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5:00 PM
@QPaysTaxes or blatantly sad
Hey everyone, welcome! It's time for the second Meta Stack Exchange Town Hall. This is the second in a three-part experiment to see if these chat events make a good way for Community Managers to keep in contact with you all. Last month's event was great, but pretty chaotic, so this time we're going to be throwing some tweaks into the mix to see if we can improve the signal to noise ratio. @Abby is kind enough to moderating for us again today; Abby, want to tell us how things will work?
This room was placed in timeout for 5 minutes; the topic of this room is "MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF STARS! Wheel of blame link bolted on for your ease of use: jsfiddle.net/Ldvwp8uv/12/embedded/result/"; - conversation should be limited to that topic.
Thanks @Ana. We're tweaking the format a little bit from last time to try and bring a little bit more order out of the chaos. There'll be a little more structure and a few more (and longer) room timeouts—not because we don't want to hear from you, that's why we're all here in the first place, but because the pace was simply too quick to follow effectively last time around.
We'll start with a structured conversation in the first half of the hour, and follow it up with more free-flowing chat time in the second half. Please keep the meta-chat to a minimum; we'll welcome feedback on the format and such on MSE after the show. We're going to do our level best to maintain a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio here, so if you're going to type words and hit enter, please keep them on topic.
As you all know from Meta, we're going to be talking about chat moderation today. We'll start by digging into some of the themes that popped up throughout that discussion, and look at the cultural and historical issues chat (and moderating chat) presents.
Most of the discussion on Meta centered around a couple of basic ideas, including "standards of offensiveness" (what are they? should there be any?) and how moderation can peacefully coexist with what's known as "room culture". We're excited to dig into this stuff. But:
Please note that we are steering clear of talking about software solutions here. A thorough discussion of the softer "people problems" with chat (group dynamics, the purpose and history of chat, etc) is what's called for. Once we've built a shared understanding of those issues, we'll be able to have smarter and better-informed discussions about potential implementation ideas on MSE later.
(My wall of text is almost over, promise.)
The first issue we want to dig into was raised by Monica: "Chat is real-time, and that by itself makes moderating it hard. Why? Because of the real-time nature -- it's probably in a room I don't know, on a subject I don't know, with people I don't know, and by the time I can figure out enough context to act, the damage has been done already."
And I think it's time to hear from someone other than me. @Shog9 and @bluefeet are CMs and veteran chat mods... what's your opinion on the above? How should someone balance their responsibility to moderate chat with the sheer scale and diversity of different rooms and topics?
Thanks @hairboat for that fabulous intro.
I think Abby demonstrates one of the most effective (and underused) techniques here: stopping conversation to give folks a chance to reflect.
Something I've seen too many times to count is the old, "beaten up for trying to break up a fight" problem: you step in the middle of a heated argument and both sides turn on you for interrupting.
5:06 PM
I definitely agree that the real-time nature of chat makes it difficult to moderate from the rest of the site. Things move quickly in chat making those on the fly/seat of their pants decisions that moderators make more difficult and sometimes more disruptive to a room.
But that's also what makes our system great, none of these decisions are set in stone and can be undone.
Chat moderation is a lot more reactive by nature than Q&A moderation is. Which can be...a problem.
@Shog9 So it would be better to freeze the room then trying to step in the middle
For example if a flag is raised a mod steps in makes a judgement call, then takes a step back it can be undone
(Timeout's done - feel free to weigh in on this topic specifically for a bit, everyone!)
@NathanOliver If you can, if the situation allows, quietly read until you have at least a basic understanding of the situation. Reading from the transcript is even better. But if you want to play mediator, you gotta avoid arguing with everyone in the room, and then arguing about why you're arguing, and then... when you finally realize it's not working, putting the room into timeout pejoratively.
5:10 PM
If you want, you can take this opportunity to let us know what you really hate about chat moderation. What's the worst thing?
All forms of moderation are in essence reactive. The trick is to figure out how to reduce the tension and the animosity without causing ill will. That can only be done with trust in the people who are moderating.
If people don't trust the moderation, any action will always be the wrong one.
@ThaddeusHowze very true and we assume trust in the mods since they were elected by the community
@hairboat There are no objective guidelines like we have on main, so I never feel like I have solid ground to stand on.
The 'room culture' thing doesn't help either
@bluefeet Keep in mind, though, that no matter what election system you choose, you'll always have some portion (ideally a minority) which didn't vote for that mod.
There are some simply ideas you can always rely on: The Hippocratic Oath is the best place to start - Do no harm.
5:11 PM
Chat flags tend to cause more drama than main-site flags. Partly because all 10k+ users can see them, so information about chat flags isn't subject to the moderator agreement; partly because it's all real-time, so people can see when a message disappears or a user is suspended and say "HEY WHY THAT HAPPEN", in contrast to the often silent handling of main-site flags.
@bluefeet Though, mods from any site can burst into a room in response to a flag, yes? There are a lot of SE2 mods that mayormaynot be trusted/liked/known by the room in question
@ThaddeusHowze This seems to be an issue: there seem to be vocal parts of the chat user base who don't trust mods to be moderators of chat.
@bluefeet But a lot of the chat "mods" aren't elected... they're high-rep users across the network who can handle chat flags.
@randal'thor this varies by site considerably. I can think of one or two sites where comments and comment-flags frequently stir up considerable amounts of drama...
by site, by topic...
@BenN If a room doesn't trust moderators, there's a problem with either the room or the moderators.
5:12 PM
I hate that as a RO I can't step up moderation beyond a kick. How hard I try to establish a positive culture when things spin out of control I have to rely on moderators
In my experience, it's usually not the moderators
@Catija ... or who can't, but think they can because they have the necessary 10k.
This room was placed in timeout for 5 minutes; the topic of this room is "MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF STARS! Wheel of blame link bolted on for your ease of use: jsfiddle.net/Ldvwp8uv/12/embedded/result/"; - conversation should be limited to that topic.
OK, let's bring it on back... way back. Chat is old. In internet years, it's like... a thousand years old. Is it still fulfilling the needs it was originally built for? What were those needs? Do we still have them? I have questions. I hope @Shog9 has answers.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...
Specifically, 2010, when chat didn't exist
Folks on SO hung out on meta, in IRC, and occasionally in extremely long comment threads on SO itself
So Jeff & Co. looked at this & realized there was... A need that wasn't being met by the system, which the community was trying to fill in various ways
Jeff Atwood on April 29, 2010
When people ask me what mistakes we made in building Stack Overflow, near the top of the list is not acknowledging the need for a meta-discussion site earlier. That is, a place for people to discuss Stack Overflow itself.
(Do Trilogy Sites Need a "Third Place"?)
5:17 PM
The idea of a "third place", an area for socialization within the community, didn't originate here... But chat was designed and built with that need in mind.
So instead of a meta site that was filled with memes and in-jokes to the exclusion of serious discussion, instead of unmoderated IRC rooms hostile to those not "in the know"...
...we could have a place where the folks who were building these sites, who were sharing their knowledge with each other every day... Could get to know each other a bit. Could fulfill that very human need for socialization without turning the site itself into yet another social network.
Ultimately moderators cannot deter badly behaved clients. Their powers must stem from their example presented. They should be exemplars of the behaviors rooms should hope to exhibit. Then more experienced participants should have a baseline from which to determine how such behavior should be promoted or spurned as needed. Chat serves a useful purpose and should not be done away with.
> Let's be clear: chat has become something it was never intended to be. It was intended, as far as I can tell, as a venue for less structured site discussions, with some socialising alongside.

What it's become is more like socialising, with occasional site discussion.

That's not a bad thing, but it's important to recognise that we can't moderate it for what it was intended to be; we have to moderate it as it is. It's a problem child, but in the same sort of way that dumping your child on the street if you don't like it is considered bad, we can't just give it up as a lost cause.
@Shog9 It seems to have worked admirably for that. We have thriving chat communities. There do seem to be some issues with insularity though.
The problem with chat flags is that many chats went unattended for so long that they formed vast subcommunities and people are naturally hostile to anyone (mods or users) coming in and assuming authority over (even just for moderation) their community. We've largely gone back to the IRC days.
:5027035 to allow the chair a moment uninterrupted, I guess
5:20 PM
Exactly @Magisch.
So the main problem we have right now is that SE made something like a better, more integrated IRC
And at some point the team will have to decide if they want to let it continue that way or not
FWIW, the model applied to SF&F chat has been smashing success.
And, if not, that will require some fairly heavy interventions and will ruffle tons of feathers
Yes, it's important that people have a place to get to know each other as more than a usercard, and chat is also super important for real-time interaction. It seems we have three kinds of rooms: small problem-solving rooms (where long comment threads go), site topic rooms, and socializing rooms (where people are joking around and generally having a good time). Those last two tend to fuse together in the absence of constant moderation
@WadCheber Could you explain that model?
Just in brief
5:22 PM
@Magisch Groups of people who are comfortable with each other are disinclined to shake things up and invite potential discomfort in the form of new, unknown people. It's a very natural human reaction.
@ana obviously
@WadCheber Yes... but it required a user base willing to change... many of the arguments I've seen essentially boil down to "this is how I do it and I'm never going to change that, so deal with it and get out of my/our space".
Which is why I didn't outright call for the bridgade to march in and dissolve these communities
Unfortunately, that behavior is not acceptable.
@BenN Is it necessary to enforce topic and socialising separating with moderation? This seems to be a point of dissention among mods or sites.
5:23 PM
@QPaysTaxes I think Shog might do a better job, but in brief, "Don't try to set up limits, just be open about when you're not comfortable, and accept it when people say such". Also, "Pick ROs everyone trusts and respects".
Its just a thing to consider. Wether or not SE likes it, for better or worse, the status quo is that chat.SE has turned into some form of IRC with more SE integration
This is a shared space and a shared environment. If a person cannot abide by those rules their power to participate should be limited or eliminated entirely.
The main question is if SE wants to do something about it, and if so, to what extent
@Magisch that's very much how it started out
It changed our room from a constant problem with flags everywhere and room freezes every week to not having a flag in... months?
5:23 PM
@SevenSidedDie It's a question of getting the balance right.
As long as we're in limbo things like the monthly chat meta discussions with flaring tensions will come up often
@QPaysTaxes IMO, the most important factor is that people respect each other's limits and sensibilities. That way, instead of flagging, someone can just say "please can we not talk about X?" and the conversation will move on to a different topic.
@WadCheber Oh, I see. Thanks!
@SevenSidedDie It might not be necessary to separate those, but actually doing it requires moderation for sure
We even have a special keyword ("tacos") to mean "this conversation is straying into potentially dangerous territory; let's change the subject".
5:24 PM
When someone gets uncomfortable, they say so instead of flagging.
I can see why that would make for easier moderation
And everyone changes the topic immediately.
bit of trivia: SO Team - specifically, Geoff Dalgas - stepped in for a time to moderate the #stackoverflow channel on freenet years ago. Which demonstrated pretty effectively that,
1) moderating IRC is hard
2) relying on one person to moderate a chatroom is futile
@Catija A user base willing to change ... and getting rid of a few who aren't and won't be willing.
@Magisch The only thought about that is if these communities get shut down and move "underground" (slack, irc, other chat site, etc) they will be harder to moderate. If the continue to conspire to break SE rules (or at least their behavior has an impact on main or meta), how should that be handled. Warnings on the main sites while the communities still exist in one way or another? I guess at that point it's no longer SE's problem, unless they are disruptive on the main sites...
5:25 PM
Shog and Ana used to be in our room all the time. They've been able to be away from our room for months now.
Large part of the problem is also that chat flags are such a nuke or no action thing right now. Maybe we need a more effective way of dealing with inappropiate but not quite really bad posts
@randal'thor or waiting for them to just leave on their own.
And that is the secret. To eliminate participants who refuse to change and know they are creating a disruptive influence.
Residents of a room being possessive and protective of it seems to be a source of conflict. There's either a cultural drive to make a room “ours”, or an implicit signal in the way chat is set up that says to people “this place is YOURS and yours alone.” Then that smacks face-first into moderation and global behaviour standards.
@Magisch We have that already "kicking"
5:26 PM
We don't really have the moderators to govern chat effectively like we do main
@JAL Right, if users want to get together to horse around, it doesn't really matter if it's not attached to an SE site
chat relies on an owner system
If the room owners don't cooperate, the only option for dealing with things is flag
@Magisch Moderators can moderate chat too!
@JAL It would be basically impossible to moderate people off-site, as you'd have to talk them into granting you mod powers so you could... shut them down. All you can realistically do is, when they become a problem in the place you control, shut them down there.
the idea that every chat room has to be right for every user is a bad idea. if people don't like the 'mood' of a chat room they should be encouraged to look for somewhere else they are comfortable.
5:26 PM
We have what, 19 mods? They have plenty to do on the main site
@ThaddeusHowze And then you get people complaining that "you're killing our chat space because you're scaring off all of the people I like to talk to". I'm not defending this... I think it's horrid... but it's part of the problem. If you can't have a civil chat space, are you "allowed" to have one?
@Magisch Do you mean Meta Stack Exchange mods?
Or just Stack Exchange mods in general?
on SO specifically
Only SO mods can moderate SO rooms
my experiences and context relate mostly to SO
5:27 PM
Three minutes
Holy crap
Only SO mods and team members can intervene in SO chat, which is the most active
@BenN And only Meta Stack Exchange mods can moderate Meta Stack Exchange rooms.
@wizzwizz4 It helps - it really helps - to have people moderating chat who are respected by the people in that space. Sure, we can all talk about "if people don't respect moderators, that's a problem with those people", but the fact is that a lot of people are going to get annoyed if some blue they've never met comes in and starts telling them what to do. Local ROs are a real boon.
@Magisch There's also the option of hitting "not sure" on the flag and then coming into the room to talk to the people
@Magisch I'd say that The Nineteenth Byte is pretty close.
5:28 PM
@Catija I dislike people who lodge that complaint. Trying to accommodate people who don't fit will mostly just result in a different group of people leaving.
My teen-aged daughter used to slam her door when she didn't like the way discussions went in our house. My wife and I asked her not to do that. I warned her if she didn't there would be consequences. One day after a major disagreement and slamming of doors, I replaced her door with a beaded curtain.
Consequences are the result of actions.
@Magisch Our main RO is Slytherincess, and she is seen as the room mother. That helps. Everyone knows, likes, and respects her. People started changing their behavior in our room initially out of a desire to not disappoint her.
I think we need some more non nuclear option to moderate chat
@randal'thor +1 for that.
@KutuluMike I probably misphrased that... this is people defending the users who post content I consider offensive.
5:28 PM
If you cannot maintain your aplomb after being warned and reminded, the consequences are your own to observe.
and we need to have more people capable of doing it, and maybe not put that burden on the people who already have plenty to do on the main site
OH: I want Thaddeus to moderate the entire Internet
@Shog9 Pin it!
Let's toss around something PythonMaster said (related strongly to Catija's answer too):
> How do we deal with new people coming into a developed chatroom with a culture?...(problems include)
* Confusion between what is acceptable
* New users posting messages that don't "fit" the culture
* Familiar users posting messages based on the culture of the room, confusing the newer users
* Familiar users getting frustrated on the new users' inability to comprehend the new culture
So how exactly do we treat and deal with new users that join a developed chatroom with a culture they're unfamiliar with?
@WadCheber At RPG we have BESW, who is very chill and respected. Having a single person who everyone respects makes a big difference. It's also a single point of failure (or never achieved in the first place.)
5:29 PM
Idk, community managers, are you happy with what chat has become?
I believe this technology is a RESPONSIBILITY, not just a privilege. We have an obligation to use it responsibly in a way which improves our relationships to each other, not creates another environment for us to behave badly in.
I don't know much about chat elsewhere, but I really do think SF&F chat - especially Mos Eisley - should be the poster child of how to fix chat.
@Magisch It depends on the day
@hairboat Is it like last time when we embolden the messages to you?
@SevenSidedDie BESW is a great guy. Surprised he's not a mod by now.
5:30 PM
@hairboat we have on off-site website/github
We turned around 180 degrees in a matter of 4 months.
@randal'thor Doesn't want it. :)
@TIPS we've entered the more free-form discussion portion of the hour, so go ahead and chat however feels natural
@hairboat This is a situation where I kinda think the room has to want this. Some rooms are pretty open about wanting folks to join, others want to be a bit more insular...
@hairboat . . . not chat at all and try to read the transcript, that is.
5:31 PM
@hairboat The confusion about room culture could probably be cleared up by actually informative room topics, kind of like how on IRC they sometimes put a link to rules there
@hairboat Don't say that. I'll start posting dozens of dog gifs.
@hairboat I managed it by trying really hard to fit in, browsing through the starboard etc. Enough effort on the new-user's part, and they become a "regular".
But when you get a room that seems welcoming but wants to be insular, you get conflict.
Maybe it is time to allow rooms to really have their own culture then
How far can we let culture go?
5:32 PM
@Magisch Perhaps we give them their own CSS.
And rewrite the rules to only disallow some very nasty things
@Shog9 Especially when it's the site's “main” room.
@Magisch So you think that rooms should be able to utterly ignore the "Be Nice" policy?
things we can all agree on are flaggable
@Shog9 Would the Mos system work for other rooms? You know better than I.
5:32 PM
@wizzwizz4 This is a good point. The room has to make a deliberate effort to be open to new folks and willing to root out poison, but a newcomer to any social situation has to be likewise willing to get the lay of the land and figure out what the social mores are before jumping in with all four feet.
@Magisch I don't think that is the way to go. We do not rooms to become exclusionary.
Right, so here is the breaking point of the issue:
@Magisch if you manage to get us all to agree on what's flaggable you will have solved the whole problem.
@Magisch I don't think giving chat excemptions from Be Nice is a good idea.
@SevenSidedDie Yes, this is particularly a problem when you're the main / only room for a site or topic. If your rooms says, "Movies!" or "C++" and your members say "hey, we're just here to talk about cabbages"... You're gonna have a bad time when new folks join.
5:32 PM
@Magisch "All agree on" is a bit of a fantasy
Do we want a open-by-all-accounts and transparent-to-all-accounts chat culture
or move more towards irc
@SevenSidedDie Yes. The "main room" of a site is not the place to be insular. It's the main room... people should feel welcome there at all times to ask questions about the site and to get help figuring out if something is on topic or how to improve a question...
<opens a room about cabbages on M&TV>
@Shog9 IMO, at least the main chatroom for a site should always be welcoming. If you allow main chatrooms to be too insular, the natural next step is to allow the site itself to be too insular. Making new users feel unwelcome isn't something anyone should be doing.
Rules mean almost nothing unless they are enforceable
5:33 PM
@WadCheber Yea, y'all have done good stuff there.
@Ana Can it be applied elsewhere?
Enforcing most rules on the chat is a tedious process that somehow has to get better.
@Magisch Which gets me to this. Who else thinks RO's deserve more?
@WadCheber You already have owls... please no cabbages.
@Magisch there's room for both, at least to a point. It's fine to create a room where you say, "I just want to talk to Magisch about flags, nothing else" and if someone comes in and starts talking about how much they love Freebird you kick 'em out.
5:34 PM
@hairboat If you like, I'll publish the "seven steps to SE moderator".
Steps 1 through 5 are "fit in".
@KutuluMike "What's flaggable" is always going to be subjective.
Its one of these instances where we're asking the most nitpicky people on the planet (programmers) to exercise common sense
@WadCheber For those of us not in the know can you provide a short summary of what went wrong and what you did to fix it?
The argument against giving RO's more effective powers is that they are chosen at random in rooms and very very normal and meh users shouldn't wield dangerous powers.
@WadCheber something I've noticed is that if folks are more willing to break off into separate rooms, that tends to relieve a lot of the strain on a community of chatters
5:35 PM
Then how about making it a better process?
11 mins ago, by rand al'thor
@QPaysTaxes IMO, the most important factor is that people respect each other's limits and sensibilities. That way, instead of flagging, someone can just say "please can we not talk about X?" and the conversation will move on to a different topic.
@Shog9 Happens a lot when people want to act mature.
@randal'thor Should crude joking and vulgar words (i.e. stuff that is totally unacceptable on main yet currently OK on chat) be dealt with? That is, are we OK with having such things be associated with SE?
What definitely is a problem though
^^^^ what we did to fix it
5:35 PM
@Magisch What about all of the other, non-programmer, rooms?
Not so much when they don't.
Reminder: it's tempting, but let's not wade into the weeds of software solutions and implementation details.
is that many people now use chatrooms to ask questions as a way to bypass the moderation of the main site
@DavidPostill CONSTANT arguments. Constant flags. Several room freezes. Discussions among the CMs about killing our chat permanently.
OK then.
5:36 PM
It might help to have a way to show the type of room a room is, like we have [discussion] [feature-request] etc. required categories on meta. Software nudge to the social dynamic, and also makes it clear(er) what needs moderating?
RO elections and new attitudes and paradigms for handling problems fixed it.
One of the problems I'd like to see solved. The flagger.
Since Mos Eisley is the SF&F main room, it should remain open and supportive to new participants and be marked as such. Shadow rooms, where people talk exclusively about comics are designated such and have rotating room leaders and conversations which are strictly about comics. Such a thing has alleviated some stress for SF&F.
One of the things that we all tend to overlook in these discussions is simply that groups cannot grow indefinitely without completely changing what they are. A group of 5 is a completely different dynamic from a group of 20.
@WadCheber I'd say much of it already is. You and a number of regulars are already here contributing to a conversation about how to make things work better.
5:37 PM
@Shog9 I think insular rooms are a bit of a problem. I don't mind insular rooms existing, even if they are "room culture" rooms, but I think the primary "site chat" for any site should welcome new people and uphold the tone of the site they're attached to. After all, we push newcomers to that site towards the site chat as soon as they get any rep. A bad impression in the site's main room reflects poorly on the site itself.
@WadCheber Thanks. That's a good summary.
There is no punishment for flagging, so I can go and flag everything I want in a random room and get people suspended over something picked out of the context. That's not good.
@DavidPostill What went wrong was basically people not having enough respect for each other, and not knowing when to stop in debates on hot topics (politics, gun control, abortion, etc.).
@Shog9 yes, but that is just group dynamics, nothing special for a chat room.
5:37 PM
@randal'thor Thanks.
@Shog9 That said, I really wanted this to be more organized than . . . this.
@DanHulme Yes. This.
The other downside to having too many rooms or pulling content out of the main chat rooms... is that the main chat rooms can become empty. There are only so many users who participate in chat and they only have interest in "monitoring" a certain number of rooms. If we allow more open "culture" away from the main chat of a site, there's potential for the chat to become disused and ignored.
Its a fundamental challenge to add social elements to SE, a site that was designed from the ground up to not be social
I'd be happy to write up a blog post about what our chat was like and how we fixed it. I'd like to get some help from @randal'thor and Slytherincess, but I'd write the bulk of it.
It might help other rooms.
5:38 PM
@WadCheber Excellent idea.
@WadCheber Cool, but coming up with such a respected person is hard work.
@WadCheber Shame [blogoverflow.com] is discontinued...
Flags have to remain a means by which a Human who has the power of discernment must be willing to go through and determine what, if anything, should be the consequence of said flagging. People who flag indiscriminately should also be held to task since flagging is both important and necessary to the proper development and maintenance of this ecosystem.
I was one of the biggest problems in the room.
@wizzwizz4 SF/F still has a blog.
5:39 PM
Now I'm a bloody temporary RO.
@DanHulme Agreed. When a room gets toxic in that way, we know now that it can turn around (as Mos Eisley was able to do). But people have to be willing to let that happen, and to understand why a general room needs to be welcoming and friendly. And if there's a person or two who can't get on board... we have to be willing to show them the door if they won't shape up.
@wizzwizz4 SFF's got a blog.
@Catija So ... for a small site like A&C or M&TV, have one main chatroom where nearly everyone congregates, but for a larger site like SFF, encourage branching out into more rooms if there are enough people who want to do so.
@KutuluMike No new ones can be made :-(
@Catija To my mind the problem is the opposite. Since I don't need a chat window open per room, if I'm in an inactive room, it costs me nothing. OTOH, a room full of off-topic chat, where I have to keep clicking it to see if the new posts are relevant or not, drives me away.
5:40 PM
@wizzwizz4 i know, it's sad. not the topic of this chat, tho.
@randal'thor But still maintain the rules in the secondary rooms.
@rene Exactly! We're all still humans (except some of us are bots) - we still behave the same way here, react the same way here, as we do in a room together, or in a bar, or stuck on a plane. We can't ignore that when discussing this stuff.
@WadCheber I for one would be very interested in some kind of post-mortem analysis on that situation from the community's perspective
@randal'thor Actually, we have semi-developed this in the chemistry chat that any two-sided conversation should go to a separate room if a chatter expresses lack of interest in the topic.
@Shog9 But you guys built this site on supressing one of the basic human instincts
which is group think
5:40 PM
(We've talked it to death within the CM team as I'm sure you can imagine. I'd love to get some of y'all's perspective.)
Exactly, @Shog9, it has to be understood, there is a set of behaviors we must all adhere to no matter what room culture might be willing to allow.
@ThaddeusHowze Folks see a lot of flags coming from a room, or a lot of people getting into arguments or whatever, and say, "chat is broken"... But when you look, you realize that the room went from 10 regulars to 30 in the span of two months and folks haven't adjusted to it yet.
@Shog9 Thank you for including us bots. We appreciate it.
@hairboat I'll open a google doc and get to work, and bring in people who were there through the whole ordeal for help.
@TIPS How did you come by that rule? Was it getting to be a problem, or was it pre-emptive, or what?
5:41 PM
@randal'thor At RPG we have two main rooms: the RPG Main Chat and Not a Bar (name is odd and has no explanation). They work in parallel: things that are OK but end up taking over/disrupting the main chat are asked to move to Not a Bar, and helped by moving the messages that exploded.
And this is what the Human guidance and leadership is for. To look at the culture and see changes are occurring and make allowances for that.
For someone who's been distracted fighting QuickBooks for the last few minutes, can anyone explain in a few words what we're talking about?
@WadCheber Yes, of course. Setting up a separate room for racist hate speech or something wouldn't be acceptable.
@Undo chat
@hairboat You'd need to talk to both of the largest rooms to get a full perspective. They do have a lot of overlap, though.
5:42 PM
@Undo We were talking about you. They were saying some nasty stuff, but I stood up for you.
@Undo scroll back :P
@randal'thor That's not really the point I'm trying to make. If people want to be free to talk more... "guardedly"... and they can do that in a non-main chat room... but those are the only users who access chat for a site... then who uses the main chat space at all?
One big, big problem that I've seen come out in the whole non english discussion is that sometimes, when single people come a room and start flagging things, depending on who handles them. Then people feel treated unfairly
@Magisch let's think of it this way: Q&A is based on enlightened self-interest. You got folks who want something, and you give 'em a way to do that. We're selective about what needs we satisfy, but we don't actually go completely against human nature here.
And we have no system besides meta (which is filled with people mostly not into chat much) to adress misgivings in that way
5:42 PM
Chat: is it necessary? Has it outlived its usefulness? Does it bring value to the the Stack as a whole or should it be retired, considered an interesting but overall failed experiment in Human interaction here?
@Magisch Non-English chat moderation is a whole different ball game ...
@ThaddeusHowze We are using chat, so... Yes, it brings value to everything.
@ThaddeusHowze I would probably stop using SE if I didn't have access to chat.
Chat is great and does all things.
@TIPS We try to encourage that as well. If the conversation is getting in the way of the room purpose then we ask that it gets moved. Off topic conversations are okay while they are not disruptive though.
5:43 PM
I would be very disappointed if we lost chat altogether. It is a big part of why I'm here.
@Magisch Non-English rooms on c.SO are at the bottom of my list as far as concern about user experience goes. They're going to have to either use English or have their room deleted anyway.
@Catija People who are new to a site or need real-time help with something would probably pop in. Site regulars would be in the main room to discuss interesting current events related to the site's general topic
@ThaddeusHowze I enjoy SE significantly more cause of chat
Can we talk about the non-english rooms? I know that was another aspect of chat moderation that has been mentioned recently.
For the record: Chat is not about changing Human nature. It is about learning to get along in a virtual environment the same way we would like to in the real world, treating each other with dignity and respect.
5:44 PM
@WadCheber Chat is the only reason I'm able to stay tied to Science Fiction & Fantasy these days, and the lack of active chat is what pulls me away from other stacks.
@WadCheber It's your main social life :-P
@Magisch Yes, it's really great to be able to know people as more than a usercard
things like charcoal hq and socvr make some of the otherwise duller things of moderating SO very entertaining and bearable
@Andy Chat flags in non-English rooms are hard to deal with.
From the CMs' perspective, I think chat is very valuable. The informal discussion is the closest thing to "face time" with the communities as we can get while maintaining a reasonable amount of privacy. Without it, we'd only have meta to have discussions and stay informed with what you guys are working on and thinking about.
5:44 PM
@ThaddeusHowze it might not be needed for most rooms but for the one I'm a RO in I need transparency. I don't think SOCVR should be on IRC or Slack. I leave it to others to decide if a chatroom that assists in moderatrion on main should exist in the first place
@BenN Before chat, getting to know people just happened in comments anyway. Which was not great.
I really really think chat adds enormously to this site
My reaction to a flag in a Russian-language room is always "Let's see.... Are... are those words?"
It allows for indepth discussion
@ThaddeusHowze Yeah, this. Except you get the "we're on the internet" problem...
5:45 PM
What is needed is a realistic way to make behavior in chat resemble the kind of exchange we want to see here, where people can engage in meaningful conversation that maintains a level of behavior we would want our mothers to be able to sit and listen to without being ashamed of us.
@WadCheber I'd disagree. On c.SO, we can just tell them to either use English or have their room deleted. Fairly simple and clear. On c.SE, it's not that hard to find a moderator who speaks that language... and if there isn't one, we can't moderate it so they will have to stop.
I dunno how you deal with that.
I always communicate as if my mother were sitting right behind me.
It keeps me both honest and considerate.
@Andy I think that might be a discussion for another time. That seems to be an issue squarely on the shoulders of SO as of late.
@Undo But what about Russian.SE or Korean.SE or whatever?
5:46 PM
@WadCheber Not quite so much for mods, because we have the translate: [text] tool in chat.
@ThaddeusHowze Personal opinion: if a message's text would be instantly flagged and deleted as offensive as a comment on main, it probably shouldn't be posted in chat
I have mixed feelings about non english chat
@Andy This has been hard, especially on SO. I'm torn if the room is not doing anything wrong to just leave it, or if we should step up and ban all non-english chatrooms.
I just get a flag notification and see characters I don't recognize.
I'm looking for a better solution than freezing rooms on a case-by-case basis
5:46 PM
@BenN, I don't tend to have that problem.
It is true that the last crackdown on it targeted (intentional or not) some specific languages from specific parts of the world more then others (a lot more). I think that shines a bad light on SE
@ThaddeusHowze Very similar to my perspective. I've always taken the stance of "would you discuss it at a water cooler at work where colleagues could hear?"
Let's leave off the non-English chat problem for now. Quite honestly, we didn't prepare that topic, and there are a few other CMs we'd want to have in the room if we're really going to dig into that.
thanks :)
5:47 PM
@BenN I completely agree with this... but there are a lot of people who do not think this is an acceptable "solution".
I see what you are saying though, that is the nature of the problem we are hoping to combat. A means of people using their own personal filters to modify their behavior themselves rather than making a mod do it for them.
Related to insular chat cultures:
Fair enough @hairboat.
Beyond Abby's answer (which I'm not arguing with, just adding to) I do still believe in the philosophy of the "third place"; when a community reaches a certain size, it's important if not necessary for the most involved people to have a place to interact with each other outside of the "main business."
> Chat flags are a representation, a stand in, for something else entirely; The opportunity for anyone who has gained the right to take part in a space to send a signal to leadership when they think something might be amiss. Why bother with this? When a group is constantly tweaking and reconsidering their social mores -- the way they comport themselves as a whole -- that's a sign of a healthy community. In order for communities to work, individuals need to be able to influence the whole.
5:48 PM
@Catija A lot of people want to ignore Be Nice in general. I don't think we should let them.
I can say that off-site mods who aren't familiar to users in a room where a problem occurs will often raise hackles. That isn't a great thing, but it is good for the off-site mod to tread very lightly.
I think we need to start treating chat flags more like the nuke they are
they're not though
Are they, though? IIRC they just delete the message
Then why do they carry sometimes hour long suspensions?
5:48 PM
Delete and suspend.
@BenN And suspend the user for half an hour.
a short timeout and deletion of a message
Do we really need those automated? Can we not have mods hand them out when necessary?
an hour long suspension isn't a nuke option @Magisch
it feels like one to users
5:49 PM
I've had more than one person apologize after a flag because they didn't know that flags = suspensions.
@SevenSidedDie But they very much specifically think it does not apply in chat... and then you get ridiculous arguments when a message gets deleted and people point out that SE has a "be nice" policy.
@bluefeet It feels like one.
Do the suspensions scale based on the frequency of the flags or number of messages flagged?
A half an hour is a grenade. An day is a cruise missile. A month is a cluster bomb. A year is a nuke.
@Magisch that is good
5:49 PM
@Magisch Yes. If someone is doing something bad enough that 6 users say "that's not acceptable", that user needs some time to reflect.
@JAL Number
@JAL Yes.
@hairboat A couple of active chatters just did it when they thought not everyone would like to see their two-sided conversation with others, then it just became an implicit rule.
@JAL 30 minutes per flag-deleted message.
@Catija Yeah. People disbelieving that Be Nice really does mean what it says is a problem.
5:50 PM
Feel free to check my annotations. 20 suspensions to date.
@WadCheber Which is why I agree with Axelrod that people should be aware when flagging of the consequences if their flag is validated.
@TIPS that's very considerate of them - I love to hear that
A great deal of the animosity towards chat flags come from getting banned for something you said like 3 weeks ago
@randal'thor Exactly. A tooltip is needed.
could we make chat flags only ban when the messages they delete are at least semi-recent?
5:50 PM
@NathanOliver No no no no, I'm not talking about your room! SOCVR feels like an office.
@ThaddeusHowze Yes, 30 minutes shouldn't be considered nuclear. The same kinds of messages would get a day off on main at least; to my observations, chat is too lenient with its suspensions.
10 minutes left!
@hichris123 Straying towards systematic discussions again, but there's some credence to the theory that 10kers don't actually (have time to) read the message, and certainly the context, before validating a flag.
There is a need to remove some nasty stuff from the transscript
I'm fashionably late, I see
5:51 PM
If you click on the flag, it should say "This will delete the message and suspend the user. Are you sure you want to flag, or could this be resolved through discussion?"
and there is not a need to punish someone for something they did a month ago when they've long since been told to cut it
@TIPS Is that bad?
@Undo I have literally never had time to think about a flag before somebody else dismisses it
@NathanOliver yes
At least suggest that people use their words before they use a flag.
5:51 PM
@hairboat Everything works like a charm when people act like adults.
It feels like a slap in the face to get banned for something that happened long ago and that you've long since stopped doing
@Undo I'm not so sure about that. How many validated flags have you seen that shouldn't have been? I can only think of a couple.
@hichris123 Many.
@TIPS but half of SO is 14-18 year olds
@SevenSidedDie It's not the policy that's the problem... it's the entitled reaction of users because "they do it all the time"... this is part of what I see as the problem... the "culture" of the room ignores stuff that is flaggable and it's only when an "outsider" comes in and sees the content does it become obvious that there's something that needs attention... but if the ROs and the regular users don't see or put a stop to it, the be nice policy gets ignored.
5:52 PM
@hichris123 I tend to stay away from chat because it's scary, but there are a lot of them.
@TylerH raises hand
@BenN Flag handling time is a race on chat.SE
@NathanOliver Well, I'll leave it to you to decide, considering that no other room talks about OT talk like this.
And then people get angry "what does this outsider come into our room and unfairly ban our users?!" I feel like thats where a whole lot of the general animosity is coming from
@hichris123 I got suspended for saying "ZOMG A FLAG" once.
@Undo /admin/recent-flags :)
5:52 PM
That's how bad it can get.
@hichris123 I have only seen a handful of chat dramas and I've seen an abundance of bad flags kicking in.
@Catija Amen, sister.
@hichris123 Yeah, I'm looking at it and I'm not too happy
In most, the flagger was part of the problem.
@Undo Agreed. I have have to be looking in the right place and click immediately to have any change of even reading the flag ...
5:53 PM
@Catija Oh, I very agree. People need to know Be Nice means business. The policy is good; the disbelief is the problem.
I've been on the problem part of flagging
@Catija I've very rarely seen ROs take any sort of moderation action that they have access to, outside of changing the room topic. We give the ROs power and responsibility, but it goes unused.
@SevenSidedDie Which is why having a shared, distributed sense of the room's social mores across users and timezones is critical.
where I've seen some month old tat I found nasty and flagged it
Look, guys. A scene where a bunch of people are fighting and flagging each others' messages is not really fun.
5:53 PM
@Undo Validated ones have a strikethrough.
@TylerH and the other half is adults who act like 14-18 year olds
And mods told me to cut it because it bans users
Now, can we make that policy?
@hairboat raises ha--wait
@CreationEdge so, yeah, that's a pretty critical question: how can we encourage ROs to take more responsibility for their rooms?
There should be a limit to what you can flag. I shouldn't flag something from 5 years ago. I shouldn't flag as much as I want.
5:54 PM
@CreationEdge Changing the topic is the most effective way of moderating a chat conversation.
@Shog9 provide real consequences for failure to take responsibility
@Shog9 make them lose their title when they repedeatly fail to, for one
Don't forget the trolls. Never forget the trolls.
@TIPS already exists. 14 days.
@CreationEdge Not enough. We can only kick or call in a mod
5:54 PM
@Shog9 ROs can't freeze, right?
Case in point: Flag on bigoted comment in a main chat room. I see it and suggest that an off-site mod remind the room to Be Nice. He does, and the RO and a mod call everyone trolls and make accusations, while defending the problematic comment as "room culture".
or ban them from owning rooms for a while
Nuclear option: if they can't uphold the Be Nice policy, new RO's are appointed
@Oded are you trolling?
@Undo right
5:55 PM
@Shog9 You mean I can't flag something older than 14 days?
@Undo Timeout only
@Undo We can make rooms read only, I believe.
@Shog9 tell them you expect them to take that responsibility or at least send them an inbox message
Same as a freeze, basically.
@Shog9 Oh, that's good enough. Encourage them to use that.
5:55 PM
@BenN what if there aren't any good options? Or any other options at all?
Since the ELU regulars left because their messages from 2011 were flagged.
@WadCheber Yeah, but the end result was that the RO was removed, I think...
@Shog9 No, ROs can't do a timeout?
I think flags should stop carrying suspensions on posts older then three days
@Catija Yep.
5:55 PM
@Undo ROs can't do anything! :/
Q: A guide to moderating chat

bluefeetChat is an offshoot of the main site, and using it is a privilege users earn early on during their time here. Chat is our place: for real-time collaboration to meet fellow members of the community for less structured, casual (but still roughly on-topic) conversation Our chat syst...

@hichris123 they can kick users
that's what he means probably
@bluefeet nevar. Just saying - sometimes it is a room regular who likes to stir things up. Or an outsider.
5:55 PM
Kicking usually only aggravates things.
That alone would solve a whole lot of the anger involved in this debate
without significantly decreasing their effectiveness
@TIPS Particularly when the kick is unwarranted.
@BenN Also, this actually makes some sense. Right now ROs have some limited authority and almost zero responsibility. Force them to take responsibility for their room. (yes, SOCVR is an odd case where this actually works. SOCVR is always odd)
Sometimes the ROs barge in.
Childish RO is childish.
5:56 PM
@BenN Nice, but RO need to be able to suspend as well as kick.
@TylerH Right, but that's not a timeout. You can't make your room sit and reflect for a few minutes unless you kick everyone.
@Shog9 maybe you should send that link to RO's of rooms that are active ... or have the mods bring that up....
There should be something like "approved RO" or what, per site, that can at least freeze the room.
The RO philosophy should be to guide the conversation away from trouble and into calmer waters.
Fine, not touching the users, just the room.
5:57 PM
And ROs should be elected.
Kind of like a mod, but only for that site's chat?
@DavidPostill nah, suspension should be a mod-only thing. RO's are not mods deliberately.
@hichris123 true. Shog didn't specify whether he was referring to a room timeout or a user timeout. I'm guessing he was implying a scenario with one problem user
rather than several
@rene yeah... That's a pretty good idea.
@WadCheber for a site's main room, yeah
5:57 PM
@WadCheber You already know that's sometimes impossible, esp. with RO tools.
Not for other rooms
@Shog9 Holding a sort of mini-election for ROs, as we did on SFF, might be a way to help them take the role and their responsibilities more seriously.
@TIPS They're called the site mods... Unfortunately, some sites have mods who don't use chat at all.
@WadCheber ugh, this'd be far more drama than it's worth on c.SO
@TIPS Not tools - words.
5:57 PM
I think it would work well on smaller sites
This is why it is important to find the right RO.
@Catija Mods have too much power, ROs have next to none.
@TIPS what power is too much that mods have?
Level-headed, respected, responsible, well-liked users.
@Undo I take my responsibly very seriously :)
5:58 PM
@TylerH you can always kick everyone involved.
Every site needs a Slytherincess.
@TIPS Too much?
@Shog9 And they come back a minute later.
@ArtOfCode Yar.
@Shog9 what if two room owners are taking opposite sides?
5:59 PM
Secondary rooms are meh.
@TIPS I agree that RO's are pretty underpowered, but (a) mods need all that power sometimes, and (b) I can't see immediately what we can do to increase that power for RO's.
Gotta wrap this up in about 2 minutes.
@Catija Seldom a problem. They're mostly responsible people.
Well, hopefully they're rational adults, so they can work it out somewhere
The secret of moderation is acting in moderation.
5:59 PM
@TylerH that's when they either work it out or refer it to a mod.
@BenN This is the internet; hopes for rationality are misplaced
@TylerH They should be doing so in a reasonable manner.
(Y'all are of course welcome to keep discussing this, but the official event will be over.)
If we inspire people to moderate themselves, we need do less because there is less to do.
@TylerH You could say the same about site mods. ROs, like mods, should present a united face if possible. Having a private Chat Moderation chatroom helps with that.
5:59 PM
@hairboat Thanks for moderating so lightly :)
Our elected ROs have disagreed once in chat.
@DavidPostill thanks for making it easy!
Why should an SR mod have more power on Chemistry's main chat than me, someone who's revived that room after its death?

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