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A Note on User Concerns

Hey y’all! While we will have more information next week regarding official mod policies on downvoting, targeted harassment, all that super fun and not at all soul-crushing stuff, we know many of you had questions about AWP’s helpful post about our site culture. That’s not being sarcastic; it’s a good opportunity to talk about the site. We had actually been prepping a couple of projects — one an extensive report to Disqus about downvotes with a plea to take them back (oh the irony), and the second an in-depth walkthrough of the process behind warning and banning a commenter for breaking site rules. We would still like to make official versions of these happen, but they’re not done yet, because obviously Disqus didn’t bother telling anyone they were about to make downvotes visible and named, so while I will be discussing these throughout the post, and I’m sure in the comments, keep in mind they are works in progress. The original AWP text is in green. My comments are in black. 

Original AWP post is here: http://disq.us/p/26ol7hx

  • A Winged Potato 16 hours ago
    I have had major issues with the mods for a long time.

    • You should have told us! We would have talked about your concerns and maybe implemented some changes! But seriously, y’all, we actually discuss any emails you send as a team. We bring up comments that have had mods tagged in them, we talk about flags together, and we point out things that haven’t been flagged yet that may become problems. We don’t want to be reactive, constantly running around putting out fires.

 

They broke the valuable trust the community (one that showers them with praise) offers them repeatedly.

    • I am not using this bullet to refute this, because this is a totally valid feeling to have. I am using this bullet to let all of you know a) we appreciate when you recognize that we are unpaid mods trying to also live lives (except for jake, who quit her job today) b) we appreciate when you let us know you’re unhappy, because our goal is to make this site a place people like, and c) I don’t want anyone to think they can’t have this opinion or express this opinion. Some of you will disagree with us about the political spectrum we allow to comment here; that might break your trust. Some of you will disagree with us about the safe spaces that you maybe aren’t allowed in. You can say that, but don’t be surprised if the people who need those spaces push back and the mods, many of whom are also members of those same marginalized communities, agree with them. But you might feel we’re biased or something and that breaks your trust. You can tell us. It’ll work better if it’s email, but you can tell us.
  •  I have kept quiet because I know full well that I am not the most popular person here (recently or for years) and they are a relatively united and popular front. I have greatly stepped back from the site because of them (been doing less admin work though still a lot to make sure everything goes smoothly and quit writing for months) and their actions. 
    • It made me sad some of you expressed you didn’t know who AWP is. As mods, many of us have realized there are things we like more/are better at/gravitate towards doing. MLA is a calming voice of reason because of her storied history. Drop does a lot because he doesn’t know how to sleep. AWP has been a hard worker for years running the behind-the-scenes work of WordPress. He has been responsible for the site structure that holds all your valuable shitposts. He has done a lot for the site, and his hard work has been much appreciated. The Avocado would not be what it is today without him. 
    • As a more general mod popularity note, when I became a mod I was not aware that some of the other mods even knew me. I don’t want to invalidate AWP’s experience, but I want to remind you all this is an internet commenting site we all spend a lot of time on. For a lot of us this site means so much because there were or are times where things offsite were or are very bleak and lonely. I assume many of you might feel you’re not very popular or wouldn’t be missed if you nuked, and that is NOT TRUE*. I cannot think of a single commenter here who hasn’t helped somebody else or touched someone else’s life by being here. This is sappy as fuck, so let’s move on. 
    • We are relatively united because we take the time to be united in the mod chat. We talk about things before we do it. There have been times that some commenters have disagreed, that there has been dissent, so I apologize for my part if I thought that meant everyone felt comfortable sharing and someone didn’t. 

 

*There are a couple of troll accounts, but they weren’t real Avocados, so yes I’m gatekeeping the lurkers who made accounts just to downvote, but I can live with that. 

 

  • Been waiting for them to cross an indefensible line where I could burn all these bridges but have been talked down from it a number of times. The mods have created a culture of hatred and fear under the auspices of tolerance and there was a reason I privately joked that “California Über Alles” should be the site’s theme song.
    Also, I’ve put in way too many hours doing admin work and writing for the site just to inevitably be ignored or to try and burn it down, but hey, I’m doing no favors just letting these things happen without blowing the whistle. 

 

    • If we need to change policies to better fit our commentariat, I don’t see letting us know that as whistleblowing. I just want to reassure you, AWP, because you felt less important, that critiquing the team and analyzing ways we could improve IS important. It doesn’t bother us that you posted this; it just makes us sad you felt you couldn’t talk to us about any of this beforehand. 

 

  • I hope that even if some or most don’t bother you, that the sheer quantity of things or a couple offend.
    Here is a small selection of their crimes (not including petty things like being constantly ignored in the mod chat only for someone to immediately act in the opposite direction without consulting with any mods): 

 

    • I sincerely hope commenters continue to be gracious with us when we make mistakes and realize a policy that we thought would work doesn’t. We are only human, but we are also on a team for a reason and we do attempt to limit the times we need to use the “we are unpaid overworked human beings” excuse to explain our actions. However, let me let you in on a secret: For every State of the Channel, every mod guideline update, every rule change we have, it’s about ⅓ something like yesterday — an angry email, a last warning, a… I don’t even know, we’ve had a lot of different catalysts over the years and ⅔ us spending a good two days discussing if the name of the rule should go first or the explanation. Which is easier for commenters to read and process? Has another site done something similar? Have we tried something similar in the past? Is this worth bringing it up to the group as a whole? And then we all say a couple things and agree or disagree with each other and then spend another good three hours thinking we haven’t actually finished because no one wants to act like a power-hungry mod and declare the issue solved. And then one of us realizes this and comes to our senses, and we finish it up and get it out right on time because that is the magic of the Avocado.
    • Please, please, please show this same grace and forgiveness, when needed, to people like AWP who are expressing concerns and doing their best to make this place better for other people. You don’t have to do that for trolls who come by, but most community members mean well and are sincerely following their own moral and ethical code. Give them the same chance that you want to be given yourself. That being said, I’m not sure AWP needs forgiveness from the site staff as he didn’t do anything wrong, and I was worried including this would make it seem like I thought he had. But some of the comments yesterday made me feel genuinely bad on his behalf. You can be skeptical and want evidence (hello, that’s why I’m here) but we should never dismiss the feelings of a person involved. There are some facts to refute, but we can do that without invalidating a person’s emotions about an experience. 

 

So, to this end each of the concerns has been listed as a comment below. I did it this way so that the header was not three-days long, but each concern is important to several users, so please take the time to continue reading. Feel free to ask questions and voice concerns about a specific point under the thread so that we can follow up quickly and efficiently, but you are certainly welcome to post general questions and comments overall until the individual comment threads have been added. Please be patient as we want to thoroughly address each and certain mods who knew the situation best will not be available until later. 

I already know there will be a mad rush to defend the mods especially by certain commenters (I can guess who for the most part) and this will be buried quickly if not outright deleted by mods (pro tip mods, you can censor someone a lot better by ignoring them then by censoring them). I will also be posting this tomorrow regardless if I get banned for being a whistleblower.

AWP, Please feel free to repost and add additional commentary if I have misquoted anything from the original post. You are certainly not getting banned for posting this, nor would you have been banned for your downvotes. We had simply brought you up in the downvote conversation because as a site admin we saw you as part of the team and a representative of the Avocado. We wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and that if you had concerns they were being discussed. 

To our commenters, I know the past….24, 48, 1000 hours? Have been a lot. Thank you all for your participation on the site and how much care you put into being a member here. We will be adding the concerns as comments at various times throughout the night, so please be patient if one you wanted to discuss is not yet posted; it will be.