Dailykos is truly a wonder, an oasis of positivity and light in, what is largely, a dark, nasty, cold world of internet politics. It is a true oddity that so many of our commenters and diarists are so bright, so intelligent, so kind to one another. Trust me, outside of this website, especially on many of the social websites, the comments are much more vicious and nasty than the relatively safe place that many of us, in large or small part, worked so hard to build. For all of its faults and downfalls, pie fights, name calling and ridiculous drama that goes on from day to day, many, if not all kossacks (who are not here under dubious pretenses) have interesting perspectives, and are genuinely not here to call people names and get into fights.
Having said that, we must also realize that the problems that we have as a community are large. Some of the problems have been caused by, what is in my view, unclear rules, and lack of a solid tool by which moderation can be effective. To be clear, I like the core principles behind community moderation. The idea that we are all adult enough to moderate the community that we helped build is a good one. But, there are issues as well. The system itself is extremely vulnerable to gaming, which exacerbates this feeling of division and promotes factionalism within the site. What I mean by gaming is this -- twisting well-intentioned, but vague community norms into a vehicle to downrate a person from a dissenting faction, or using a rule to uprate someone who has broken the rules. Overall, this behavior undermines the carefully crafted community moderation system and renders it useless.
Another glaring problem, to me at least, is the lack of organization and clarity about community standards. For example: there has been quite a bit of confusion about which set of rules to follow. Sometimes Meteor Blades past comments are used as a rough guide, sometimes kos' edicts are used (DBAD, for example), sometimes the FAQ is cited, sometimes standards aren't even written, just observed. I think this lack of clarity is also at the core of most of the pie fights that spring up from time to time. The biggest problem, though, is that it is easy to forget that we are a community, and the danger of thinking kos is a warzone in which two factions beat each other into submission, often twisting the rules to exact vendettas against the other side of the divide.
To be clear, I am not blaming any one person for these issues. Its understandable that Community Moderation not be high on the priority list for kos and his staff. In a perfect world, we wouldn't even need a set of rules or a dedicated community moderator. We are all adults, we should be able to work this out in a mature fashion amongst ourselves with our judgement as a Trusted User. Unfortunately, reality is not perfect. Sometimes Trusted Users shirk their duty and decide to use the rules to their (or their factions) advantage, sometimes the rules are used to gang up on innocent users, sometimes people are banned unfair or unjust reasons. It happens. The system we have built does work on most occasions, but in the situation where the system breaks, it breaks badly and everyone feels the consequences, people TTFN or GBCW and the fabric of the community is harmed.
Our goal should be to do as little harm to the awesome community that all of us worked hard to build (myself included, in some small way). But when prominent, kind, empathetic, members of this community begin to leave or say they need to take a break, the situation must be addressed head on. Because their absences detracts from the vibrant, diverse atmosphere this community thrives on. If we are proactive about these problems, we can fix them. We don't all have to agree on everything, but if we all remember that there is a human being behind the User Handle, with emotions that can be hurt even though these are just words on a blog, we can finally start to heal the deep wounds that divide some members of our communities.
Maybe I am taking the internet too seriously, but this community matters a lot to me. The fighting and personal insults makes the atmosphere around here thick. It makes interacting in a meaningful way and effecting change at any level hard if not impossible. But when we put the factionalism and pie fighting behind us, we are a force to be reckoned with. In four years, I have seen that fact borne out too many times to count. When we fight, argue, bicker, namecall, and bully, we split our effectiveness, not only in politics, but in all our endeavors as a community.
Thats why the series like the Pootie diaries, or C&J, or Top Comments are so important. They encourage us to put aside our differences and force us to remember that we are not adversaries, we are not foes, we are not enemies, we are allies and friends. I have heard many times on this blog from some users that those types of diaries are not useful to a site whose goal is to elect more and better democrats, and I respectfully disagree with that analysis. If anything, those diaries, and the community diaries like GUS and IAN increase our effectiveness, thus increasing our ability to actually get out and ELECT more and better democrats, because they unite us. Sure, the policy diaries will always be "the show" at dailykos, but the silly diaries, the silly diaries, the community diaries, the commenters, the kindness, and the atmosphere here will always be the BACKBONE of our success. We ignore that fact at our own peril.