Where does the responsibility of a CM end?

(Sarah Hawk) #1

This is a long (and at times harrowing) but fascinating thread.

If you have some time, I’d recommend reading it. I’d also love to hear your thoughts.

To summarise, a Discourse user wants the ability to easily mute other users because there are instances in their education community where members have to share a board with people that have harassed or abused them.

@Jeff_Atwood’s counter-arguments are interesting. Is this a technology problem or a human problem?

Until I read that particular example (being forced to confront someone daily that has grievously wronged you outside of the community), I thought it was something that should be managed on a human level – i.e. if there is someone here that is toxic, it’s my job to remove them.

BUT I don’t think it should be my job to judge the behaviour of others outside of this area for which I’m responsible. I don’t feel equipped to do that. That’s where this gets confusing for me.

Where does the line of responsibility lie when it comes to creating safe community environments?

(Rob Nicholson) #2

Both I’d say after briefly reading the thread. Although Jeff suggesting people hack their CSS to implement mute classes made me laugh - does he ever met none-IT literate users? :wink:

Problem with banning anyone as an administrator is that you could be dragged into a legal battle about quashing free speech. And of course, the rules of free speech vary throughout the world. Who are we to decide somebody is toxic?? It’s all relative…

(Sarah Hawk) #3

And that’s assuming you’re banning them for something they did in the community. In this case we’d be talking about banning people for behaviour that allegedly took place offline. That’s where it gets a bit grey for me.

(Ouattara Sitafa) #4


I do not know if I understand the problem but in my opinion it is quite
normal that as CM to judge and even banish a community’s member. But, this should
be done according to procedure early established. As a volunteer member of a community, this
assumes that the member agreed on the community admission policy. So if he falls
it is normal to be notified and if he does it again then he should be banished
in order not to upset the other members and cause their withdrawals.

Regarding the behaviour of a members outside the community it is tricky.
In fact, every individual is free of his actions and belonging to a community
does not entitle a community to tell him what to do or not out of the
community. However, inappropriate behaviour of a member outside of his community
can have a negative repercussion on his community. We tend to judge the whole
from one of its members. For example, knowing that a criminal is a member of
the X community there are more chances that some of the members leave the
community and some potential members could change their opinion.

(Sarah Hawk) #5

This is what I’m meaning. It’s tricky right?

If a community member told you that they were being harassed by another community member, would your stance be to investigate, or to ignore it?

(Katelyn MacKenzie) #6

I have had to deal with this in our developer slack, which is filled with a lot of local developers who see each other on a monthly basis.
We have always investigated the terms of harassment. So long as the harassment was done publically, I have intervened. If the harassment was done in private, well that is up to the person being harassed on how to deal with it. I technically cannot play the “he said, she said” game if something happened privately.

(Sarah Hawk) #7


So if someone harassed someone publicly but it was outside of your Slack group and had nothing to do with the community, you’d still make a call on it and potentially ban someone?

(Katelyn MacKenzie) #8

If both members are in my community, I would probably send a warning to the said harasser and copy his/her harassment saying that it not allowed in this community and if I see anything similar they are subject to being banned.

Or if that is a little harsh, I would send that person the CoC as a “Friendly” reminder of what is not allowed in this community. Regardless of what they are able to do outside of the community.

(Jason Bayless) #9

Outside of addressing the individuals involved, I think, it might be a perfect opportunity to invite the larger community in a dialogue in about the issue. Not naming the individuals, but the issue of harassment as an umbrella conversation. Similar to what is happening here, but really addressing the issue, as awareness raising that leans towards community support, to raise awareness of the issue.

If we keep these conversations private (one offs) then it gives a silent support to the issues. I am not saying we should get inside of the heads or actions of people outside of the platform, but to get into the conversation that talks about the impacts these actions have on both the larger and online communities.

(Sarah Hawk) #10

I love the idea of having a space that makes people feel safe enough to talk about sensitive issues (like Trevor and Dave have [here] (Hands up if you don’t currently manage a community)) but I don’t think that environment is a common one.

Political (or those that have the propensity to turn political) or religious discussions are the ones that tend to denigrate the fastest.

(Jason Bayless) #11

I totally agree, it is not a common one. And Maybe, just maybe :slight_smile: its because we (the collective 'we) never fostered a healthy environment to have these conversations. Our default is to view these conversations as ‘toxic’ and so collectively, our approach is guided by the knowing that they will have a downward spiral.

IMO, the reason they go down hill is because we, for the most part, don’t allow the conversation to evolve (or know how to help a conversation evolve). It is important to recognize that it is painful to have these conversations, because it brings up not just one issue, but a possible history of issues. Once we can acknowledge that the ‘uneasiness’ that turns a conversation political or [insert experience here] is because the person (or ourselves) don’t know how to fully engage in the conversation, in a way that is supportive and this creates the environment of being heard (or seen). This (including our personal relationship to the issue) triggers our defenses and, in person or online, our input is not met with understanding.

We are not taught how to have dialogue around ‘pain’, or about uncomfortable issues, we end up trying to figure it out ourselves. Add that on top of a history of what we have defined as ‘normal’ in relationship to these issues, it has the potential to become an overwhelming downward spiral (how is that for a dramatic statement).

Going back to the original statement, ‘it is not a common one’, This is all the more reason to make sure we build it in our culture (online/offline) to encourage these conversations and to have the patience to allow/guide the conversation to evolve into what helps us to extol. (I was looking for the opposite of ‘denigrate’ and this is the only word that came to mind, it may not work). :slight_smile:

(and thank you for hosting this conversation)

(Sarah Hawk) #12

That’s a very fair point.

Especially online, where we often feel safer.

So I have another question.

Do you think that having these kinds of conversations (when they are not on-topic for the space) is always important in all communities and that it should be a behavioural or culture change across the board, or do you think we should start that culture change in communities where the topic is relevant?

(Jason Bayless) #13

Do you think that having these kinds of conversations (when they are not on-topic for the space) is always important in all communities and that it should be a behavioural or culture change across the board, or do you think we should start that culture change in communities where the topic is relevant?

I think, we should make the space or at least make it ‘ok’ to start these topics in communities/spaces that are not on-topic. Since we are human (I think it is safe to assume that we are all human), these issues/topics are not far removed from any online community.

Here is my utopia take, if these topics are available in all communities, it not only creates awareness about the issue, it creates the understanding how it impacts people, and with that, it might help deter negative actions. At the very least, it tries to deter (which is more than what is happening across the board).

If we are skillful, we can find a way for these topics/conversation to happen in a way that it is integrated with the community and not pulled out in a ‘support’ section or in a way that creates a taboo around the thread/topic. (this is where my learning curve kicks in and I am observing the skills that are on display).

So, to make my position and relate it to the thread topic, 'Where does the responsibility of a CM end? The answer, to me is, “where does your responsibility to the world end?” Just kidding, I wanted to throw in a self-righteousness element in here for kicks.

(Sarah Hawk) #14

Nothing wrong with lightening the mood. :wink:

I hear you though, and I agree.

The challenge (which you’ve already highlighted) is finding non-confrontational ways of allowing the conversations to happen.

Thanks for helping me work through my thoughts.

(Ouattara Sitafa) #15

This is a little bit delicate. Indeed, it is a double-edged knife. If the member reported to is CM is because he wants to have a support from his community so ignore his complaint is like not giving him support. He could be upset and no longer feel part of the community. If, in contrary the CM intervenes it will behave like a police officer what might have other consequences. For me it would be clever to proceed by diplomacy. First, contact the CM of the other community to try to understand why one of his member harasses the member of my community. Second, solve the problem without upsetting one part.

(Priscilla McClay) #16

I have had problems in the past with members trying to get admin to intervene in disputes that had happened off the community. Often there wasn’t much we could do (one person’s word against another) and we felt we didn’t really have any ‘jurisdiction’ to enforce the community guidelines outside of the community.

In health communities where anonymity is important, the solution is tends to be to make it clear in the guidelines that sharing contact details or meeting up offline is either not allowed or at members’ own risk, and then point to this if it ever comes up. (Obviously in other, less anonymous, types of communities, this might not work the same way).

However, I think there is a difference between behaviour that would break the community guidelines (if it was on the community) and behaviour like harassment which is actually illegal and unacceptable in any environment. If it was a case of outright harassment I would probably feel more responsibility to take some sort of action.