Tue Feb 24th, 2009 at 08:38:02 AM EST
My apologies to the casual visitors and those who aren't involved in the craziness that I'm responding to here. Normal service will resume shortly.
A site like ET is rather like a wild garden: you prepare the soil, you plant the seeds and you let them grow, fertilising and harvesting and trying to intervene as little as possible.
Sometimes you need to weed a little, sometimes you need to prune lightly and sometimes you need to prune heavily to keep the place productive. If you don't you'll eventually have to bull-doze the whole place and put down a sterile lawn.
Our weeding hasn't been up to scratch: we've left the place run a bit too wild and the harvest is becoming choked out by the overgrowth. Some of us aren't far from starting from scratch again.
ET has become a place which many of the frontpagers find frustrating, annoying and off-putting. We're not writing or commenting as much as we used to, partially because we're busy and partially because the return on our investment is too low. We're reaching the point where several key members, including Jérôme and including me, are seriously considering giving up on the place. If that happens, ET will not continue in the existing form - I imagine it will be frozen, with a link to whatever successor site(s) people set-up.
In an attempt to avoid that outcome, allow me to engage in some appallingly heavy-handed moderator-type behaviour and reiterate what I think are the ground-rules of ET:
No-one makes you read here, comment here or become engaged here. If you don't like the place there is a simple solution: find somewhere you like better. Send us a link while you're at it.
Many people say that this is one of the best places for reasonable discussion around. That is not an accident: we've gone to great trouble to make it so, moderating discussion with as light a hand as possible.
The rating system, together with the social sides of the site, meet-ups and so on are an integral part of what makes ET work as is the work done by the frontpagers. Attacking any of that undermines the quality of discussion on the site and is something that we need to defend against. That includes persistent undermining of the front-page editorial team.
We will no longer tolerate the sort of low-level bullying that we perceive to have been going on from a number of members: if you have something to say about us say it on the site or in e-mail or shut-up. If you don't like it, find a less oppressive regime to flee to. Enjoy.
- The front-page team communicate among ourselves by e-mail and through a discussion forum. Sometimes we discuss site related stuff and debate what to do about disruptive users. Often we come to a consensus and act on it.
This is not a conspiracy, this is a working executive body - an unpaid and often, it seems, unappreciated one.
We value reasoned debate on this site. Some consequences:
If you make an assertion which doesn't seem obviously true to someone you may be asked for evidence. If you don't have evidence say so - there's nothing wrong with advancing a personal opinion on the basis that it is an opinion.
You are allowed to say "I don't know" and you are allowed to say "I don't understand". These are wise things to say. "I'm too stupid to understand" or "Math is hard" or "You're oppressing me by saying things I don't understand" are not wise things to say. "Technical stuff scares off women" is a grossly sexist thing to say. Really.
People putting forward complicated theories or using domain specific knowledge and language have an obligation to answer questions when they're asked. Asking questions is not bullying.
It is not bullying to ask for back-up for an assertion. It is not bullying to point out that personal opinions without explanation or back-up don't carry much weight on matters of fact. It is not bullying to point out that while personal experience tells us what you have experienced it does not necessarily tell us anything about the world outside you, especially when we start getting into stuff that cannot be shared (I'm thinking of religious/spiritual experience and such things). It is not bullying to disagree.
Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. This is normal.
This is not the place to resolve issues from your childhood, the emotional fallout from your divorces or the bad relationship you had with your parents. You need a counsellor, psychiatrist or other suitable professional for that.
This does not mean that we don't support our friends - I value greatly the support I've received when my father was ill when he died - or that diaries about your experiences aren't welcome.
However, Jérôme is not your father (except in a small number of cases), I am not your teacher (be glad) and In Wales is not the boy who beat you up in the schoolyard (we're safe on that one). Afew may be the guy who gave you a nasty look on the train, but I doubt it.
Seriously, we are not counsellors and we are not obliged to tolerate disruptive behaviour because you have issues.
- No astrology. Jérôme is serious about this one. I'm not sure why, but the rumour is that he was bitten by a pair of fish when he was young.
We all have a million better things to do than to waste time bickering in comment threads here.
If you don't like this, vote with your feet. As it is, the site is heading for closure. Losing a handful of malcontents, which is what I expect here, can at worse cause the same outcome by a different route.