locked Re: Code of conduct


Hi Mark F.,

Sorry for the delay in responding;  it's been a busy weekend and new week.

I clicked your link to the discourse.org code of conduct and read it;  very well written, very innocuous sounding.  It would be a great example of a code of conduct for Groups.io groups to consider implementing or using as a basis for their own;  however it doesn't fit me or my groups!

I don't see it working for me or my groups because:

1)  It's generic;  no matter how well written there's going to be something that doesnt fit somebody's group, and if you're going to impose a code of conduct across the board on all Groups.io groups you obviously can't custom rewrite the code of condut to tailor fit every group, one-by-one.  In my case, the discourse.org code of conduct states

  • Don’t sign your posts — every post has your profile information attached to it.

In my case, I was just about to impose the requirement in my groups that EVERY post MUST be signed as a courtesy to others -- the exact opposite of what the discourse.org code of conduct mandates.

Seemingly innocuous as written by discourse.org, except that it's the exact opposite of what I want and intend to require in my groups.

2)  The discourse.org code of conduct states

You may not post descriptions of, links to, or methods for stealing someone’s intellectual property

That can be read as (1) you may not post descriptions of someone's intellectual property, (2) you may not post links to someone's intellectual property, and/or (3) you may not post methods for stealing someone's intellectual property.  Which unfortunately is not what US copyright law allows -- to paraphrase the law, one can post a limited excerpt from or description of or links to copyrighted work without running afoul of the law or "stealing" the copyrighted intellectual property.  Which means I have a problem with the code of conduct as written.

If an additional comma had been inserted in that sentence of the discourse.org code of conduct and it read "You may not post descriptions of, links to, or methods for, stealing someone's intellectual property" it would mean a completely different thing than what it currently reads or can be read as meaning;  with the comma the descriptions of, links to, or methods of, would all refer to prohibitions relating to stealing intellectual property, not prohibitions relating to describing intellectual property, to creating links to intellectual property, or posting methods of stealing intellectual property, all as it can ambiguously be read to be currently stating.  I have no way of knowing which of those two intentions was the intention of the discourse.org code of conduct;  I'd like to think it was the second one, but a comma makes all the difference int he world to what something means.  Lawyers LOVE commas.  So do trolls, troublemakers, and drama queens, none of which I have any desire to have to deal with in my groups.

3)  The discourse.org code of conduct states:

  • Keep it clean. Don’t post anything obscene or sexually explicit.

Going back to my previous post which you responded to, "What if a group of religious or free speech academics or even just plain old people started a group to discuss the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the underlying issues, re-posted those cartoons on their Groups.io group, and a conservative Muslim complained?"  From the perspective of the conservative Muslim the cartoons are blasphemous and could be described as being obscene -- and the US Supreme Court stated in its famous ruling (and I paraphrase) pornography/obscenity can not be defined, but one knows it when when sees it.  That being the case, the hypothetical conservative Muslim has a legitimate complaint about a code violation of the discourse.org code of conduct if somebody posts any cartoon depicting Allah.  That may be OK in some groups, but it's not OK in mine.

Referring to that same code of conduct rule ("Keep it clean, don't post anything obscene of sexually explicit"), the famous book Our Bodies, Our Selves contains photographs of women's genitals, presented for scientific/intellectual discourse and not prurient interest purposes.  If a legal excerpt from that book was described, linked to, or excerpted legally in a post to a Groups.io group it would be a code of conduct violation according to the discourse.org code of conduct.  Not OK with me or my groups.

4)  Equally, and maybe more important than, all of the above, is the concern that if a person with differing viewpoints, culture, morals, upbringing, religious beliefs, etc., or a person who is simply a troll, troublemaker, or drama queen, wishes to cause problems for my group (or any other Groups.io group), all that person ahs to do is complain to Groups.io itself and now we have an unknown censor/arbitrator.code of conduct enforcer from Groups.io looking over the shoulders of all of the Groups.io group owners/moderators with the ability to overrule the individual groups' owners/moderators decisions as to how they wish to run an moderate their own groups.  Again, not OK with my groups or with me.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I would stop investigating moving groups from Yahoo! Groups to Groups.io if Groups.io instituted a code of conduct, for all of the above reasons and probably dozens more if I wanted to take the time to iterate them.  There are other alternatives to Yahoo! Groups and Groups.io;  prior to stumbing on Groups.io I was investigating using a Wordpress site with the new Postmatic plug-in. which automates much of what Y!G and G.io does but would require more work that migrating my Y!Groups over to G.io.  But if faced with a mandated code of conduct I would take the time to go that route rather than have the potential of third party code of conduct enforcers descending upon my groups and overriding my authority and decisions as a moderator.

Mark F., I think a generic code of conduct template to offer to Groups.io group owners and moderators to use as an optional tool is a GREAT idea;  I think that Groups.io mandating a code of conduct is an AWFUL idea -- for so many, many reasons.  As I commented before, "if you are truly concerned about Groups.io getting some sort of 'bad' reputation like some other communications platforms, might I suggest that to address your concerns without embroiling yourself and your staff in code of conduct issues and problems that you simply retain the authority to require groups which leave you uncomfortable or concerned to switch over to being private groups instead of public groups?  Problem solved with public image issues for Groups.io;  anybody who joins a private group at that point has gone looking for whatever they found, especially if you allow a label such as 'restricted' or 'adult' or some other similar rating or label that notifies the potential subscriber that there may be some concerns for the faint hearted amongst us."


Mark Bielecki


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