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Since I joined DK a few years ago, there has been periodic uncivil discourse. It was especially bad during the 2008 primary and even worse during the health care debates. But it has nothing to do with the lack of standards – we have standards in the form of rules. Recently, I did some research and what I found is that we have certain categories of Rules Violators and scores of these violators have been banned but community moderation is not reining in the others.  While many people complain about uncivil discourse, the problem is very few participate in community moderation of the Rule Violators that want to tear our site apart to further their own political and power agendas that are inherently at odds with respecting our community as a whole as well as individual community members. We have Turfers who think that they can fight wars at DK to advance their own political objectives, Ratings Abusers who act like Bush's unilateral decider BS is okay when progressives do it, and Fighters/Egotists who think their personal disputes are more important than our progressive advocacy.

Blame also lies with Infrequent Moderators or TUs who often rely on others to moderate. I confess. I have not been a very active moderator, sometimes feeling a little uncomfortable that I was not well-versed in our rules. But when we pass the moderation buck, then it could be picked up by those with an agenda.

Researching existing rules taught me something that others probably already know: Not participating in moderation can place our community at risk. Daily Kos is not just some blog. It is the only site with a real community of people who not only want to further our progressive political agenda, but truly care about each other. But, if we sit on the sidelines, then we are by our silence not "voting" on what is best for our community. And that is the common thread linking the rules to our community: Ratings Abusers destroy the effectiveness of community moderation, which then allows the Rule Violators to continue disrupting our progressive agenda and harming our community.

The Turfers think that they can unilaterally adopt or misinterpret rules for their friends to push their own political agenda or use "cliques working together for and against diaries" or diarists.  The Turfers' agenda is clear: A battle for political control over the content of our diary section, and most particularly, the rec list, at Daily Kos. I'm sorry but the rec list and recent diary list are not some spoils of war to be fought over and then distributed to the victors, but the heart of our community that is comprised of many different sub-communities. No one group has the right to domination or control of the rec list or is the Decider of acceptable substantive discussions.

A ratings war seems to be the weapon of choice.

This must stop.

Ratings abusers keep violators active at our community to continue disrupting our progressive agenda.  We should all care because ratings abuse destroys the effectiveness of community moderation, which "depends 95% on the community." Ratings, positive or negative, are the "primary method of community moderation -- a reward for contributions to the community that are especially thoughtful, funny or compelling, and a mechanism for removing behaviors that are simply inappropriate." Ratings abuse contributes to factionalization of our community from the "bickering, sniping, trolling and catfights" of the few. And that is what is happening now.

Here's one good example that has been discussed in the comments:

TU's toss an HR to penalize a violator and provide deterrence. Here we have a twofer violation of rules that is clear:  The use of sexism and advocacy of violence against another user. I wonder if anyone who recced this comment also believes it's OK that a Scott Brown supporter advocated similar action against Martha Coakley:  "Shove a curling iron up her butt."

The rules against threats of violence and sexist, racist comments aren't new.  Meteor Blades recently reiterated the rule against calls for violence for which violators will receive a single warning before they are banned:

The number of users calling for violence against individuals is growing. It's not a plague yet - the actual count is not huge - but there are more calls to do physical harm to right wingers than in the past. And there are more threats of violence against users from other users than I've seen in six years here.

It ought to go without saying that this is unacceptable discourse. But apparently, it does have to be said.

Some users will argue that they aren't being serious. Something along the lines of: "C'mon, it was hyperbole, dude, just a joke. I didn't mean it. Don't you have a sense of humor? Geez, people are so sensitive."

I have a message for you: Leave that shit to Ann Coulter.

Some of these rules have been "on the books" for six years, and ratings privileges have been suspended for ratings abuse. The reason is simple:  Uprating offensive comments nuke the effectiveness of the HRs. This is ratings abuse that prevents community moderation because it only takes one recommend to unhide a comment hidden by three HR ratings.  This is harmful to everyone because community moderation is our key method to maintain civility so that we can further progressive policies.  DK is where we "shape and advocate the liberal/progressive/Democratic message."  If ratings abuse continues, then DK loses its effectiveness.

Hunter and mcjoan have described a variety of Ratings Abusers that we should moderate:

  1. Tossing HRs in violation of the rules: HRs are for the sole purpose of deleting a comment that is so disruptive and damaging to the community that debate is not an option. This is reserved for comments that are disruptive, inflammatory, false or off-topic.   "But breaking the rules to punish someone for breaking the rules is a dangerous game, and one likely to backfire on you. Be warned."
  1. HR based on disagreement with views expressed:  An HR for disagreement with a poster's comment is ratings abuse because HRs are reserved for critiquing how a comment is stated, not the content of the comment. Any disagreement can be posted in a comment that states your opinion in a civil manner.
  1. Uprating a comment that is appropriately HR'd is ratings abuse:  This is why users are asked to  post a comment stating the reason for the HR so the community can determine if proper or abuse.
  1. Uprating a comment that should be HR'd but is not due to ratings abuse: Ratings abuse can be either positive or negative ratings.  We all demonstrate bad judgment from time to time or just have a bad day. But we're not supposed to be reccing comments that violate the rules simply because posted by a friend or respected member.
  1. Using a double standard to uprate friends, but not opponents, or HR opponents but not friends:  This type of hypocrisy is a rule violation because overlooking misbehaviors from people on your side of an issue unilaterally vetos community guidelines.  That's a Bush principle, not a progressive principle because ratings based on the double standard of which side of an issue the poster advocates sabotages community:

If you are rating down comments from "the opposing side" of an issue, you had well better rate down similar comments if they come from your side of the issue. If you are giving positive ratings to insults hurled by your own side, thus rewarding obnoxious behavior, you are similarly sabotaging community moderation efforts.

  1. One thing is clear:  If two sides are fighting in a thread, it is ratings abuse to uprate the comments by Fighters who hijack our threads.

Do not give positive ratings to people having fights in the comment threads... .  If the fight is off topic or otherwise egregious, it should be trollrated in order to remove it from the thread, but there are almost no circumstances in which users should be rewarded for having a fight. Behavior like that isn't worth positive mojo -- don't do it.

  1.  Then we have the Egotists who think their personal disputes with other kossacks are more important than our community's goal to further progressive politics. If you have a dispute with someone in meat world, at another blog, a private forum, or Google Group, duke it out in those forums, email or phone, but as mcjoan explained, we don't bring those personal disputes onto DK:

Don't gossip or speculate on anything about another poster other than what they have made public on the site. ...Ok, you say, I know what's going on between these two users because one of them has e-mailed me and told me all about it. If you've only got one side, then you really know you don't have the whole story. And you don't have any business talking about it in front of tens of thousands of people on the Internets.

When you think about it, ratings abuse is trollish behavior in the sense that it is "intentionally destructive to the community" and is "behavior which is directly contrary to the stated goals of the site – furthering the progressive Democratic agenda." We don't feed trolls, so why feed trollish behavior?

One thing I have learned from researching some of our rules is that we all have a vested interest in site moderation. If our DK community is to help President Obama effectuate the change on all the issues Bush fucked up, then we need to stop the ratings abuse that enables violators who take actions not only deleterious to our community, but also contrary to the very progressive principles that we fought so hard to bring to DC.

I hope other Infrequent Moderators join me. We can just pay attention to what is happening in the diaries we read. When an HR is tossed, did the HR'er post a comment explaining why? If not, we should ask that person to state the reason for the HR. When we see Turfers, Ratings Abusers and Egotists/Fighters, we should speak out – with comments or valid HRs.

This is our site. We have the rules.  So, let's protect our community and the effectiveness of our progressive advocacy by moderating.

Originally posted to Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Tue Apr 06, 2010 at 06:15 PM PDT.

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