web page would load. But with the new ad code, the ad code is loaded separately from the code that renders the web page. So you do not have to wait for the ads to load in order to download the webpage you want to see. Please note that at first you may see some extra white space near the top of the page -- if you do, click shift-reload/refresh on your web browser to fix the problem.

My kids and I found a cicada on Saturday that was just about to molt. And we took pics!

On Saturday, we happened to see a cicada walking across our patio that had turned a tan/brown color that made me think it might be about to shed it's exoskeleton. We got a well-ventilated plastic container and a piece of lettuce, and he climbed right in. Sure enough, within the hour he had started to molt! It was amazing to watch. My kids love bugs and other creepy-crawlies, and they were fascinated...

We have changed the way your "Jury Score" is calculated

As most of you know, members of DU are eligible to serve on juries, which decide whether posts should be hidden when alerts are sent. If you are available to serve when a jury is called, the likelihood that you will be selected on a particular jury is based on a percentage score that you have been assigned by our software. That score is based on your history of activity on DU. You can see your own score by visiting your profile page and scrolling down to the line that says "Chance of serving on a Jury," followed by a percentage score between 0% and 100%.

Yesterday we made two changes to the manner in which your score is calculated:

1) We have increased the penalty for hidden posts from -5 percentage points (per hidden post) to -20 percentage points (per hidden post).

2) We have decreased the minimum possible score from 1% to 0%.

When we originally decided on the -5% penalty, we were still on DU2 where the worst offenders could easily rack up 50 or more hidden posts in a 90 day period. But it's clear that it's much harder to get a post removed on DU3, and after more than a year we felt that it was time to bump the penalty up to reflect the real-life seriousness of getting a hidden post. Serving on juries is a privilege, and we believe it is a privilege that should be available more often to those people who have consistently demonstrated their good judgment.

Skinner, EarlG, and Elad
DU Administrators

Pic of the Moment: Sean Hannity: Hypocritical Partisan Hack

Sean Hannity On NSA Surveillance, Then And Now (by Media Matters)

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