Just wanted to add my 2¢ worth on some conversations posted on the board yesterday.

The question at hand was who deserved to be banned as a troll, and what the rationale for their tossing would be.  For me, though, there's a larger set of questions to be answered.  Namely:  what sort of community do we want to build, and how is it that we want to build it?

It's not realistic to expect us to have one answer to those questions, but in the interests of building a rough consensus, I'll throw out my thoughts below the fold.

The general consensus that I hear about the board is that dKos is a progressive/liberal Democratic site.  There's some disagreement about the exact boundaries:  Naderites, Greens and left-leaning libertarians are welcome, for example, if they don't push their luck too hard.  Excessive criticism of Kerry will get you downrated.  Republicans are generally speaking not welcome; I have yet to see one survive for very long on the threads, though I could be wrong on this one.  Whether or not religion/religious perspectives can be accomodated is sometimes a matter of fierce debate.  At the moment, the answer seems to be "yes."

Let's be clear here:  I'm not arguing for or against any of the above boundaries.  These are simply the limits I've seen so far.  If I'm far off on this, enlighten me, please.

In any case, this seems to be the kind of community we're building.  We're Democrats, by and large, but Democrats representing the "Democratic wing of the party."

But how do we want to build this community?  Well, a couple of guidelines occur to me.  (Please note that I'm trying to speak as a helpful citizen here, not ex cathedra.)

We need to approach our comments to one another with humility and meekness, as it were.  I have discovered time and again that words on a computer screen don't do a very good job of telling you about the person on the other end of the dial-up connection.  (I know, I'm in the slow lane here.)  It's easy to be tricked into thinking that we know exactly where somebody's coming from, especially given the amount of time some of us spend on the boards.  I like to think of you all as my friends and community, but when it really gets down to it, I don't know that much about you.  

My thought, then, is to try to approach my comments and responses with the politeness I'd use with someone I just met in person.  Ask a lot of questions, reserve judgment.  It's hard to do sometimes, and I blow it.  Just yesterday, I made a stupid comment and found out that I'd really hurt somebody's feelings.  I regret that.

Quite apart from knowing what somebody thinks or feels, we don't really know what else might be going on in their lives, of course.  Somebody might be depressed or manic (like me), their cat may have died, they might just be having a really lousy day.  

And let's face it:  if we were all social geniuses, why would we be spending so much time talking to people via the internet instead of in person?  

Sometimes, when someone is being a real pain in the rear end, it's tempting to lay an all out smackdown on them, but that's rarely productive in the long run.  I'd rather stay in conversation with them, see what we can develop.  Perhaps these forums can be a way of healing and development for someone who really needs it.

Trolls are another matter, of course.  There are some people who are persistently obnoxious, or who are dedicated to unravelling the conversational thread.  I'm told that Scoop has an automatic system in place to deal with the persistent problems; collect too many troll ratings over time, and you'll get booted.  Sounds fair enough to me, particularly since the threshhold is supposed to set fairly high.  In this way, the community deals with its own.

But there are those who need to be dealt with immediately.  As folks have noted, this is Markos' site, and he's entitled to let on or dismiss as he sees fit.  The trouble for us, of course, is that democracy and the desired outcome aren't always in sync.  We enjoy the benefits of having a mostly troll-free site, but that means ceding some of our rights to decide who gets to hang around and who doesn't.  In that respect, Kos is like a Supreme Court judge.  He decides, we bitch and second-guess, and life goes on.

What the hell was my original point?  

I guess that, as I said in another thread yesterday, "the perfect is the enemy of the good."  That goes for people and the communities they build as much as it does for philosophical principles or political platforms.  May we remember that as we converse with one another and occasionally address our problems with one another.

Originally posted to pastordan on Tue Jul 13, 2004 at 09:50 AM PDT.

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