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Skinner

Profile Information

Name: David Allen
Gender: Male
Hometown: Washington, DC
Home country: USA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 59,969

Journal Archives

Happy Holidays from Democratic Underground



During the Holiday Season we make time for our family and friends, traveling across town, across the country, or around the world to visit with the people we care about.

Many of us consider the members of this online community to be our friends. Even though we may not have met in "real life," our fellow DUers are as much a part of our lives as our neighbors, co-workers, and even some of our friends and family. And so, this Holiday Season the DU Administrators want to take a moment to express our gratitude to all of you, our online virtual family.

2011 has been an extraordinary year for Democratic Underground. In January we celebrated 10 years online. We have been engaged in a high-profile legal fight, where we (with the help of EFF) helped stop a predatory copyright troll who has been harassing hundreds of websites with bogus lawsuits. And in December we unveiled an enormous overhaul of our website which we've been working on for well over a year. Through it all, you helped this community grow and thrive -- by visiting, by posting, by providing financial help, and by accepting big software changes with patience and good nature. We are extremely grateful.

Thanks to your support, this community is stronger than it as ever been. We have an amazing community of people, and we finally have the software you deserve. 2012 is a presidential election year, and we believe everything is in place so it will be our best year yet.

Happy Holidays. And thank you.

David Allen
Dave Allsopp
Brian Leitner
DU Administrators

DATA LOSS IN THE GENERAL DISCUSSION FORUM, 12/22

At approximately 3:30 PM ET this afternoon, December 22, we had a glitch -- an unfortunate combination of software and human error -- which deleted the original post (OP) of every thread in the General Discussion forum. Replies were not affected.

The bug has been fixed so this will never happen again.

Fortunately we keep nightly backups, so we were able to recover every original post that was posted here up until approximately 3:30 AM ET this morning. Unfortunately, this leaves approximately 12 hours of OPs that we were unable to completely recover.

For the missing 12 hours of OPs, we were able to recover the thread titles, along with other data about the thread. But we were unable to recover the full message text. On these threads, the missing text has been replaced with the following notification:

The message body of this post was accidentally deleted due to an unexpected bug in our new software. The bug has been fixed, and most of the data was recovered. But unfortunately we were unable to recover the full text of this post. An older version of this post may be available in its edit history. Also, the author of the post may edit the post to replace the missing text, if they wish. The DU Administrators apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you for your understanding.

So, if the message text of your OP is missing, you have options:

1) If you edited your OP at any time, then the most recent version is saved in the edit history of the post.

2) You can edit the OP to update the message text.

We understand that this situation is very disappointing, especially if you spent time and effort crafting an OP that is now gone forever. When you post on DU, you expect your post to be there, and you expect that something like this will not happen. The DU Administrators are very sorry for this catastrophic error, and we will do everything in our power to hopefully avoid repeating this mistake.

Again, we are very sorry. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

David Allen
DU Administrator

A word about juries, transparency, and perception.

Consider this. DU2 had none of the following features (all of which DU3 has):
  • If you are the author of a post that gets hidden, You get notified.
  • If you send a community standards alert, you get an automatic notification explaining the outcome -- and explaining how the jury came to the decision.
  • The forums for DU3 "moderators" are not private -- so anyone with access can read and share everything that goes on there.
  • We have an entire forum for cataloging and discussing hidden posts, locked threads, banned members, etc.
On DU2, all of this information was considered privileged. If you dared to post any of it, you would get your post deleted. Why did we do that? Because the entire system required that people trust the moderators and administrators. Allowing all their choices to be catalogued and criticized would, over time, serve to create the (IMO unfair) impression that they were unfair.

But here on DU3 you get *ALL* this information. Might this difference in access to information be influencing how some DU members perceive DU2 and DU3? You know everything about DU3 -- everything laid bare for the world to see. Warts and all.

Does anyone here truly believe that on DU2 we didn't make all the same "mistakes" that you see here on DU3? Think about it. The difference is that you didn't know about them.

Internet Explorer Users: I think I fixed the blue link issue.

I just updated the stylesheet so you should get the default blue. If you aren't seeing it, hold the shift key on your keyboard, and then click the reload/refresh button on your browser.

If there are any problems, let me know.

Skinner
DU Admin

First Look: New Obama Family Portrait


President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Malia, left, and Sasha, right, sit for a family portrait in the Oval Office, Dec. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


The Official Portrait of the First Family. October 23, 2009. (by Annie Leibovitz)

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/12/15/first-look-new-obama-family-portrait

(Hat tip to the DU Barack Obama Group)

You've got Mail! Your DU Mail from our old website has been imported to DU3.

Elad has just finished importing all of your mail from the old DU2 website. To access your DU2 mail, do this:

Click the My Inbox link at the top right of any page. Then click the "DU2 Mail Archive" button. It looks like this:



On the DU2 Mail Archive page, there is also a button to see your DU2 sent mail. It looks like this:



At the moment, this is a read-only archive. And please note that the pagination is a little messed up right now, but hopefully Elad will have that fixed later today.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to upgrade and improve DU3.

Skinner
DU Admin

For members concerned that progressives and voices critical of Obama will be squelched by DU Juries.

I just served on a Jury (yes, admins get picked too), and here is the result.

(There was a bug in the results and the link to the post was not included. I have added it in myself. I also formatted the results for easier reading.)

At Mon Dec 12, 2011, 08:29 AM an alert was sent on the following post:

Perhaps apostasy in this new DU3 regime, but Obama now does have a progressive
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027771

REASON FOR ALERT:

This post is disruptive, hurtful, rude, insensitive, over-the-top, or otherwise inappropriate. (See Community Standards.)

ALERTER'S COMMENTS:

No comments added by alerter

You served on a randomly-selected Jury of DU members which reviewed this post. The review was completed at Mon Dec 12, 2011, 08:34 AM, and the Jury voted 1-5 to LEAVE IT.

Juror #1 voted to HIDE IT and said: He's a third party independent who was once a Democratic precinct chair. He's written a few books. He's a no-chance-in-hell waste-your-vote spoiler and it's a rules vio to push his candidacy here

Juror #2 voted to LEAVE IT ALONE and said: My understanding is that DU members are permitted to support Democrats in primaries. While it's a forgone conclusion that Obama is going to be the nominee, this person is permitted to express support for another Democrat.

Juror #3 voted to LEAVE IT ALONE and said: No explanation given

Juror #4 voted to LEAVE IT ALONE and said: No explanation given

Juror #5 voted to LEAVE IT ALONE and said: I'm going to assume that "the DU Apostasy" is what prompted the alert, and agree that comment is a bit over the top, but the rest of the post is informative.

Juror #6 voted to LEAVE IT ALONE and said: No explanation given

Thank you very much for participating in our Jury system, and we hope you will be able to participate again in the future.


I know people have many legitimate concerns about this system. But I believe the proof is in the pudding. My experience in the times I have served is that everyone is getting a fair shake, regardless of their point of view.

Would you like to serve as a Host of a Group? And does your Group even need a Host?

Again, this is an announcement about Group Hosts, not Forum Hosts.

During the testing period this last week, we assigned a number of people to act as temporary hosts in various Groups around the site so we could test the software. To those of you who volunteered, thank you. But, as promised, now that the testing period is over we have wiped the database of Group hosts. If you were a Group Host during the testing period, you are no longer assigned as a Group Host. As I write this, none of the Groups have Hosts assigned. (Note that Forum Hosts from the testing period are still assigned.)


Does your Group need a Host at all?

The first thing that needs to happen in any Group before someone is assigned as a Host, is that the regulars in that group need come to some general agreement that they want a Host at all. The position of Host (especially the most senior Host) holds a significant amount of power in a group -- with the abilities to lock threads, hire and fire other Hosts, and block people out of the group. Are you sure you want to hand that power over to anyone?

Keep in mind that if you do not choose to have a Host, your group will still enjoy some amount of protection. No matter where they are posted, violations of our Community Standards are handled by the random member juries. So even if your group does not have a Host, there is still a system in place that will be able to handle disruptive posts in the group.

With that in mind, there may be some Groups where it might make sense to leave the position of Host vacant:
  • If your group is dedicated to a non-controversial topic, then there is probably no harm in assigning someone as a Host. You are unlikely to need someone to lock threads or block people out of the group, but it might be useful to have someone who can take ownership of the group.
  • If your group is a "Safe Haven" where only one viewpoint is welcome, then you should probably assign a Host to help run the group. It is likely that you will need a Host to lock off-topic threads and block out people who disagree with the purpose of the group.
  • If your group plays host to open debate on a particular topic, and welcomes a wide range of viewpoints, then the choice might not be so simple. If you select a Host, it needs to be someone who is trusted to be fair by people holding a wide range of viewpoints. You may decide that it is better not to assign anyone as the Host of your group, to avoid the risk that that person might use their power to benefit a particular viewpoint.
If you decide that you do wish to have someone assigned as the Host of your group, the next step is to pick someone. The first person selected as Host holds the most power in the Group. The first can add and remove other Hosts, but no other Hosts can remove the first Host. In short: Choose someone you trust.


What to do if you want to serve as a Host? (THESE INSTRUCTIONS HAVE CHANGED)

If the members of your group decide to select a Host, then you must decide who will serve as the first Host. The DU Administrators will assign ONLY ONE host to each Group, and then it is the responsibility of that Host to select other members of the Host Team (if anyone else wishes to serve).

Hopefully in most Groups, selecting a first Host will be a simple matter of awarding the job to the first person who posts in the Group to volunteer for the job. If more than one person is interested, then you need to discuss the choice of Host amongst yourselves until you come to some sort of consensus regarding who should have the job.
  1. If you want to serve as a Host of a particular Group, the first thing you need to do is post in that group to let the members of that group know you are interested in serving as the Host. If a consensus is reached and you are chosen for the job, then -- and only then -- you can report back to this thread and let me know.
  2. Post a reply in this thread telling me which group you have been selected to Host. Include a direct link to your post in the group where you want to serve. I need that link in order to give you host powers.
  3. I will only assign ONE host to each group. After that first host has been assigned, then that first host has the power to grant host status to anyone else. So, if a host is already assigned to a group, then you need to contact that host to become a host.
Good luck selecting your Hosts.

Skinner
DU Admin

I've been trying to figure out why people seem so concerned about the Hosts.

(I posted this as a reply in another thread.)

I've been trying to figure out why people seem so concerned about the Hosts.

Because it seemed utterly baffling to me. As I've said many times, Forum Hosts can do only one thing: lock a discussion thread that goes against the Statement of Purpose of a particular forum. To me, it seems self-evident that it will be apparent if a Forum Host abuses their power. If they lock a discussion thread that is on-topic for their forum, then they have acted inappropriately. Sure, there will be plenty of times when a thread is borderline, and the Host has to make the call. As long as the Host is doing the job in good faith, and trying to do the right thing, then I think it's okay if they make a different choice on a borderline case. So why does this system seem to scare so many people?

Last night, in my bed, it hit me. You are all used to how we do things on DU2, our old software. On DU2, a moderator can lock a thread for almost any reason. They can -- and do -- routinely lock perfectly appropriate discussion topics because some asshat showed up and deliberately disrupts in the replies. We have so many rules, including arbitrary rules against posting stuff that is "inflammatory," to the point where nobody has any clue what the rules are. In short: On DU2 a thread can be locked for any reason or no reason at all, and many people have no clue why it happened. That confusion could potentially provide cover for moderators who abuse their power. No wonder you are so worried -- you know how the system works on DU2.

What you don't know -- and you won't know until we move into DU3 -- is how the system will work on DU3.

DU3 is designed to eliminate all those problems. All the vague civility rules from DU3 are gone -- replaced by our juries and community standards. On DU3, the Forum Hosts can't pull some random rule out of their backside to justify locking anything. They get only ONE rule to enforce: The Statement of Purpose of their forum. That's it. If they lock for any other reason they have overstepped their authority.

So, in practice, you could throw up the most offensive, most inflammatory piece of garbage, and if it was on-topic for the forum the Host could not legitimately lock it. Now, it would likely get alerted as a community standards violation, but that goes to the randomly-selected jury -- not the Hosts.

DU3 is designed to deal with actual disruption. It is designed to keep good discussions open, so bad actors cannot get them shut down by throwing a fit.

The job of the forum hosts is so narrowly defined that abusing power would be very difficult to do without being detected.

So, I think everyone here on DU3 figured out pretty quickly...

...that meta-discussion goes in the meta-discussion forum. And (this is just my personal opinion), I think that Soapbox is a more useful and interesting forum because it is not filled with meta-discussion.

The forum Hosts have been talking about how to do their job, and have spent a great deal of time agonizing over how much meta-discussion should be permitted in Soapbox. And I think (overall) they have really tried to use a light-touch and be helpful to the members. And members have been making a good faith effort to make this all work out.

Yesterday I saw a really remarkable situation where a Host locked a thread, received a substantive appeal from the person who locked it, and (after some back-and-forth by DU Mail, and a discussion in the Hosts workspace) eventually unlocked the thread. In addition, a person who had posted in the thread to complain about the lock went back and self-deleted.

It's only been a couple days, and I feel like we are naturally converging on some norms of behavior in an organic way.

Sometime in the near future, we are going to do the official switch-over to the new software, and there will be some growing pains and some mistakes made. But I think if we all try together in a good-faith way to make this work, then everything is going to be okay.
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