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Guest Opinion: A scofflaw? Not I — just a good neighbor

When citizen involvment becomes less resourceful and more restrictive

I have always admired the way Palo Altans care about their community and engage with the political process when they have concerns. Lately, however, I am seeing the dark side of citizen involvement. If I had to give it a name, I would call it the Tyranny of the Neighborhood Email List.

I have had my hand slapped several times by the moderator of our neighborhood group, ostensibly for posting items that are "commercial" in nature. I understand this is against the rules of the email list, but I guess I don't understand the point of rules at all. Why do I need a gatekeeper protecting me from what he believes is objectionable content? I'm too old for this. Let me decide what has merit.

I am not a scofflaw; I am someone with good intentions who enjoys sharing ideas and resources with others. I am a good neighbor: I am friendly with all my neighbors and know them by name; I offer help to the elderly ones and pull in the trashcans and newspapers of those who are away. I let neighbors know when I am having a party; I share the fruit, veggies and roses from my bountiful garden; I've invited their children to swim in my pool or watch TV until a parent comes home. I loan my car, a cup of flour, eggs, tools, garage space. I invite them for drinks and help track down their wandering dogs.

I am not a troublemaker.

But, boy do I feel like one. I feel about 10 years old, constantly reprimanded and told what I can and cannot do. The first time he scolded me for supporting the efforts of a neighbor's son to provide recycled water to homeowners' gardens. Too commercial, the moderator barked. I was flummoxed. We have a drought; an entrepreneurial guy has come up with a business to save our landscaping. Yes, he would be charging for it. But isn't this something we'd want to know about?

If not, there is always the delete button. Boom. Offensive missive gone. Adults exercising free choice.

How is this post different from a teenager looking for work mowing lawns or dog sitting? No one in his right mind would discourage that kind of enterprising effort. The rules of my particular group email list seem so arbitrary. I would like to advocate for no rules at all.

Recently, I posted a notice inviting neighbors to an informational meeting for anyone who has considered becoming an Airbnb host. I have gotten so many questions over my five years as a host that I thought it was time to simply do the neighborly thing bring everyone together for a Q&A. The timing coincided with an effort by Airbnb to challenge local hosts to find new hosts in the area.

I thought I'd put it all together in a single meeting. Kind of a Silicon Valley version of a Tupperware party, with wine and appetizers replacing Yuban and Sara Lee. About 25 people came, mostly from Stanford. More would have attended if my notice hadn't been stripped from my neighborhood list. According to the moderator, I am "tone deaf" to the rules and therefore he is now obligated to screen anything I write. Ouch.

For the many homeowners here who find themselves with big houses or unused bedrooms, children gone, and bills to pay, renting a room is a fun, exciting and lucrative option. All of the hand-wringing and horror stories thrown out as deterrents are news to me. My neighbors aren't bothered (yes, I have told them what I'm doing); I haven't had any serial killers; my guests aren't shooting up on the street or hoarding valuable parking spaces. In fact, given where we live, my guests have been a predictably erudite, inspiring group of people.

Most of whom, by the way, walk or take public transportation to Stanford, SRI, Google, Facebook and various start-ups as well as established local companies and law firms. I've had post docs, PhD candidates, doctors, VCs, and Stanford students, alums and parents. They've come from every country in Western Europe, as well as China, Sri Lanka, India and Japan. For me, it's been an inspiring glimpse into the myriad professions and passions of our global community.

Doesn't this seem like something worth publicizing? Instead of immediately deleting the post and not respecting our ability to make up our own minds?

My Airbnb posting is only one of any number of forbidden emails that could go out from neighbors. An artist selling her jewelry at home; a Christmas market; notice about a political fundraiser. These would be no-no's, and yet, I would venture, of interest to many. What about all those couches and end tables people are constantly selling? As one of my friends said, "I'd much rather hear about recycled water than another darn couch."

I personally don't care about the best place for Chinese takeout, or who is the most reliable termite company (not commercial? Hmm). However, I respect the senders' right to post and don't resent them for filling my inbox with what to me is irrelevant. Others find it useful and that's the point. My point is, why isn't there room for all comers?

Perhaps there should be two lists: one for people who want to know everything and one for those who don't.

I realize that having strangers in your home is not for everyone. I get that people may not want to pay for recycled water. But I don't understand the officious, knee-jerk reaction to quash anything that has a commercial element or is potentially income-generating. We have a right to be exposed to everything, and the wherewithal to ignore what doesn't resonate for us.

As I say, the delete button is a powerful tool at everyone's disposal.

Megan McCaslin is a former reporter and video producer and currently works at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 2:25 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "If not, there is always the delete button. Boom. Offensive missive gone. Adults exercising free choice."

[Portion removed.]

1. The cost of deleting that message to the recipient is much more than hitting the delete button. One has to read enough of it to know it should be deleted. And the cost of the interruption is great -- studies of programmers found that it took them 6-7 minutes to return to previous levels of productivity after simply glancing at an e-mail. People subscribe to email lists with an expectation of what times of messages they will be interrupted by. You (McCaslin) believe that you can violate those rights.

2. The cost to the community -- the members of the email group -- is great. The reason that such groups have a moderator is that members unsubscribe when there is too much volume, especially when it involves off-topic messages. Although you (McCaslin) claim you value community, you are willing to damage that community -- your not having to follow the rules is more important to you.
Note: Experience/Background: I was the admin and moderator for my neighborhood's email groups from the mid-1990s through 2013, and a professionally-oriented group before that.

3. Self-absorbed: Your (McCaslin) attitude is analogous to someone who moves here from Britain and decides that they would prefer to drive on the left side of the road -- after all, it isn't much of a burden for others to swerve around them. However, I must admit that you are a good fit for this area where so many think nothing of transferring their costs onto others. But since you say that you are an Airbnb host, you have already allied yourself with that viewpoint. (Airbnb: We fought hard to avoid paying $12M in taxes to SF, but enthusiastically spent $8M to defeat a ballot measure to rein in the abuses from our business).

4. Scaling / The straw that broke the camel's back: One of the basic lessons of early childhood is that while one exception may be insignificant, the cumulative effect can be disastrous.
Since I presume that you learned that lesson, I am assuming that you believe yourself deserving of the exceptions because you are somehow "special". [Portion removed.]

In summary, you (McCaslin) view yourself as having rights to do as you please, and others have the "right" to bear the costs of your choices.


17 people like this
Posted by Infamy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 6, 2015 at 7:40 am

Posts this on the most heavily moderated forum in Palo Alto...oh the irony!


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2015 at 7:58 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


17 people like this
Posted by Creative Commons assembly
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2015 at 8:05 am

I appreciate your Point of View, Megan. i know Doug and appreciate what he is saying about people leaving a list, but I also found him a heavy handed moderator who read all kinds of motives into people making posting mistakes or even called people nasty names. Having made a mistake once myself and been reemed for it, I can say I had never felt more unwelcome to be in the neighborhood, nevermind an email list. I think Doug's heart is in the right place most of the time but he has a blind spot when it comes to his own impact on other people in the online world.

I prefer to be in email lists where people are more concerned with freely sharing as neighbors. In our democracy, joining with others - assembling - is so powerful, it's right there at the top of the Constitution as an essential right. Meeting and communicating with your neighbors is power. I don't mean that I'm advocating for email lists to become forums for arguing political points of view, but I do think it should be possible to share information about local goings on or even political events, and even to find others of like mind in the neighborhood. One of the reasons the Maybell referendum happened is the neighbors are kind of flexible that way and have historically rejected making too formal a neighborhood group structure. But that's how they choose it, others may feel differently. Too often the potential for such differences becomes equated with approval of a censorship value on group lists.

Overmoderating of lists sucks the life out of them. I'm not talking about letting through people who hawk their real estate services relentlessly or truly forward spam - those things can become de facto list killers and are a different kind of suppression of healthy lists. But I think lists should be flexible in the same way a conversation should be. My parents list had a rules that there would be no electioneering, but advocacy if it related to kids was ok per the rules. However, the financial interests of advertisers and those benefiting from the group took over, IMO (and the opinion of many who left), and pretty soon any advocacy for kids was off the table and streng verboten. Even so much as trying to survey families about their opinions on whether high schools should be made larger or a third school opened, such as during the decision process seven years ago, or encouraging families to go to school board meetings over matters concerning young children, was forbidden.

I respect that different people have different goals for group communication, and that some rules are necessary to protect lists from spammers and cranks. But I also think that neighborhood lists exist for communication that is alive, not to be the equivalent of sanitized announcements.

Maybe it's time to come up with some kind of equivalent to Creative Commons for group lists. A universally understood rules or rating for group lists that indicates the level of interpersonal interaction: on one end, no discussion allowed, only annoucements of a soecific nature as you might find on a group activity annoucement list; on the other, a free for all including political argument. And all common variations in between. (I have often thought the Creative Commons model was so powerful, it should be extended to many things, like HIPAA privacy policies.) if there were a well thought out, simple, commonly understood short list of group "types" to choose from, similar to Creative Commons, it might reduce some of the interpersonal conflict evidenced in this timely essay and Doug's response to it.

I think then it might be easier to set up clusters of group lists with different flavors to each, too. The neighbors who don't want conversation, but just want to hear about end tables could choose their mode of communication, and those who want to find lively conversation can choose theirs. Those who want an easy way to reach their neighbors for lively offline political or airbnb conversation would have a way to use the modern technology to assemble, too.

Communication is power, and I for one think heavyhanded moderation can be a form of tyranny. But that's my preference,and it sounds like it is yours, too, Megan. I admire and like you, Doug, but think you become like Mr. Hyde over electronic group communication. I'd love to see a Creative Commons model electronic group communications rules/rating system to bring clarity and each his own in online assembly.

Seems like a great high school project ... If only kids had time (and promoting the idea in hopes of reaching someone who did would be slapped down by the moderator of my former parents list)...


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2015 at 8:12 am

Huh??

I only posted once.


12 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 9:09 am

Megan, join Nextdoor instead


Like this comment
Posted by BP Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 9:52 am

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:01 am

Nextdoor has rules and guidelines too (and unlike a local email list, most of them are outside the governance of your local neighborhood).

Megan, what's the issue here? You have a mailing list with posted guidelines. (Large online forums invariably find that at least some rules are essential, otherwise a few marginal characters drive everyone else away.) Local email list guidelines are usually set by the neighborhood or its elected representatives. If your moderator is overzealous and acts beyond the guidelines, the problem is the moderator's. If you act beyond the guidelines, the problem is yours. If you feel the guidelines need changing, address that. End of issue.

(I also read Doug Moran's blog regularly. He lays out his rules plainly, and moderates consistently. The people who complain about his moderating -- like the people who complain about most moderating -- are the real examples of folks with "blind spots" because most of them Just Don't Get It, and this is clear enough to other readers.)


3 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:30 am

What is the point of rules? To make whatever the thing is more effective.
If you are not causing a problem, i.e. a real problem that real people are complaining
about, like the boy who cried wolf, then I agree with you.

In the evolutionary biology world new capabilities and features usually evolve
from the misuse or a new logical use of an existing feature. If it is useful and
aids in "survival". I can't see that anything you did actually hurt anything, nor
can I see the heavy-handed moderating style of some of the bloggers where
who seem to take their blogs way to seriously helps.


17 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

Douglas Moran
>> 3. Self-absorbed: Your (McCaslin) attitude is analogous to someone who
>> moves here from Britain and decides that they would prefer to drive on
>> the left side of the road -- after all, it isn't much of a burden for others to
>> swerve around them.

That is a poorly thought out analogy that does not fit at all.

Actually I just heard a good analogy to this that make your analogy
look clueless ... and that was in the realm of the self-driving automobile.

If you have a self-driving automobile that mindlessly follows rules, when
it comes upon a stopped vehicle in the roadway, it will just sit there
forever because the rules say you should never ever drive in the other
lane.

Wheres any halfway intelligent person can figure out if it is safe to use
the oncoming lane of traffic for a second to bypass the stalled car and
get on with things.

Conclusion - I would not want Mr. Moran programming my self-driving
car.


7 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

Has less moderation ever worked out well on the internet?


12 people like this
Posted by @Plane Speaker
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

"Actually I just heard a good analogy to this that make your analogy
look clueless..."

THANK YOU. Many of us here have wanted to say this, but a certain blogger on this site has deleted such comments before...


10 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Creative Commons assembly" : "i know Doug and appreciate what he is saying about people leaving a list, but I also found him a heavy handed moderator who read all kinds of motives into people making posting mistakes or even called people nasty names."

Most of what a typical moderator does is unseen by the email group. For example, when someone posts something that is problematic *and* needs correcting (vs a correction being unnecessary or making things worse), the moderator will typically send a private email to the poster asking him/her to post a correction or apology (or make a private apology). There are exceptions, for example, when there is someone who has a history of refusing to make amends to the list. Or an offense that needs an immediate response to short-circuit a likely torrent of responses.
Question: What if in an highly contentious discussion, someone characterizes everyone who disagrees with him using a phrase that is widely used and widely understood as equivalent to "racist". Furthermore, what if that person has a history of refusing to correct/apologize for false accusations against others?
Over the years of moderating my neighborhoods email group, I had very few instances of where I felt it important enough to administer a public slap-down of an offender. That example was one of those cases.

In many email groups, the complaints about behaviors of individual members are made not to the group, but to the moderator, who then attempts to convey the concerns to the individual causing the problem. This is one of the biggest advantages of having an moderator or known administrator -- the group doesn't need to be aware, much less concerned, about such problems. However, when you have an individual who has the attitude of "It's not up to me to make myself clear -- it is up to others to understand what I intended to say" things can boil over and the moderator's actions in these exceptional cases can be seen as "heavy handed" because they have been sheltered from what has gone on behind the scenes.

One of the problems that a moderator constantly has to deal with on many groups is that too many group members can't seem to remember that the groups have large numbers of members (400-650 for the groups I was moderating), and most of those do not know the person making a posting. Yet, people post as if the opposite was the case -- that the group was small, all friends.

I sympathize with moderators in groups such as Town Square Forums where most of the commenters are anonymous -- they have no opportunity to have off-line communication with authors of comments that they think have inappropriate content. For example, the first part of my first comment (first comment on this GuestOp) has a section deleted. The GuestOp's theme is that she is not an X and I opened with "Yes you are an X". Since I don't understand the basis for this asymmetry, I don't have any guidance on how to modify subsequent comments to avoid whatever the problem was.


10 people like this
Posted by Creative Commons assembly
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2015 at 3:26 pm

@Doug and H Observer,
I also read Doug's blog and have no issue with the way he moderates it. It's also a blog, not a group list.

[Portion removed.] People arent perfect. Anyone with any kind of memory problems can be challenged in remembering rules for each list that have their own interpretation, or even consulting or understanding the rules. This is why I think a Creative Commons model for group lists, for EULA's, for Hipaa disclosures.0, etc, would be so valuable. For email lists, it would be much easier for people to understand, remember, post and review the rules. Life is complicated, and having such clear and easy, standardized guidelines could avoid many a misunderstanding.

@Slow down,
The example of less moderation is how much more nimble Greenacres res were able to be as citizens than Barron Park during the Maybell referendum. Now there are many more informal networks across neighborhood even, because of the referendum. But back then the neighborhood lists were it.


7 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] There were two open lists: BPA-issues for *discussion* of issues and BPA-misc for announcements/requests for various categories. A link to a web page describing all the lists was automatically appended to each message distributed. Yet "confusion" about the lists persisted. I asked and asked people why they were confused and how the web page description could be improved, I never got a useful piece of feedback: No one had looked at the web page. And the explanation for sending a message to the wrong list never involved a faulty decision between the two lists, instead it simply involved sending to whatever was easiest, for example, the top address that auto-complete popped up when typing "bpa". Like most moderators, I let the occasionally misaddressed message go unremarked. However, there are occasionally situations where inappropriate messages become too frequent, and the offenders are ignoring protests from the list members and the moderator. A line gets crossed when an offender "flips off" the list members and the moderator by telling them that the offender doesn't see why s/he needs to follow the rules. At that point, the moderator needs to come down hard on the offender, not only to try to stop the behavior but to give the other list members confidence that the rules will be enforced. The analogy is if a police officer pulled over a driver for running a red light and while writing out the ticket the driver protested that it was too complicated to remember whether red meant "stop" or "go". I would expect the officer to find a way to immediately take the driver's keys and license.

In the situation I suspect is being referred to, certain people persisted for days in posting discussions of an issue (the Maybell upzoning) to the "misc" list instead of the "issues" list, despite repeated reminders and requests. They just couldn't be bothered to show any respect for the 400 members of the list receiving the inappropriate messages.

I find it amusing when people who insist that *they* don't need to show consideration for others get so upset when there is push-back.


1 person likes this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 6, 2015 at 5:44 pm

I guess it's as a Rex Stout character once remarked: that principled people are "accountable to more than just our own egos."


11 people like this
Posted by Creative commons
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2015 at 5:49 pm

@Doug,

[Portion removed.]

I felt you were heavy handed [portion removed] to the OP above - she was trying to discuss what it feels like when she perceives heavy handed moderation on her local list - something many people could relate to - and seems to have some justification for it, or at least she's pointed out the value of questioning when new things come up, and you called her "self absorbed" and used as an analogy a situation in which people could easily die. I make a choice to have a kind of mail client that allows me to not even open or deal with email I don't have an interest in. It categorizes things easily so I can just eyeball for the things I want within a category, in microseconds. I don't even have to bother deleting. If a list is otherwise valuable to me, I then don't have to unsubscribe. Problem solved, and I don't have to equate people who communicate differently with people who are likely to cause death to others.

Note that unlike in your blog situation, she doesn't have the benefit of being able to delete your post based on HER judgment of its relevance or lack of courtesy.

The fact is, in a large group, even with a set of rules, people may see things differently. People make mistakes. People may not be able to log into said rules or may never have seen them or remembered their existence for good or even not good reasons (as in your example). Having simple rules on the Creative Commons model, in which the Creative Commons-like rule could be posted as a little icon at the bottom of the list's every email, would make things so much clearer.




3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2015 at 7:01 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by @Douglas Moran
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2015 at 7:22 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2015 at 9:25 pm

[Portion removed.]

He does not condone open discussions. He only wants discussions that favor his viewpoint.


7 people like this
Posted by Creative Commons assembly
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:10 pm

@ Reader,

I think Doug is pretty clear about how he handles his blog, and people can participate or not.

I think it's very sad that he goes on the offensive when it comes to online communication, though. Just look at this discussion, Doug. Several times now I have proposed a new idea about how to create clarity and simplicity to avoid the kinds of problems both you and the OP take issue with.

Yet you have continued a discussion that is all about you and your past grievances against others. You have completely missed the positive discussion and ideas. [Portion removed.] I think you are otherwise a good person, I do not know what possesses you to go into this mode when it comes to online etiquette, where you think everyone must think exactly like you and read your mind, or they are unworthy of courtesy or respect. The rules of the road in the online realm, using your analogy, are not nearly so commonly accepted as you seem to think.

Why not [portion removed] join a discussion about how to make a "commons" for online rules, on the Creative Commons model?


4 people like this
Posted by Oh My...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:38 pm

[Portion removed.]

Just reading Moran's comments above, I see the tight grip that Megan's neighborhood email list is under - as though no one has anything better to do than sit around memorizing the "rules" of where to post what. Sounds like only retired people with lots of free time (no offense to you wise folks) have time to read all of the "rules" and make sure they get it right. Doug's comments smack of someone who doesn't understand the difference between a large, diverse population and a small, tightly controlled population. Examples of the inappropriate, unprofessional attitude:

>> "...I felt it important enough to administer a public slap-down of an offender."

Really? So you are judge, jury, and executioner?

I love this one:

>> The GuestOp's theme is that she is not an X and I opened with "Yes you are an X".

So Moran has a perception and then engages in name-calling as though his perception were truth to all, rather than just his perception and opinion. General guidelines of Town Square are to respond to ideas and opinions, not to characterize or label individual posters. I think this is worth pointing out because this is the kind of thing I have see on Moran's blog repeatedly, and part of why I never look at it.

[Portion removed.]

P.S. I must admit, I hate AirBnB and suspect Doug does too, so if he is moderating the neighborhood email list like he does his blog he would "administer a public slap-down" for sending out something he disagrees with.

P.P.S. I appreciate the Town Square moderator moderating appropriately, and not giving Moran a free pass just because he is a blogger on this site.


16 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Sounds from the admission of the writer of this piece that she was using the list to promote commercial interests she was either directly or indirectly involved in and knew that this was against the rules. If that isn't the intention of the distribution list, and that is clear in the rules, not sure why she would object to being called on it. Otherwise, people will start posting things like "I have a used sofa for sale, excellent condition. Asking price $50" i.e. craigslist.

"I understand this is against the rules of the email list, but I guess I don't understand the point of rules at all"

"The timing coincided with an effort by Airbnb to challenge local hosts to find new hosts in the area."

Doesn't that say it all?


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2015 at 11:02 pm

I will go back to my original post for which I was inaccurately deleted as using multiple names.

There is no reason to belong to an email list if you don't like it. The strength of a neighborhood email list is in whether people join, use it and like it. If people don't like it, join another group (Nextdoor seems to work well). If nobody uses it because so few like it and use it, it will fade away naturally.


4 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2015 at 3:39 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> RE: "Oh My..." :
> ">> "...I felt it important enough to administer a public slap-down of an offender." // Really? So you are judge, jury, and executioner?

This is the crux of the debate over moderation.
As noted in the comment, the person being slapped down had publicly characterized those with an opposing viewpoint as racist, despite knowing that that characterization was false.

"Oh My..." has no objection to vicious bullying of others, only the attempts to rein in the bully and protect others. That speaks volumes about "Oh My..."


8 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 7, 2015 at 9:06 am

Humble observer is a registered user.

I think "Oh, my" unwittingly helped to make Doug Moran's case.

According to "Oh, my" above, even a simple distinction like two mailing lists for different topics is too complicated for a diverse population. When people can't be bothered to pay attention to the difference even after it's pointed out, any complaint is "inappropriate"ly fussy. Trying to stop offensive wholesale name-calling is "unprofessional."

It's also apparently OK for the guest OP here to rationalize ignoring a local mailing-list's standing protocols when she chooses; yet to point that out is mere "perception and opinion."

I wish these people could really hear themselves. "Man is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one" (Robert Heinlein)


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Nov 7, 2015 at 10:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Moderating a small group of known individuals who share the same values and who know each other is easy.

Moderating a larger group of known individuals with different personal values is more difficult.

Moderating a larger group of predominately anonymous individuals with unknown and unknowable personal values is almost impossible.

Thank you Doug for your skillful, but (like anyone) not always perfect, moderation of a large group of predominately anonymous individuals with unknown and unknowable personal values.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Resident
Were you using a Public or shared computer (or network) for your posts?
Is there more than 1 system using your Router (they will appear with the same IP if posted within a small time frame)making it hard to determine whose fingers were on the keyboard .


10 people like this
Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Mike Alexander is a registered user.

Neighborhood lists have rules because, through some process, your neighbors have designed the kind of list they want to have. Going against the rules goes against your neighbors. Insisting on your right to go against the rules shows that you're more interested in your agenda than you are in your neighbors' sensibilities.


12 people like this
Posted by MP Mom
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

MP Mom is a registered user.

Ms. McCaslin, a suggestion: start your own email list. Call it "X Neighborhood Classifieds" (or whatever you want). That way folks who want to receive solicitations from neighbors can opt in, knowing what they are signing up for.

While I understand your intentions are good, please think about whether your neighbors are going to appreciate your decision to ignore the rules. Do you like it when folks leave phone directories in your driveway? They are helping connect you to others in the community. Do you appreciate when pizza shops leave hang tags on your door? They want to save you money with their coupons.

People join "do not call" lists. Some folks avoid or unsubscribe from junk mail lists. Some (including me) would sign up for a neighborhood mailing list to find out about local construction, mosquito spraying, extra traffic due to school events, lost dogs, etc., etc. Not to be solicited.

What would a good neighbor do?


9 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 7, 2015 at 2:42 pm

True is a registered user.

The annoyance of being in Yahoo Groups: The REPLY TO ALL button. If Johnny cannot attend practice, no need to bother the entire team! Just press REPLY and tell the coach. It's not a party invitation where everyone enjoys knowing who is attending. Others have noted that I can just delete the message, but one never knows when it might be a necessary message like, "Did anyone lose a helmet?" or "Practice is cancelled" so I am forced to read all the messages. Is it idiocy or selfishness when people use the REPLY TO ALL button un purpose? I think it's both.


2 people like this
Posted by 42apples
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 7, 2015 at 7:34 pm

42apples is a registered user.

Have you talked to your moderator and asked if maybe they could help you start a local "for sale" group? You could start with the same list and people can opt out if they're not interested. I agree this is rather silly, but it is also their right to manage the forum as they see fit. Same goes for moderation of paloaltoonline blogs.


9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2015 at 12:11 am

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

These disagreements come about because life isn't black and white, the rules online are not that black and white. I've seen too much heavy handed moderating that got justified as rules are rules when it was about something personal with the moderator.

One of the posters above who pointed out the problem with keeping track of all the rules brings up a really good issue. Everything has changed in the last few years. I heard once that if all of us read every end user license agreement we have to agree to in order to just do normal online activity, it would mean spending over a year doing nothing at all but reading end user license agreements for the average person.

I wouldn't want to be endlessly spammed by someone advertising a room. But that's different than discussing the issue of airbnb, who is participating, who can help if someone wants to, etc. The neighborhood lists are the modern well. It's not always practical to tell them to go make their own well and bring everyone over there.

Frankly, I just searched for a room in February for some relatives because my own home is too small, and wish I had some neighborhood threads to search within my own email program about neighbors who might be doing airbnb, so I have some context. Within a neighborhood list, if someone has otherwise been active, I can see who it is and have far better ways of figuring out if it's someone I'm comfortable with than only going through a service. You don't get that from classifieds, even neighborhood ones.

I do understand the argument about spam in the inbox. I don't think that's the issue the OP is presenting. I think she is presenting the issue of how important online communications have become, and how different people have different interpretations of the rules, and that the letter of the rules can be used to thwart the intent of the list. At least by the OP's perception. [Portion removed.] It took a lot of courage for the OP to write the essay and start this discussion.


1 person likes this
Posted by BillyBob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2015 at 12:39 am

BillyBob is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 8, 2015 at 8:57 am

marc665 is a registered user.

To Megan McCaslin

The problem isn't with the online system, the problem is that you feel "Entitled".

You state that in return for "...good intentions who enjoys sharing ideas and resources with others..."
you don't have to follow any rules. That you get to decide what you do. That the rules only apply to others.

There is another poster to these forums to states that she doesn't understand why she can't let her dog run off leash at all the school grounds where it is clearly posted NOT to let dogs off leash. Her claim is that because she is fostering good interaction between dog owners they don't have to follow any rules.

I'm sure the two of you should get together and start your own online forum where you can post anything you want.


6 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 8, 2015 at 9:36 am

Humble observer is a registered user.

Anonymous22: "the rules online are not that black and white. I've seen too much heavy handed moderating ... when it was about something personal with the moderator. One of the posters above who pointed out the problem with keeping track of all the rules brings up a really good issue."

But if you've read this thread carefully, you know that the "rules" example Moran raised was simple (two different lists for two distinct kinds of traffic; users ignoring the difference even when told, then failing to take responsibility for their own action). "Oh, My" then created an argument about people having "time to read all of the "rules" and make sure they get it right" -- which seems a straw-man point in light of the actual example.

Also, it's unclear how either the OP's or Moran's central points concerned anything "personal with the moderator" going on (which certainly does happen, but it's another discussion topic). The OP wrote explicitly "I understand this is against the rules of the email list, but I guess I don't understand the point of rules at all."


5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

@Humble,

You've read Moran's take on that situation. I have been on those same lists when he was moderating and both appreciated his hard work AND cringed at some of the things he's done to other people. [Portion removed.] I disagree that it's so black and white between the lists (and there's more than two, by the way, making it even more confusing.). He has himself admitted to letting things slide for awhile -- people get the idea of what is appropriate based on what they see, so Moran's handling of things contributed to the very behavior he felt entitled to excoriate people for.

Rather than wallow in this quicksand, wouldn't it be better to come up with a solution as above? This same conflict plays out in group lists across Palo Alto and the nation.


18 people like this
Posted by tcr
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2015 at 5:50 pm

tcr is a registered user.

Sorry to be joining this conversation so late, but I wanted to make clear that the neighborhood association Ms. McCaslin was complaining about in her PA Weekly op-ed is the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association. It was founded in June 2000, and I have been the moderator since 2004. CPNA was serving 424 households in 2004 and now serves 638 households and the list has 920 email addresses registered because many households have multiple members interacting with the list. The growing size of the CPNA membership is all the more remarkable given that we charge a $20 per year subscription fee for expenses, special projects, and to ensure that members join and continue as members because they value the content and conversation on the list, and the way in which it is run. (I add that I and other CPNA Board members serve without any remuneration.)

I want to say up front that the CPNA list is moderated with a light hand and for the benefit of the community as a whole. We have a one-page document, the "CPNA EMail Policy and Etiquette Guidelines", that describes the list and sets out the "rules" for participating (see Web Link). Our rules have evolved over the years as a result of community experiences with the list and suggestions for refinement. The rules are simple and intuitive: (a) always be civil; (b) don't send SPAM; (c) keep your messages short, substantive, germane, and not repetitive; and (d) don't cc the entire list if your message is intended for one or a few individuals.

As has been noted in previous posts on this topic, there are always matters of judgement on the part of the moderator in interpreting and applying these rules. I have tried to be light-handed, objective, and consistent over the years; and especially have handled as many exchanges as possible about the rules in private with individual members. I have been managing email lists since the very early days of the APRANET in the 1970s, many of them serving national communities. The success of our neighborhood association speaks, I think, to the quality and integrity of its management.

I have interacted with Ms. McCaslin on a number of occasions about our rules, the most recent in September 2015. I won't betray the privacy of our conversation, except to say that she responded to my lengthy explanation of my position on the Airbnb issues with the statement, "you have explained it all well and I understand the rules. I guess I just feel like we are all adults and should be able to decide on our own what information we want and what we want to discard. I am not sure we need a gatekeeper." Ms. McCaslin's posts to CPNA are currently individually moderated since September simply because she does not see herself as subject to the same rules the vast majority of our sizable community abides by and appreciates. That said, I have never (to my recollection) prohibited the posting of any of her messages.

Thanks for all the comments about the many issues inherent in managing and moderating email lists -- I found them illuminating.

Tom Rindfleisch


1 person likes this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 8, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Bru is a registered user.

> I have been managing email lists since the very early days of the APRANET in the 1970s,

Your list's list of rules really gave me a burst of nostalgia, for a time when
30MB disk drives cost $500,
maximum modem speeds were 1200 baud,
email clients were mostly text based,
before email storage was done in the cloud
and before email servers were smart enough
to count links to large attachments and save the disk space necessary
to store a copy of a message for every recipient.
And before we could carry the equivalent of a supercomputer
from the 80's in our pockets.

Ah, the good old days when the sysop was "the man" ;-)

Back when SPAM had a meaning before it was a way to insult your
friends taste in jokes and it was usually meant unsolicited or unrelated
email from an outside source, like that Nigerian Prince or something.
Very little SPAM these days that does not get detected and caught
by the SPAM filters.

Sometimes it's hard even for the experts to realize what so much
change really means, like the maximum email size at GMail being
raised to 25 MB ... imagine one email taking up a whole disk drive
from back in the 80's to a point today where that does not even
register on a multi-TB drive.

Thanks for reminding me to appreciate how much better we have today.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2015 at 11:33 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

Anonymous22,

" It took a lot of courage for the OP to write the essay and start this discussion."

Agree, fun reading too.

Maybe there is a niche for something with less junk than Nextdoor.


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2015 at 1:05 am

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

I'll try to be brief. The rules are simple and direct. The OP doesn't want to follow them.

Solution: Start your own blog and allow any and all comments. You an use Wordpress - simple to use. Annual cost for domain and hosting is certainly affordable. I would imagine that announcing your new blog to the CPNA would not break the rules.

Done.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2015 at 2:24 am

Bru is a registered user.

Really, create a new mailing list when this is a neighborhood list and
the target audience is already on it?

Since the one channel exists, what is the problem caused by letting
someone use it?

What is easier for the users of the mailing list ... subscribing to another
list that has even less content and managing both of them or occasionally
deleting an email they don't see a use for?

Can someone define the problem here?
What percent of the list's bandwidth are these emails taking up?
Has anyone complained that they are nuisance?
What is the damage?


8 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 9, 2015 at 9:35 am

Humble observer is a registered user.

That bru doesn't see "the problem here" even after several people spelled it out pretty clearly; that Anonymous22 defends the Guest Opinion by citing other mailing-list peeves the Guest Opinion never touched on; that Creative Commons writes a long comment proposing complicated alternatives to a set of simple proven rules that the "vast majority of our sizable community abides by and appreciates" (as tcr reported -- typical of similarly organized lists in my experience); but most forcefully, the original Guest Opinion itself -- all testify to the talent of humans both to see what they prefer to see, and to rationalize doing what they prefer to do, no matter what.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2015 at 11:16 am

Bru is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

humble observer:
> the talent of humans both to see what they prefer to see, and to rationalize
> doing what they prefer to do, no matter what.

Of course, but what does that have to do with it, rationality is not always wrong,
or right, and there are only a very few that do what they want, "no matter what",
which is not really human. Being human is about using or debating good judgement.

tcr:
> That said, I have never (to my recollection) prohibited the posting of any
> of her messages.

I think both people are behaving reasonably here, if not both people are not
being unreasonable, so, what is the problem?


6 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Bru is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by BillyBob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2015 at 12:52 pm

BillyBob is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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