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  • Everything in moderation?


    by Leon
    11th July, 2007 at 2:27 pm    

    Perhaps it’s time for a moment of perspective amongst all the lunacy in the Ealing Southall by-election? A moment for some reasoned reflection on the conversations here and how we deal with them when they turn nasty or are purposely disrupted.

    In the comments on another thread a comment was made regarding the banning of a regular. Without getting into who said what, the comment alluded to the notion that such decisions to ban a person on here should be more transparent. To be honest, I’m not sure how much more transparent if can be other than CC’ing every interested reader in on editorial email discussions.

    Decisions are generally made via an email to the writers; we go back on forth in (sometimes heated) discussion about the merits of the proposed ban. The reasons for it, the likely effect on other commenter’s if well liked people are no longer able to post. The decision to ban is never taken lightly and (as far as I can remember) not taken that often. It is the last resort.

    Given that this is the age of Web 2.0/user created media and the online open conversation maybe we could have a chat about it here. What do you our reader and contributor think of the moderation policy we have here at Pickled Politics? Do you agree with banning disruptive elements, should we ban them outright, delete specific comments or leave them alone in the hope they’ll be ignored or simply behave? Is this even an issue worth discussion or crucial to the evolution of our progressive project here?

    All viewpoints are welcome.


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    1. El Cid — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:03 pm  

      What about a list of rules and a yellow card/sin bin system

    2. justforfun — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:17 pm  

      Personnally _ I would edit text with a different colour XXXX where there is gratious foul language and leave it at that, but leave the post in place.

      I often see people defending new contibutors here when others have attempted to bully them after their first few posts. There are enough people to do that and allow new blood to feel confident in expressing their opinions.

      Sid made a stab at some possible reasons for banning - “ad-hominem, slander, thread-disruption, obsessive chauvinism” - I was not really convinced any of these are worthy of a ban as such - the only thing that would get me upset was “verbal bullying” which is easy to spot and just edit - “XXXX” out.

      Justforfun

    3. Jagdeep — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:41 pm  

      Damn, looks like I missed all the fun!

      Regular ad hominem and unprovoked personal abuse of individual interactors and moderators and regular selfish agenda-driven derailing and trolling of discussions should result in a warning.

      If the troll repeats this then ban them for a period of time, say two weeks, making clear that it is a last warning, spelling out the exact reasons for their two week ban, and let them know that if they change their ways they are welcome to join in discussions.

      If after they return they don’t get the message to stop their abuse then just ban them. The reason why this place is a broad church is because everyone feels comfortable no matter what their background and it is relatively gratuitous aggression and bully free. And just trust your instinct too. That means if you smell a bully, who makes bigoted comments and regularly makes personal abuse, ban the mofo, either permanently or for another set period of time until the person gets the message and learns.

    4. Leon — on 11th July, 2007 at 3:57 pm  

      I’ll wait a bit longer for others to chime in before giving my views and thoughts on the comments thus far.

      Just wanted to point out that there is a heavy degree of practicality to consider here, we all have other jobs/lives/families etc…basically keep it simple and practical/manageable.

    5. Jagdeep — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:13 pm  

      Just ban who you want Leon — you’ve made this place the best blog out there as lots of readers and commenters from every background make it the good thing. If anyone doesnt like it or feels their experience is degraded by banning a floor scrubbing bully and troll then they can go elsewhere —- keep the atmosphere bully and abuse free and you’ll be OK. Simple as that. That’s why I said, ban them for a period of time say a fortnight or month and warn them to cool down and change. If not, burn the mofo forever.

      At the end of the day its your house, your party, your rules. If anyone doesnt like it they can go elsewhere.

    6. Leon — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:14 pm  

      At the end of the day its your house, your party, your rules. If anyone doesnt like it they can go elsewhere.

      Heh it’s actually Sunny’s!

    7. Katy — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

      I shall be less restrained than Leon because, well, I am.

      My preference, generally, is to moderate on a comment by comment basis rather than to ban individuals wholesale.

      The reason I take that view is that I can think of a few people who definitely began commenting on PP with what might be called trollish tendencies, but who have moderated their own style thanks to occasional deleting and are now treasured and valuable commenters.

      I’m not saying there should be a hard and fast rule, mind. Some people are just trolls, and uniformly offensive, and deserve to be banned. But others only cross the line some of the time and don’t necessarily deserved to be banned wholesale.

      That is, however, a fairly high-maintenance approach to take, and none of us (believe it or not) are in front of the computer all day. So I see Leon’s point.

    8. Jagdeep — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:19 pm  

      Heh it’s actually Sunny’s!

      But you’re the DJ!

    9. Leon — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:22 pm  

      But you’re the DJ!

      :D

      Never thought of it like that!

    10. El Cid — on 11th July, 2007 at 4:42 pm  

      There does seem to be a consensus in favour of something like a warning period, temporary ban, permanent ban. But, yeah, there are clear practical issues.
      A code of conduct could hold it together. Be careful how you pen it though. Make sure it is as flexible as it is rigid. If nothing is sacred, then NOTHING is sacred. Hmmm. Sounds too much like hard work. Perhaps that’s why the UK hasn’t got a constitution.

    11. Don — on 11th July, 2007 at 5:24 pm  

      I think the current rather ad hoc system more or less works. The only commentors (as distinct from obvious full-on trolls) I can recall being banned were one who consistently posted only to provoke and sneer, one valued commentor who seemed to be having a breakdown and needed time out, and the most recent. As Katy points out, he had the potential to settle in and make a useful contribution but simply could not stop being insulting and de-railing. In that case, maybe a two week ban and one absolutely final warning.

      Of course, one problem is that established regulars sometimes get a bit shouty with each other and we accept that. A relative newcomer who adopts the same tone is risking a banning. But it is not the moderator’s job to coach them in social skills.

    12. Robert — on 11th July, 2007 at 6:31 pm  

      I think it comes down purely to editorial. In the mainstream press, you have contributors and a letters page, and ultimately the editor decides what goes in and what stays out, based on their own judgement of what is informative and entertaining.

      Its is more difficult to do this process online, but I think the same rules should apply. If Sunny, or Leon or whoever feels that the quality of debate and entertainment is being damaged by a particular commenter, then I see no problem in cutting them out.

      But just like an editor in the press, the online editor needs to have a pretty good, open transparent reason why someone has been banned, in order to maintain credibility. I think the PP editors have met that requirement in this instance.

      Perhaps a useful counter-point might be the recent banning of Tim Ireland from Ian Dale’s blog? Were the reasons Tim was banned justified? Or was Ian merely supressing views he did not like, or found too difficult to argue against?

    13. El Cid — on 11th July, 2007 at 7:03 pm  

      But just like an editor in the press, the online editor needs to have a pretty good, open transparent reason why someone has been banned, in order to maintain credibility. I think the PP editors have met that requirement in this instance.

      On the other hand, if one hasn’t tuned in regularly and tries to work out what has happened by looking over previous threads, one is left perplexed by an odd combination of unexplained deletions and perfectly reasonable posts by said individual. (Why am I writing like this?)

    14. Clairwil — on 11th July, 2007 at 7:52 pm  

      El Cid,
      That is a problem. There’s nothing worse than turning up after the excitement and trying to work out what the hell happened.

      The most recent ban came about when a fellow who’ll I’ll call ‘M’ made an assertion he couldn’t substantiate. He was then asked to supply evidence and became increasingly stroppy until one of our most reasonable regulars realised that the level of debate had passed way under his head and went off for his tea. At this ‘M’ got all triumphalist and started insulting everyone, turning the whole thread into one big bore -and on a guest post too, I was affronted!

      As this wasn’t his first offence my feeling on the matter was that he should be shooed away. You are right that he is capable of making perfectly reasonable and valid points but to me that makes it worse. If he was an idiot trying his best I’d have looked the other way but as he was obviously being deliberately trying I can he was a rather feeble troll rather than a serious contributor. Ban him and tickle his toes I say.

    15. Jai — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:06 pm  

      If someone deliberately derails multiple threads because they use this blog as their personal playground, and engages in persecuting innocent commenters purely for his/her enjoyment, give them a single warning and then ban them permanently if they refuse to desist.

      One thing that should not occur is moderators refusing to intervene if deliberate, persistent harassment is occuring, especially if the vindictive bullying is “amusing” regardless of the distress it is clearly causing the recipient, and regardless of the “sane” comments the troll may otherwise make elsewhere on the blog.

      This is one of the reasons I decided to permanently stop commenting on a certain American (South) Asian blog that shall remain nameless — because I was on the receiving end of the above for months on end, and for a very long time they refused to ban the offending party despite my repeated requests for assistance. Apparently some (certainly not all) of that blog’s moderators found the “flaming” amusing to watch, possibly also influenced by the fact that the idiot was a hyper-left-wing type who made all the appropriate trendy politically-correct noises.

      I decided to pull the plug on any future participation there when I found out a couple of months ago that they had “unbanned” that person, as evident by numerous comments available under that individual’s username.

      Fortunately, Sunny is a little more fair-minded and objective and, I feel, treats non-malicious long-term commenters with more respect. He does not have a problem with stepping in (very quickly, and without requiring prompting) if the type of nonsense I’ve described is going on.

      What happened on that American blog should definitely never be allowed to occur here on PP. Moderators please take note.

    16. El Cid — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:23 pm  

      Thanks Clairwil — that’s more than I deserved. I feel privileged.

    17. Zora — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:47 pm  

      Ban persistent trolls. But, before banning them … how about disemvowelling them? Teresa Neilsen Hayden pioneered the method at the popular blog Making Light. If someone posts:

      I think all the ragheads should be sent back to their failed countries.

      Disemvowelling turns it into:

      thnk ll th rghds shld b snt bck t thr fld cntrs.

      You can guess at what it’s saying, but … if you don’t want to guess, you can easily ignore the message. Posters who have been disemvowelled are thereby warned to shape up. If the poster persists, then banning is appropriate.

    18. Don — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:50 pm  

      Why, thank you, Clairwil.

      Although I sometimes think that will be on my headstone;

      Here lies Don. He was most reasonable.

    19. El Cid — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:54 pm  

      Ah, of course, Don, the usual suspect

    20. Don — on 11th July, 2007 at 8:56 pm  

      God knows, I try to be unusual.

    21. Rumbold — on 11th July, 2007 at 10:39 pm  

      Thanks Leon for opening this thread; it is a topic that needs discussing, and all of us appreciate that the ‘Pickled Politics’ writers have a difficult time moderating this site.

      At the moment we are faced with two issues; the banning of Muzumdar, and whether or not this site needs a de jure moderation policy. Let us deal with the latter problem first.

      Several persons have suggested coming up with a code of conduct for posters. This is a good idea, providing that it is not enforced too rigidly, and exceptions are made when the poster has infringed the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Or vice versa. Another good idea was the targeting of individual posts, rather than posters (“love the sinner, hate the sin”). This would have the effect of removing the most objectionable posts, and would still give the moderators the option of completely banning any posters who persistently flouted these rules. Warnings are a good idea, providing that they are dispensed even-handily.

      Foul language always seems to me to be one of the greatest scourges of blogging, and I am glad that it is frowned upon here. If you cannot make your point without resorting to such language then you are probably not worth listening too. Persistently derailing threads is also annoying, as most of the people are trying to have a reasonable debate about an issue. Banning those bounders is fine as well.

      Some of you will have read the above a think that it describes Muzumdar. It does not. When he was Naxal 1849, he used to derail nearly every thread, but now he does not. Nor does he use bad language (or any worse than most of the posters). He might be unpleasant on occasions, but that it not a strong enough reason to ban him.

      Perhaps the best way to deal with potential miscreants is to let the people decide. Not by a public vote, but by the strength of the public reaction when a poster is banned. Consider Sunny and the other writers as the Roman elite in the amphitheatre. It was their call who lived and died, but they were wary of condemning those whom the crowd loved.

    22. Don — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:12 pm  

      Rumbold,

      You’re proposing a capricious autocracy moderated by the howls of the mob, a la Caligula, as a model?

      But I agree about the foul language. Except for those who take the trouble to learn how to use it properly.

    23. sid — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:21 pm  

      Sunny in a tutu?

    24. Katy — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:26 pm  

      Fuck!

    25. Katy — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:26 pm  

      Sorry.

    26. sid — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:29 pm  

      h fr fck’s sk!

    27. Don — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:31 pm  

      Serious hug, Katy.

    28. Sunny — on 11th July, 2007 at 11:55 pm  

      interesting suggestion Zora, although I’ll probably have to write up an explanation for the people who have it done to them.
      And plus, is there a program to do it automatically? Because I sure don’t want to do it manually!

    29. douglas clark — on 12th July, 2007 at 12:59 am  

      Leon,

      Just some thoughts. I know all web owners like to say:

      “It’s my site” “Piss off”

      Which is understandable, but does not make for robust debate. Standing, at least a little bit back from that has merit, I think.

      A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I used to comment on Space.com’s ‘Freespace’, which is sadly no longer with us.

      They had an ineteresting notion or two though. Firstly, the site owners were known as ‘Deep Throat’, in the sense that it was never them that dealt with folk. What they had was a group of moderators from amongst the regular posters, and chosen by said regular posters, to keep the peace.

      The rules were pretty obvious, and applied in a fairly relaxed sort of way, bloody hell someone suggested I could be a moderator!

      Whilst that thread bit the dust in acrimonious disputes about gays, I believe, the system lasted for a good while and had a lot of merit.

      It would be quite interesting if, say, you were about to post something offensive, and we’ve all done it, to know that say Chairwoman, or Don or whoever who are not part of the establishment, might refuse to publish it, or delete it or tell others why it is a really stupid post.

      Posters invest in the sites they post on. I’d be mortified if I was banned, whereas a newbie might think of a try on. Regular readers can see the difference, although not always….

    30. Clairwil — on 12th July, 2007 at 1:02 am  

      Everyone is referring to ‘moderators’ here. If by that they mean the writers then it would be helpful’ to me anyway to have some sort of policy as for the most part I leave it to Sunny.

    31. Clairwil — on 12th July, 2007 at 1:03 am  

      Oh forgot to say fuck!

    32. Zora — on 12th July, 2007 at 1:14 am  

      There’s a Wikipedia article on disemvoweling:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disemvoweling

      There are links to various programs/scripts that will do the disemvoweling for you. Also links to various discussions of the efficacy of the technique.

    33. douglas clark — on 12th July, 2007 at 1:16 am  

      Clarwill,

      As you are up, sorry, something came up on Saturday. Sorry about that, hope it wasn’t too stressful sitting in a pub, waiting for Godot :-)

      I’ll tell you what came up if you pm me.

    34. douglas clark — on 12th July, 2007 at 1:35 am  

      Clairwill,

      The other interesting thing about Space.com was that anyone could start a thread. ‘Course, if you were a nutter, no-one, much, replied. Main threads, surprisingly enough, ended up much like what we see here.

      Although without quite the degree of homophobia that seems prevelant over there. Still, freedom of speech is a far bigger issue for Americans than it is for us, apparently.

      Moderators should come from the community of posters, not from authors. So you’re banned, and I ought to be too! As a very marginal author. Me that is!

      It is, largely, posters that get pissed off with other posters. Perhaps there is merit in formalising that, to a limited extent?

      Me? I thought M was digging himself into a bigger hole with every post and I thought it was funny, but you know I’m weird that way.

      There is nothing more amusing than an idiot with a typewriter, as commentators on your own blog have shown. Not your regulars, I hasten to add…

      Although, I missed what he was banned for. Perhaps it was completely justified, I don’t know.

    35. Sunny — on 12th July, 2007 at 2:43 am  

      Nice one Zora. Now I gotta try it.

    36. Sunny — on 12th July, 2007 at 2:44 am  

      [troll]
      I’m pretending to be a troll.

    37. The Dude — on 12th July, 2007 at 2:44 am  

      Free speech is NOTHING if it isn’t free. Of late, I’ve taken the decision in staying away from this forum for the precise reason that I thought that the debate within it simply wasn’t robust enough. Many commentators on this forum already censor themselves before posting in fear of upsetting the great and the good and the UK’s intelligence services. If this is what remains of the freedom of speech, the we are all doomed. The fact remains that if I was to truly speak my mind on this forum, I run the very serious risk of being reported to the authorities, charged for breaking some anti-terrorist law of the other and sent to jail. The banning of posters are the least of our problems. I’ll not even mention the issue of swearing……

    38. Sunny — on 12th July, 2007 at 2:46 am  

      Ah, nice, it works.

      The Dude - I’m not against free speech, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to exercise their free speech and propensity to swear or defend terrorists on my blog. I want a robust discussion and an honest discussion, but not simply a war of words.

    39. Katy Newton — on 12th July, 2007 at 3:50 am  

      No swearing? Fuck that!

      Ooooh look at me I’m a great big troll. I am totally trolling PP. Weeeeeeee.

      Okay, okay, I’d better stop or I’ll be forced to moderate myself. I’m WARNING me.

    40. Katy Newton — on 12th July, 2007 at 3:52 am  

      It’s late, isn’t it? Boy it’s late. I should go to bed.

    41. Rumbold — on 12th July, 2007 at 8:31 am  

      “You’re proposing a capricious autocracy moderated by the howls of the mob, a la Caligula, as a model?”

      Yes Don.

    42. El Cid — on 12th July, 2007 at 9:07 am  

      What if swearing is integral to one’s innercity chav kulcha? Poncy middleclass bias methinks. ;)

    43. justforfun — on 12th July, 2007 at 9:17 am  

      Zora & Sunny - disemvowelling - its a great idea.

      Justforun

      PS - I quite like this one as well

      http://www.revfad.com/flip.html

    44. Eremos — on 12th July, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

      The way that the site has been run so far must be a testament to the fact that Sunny must be getting this right. Otherwise we wouldn’t all be here, right?

      Whilst some (minimal?) moderation would be great, it is quite resource intensive. The kinds of things that I would personally like to see moderate are posts that aren’t related to the point at hand, personal attacks, etc. To be honest this is all quite minimal on PP, hence why I stop by frequently during the course of the day..

    45. Vikrant — on 12th July, 2007 at 8:58 pm  

      Nice try Green, but i aint going away. You cant ban me I tell ya…

    46. Vikrant — on 12th July, 2007 at 9:00 pm  

      @Zora:

      Are you the same Zora who quit Wikipedia back in March?

    47. Zora — on 12th July, 2007 at 9:50 pm  

      Yes, I’m that Zora. The one who kept a list of names other editors had called her. My best day ever was the day that I was called both an “Islamofascist bitch” and a “Zionist enforcer”.

    48. Matt — on 13th July, 2007 at 1:39 am  

      If there must be a policy:

      - Banning swear words is fine. People you continually swear need to learn to write properly.
      - Keep the policy short (

    49. Matt — on 13th July, 2007 at 1:40 am  

      Hmm. It kept my comment short.

      If there must be a policy:

      - Banning swear words is fine. People you continually swear need to learn to write properly.
      - Keep the policy short - one paragraph or 100 words
      - Make it have grey edges.
      - Keep comments as short as the policy.
      - Be autocratic - it’s a blog. Put it on the about page and just enforce it - don’t waste time and space explaining it anywhere else. People should find it themselves.

      You could put up a complaints form and only act when 10 or more people have all complained. That reminds me of a colleague who said he deleted all his email and only responded when people sent it again - if they didn’t it couldn’t have been important.

    50. Matt — on 13th July, 2007 at 1:44 am  

      Further (last) thought.

      Why not have a “sin bin” - 1 day, 1 week, 1 month ban.

      And yes - authors should write, not moderate comments.

    51. Vikrant — on 13th July, 2007 at 5:22 pm  

      @Zora:

      small world… eh? I was AMbroodEY on Wikipedia. I quit during Hkelkar2 arbcomm.

    52. Sunny — on 14th July, 2007 at 3:34 am  

      Matt - I remember I once started a thread on an earlier forum which was something along the lines of ‘the swearing thread’, which became immensely popular.

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